A friend of mine worked as a critical care nurse at the hospital. After the birth of her second child she returned to work and the funniest thing happened. Well, I thought it was funny. She thought it was embarrassing and annoying. Every so often in the critical care ward one of the IV drip machines would need some attention and an alarm would sound. Without fail, every time my friend heard the alarm, her milk would let down. This continued for nine months after she stopped breastfeeding because all the let downs kept her milk supply up!
Somehow a psychological connection was made in her mind between the alarm and her milk letting down.
That’s the power of the mind.
In this article we’ll explore ways for you to harness your psychological power to increase milk supply!
Here are the 5 steps to increase milk supply with psychology:
Step 1. Fix negative psychology that’s hurting your milk supply
Step 2. Create a relaxing environment
Step 3. Relax the body
Step 4. Use emotions to make the milk flow
Step 5. Get conditioned
Increase Milk Supply with Psychology Step 1:
Fix Negative Psychology That’s Hurting Your Milk Supply
I know how hard having low milk supply is. When I had low milk supply I felt inadequate, afraid and even depressed. I wanted to exclusively breastfeed so much and struggling through low milk supply seemed to bring all my fears to the surface. But emotions are not the problem. It’s our thinking that can drag us down.
You might remember if you took a psych class that all of us have a conscious and a subconscious mind. The subconscious mind is a goal seeker. That’s its function. Have you ever been standing in the shower and out of the blue you figured out a problem that was bothering you, or you realized some truth about a situation, or came up with a great new idea? That was the subconscious mind delivering a goal you gave it.
The subconscious mind is really quite amazing, but it has a fault. The subconscious doesn’t know anything about reality. So if you keep thinking to yourself, “I’m not making enough milk. I’m not making enough milk. I’m not making enough milk,” your subconscious takes that as instructions for what you want. So it tries to “help” you not make enough milk. The more emotion that is attached to the negative thinking, the stronger the subconscious works to “help” you.
Well, just “think positively” right? Not so fast.
Don’t change your thinking into what I call a “false positive.” That’s where you say to yourself something like, “I want to increase milk supply.” The problem with that statement is that its theme is about “lack” – you don’t have enough milk, so you want to increase milk supply.
A truly positive thought comes from a place of abundance. Consider the following abundance-themed statements, “Hey, look at that, I pumped two ounces! That’s more than yesterday. My milk supply is increasing!” or “These herbs are likely to increase my milk supply.” Or “My breasts were made for nursing this baby.”
When you think these things to yourself repeatedly especially with a strong emotional undercurrent – excitement, pride or confidence – your subconscious will help you seek that goal. Maybe you’ll remember to take your herbs regularly. Or maybe you’ll find those 15 extra minutes to make a batch of lactation cookies. Or maybe you’ll truly relax during your next pumping session and get double your usual output.
The subconscious mind will help you seek any goal you give it. So first, pay attention to the thoughts you’re having about breastfeeding. If they’re negative, you’re “programming” your subconscious mind for more trouble with low milk supply. Stop the damage. Interrupt negative thoughts when they happen and actively replace them with positive, abundance-themed thoughts so that your subconscious will seek to increase milk supply.
In the same way if you have people in your life telling you how “hard it is to breastfeed”, “why not give up”, or that “you’re crazy for breastfeeding”. You’ll need to interrupt that negative flow of information to your subconscious and replace it with positive, abundance-themed thoughts.
In a short time you’ll have turned the power of your subconscious from sabotaging your milk supply to helping you increase milk supply. For more on “programming” your mind to achieve your goals, check out The New Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz available on Amazon.com or at your library.
Increase Milk Supply with Psychology Step 2:
Create A Relaxing Environment
We have many animal instincts buried in our minds. A few million years of dodging saber-toothed cats have wired people to have a fight or flight instinct in times of stress. And in ancient times, stress often meant running for your life, fighting for your life or finding food before you starved to death. Ah, good times.
Comparatively, we have nothing to be stressed about. But, strangely, we are stressed. And in times of stress our biology has a very specific pecking order. The life of the mother is more important than the life of her unborn child which in turn is more important than the life of her born child. For more on this see our article on stress and milk supply.
In times of stress – and let’s face it, a new child in the house is stressful – our bodies want to shutdown everything nonessential so that we can survive. This includes milk production.
The best way to combat this is to create as relaxing of an environment as possible. Some suggestions for relaxing that may lead to an increased milk supply:
- Find a comfortable chair for nursing or pumping (this might be two different chairs if you do both).
- Use pillows to support you and baby so that all of your muscles can relax.
- Locate this nursing chair in a part of your home that’s most relaxing to you.
- Are you a comfortable temperature?
- Pay attention to the kind of lighting you find relaxing. Low light, bright light, window light, candles?
- What smells do you find relaxing? Find a scented candle or potpourri that’s calming. Try aromatherapy that contains lavender. I recommend the all-natural, beeswax, aromatherapy candles for relaxation from beehivecandles.com.
- Is there music or sounds (like nature sounds or the sound of the ocean) you find relaxing? If so play them while you nurse or pump.
- Do you have a massaging chair or someone available to give you a massage while nursing or pumping?
- Are you able to relax and focus on nursing, or is your mind being pulled to the million other things you need to do because you can see that pile of laundry from your nursing chair?
- Are there any other changes to the environment you can make that will help you relax? What are the things you don’t like about where you nurse or pump? Can those things be fixed, removed or changed?
By creating a truly relaxing environment all those milk supply robbing stress hormones melt away and your body will be free to increase milk supply and have the most letdowns possible.
Increase Milk Supply with Psychology Step 3:
Relax The Body
Each time, before you begin to nurse or pump, notice the relaxing environment you’ve created and take several deep breaths. (If baby is fussy, latch him before beginning this step.) Breathe in through your nose for a count of four. Hold your breath for a count of six. Imagine all the stress from your life gathering in your lungs. Then blow out through your mouth for a count of eight. Blow out with your lips together as if you were blowing through a straw. Imagine all the stress that was gathered in your lungs being blown out.
After several deep, cleansing breaths, focus on each muscle group and allow them to relax. Start with shoulders (where many us hold tension) and let the muscles fully relax. Continue with your arms and legs. It may be helpful to flex the muscle before relaxing it. Imagine you’re wringing out a dish rag but instead of a rag it’s your muscle and instead of wringing water you’re wringing stress out of the muscle before it relaxes. To increase milk supply you have to relax your body as much as possible.
Increase Milk Supply with Psychology Step 4:
Use Emotions To Make The Milk Flow
Strong, positive emotions can cause milk-making and letdown-stimulating hormones to be released! Now that your body is fully relaxed, begin to pump or nurse. Close your eyes and view mental postcards from your life that bring you feelings of joy, triumph, love, pride, accomplishment or happiness.
You can think of these postcards beforehand and even write them down if you like. Some of my favorite postcards are a particularly big sports accomplishment from high school, many moments from my wedding day and honeymoon, the birth of my children, many moments from vacations. You get the idea. The important point is that you feel that powerful, positive emotion when you think about your postcards. Don’t just think about these moments from your life, get inside the memory, relive the sights, sounds and smells of it. Feel the joy again. Get goosebumps or tear up. It is a great technique for triggering letdowns.
You only need 10 postcards to get started, but be aware that over time you’ll get desensitized to your postcard rotation. That’s okay and natural – the feelings will come back stronger than ever after you give them a little break. I recommend coming up with 10 new postcards each week for a month. Once you have a month built up, just reuse the mental postcards from the prior month.
If mental postcards are not your thing. Go through your old photos and pull out any that you have a positive emotional connection to. Or if you have digital photos, put the emotional ones in a separate folder that you setup as a slideshow. When nursing or pumping look through the photos and really try to feel that positive emotion. As with the mental postcards, you may have to rotate your photos so that you don’t get desensitized.
Increase Milk Supply with Psychology Step 5:
Ivan Pavlov was the physiologist who famously trained dogs to salivate whenever a bell was rung. How’d he do it? Each time, just before he fed the dogs, he rang a bell. Overtime the dogs associated the bell with being fed and even if there wasn’t any food, if he rang the bell, the dogs drooled all over the place. Think about that for a second. There wasn’t any food in sight and yet the dogs had a real physical response (drooling) to the sound of a bell.
I’m not much of a dog person (sorry), but we can use Pavlov’s findings to increase your letdowns and thus increase milk supply, without increasing your drool production. Here’s how it works:
You’ll need to associate your letdowns with something. You could use a bell or some other sound, just like Pavlov, but if that’s too bow-wow, consider sipping a special drink that you only have while breastfeeding or pumping. Each time you feel a let down, play the sound or sip the drink. If you don’t regularly feel letdowns, watch for milk spraying into the collection container on your pump or watch and listen for baby’s big swallows to happen. Over time these two experiences will associate in your mind and you’ll be able to trigger additional letdowns just by playing the sound or sipping the drink or even thinking about the sound, or thinking about drinking the drink.
Finally, you may already have a letdown association. Maybe your milk lets down when your baby cries, or maybe you hum a song while nursing, or like my friend from the beginning of the article who’s milk let down whenever the alarm sounded. If that’s the case, simply visualize as clearly as you can the event happening when you want to trigger additional let downs.
Combine these five steps and you will not only remove psychological roadblocks to your milk production but will harness the immense power of your mind and use it to increase milk supply.