Increased stress/anxiety has the potential to interfere with the release of oxytocin, the hormone responsible for milk let-downs. This can cause disruptions in milk flow and milk volume. However, Dr. Stephen Feher showed that relaxation and guided imagery therapy may be a powerful method for mitigating stress and increasing milk volumes. His study included 55 mothers with premature infants in the NICU. They were either randomly assigned to the study group where they were asked to listen to a 20-minute relaxation/guided imagery tape each day or the control group where they did not receive a tape.
One week later, study participants pumped during a visit to the NICU. The women in the relaxation tape group pumped an average of 63% more milk than the control group. Feher and his colleagues found that the recording was even more effective amongst mothers of infants who were on a mechanical ventilator -- these mothers had an increase of 121% more breast milk than those in the control group!
Who is up for trying the Feher pumping challenge to see if it improves your milk output? The 20-minute recording is linked here. We recommend listening to the recording once a day for a week, preferably right before or during your nursing/pumping session.