Breastfeeding Nurtures Mother and Baby


Breastfeeding continues to be the optimal source of nutrition for infants with rewards that stretch into adulthood. And, while there is much focus on the physical health benefits of breastfeeding for infants and mothers, it is essential to acknowledge the mental health benefits gained during breastfeeding as well as the emotional pressures mothers face. 

The act of breastfeeding releases oxytocin in mother and baby. This hormone reduces stress and anxiety in mothers and babies, and it arouses feelings of calm and well-being. Babies gain a sense of security and emotional safety. Endorphins, which are mood enhancers, are also released during breastfeeding, and they help nurture the growing emotional attachment between mother and baby. In infants, breastfeeding has been associated with enhanced infant learning, less fussiness, and lowered stress. 

While a positive breastfeeding experience can ideally improve the mental health of both mother and baby, difficulty while breastfeeding can also impact mental health. Issues with latching, low milk supply, or discomfort during breastfeeding can lead to frustration, anxiety, and stress.

Alleviating the emotional pressures mothers face during breastfeeding involves multiple approaches. A strong support system can lessen difficulties during breastfeeding and promote positive mental health. Peer support from mothers in the same community and who are currently breastfeeding has been linked to increases in both initiation and duration of breastfeeding. The most common and effective forms of peer support are peer support groups and personalized support from a peer counselor. Trained peer support counselors provide emotional validation, encouragement, and help solve issues with breastfeeding. Hearing about others’ experiences and successes during breastfeeding can lessen a new mother’s feelings of isolation and stress. 

A social environment that supports breastfeeding can also help reduce stress and anxiety around the experience. That means the support of fathers, close family members or friends who can lift up the mother. It can include everything from encouragement to practical help around the house which alleviates the mother’s stress while she’s trying to breastfeed. 

Empowerment is another factor that has been linked to mothers continuing breastfeeding successfully. Healthcare professionals and those in breastfeeding support services can empower mothers to navigate breastfeeding with increased confidence in their skills as a parent. They can provide advice and teach new mothers, while helping to manage expectations around breastfeeding. Providing mothers with the toolkit necessary to address challenges can help them feel less overwhelmed, positively improving emotional well-being. 

Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) clinics in Polk County provide breastfeeding support, education, and resources to WIC clients throughout Polk County at no cost. To see if you are eligible to participate, visit Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) | Florida Department of Health in Polk ( or call 863-519-7542. 

For those not eligible for WIC services, United Way of Central Florida hosts breastfeeding support groups on Fridays at 10 a.m. Visit their website to sign up: Children’s Resource Center – United Way of Central Florida ( Visit PCBN Resource list ( to be connected to additional breastfeeding support services in Polk County.

By nurturing the mental health of both mother and baby, we can foster a positive breastfeeding experience and nurture the emotional bond between them. About the Author: Dr. Joy Jackson, an internal medicine physician, serves the community as director of the Florida Department of Health in Polk County (DOH-Polk).  For more information about DOH-Polk, visit  Follow DOH-Polk on Twitter at

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