I Tried Meditating to Increase My Milk Supply And I Think It Worked
I wish someone had better prepared me for the amazingly sweet, but also wildly demanding, realities of exclusively breastfeeding my first child. I set out with pretty realistic expectations. I wanted to nurse, but I knew it might not be in the cards for me. After one month of successfully sustaining my baby on my breast milk alone, I committed to three months—and once the three-month mark passed, I figured why not try to get to six?
Well, there I was, in the midst of month six starting to lose my mojo (and potentially my mind). Once again I was worried I wasn't producing enough milk for my baby who was consuming a healthy amount of solids on the regular too. This made it even more confusing to understand just how much milk she still needed since she was less hungry for it. And she was also more distracted now that she was grabbing and playing with everything.
I had heard through the grapevine that meditation was a tangible solution to a waning milk supply and figured I'd give it a shot (didn't have much to lose!). At first thought it sounds a bit hokey—that something as simple as slowing my roll and sneaking in a minute or two to not think about much of anything could have an effect on a bodily function—but some of the benefits of meditation are grounded in actual science. Think reduced stress, controlled anxiety, and enhanced self-awareness. I figured, if nothing else, meditation would help calm my anxiety and allow me to feel more relaxed, which was a win, win in my book!
What Experts Say About Breastfeeding While Meditating
I reached out to a myriad of lactation consultants and nursing experts to help me in my meditating-while-nursing endeavors. As it turns out, meditation and mindfulness in general, can be a real way to boost milk supply. "Most new mothers are multi-tasking professionals with a typical scenario including preparing a meal, washing laundry, answering text messages, all in the midst of trying to breastfeed their baby," says Joanne Goldbort, Ph.D., R.N., course coordinator for maternal child nursing at Michigan State University College of Nursing. "This may cause reduced milk supply." She explains that meditating, even for a few minutes, gives a mother the opportunity to relax and focus solely on breastfeeding, which is the key to a steady supply. "Being relaxed and less stressed promotes the cyclical nature of aiding the let-down reflex, which will lead to the infant getting more milk and emptying the breast—thus leading to more milk production," she says.
I have to admit, breastfeeding is one of the only times during the day where I'm actually sitting down and at least relaxed to some degree. I spend the rest of the day playing with my daughter, changing her, bathing her, rocking her, walking her, catching up on work emails, and making dinner (or, more realistically, typing out our takeout order). Adding meditation to my repertoire could potentially enhance my relaxation, make breastfeeding more meaningful and yield more milk, Dr. Goldbort told me.
Putting Meditation to the Test
Jacqueline Kincer, IBCLC, CSOM, a senior lactation consultant who specializes in holistic lactation recommended that I give meditation a try a whopping three times daily. At first, this seemed like a lot. I can hardly get to the bathroom three times daily, let alone squeeze a consistent practice into my day. The goal was to try to do it in the morning, around lunch time, and just before bed for just 5-10 minutes.
- RELATED: 5 Easy Ways to Meditate Every Day
I started on a Sunday morning about a half hour after pumping my usual 6 ounces of milk with the hope that my little one would cooperate during our nursing session. Her level of distraction was at an all-time high and I knew getting smacked in the chest or the face by her during a nursing session (something that happened on the regular these days) would certainly pull me out of my meditating rhythm. I still closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and tried to do nothing but breathe in and out as relaxed as possible.
To my initial surprise, my daughter tolerated the nursing session much better. The more relaxed my body became, the more relaxed her body became, and it was almost like we were becoming more relaxed in unison. Truthfully, the nursing session didn't last as long as I hoped—a solid six minutes before she pulled off the nipple and started looking around the room.
The next meditation session later that afternoon went similarly, but what was interesting was that I actually looked forward to it. It felt like a break in my day more so than the usual nursing break. Breathing in and out I felt restored in a way that I normally didn't after feedings. The same was true for the last meditation of the day that evening, just before laying my daughter down to sleep.
Perhaps the biggest difference I noticed within one 24-hour period of meditation was the increase in my morning supply. Instead of pumping my usual 6 ounces, I was able to pump 8 in the same 30-minute period. Of course, there are a myriad of factors that could have influenced the increase, such as being more hydrated and nursing for less through the night, but I found it to be interesting to say the least. I continued the meditation throughout the week—not exactly three times a day, but during certain nursing sessions I would practice. It helped remind myself to relax and allow my body and my baby the chance to work synergistically together. It certainly also cut down the distractions that would typically arise from me looking at my phone, at the TV, or even just around the room while my baby would nurse.
At the end of the day milk supply is a matter of supply and demand, notes Kincer. "If milk isn't being removed from the breasts often enough or with sufficient suction, the mom's body will receive the signal that it doesn't need to make as much milk and to slow down production," she says. "If a mother is doing everything right and she's still not making enough milk, chances are there's another underlying health condition preventing her from getting a full milk supply and she should work with her healthcare team to address this."
All in all, I would certainly recommend meditating to just about anyone, but especially moms (nursing or not!). While it could very possibly give you a boost in your milk supply, the relaxation and anxiety-reducing benefits are real. And what new mom couldn't use a few extra minutes of unplugged peace and quiet? This mama sure can!