Changing time zones is a tricky business. It's almost impossible to determine what is up, what is down, and what time is lunch again? It's even harder when you factor in a baby and breastfeeding. Can jet lag affect milk supply, or are you just too tired to manage?
Jet lag is a beast. It messes with your circadian rhythm, which is one of those things that can really affect your daily life in a big way. The Mayo Clinic says that sufferers of jet lag tend to be cranky, they lack the ability to concentrate at the high levels that they manage when rested, and even suffer from stomach issues such as diarrhea and nausea. As far as how it affects children, Pediatrics Now reported that while it's annoying for kids, and definitely disrupts them in the short term, overall, kids adjust faster than most adults to jet lag, because they are more malleable to time change and more heavily affected by the amount of light outside. Must be nice, right?
If you're noticing more changes in your body than just your gut and your good mood going south, you're not alone. I found many mothers on breastfeeding forums talking about how they could see a drop in milk production as they experienced jet lag.
But is there any research to determine the answer? Can jet lag affect milk supply, or is it more correlation than causation?
There hasn't been much research completed, but there are a lot of theories and possible answers. One is that when babies eat on a schedule, your supply maintains a base level of production to continue along how it has without risking engorgement or low supply, according to La Leche League International. When that schedule is disrupted, as it is with jet lag, you may see a temporary drop in production until you re-establish a routine.
Also, many women, myself included, take Sudafed for the effects of jet lag and air travel. It helps both the ear popping and puts some pep back in your step. If you're like me, it also helps the unholy allergies that occur on air travel. Unfortunately, the primary active ingredient in Sudafed, pseudoephedrine, is known to decrease milk supply. You may think it's your jet lag nipping off your milk, when it's really your meds.
However, a recent study published by Frontiers in Nutrition found that it may go deeper than just time and meds. They found that jet lag, or the interruption of a primary circadian rhythm might account for the disruption in the onset of milk production or the maintenance of your supply. They found that since the metabolic (the system that regulates sleep) and hormonal systems are so closely linked, that it's absolutely possible that the negative effects of jet lag might also have a negative effect on breastfeeding.
You're not just dreaming it — your jet lag could be affecting your supply. But thankfully, it appears to be temporary, and should be ameliorated by dropping the meds and repairing the routine of both you and your baby.