Breastfeeding can be a pretty relaxing moment between you and your baby but, let's be real here, it can also be incredibly overwhelming. In fact, if you've ever thought of some reasons you should see a therapist while breastfeeding, I can promise you this: you are not alone. Therapy and breastfeeding sound like a combination to help you be more successful at nursing, but in reality, it could also help you keep your sanity.
A 2013 study in the journal Pediatrics proved just how debilitating concerns over breastfeeding can be. In the study, 92 percent of the participants reported at least one concern on day three of being postpartum and, based on the study's findings, breastfeeding concerns are highly prevalent and associated with moms giving up breastfeeding. The biggest concerns — infant feeding difficulty and milk quantity, both which can be fixed with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant's (IBCLC) help.
Although nothing can compare to having an IBCLC in your support group, a therapist can do wonders for you while you're breastfeeding, too. This is a wonderful time, but it can also be lonesome, frustrating, and really hard. If you feel totally fine as a nursing mom, that's awesome. But for many, the stress and fear of breastfeeding a child, along with so much overwhelming information, can lead to at least seven reasons you should see a therapist while breastfeeding.
1. It Can Be Stressful
Feeding and nourishing another human being? Stressful. Doing it from your own breasts? Mega stressful. And there's another thing — high stress can actually affect your milk. IBCLC Kristin Gourley of Lactation Link tells Romper that being relaxed is actually beneficial for your milk supply. "Being relaxed can help with milk let-down because oxytocin doesn't release as easy if mom has high stress and cortisol levels," she says. So not only can being stressed affect your milk supply, but breastfeeding itself can be stressful if you're worried about your production, your baby's latch, pumping for work, and more. A therapist can help you relax some of your anxieties while also talking about the rest of your life so the stress doesn't affect your supply.
2. It Can Interfere With Your Sex Life & Intimacy
Is a sex life while breastfeeding impossible? Of course not. But it can affect your sex life and intimacy with your partner. According to La Leche League International, breastfeeding can make you feel touched out with your partner and like the last thing you want to do is cuddle or be intimate with someone after your baby's been on your breasts for most of the day. Totally normal, but a therapist can help you work through that and redefine intimacy between you and your SO if physical romance isn't your cup of tea right now.
3. The Hormonal Shifts In Breastfeeding Are The Same In Mood Disorders
One big thing to keep in mind when it comes to breastfeeding is that it's driven by hormonal shifts. But so are some mood disorders. An article in the Journal of Women's Health noted that there can be some conflicts between the hormones responsible for breastfeeding and your mood. According to Postpartum Progress, there's a pretty generous overlap with anxiety, depression, and breastfeeding, so it's worth talking to your therapist about how breastfeeding makes you feel.
4. It Can Pull You Into The Comparison Trap
Ever panicked because your BFF got 18 ounces of breast milk in the time you got five? What about worrying because your other friend breastsleeps and judges you for putting your baby to bed in their own room? Mommy wars are nothing new, but when it comes to breastfeeding, there can be even more heat. Whether someone is telling you that you're obscene for breastfeeding after a year or insinuating that you're not doing enough for your child, it can really get you down.
5. It's Exhausting
Whether your baby sleeps through the night or not, breastfeeding is exhausting. It comes with new parenthood in general, like a not-so-fun welcome package, but fatigue can have some affects on your mental health. According to Harvard, chronic sleep issues can encourage negative thinking and emotional vulnerability as well as increase your risk of developing certain mood disorders. Imagine how difficult it is to do anything when you're exhausted. Now focus on trying to maintain your mental health and well-being while exhausted. Tough, right? A therapist can help.
6. It Can Impact Your Relationships
With your friends, with your partner, with your other children — breastfeeding, whether it comes easy to you or not, can affect your relationships in positive and negative ways. Although a 2012 study in Breastfeeding Medicine found that breastfeeding could actually benefit your relationship with your partner, there's always another side. Being the sole provider of your child's nourishment can tax a relationship. As your partner sleeps through the night, you may feel angry that you're up every two hours to nurse. You may feel guilty about the time you're spending nursing your baby when your toddler wants you to play and you may find yourself resentful of friends who can leave their babies with a babysitter when your infant goes everywhere with you. It sounds like it can go both ways, and it can, but it's worth keeping the positive and negative impacts in your mind so you know how to approach them.
7. Support Is Crucial
And you need your team to back you up. Fill your phone's contact list with IBCLCs, but add in a therapist, too. Being a parent is hard enough, but breastfeeding can add so many nuances that it's critical to have someone who is neutral in your life and willing to help you push through the tough times and recognize the amazing ones.