Much has been said about breastfeeding and breastfed babies; we all know that it is the preferred food for all babies from birth up until 1 year old. Breastmilk is even referred to as liquid gold, so precious is it to Mums who work super hard to be consistent in their feeding and pumping schedules.
All this hard work is seemingly only for their babies who then reap all the benefits of a nutritious superfood that is naturally tailored to their immunity and cognitive development. But despite the challenges, we’d be hard-pressed to find a breastfeeding Mummy who regrets her choice or does not get any satisfaction out of just the act of breastfeeding and all associated with it (no matter how difficult the journey). And no wonder: Science shows that in addition to being the best food for babies, breastfeeding also does wonders for the Mother’s personal well-being, especially in her postnatal mental recovery.
Breastfeeding’s physiological impact on mothers
Working on the assumption that the mother has a largely positive overall experience, breastfeeding has a significant feel-good effect on Mums due to the release of oxytocin hormones, which is essential for maternal behavior while creating an anti-stress effect at the same time.
At the same time, another hormone prolactin which is involved in the production of breastmilk and released from the pituitary gland when baby is suckling, can act on Mummy’s central nervous system as an overall stress and pain-reliever. Similarly, the hormone cholecystokinin which is both released by the infant when it suckles as well as by Mothers during breastfeeding (interestingly in their intestines!) also serves the same relaxing and analgesic purpose, as well as to also promote maternal behavior. Thus, all three hormones work synergistically to provide well-being elements to the breastfeeding mother as well as the feeding child.
These benefits would play a tremendous role in the natural recovery of Mums during their postpartum period, especially more so for those who have had to deal with postnatal depression due to birth traumas, preterm births or other reasons.
But what about mothers who encounter difficulties during breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding in itself is a positive and rewarding experience. But at times, Mums without the right support system may encounter a mental and emotional strain when they are overwhelmed with the massive changes and exhaustion related to motherhood. Such stresses may impair a new Mummy’s milk production, and consequently affect her psychological well-being.
The reality is, when it comes to personal stories and opinions about breastfeeding by mothers, everyone will have a different story to tell and each story equally valid. While science might reveal useful findings, the mothering experience is as varied and complex as the different bodies that have birthed different babies, each walking its own unique path.
When faced with difficulties, know that you are not alone. Remember that friendly lactation consultant who guided you in the first few days of breastfeeding in the hospital? Such hospital consultants are only a phone call away even after you’ve been discharged. There are also other certified private lactation consultants who even provide home-care services, from counselling to even massages to ease engorgement and relieve stress.Thus, there is never a perfect answer as the journey of motherhood (and with it, birth, breastfeeding and beyond) is one that each must navigate on their own, making mistakes and learning lessons along the way.
What is clear however is that mothers now have more options, tools and support than ever before, that generations before them did not have easy access to. What all mothers need to know is that there are channels of support and help is always available if they look for it.
At Hegen, we champion breastfeeding not just by providing the right hardware to complement your physical needs, but offer software to guide you every step of the way. From Instagram LiveChats to Cherish Nature’s Gift breastfeeding workshops, plus a dedicated “Hegen Mums” Telegram channel, we’re here to equip you with all the knowledge you need to be a confident breastfeeding Mama!
PHOTO: Pexels/Polina Tankilevitch