Mom playing with her baby.

Everything You Should Know About the Boob-Brain Connection

Throughout your pregnancy, you likely envisioned what the first few weeks with your newborn would look like. You’ll spend time together bonding, breastfeeding, and getting the first glimpse into the person they’ll grow up to be. However, many new moms don’t have the smoothest experience, especially in regard to breastfeeding. In fact, over two-thirds of new moms struggle to some degree when it comes to nursing. Keep in mind that if you struggle, it is in no way your fault. Breastfeeding just isn’t always as easy as people make it out to be. Postpartum can bring upon a lot of emotions, but to help you navigate yours, it’s important to understand a few things. Consider the following information on the boob-brain connection and how to strengthen it.


What is the Boob-Brain Connection?

Simply put, when referring to the boob-brain connection, many women are referencing the relationship between the two during breastfeeding. Stress, for one, is a good example of this as it can create serious hurdles when trying to breastfeed. To better understand, it’s important to learn how your milk supply works.

During nursing, the suckling motion of your newborn’s mouth stimulates the nipples, which triggers letdown. This is when your breast milk flows more rapidly in order to nourish your baby. It’s an involuntary reflex that happens due to cascading hormones being released in your body, mainly oxytocin. Oxytocin is released, which causes your milk ducts to widen and help with the letdown process. When you’re mentally ready and free of worry, this happens easily and without any added effort. When you’re stressed or feeling down, things can get a little more complicated.

When you’re stressed, your body releases cortisol as a response. This raises your blood glucose levels and prepares your body for fight or flight mode. However, stress also inhibits the release of oxytocin. This, in turn, reduces the efficiency of your letdown. Although your milk won’t completely stop flowing, the ducts aren’t able to open as widely, and the liquid is restrained. This can result in your baby suckling harder, or feeding more often to get enough breast milk.

In addition to stress, unwanted thoughts or emotions that are commonly associated with postpartum depression, or the baby blues can also result in problems during breastfeeding. Mothers may develop a breastfeeding aversion or begin to experience intense feelings of disgust, agitation, or even rage. This may also affect your letdown, as you may begin to feel stressed about having these feelings. However, it’s important to remember that postpartum mood disorders are not your fault, but rather due to a chemical imbalance. There are several resources available to help you overcome and manage these feelings, but the important thing is getting help from a professional.


How to Strengthen the Boob-Brain Connection

If negative emotions can inhibit your milk supply, does that mean that having a positive demeanor and outlook can be beneficial for breastfeeding? Yes and no. Taking a proactive approach to your mental health is an important part of creating a healthy breastfeeding experience, but it’s not always that easy. To help you strengthen the boob-brain connection, support your mental health, and get the most out of your breastfeeding experience, consider the following tips.

1. Find a Lactation Consultant

Breastfeeding is one of the most natural things in the world, but that doesn’t mean it always comes easy. During pregnancy, talk to your doctor about possible lactation consultants they can recommend. Even if you establish breastfeeding quickly, a lactation consultant can provide an array of benefits. They can help you strengthen the latch, find a comfortable breastfeeding position, give you tips on reducing engorgement, and help you avoid some common breastfeeding mistakes from the beginning.

Lactation consultants can also help new mothers who are struggling to establish breastfeeding. Having an expert by your side may help reduce anxiety and, therefore, support the boob-brain connection right from the beginning. If you’re nervous, you may even consider meeting with a lactation consultant before your delivery day to get more information on how to prepare yourself.

2. Learn Your Options

A great way to better enhance the boob-brain connection is to get education on your options. While breastfeeding is the preferred method of nourishing your baby, it’s not the only one. There are several different feeding options that can provide your growing baby with all the vitamins and minerals they need for a healthy development.

When you take the time to discover your options, you’ll set yourself up for success. This is primarily because our mood tends to be more negative when our expectations don’t meet reality. However, if you have several different backup plans in place, you’ll be prepared to make adjustments and can help reduce the impact of stress or anxiety on your body. If you need to use formula for a few weeks postpartum, being mentally prepared for this can help keep your body ready for nursing in the future.

3. Try Breast Pumping

Your milk production works on a supply and demand basis. The higher your output is, the more your body will make. To help you optimize your milk supply for nursing sessions, try supplementing with breast pumping. Breast pumping will help stabilize your milk production, can reduce engorgement, and also results in a release of the same hormones as nursing—oxytocin. Since this is one of the best hormones to strengthen the boob-brain connection, breast pumping is a great supplement to include in your breastfeeding regimen. In doing so, you’ll also be able to build up a freezer stash so your baby can be nourished and fed regardless of where you are in the moment.start your order

4. Focus on Your Breathing

It may sound odd, but practicing your breathwork can also help strengthen the boob-brain connection. During periods of anxiety or stress, you tend to take faster, shallower breaths. This triggers cortisol production, which essentially pauses any “non-essential” bodily functions. Unfortunately, in the face of fight or flight mode, breast milk production is considered non-essential, so it decreases substantially.

Luckily, an easy way to help combat stress throughout the day is to learn how to focus on your breathing whenever you feel yourself getting anxious. Taking deep breaths can help reduce the response of your sympathetic nervous system, which then allows milk production to return to normal. Practice breathing in for four counts then exhaling deeply for eight counts and repeating as needed.

5. Incorporate Relaxation Techniques

In addition to breathwork, try to schedule some relaxation techniques into your daily life. These can be as minor as closing your eyes and trying to visualize something that makes you feel calm or setting aside 10 minutes to meditate. Taking a proactive approach to your mental health and relaxation can help you handle future stressful situations better and without as intense of a physical reaction. Try to find something that works for you, whether it be yoga and meditation or simply taking a calming bath.

6. Get Extra Support

Breastfeeding can be a tumultuous journey for many mothers, but that doesn’t mean you should endure it alone. If you’re struggling to solidify your boob-brain connection or are experiencing any signs of a postpartum mood disorder, don’t hesitate to reach out and get the support you need. There are several different groups available to connect with other moms experiencing the same thing, or you can talk to your healthcare professional for advice on more professional support options. You may also want to try talking to your partner, a trusted friend, or a family member who you’re comfortable with.

Mental health issues are no joke, especially if they occur postpartum. It’s important to remember that you have options, so never do something that you don’t feel 100% comfortable with. If you’re struggling with the breastfeeding process, for whatever reason, consider working with a lactation consultant. You can ask your doctor for a recommendation or find a specialist in your network online. If you’re experiencing any feelings of postpartum depression or other postpartum mood disorders, talk to your doctor today.

Regardless of how you choose to nourish your baby, Byram Healthcare can help. We offer a wide selection of insurance covered breast pumps to new and expecting moms to help you give your baby the nutrients they need for a healthy development. Browse our product selection and get started with your order today.