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Can pandemic stress affect your milk supply?

Pandemic stress may impact your breastfeeding—but perhaps not in the ways you think.

breastfeeding coronavirus stress

Having a baby during a pandemic is stressful, no question about it. The lack of sleep and the physical recovery from birth are challenging on their own. Add in multiple pandemic-related stressors—from getting the postpartum care you need to managing your anxiety about the news—and it can be overwhelming.

If you're a new mother and you're feeling stressed out right now, know that you are not alone, and that your feelings are natural, understandable and real.

Wondering what impact pandemic stress may have on your milk supply or your ability to breastfeed? Here's how to reap the stress-relieving benefits of breastfeeding, even during the pandemic.


The good news about breastfeeding during a pandemic

If you do choose to breastfeed, the health benefits for you and baby are considerable, even during this stressful time.

Breastfeeding is healthy. Breastfeeding provides your baby with the best possible nutrition, and delivers antibodies to help protect them against disease. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have recommended breastfeeding during the pandemic, for mothers who choose to do so.

Breastfeeding can relieve stress. When breastfeeding, your body releases oxytocin, which helps the body relax. And studies have linked breastfeeding to a reduction in anxiety and negative mood.

Stress isn't likely to affect your milk supply over the long term. That said, it can have a temporary effect on the mechanisms that allow your body to deliver milk to your baby, and very high levels of stress can impact your baby's overall well-being.

How to manage pandemic stress while breastfeeding

Prevent pandemic stress from impacting your breastfeeding experience by taking steps to manage stress before it happens, so you and your baby can reap the health benefits of breastfeeding.

Stay up to date with your health care team.

The sheer number of breastfeeding tips and tricks and hacks floating around on the internet is enough to make anyone's head spin. Work with your OB-GYN, pediatrician and hospital staff to understand what precautions they are taking to protect you and baby. They can also help provide you with information about what precautions you need to take once you and baby are at home. This information will help you put together a plan that is doable and safe.

Build your support team.

While many well-wishers and family members will be eager to meet your little one and offer a helping hand once you bring baby home, right now it's important to set expectations and boundaries about visitors. Put together a small list of friends and family members that understand your needs and concerns. They can help by telling visitors they'll have to wait to see baby or that they'll have to follow specific guidelines. Allowing friends to handle these potentially difficult conversations will allow you to focus on breastfeeding, bonding and recovering with your little one.

It's also important to seek out and connect with a lactation professional. Many are now offering telehealth visits. Having this contact in your phone before issues arise will make it much easier to get support when and if the time comes.

Limit your media intake.

It's easy for all of us to endlessly scroll through news sites and social media—especially now. For new moms, the endless scroll can be particularly tempting when you're up at odd hours for feedings and there's no one around to talk to. However, overloading on media can cause you to tip the balance from being well informed to being overcome by what seems like a nonstop stream of bad news.

Try setting a few short, specific times during the day to check in on news and social media. This will allow you to stay connected and informed without becoming overwhelmed. Following a few 'good news' outlets can also give your social media feed a boost of positivity.

Be kind to yourself.

With all that's going on in the world today, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the constant "what-ifs," "to-dos" and decision fatigue. This can leave you feeling drained and discouraged. Be kind to yourself and remember: you just grew and delivered a brand-new human being! The most important thing you can do right now is focus on your mental health while bonding with your baby.

Self-care needs to be part of everyone's routine, and that is especially true for new moms. Giving birth and breastfeeding are significant physical and emotional accomplishments. Try to incorporate a small self care routine into every day and every week. On a daily basis you can do things like taking a short nap, watching a favorite show or meditating for a few minutes. Each week, try to set aside one day where you take a little time for yourself to go for a walk, sit in the sun or practice a hobby. Everyone is different when it comes to what they find relaxing—just don't let too many days go by without giving yourself some much-deserved attention.

Now more than ever, it's important for moms to develop routines and habits that relieve your stress—for your own well-being and for your baby's. Do your best to live in each moment as you breastfeed and bond with your child, so that you can enjoy this precious time while it lasts.

A very important letter for new mamas

Listen, mom-guilt is a dirty liar. Yes, it's your job to fill your little human's needs, but you matter too. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Hang out with friends, take a drive blaring 90's hip hop or shower without interruptions—trust me, you'll be a better person (and mom) because of it.

Dear new mom,

You will shave again someday. Today is not that day.

Set expectations low, my friend, and set your partner's lower—at least where body hair and overall hygiene are concerned.

That conversation could go something like this: “From now on let's not consider shaving a “standard," but more like a gift that happens on birthdays and the first day of summer."

Voila, you are a gift-giving genius. You know what else is a gift? Shaving the inch and a half of skin that is between your skinny jeans and your boots. You're welcome world.

You will not be perfect at parenting.

Boom.

I have yet to meet a perfect mother, but when I do, she's going to be a tiger who is insanely good at making up songs. (Daniel Tiger's mom, we salute you.)

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.

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