Breastfeeding is a good idea—and even more so if
you're a stressed-out mom.
In a recent study, researchers worked to determine the effects of a mother's
stress on the amount of beneficial substances found in her breast milk. The
researchers thought that mothers practicing relaxation techniques would have
higher levels of protective substances. However, the results showed that
relaxation training had no effect, and that, in fact, mothers who reported the
highest levels of stress also had the highest levels of protective substances in
their breast milk. One possible theory is that stress increases a nursing
mother's production of antibodies because her body knows that stress
makes her more vulnerable to infection. At any rate, the stressed-out mothers
actually gave their babies extra disease protection.
If you are a mom-to-be considering breastfeeding or a new mom choosing to
breastfeed, you don't need to worry that your breast-fed baby's immune system
will be negatively affected by your stress levels (at least that's one less
thing to be stressed about). It is very important to realize, however, that the
relationship between what you put into your body and what your baby takes in
through your breast milk is strong. Trying to relieve stress with alcohol or
other drugs can be very harmful to your growing child. If you are having trouble
coping with stress, talk to your doctor. Also talk to him or her about your
nutritional needs as a nursing mom, and discuss all medications you are
considering. If you have general questions about breastfeeding, you can also
check out the La Leche League's Web site at
Antibodies: a protein made by white blood cells that reacts with a
specific foreign protein as part of the immune response.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Gwen Gotsch and Judy Torgus
The Complete Book of Breastfeeding by Marvin S. Eiger and Sally
Wendkos Olds (Workman Publishing Company, 1999)
I'm a Mom: Mediations for New Mothers by Ellen Sue Stern (Dell Books,
American Academy of Pediatrics Web site.
"AAP Releases New Breastfeeding Recommendations." Available at:
American Academy of Pediatrics Web site. "A Woman's Guide to Breastfeeding."
Donovan, D, IBCLC. Parent's Place Web site. "Why Breast is Best." Available
La Leche League International Web site. "FAQ on Prevention of Illnesses."
O'Connor ME, Schmidt W, Carroll-Pankhurst C, Olness K. Relaxation training
and breast milk secretory IgA. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1998;
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