"I Make Milk. What's Your Superpower?"
Breastfeeding is an amazing superpower granted to mothers from God, however, taking on the responsibility of feeding another human requires an abundance of patience and practice. Throughout the duration of my pregnancy, many moms, physicians, and expert baby bloggers I read, strongly praised and encouraged breastfeeding. However, somewhere along the way, I missed the memo on how difficult learning to breastfeed can be. My son will soon be five months old, and only recently have I fallen in love with breastfeeding. So far, the maturation process of learning to feed my baby has at times been difficult, frustrating and downright uncomfortable.
Granted the first few days and weeks of breastfeeding can seem impossible, many new moms will set a breastfeeding goal of three months, six months, nine months, one year, etc.
How do women tolerate the pain, the frequency, the engorgement for six months or a year? They don’t – if you can make it through the first six weeks or so, you are well on your way to an easier and much more acceptable breastfeeding relationship.
If breastfeeding is an option for you and your partner, prior to your babies arrival, consider consulting with individuals like a night nurse, a lactation consultant and a postpartum doula, each designed to enhance your support system and make your transition to breastfeeding easier.
I quickly learned that there is no "one size fits all" instruction manual when learning to breastfeed. New moms, if you decide to pursue this route of feeding your baby, please approach this journey day by day and try not to give up. Push through the pain and "inconvenience" of learning to breastfeed because, I promise, over time it does get better.
Positive Reasons To Breastfeed
- The joyful closeness and bonding with your baby.
- Breastfeeding provides the specific nutrition only moms can give to their babies. Breast milk is comprised of appropriate amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, that yield vitamins, minerals, digestive enzymes, and hormones to a baby. Breast milk also contains antibodies and lymphocytes from mom, that help baby resist infections.
- The cost savings in not having to purchase formula can be substantial.
- The mental and physical health benefits for mother and baby are significant.
Tips for Enhancing your Breastfeeding Experience
- Breastfeeding is NATURAL and NORMAL- Moms, DO NOT BE AFRAID to feed your baby in public! Your baby is depending on you for nourishment and knowing that fact should amaze and empower you. Trust your body, be their food source, and be their comfort. Confidence is key, and be confident in knowing you are giving life through feedings.
- Eat Well & Hydrate Frequently- One of the first rules in producing and sustaining an adequate milk supply is to eat well, and as often, as you like. However, while new moms are learning the fundamentals of breastfeeding, they can frequently forget to feed themselves, let alone their spouse, the dog, the houseplant or any other living creature in the household. During the early stages of breastfeeding it is common for many moms to experience ravishing hunger like never before, so, accepting that your appetite may drastically increase, and, that YOU are no longer your first priority is a huge feat. Whether hiring a private chef, making a stockpile of frozen meals, or allowing family members to take turns with supplying your meals, creating a plan is essential and will help contribute to early breastfeeding success. Do not wait until your baby arrives to create a meal plan, rather, devise a plan while pregnant. Another important component of producing an adequate milk supply is to stay hydrated, and to help you reach your daily water intake goal, try to drink water while your baby eats. During each feeding, attempt to consume at least .75L (about a glass and a half) of water. Keep a water bottle near your bed or by your favorite nursing area so you can instinctively hydrate while you nourish your little one.
- Sleep- This sounds like a complete joke considering many new moms get zero to two hours of uninterrupted sleep a week. Nevertheless, moms need proper rest for their bodies to keep up with the demand of their baby. This is where a solid support system comes into place. Let your spouse or family members take turns holding the baby so that you can nap, rest and recover whenever possible. Trust your body, it will respond appropriately if you take care of yourself.
- Protect the nipples at all cost. New breastfeeding moms quickly learn that their nipples are now an entity and nipple care is essential in helping to develop and maintain a healthy breastfeeding regimen. Throughout the first weeks, maybe even months of breastfeeding, your nipples can be extremely sore, cracked and even bleed. Over time the pain and symptoms do subside, but during the early stages, consider using lanolin cream, cool nursing pads, or even coconut oil to soothe and moisturize your nipples. The key to combating these symptoms is to moisturize, moisturize and moisturize, so make nipple balm your new best friend! Also, let the girls breath by occasionally going braless, allowing your nipples to air out. If you notice prolonged soreness, make sure you clean your nipples frequently in the shower or wipe down your breast with baby wipes after each feeding.
- Proper nursing gear- The proper nursing gear is essential and it can make feeding your baby, especially in public, much easier and efficient. You would not show up to a hot yoga class wearing insulated leggings and socks, so why show up to your baby's feedings with uncomfortable, annoying clothing that makes an already hard task more difficult. During the first few weeks of feeding it may take a while for your let down to regulate, until this happens, milk can frequently leak through your clothes which can be so ANNOYING. A great fitted nursing bra will allow you to easily feed your baby and have proper support for your breast. There are varying levels of support, some nursing bras have light support and are great for bedtime or when lounging around the house, and others have built-in padding, for greater coverage and support, when exercising or running errands. Clothing that is breastfeeding friendly is great for the mom on the go. If you need a great place to shop for breastfeeding sweatshirts, blouses, and dresses that are cute and functional, check out Amazon.com for an array of different styles and colors, that can be conveniently delivered to your doorstep.
- Alternate breast when feeding- When feeding your baby try to alternate breast. It can be difficult to remember which breast you used to nurse, but this is so important when thwarting off the lopsided effect that can exist on an overused/underused breasts. A trick that helped me remember which breast I nursed on last was to place a hair tie on the wrist of the side I last fed my baby, and alternate the hair tie throughout the day. Most new babies express favoritism with one breast over the other especially during the late night/early morning feedings, so try your best to find balance and use both breast equally. Another great tactic is to deviate your nursing position – this prevents the baby from putting pressure on the exact same spot of the nipple at every feeding.
- Pump regularly- Develop a regular pumping schedule to relieve the pressure of engorgement, clear your milk ducts and encourage your body to keep producing more milk. Routine pumping also allows you to store milk for future bottle feedings. Try your best not to allow your breast to be engorged for a prolonged amount of time- not only is this extremely uncomfortable, it can also lead to mastitis, which can be painful and annoying. During feedings, massage your breast to assist with your let down and help release stored milk. After feedings, massage your breast in the shower, hold a hot compress over your chest, or hand express breast to release any leftover milk. By doing these tactics, you can unclog your milk ducts and keep them clear.
- Finding The Perfect Latch - Discovering the way your baby latches onto your breast is major component of sustaining a successful breastfeeding routine. Surprisingly, not all infants, especially those that are born premature, know how to latch and nurse properly. Some moms have to practice different latching techniques and use devices like nipple shields, to help their babies develop the proper latch. Another way to assist your baby during this process is to try different holds. Do not be discouraged, developing a proper latch takes time. Be patient and trust the process.
- Learn Your Baby's Hunger Cues- In a perfect world our infant would refrain from screaming and simply say "hey mom, I want some milk." As moms, we have to notice when our babies display hunger cues, signaling that he/she is ready to feed. Some of these cues include sucking on his/her lip, tongue, finger, or fist. Mild fidgeting and fussing are also indicators that your baby is hungry. Lastly, crying is a late hunger cue and may make it more difficult to begin breastfeeding. Keep in mind that swaddling, pacifiers, and mittens can inhibit the hunger cues, as the baby’s mouth and hands are restricted.
- Working Moms Can Breastfeed- If you’re a working mom that is breastfeeding, know that you are doing what is necessary to be the best mom and provider for them, and try to thwart the guilt that can come with leaving your baby to go to work. It is incredibly important to keep a positive mindset that your body is still producing everything your baby needs and actively ignore anyone who would try to convince you otherwise. Quick Note: If you are offering bottles in addition to breast, be careful to measure all contents. The sucking reflex overrides baby’s ability to stop sucking when full until about four months of age. It is easy to overfeed babies younger than four months due to this reflex.
- Skin-to-skin for the win! Daily skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby is essential. Schedule this activity as you would a bedtime routine and enjoy the intimate closeness that you and your baby experience.
- Supplement for Success- Nursing moms should continue to take a daily pre-natal or multivitamin. Other supplements that help with milk supply include organic fenugreek, which can come as an herb or in capsule form, mothers milk tea, and oatmeal.
- Ask for Help- Do not be afraid to ask for help! A certified lactation consultant can help a new mom feel comfortable and secure with breastfeeding. Also, seek support from online and local support groups like La Leche League and KellyMom
The Magic Nipple Mommies
Thank you to the beautiful breastfeeding mothers Sandra Shelton, Brittany Larry, Lana Cook, Heaven Daniels, Anjelica Carpenter, Hope Hopkins, Sinae Verner, Sharelle Harlan, Kiara Moore, Kerri Sensabaugh, Tieashia Velasco, Linda Hope, Susannah Biggs, Deena Knight, Anitra Meeks and my midwives, Brittany Hall and Alex Montgomery, whom ALL blessed me with their wisdom during my early breastfeeding trials. My family and I are forever grateful that you shared your knowledge and provided support during this time of growth and transition in our lives.
This post is not intended to "mommy shame" or make those moms who opted not to breastfeed feel inadequate. I DO occasionally supplement my breast milk feedings with formula to help nourish my baby. My mantra is a happy baby yields a happy family. Moms face enough unnecessary criticism from society so we must encourage and empower one another.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services