It’s World Breastfeeding Week and I don’t want to pass it by without mentioning it in this space.
I am passionate about breastfeeding and I am proud of the relationship I have been able to establish with all 3 of my kids. However, I am not saying this to receive a pat on the back.
I know for others this can be triggering. It may cause memories of anxiety, frustration, pain, or feelings of failure.
My intent with this little internet space is to help mothers and babies so that they can receive the support they need. I want to know where mothers didn’t feel supported and where they struggled.
For most mothers, breastfeeding does NOT come naturally. It is a learned skill— even for the baby. The education, the support, the care the mother receives has so much to do with the “successes”. I am going to share the tools that have helped me find success.
My 3 Favorite Breastfeeding Items
I am a minimalist when it comes to breastfeeding or baby items. In all honesty, that is probably why I am so determined when it comes to breastfeeding my kids— less stuff to pack and carry around! The items I am mentioning I only used in the early weeks/months but I work from home so I have a different situation than the working mother.
- An electric pump– I pump a lot in the early weeks to establish a supply and start to make a stash. These days, most insurance companies will cover a nice one.
- A haakaa is the coolest invention I’ve found! This is a manual suction device and is super inexpensive. I used this to help establish my supply and then help get past the early oversupply (I am a milk machine). The haakaa is great because you just attach it to the opposite breast the baby is feeding on and collect what would normally leak. I could easily collect a few ounces at each feed without using a pump.
- Nursing Tanks– In the early days, being easily accessible is the most important. I love wearing nursing tanks and yoga pants. They are comfortable, supportive, and allow easy access.
Tips for Getting Past the Early Struggles
- Latch issues– There is nothing better than having a good lactation consultant. I always make sure to see the one in the hospital before leaving and will often make a follow-up appointment just in case. A lactation consultant can help troubleshoot the latch issue, can help show different positions, and how to encourage baby to open wide and get adequate breast tissue in their mouth. Each of my babies has struggled with the initial latch and I’m not going to lie– sometimes it takes 6-8 weeks to become a “pro”.
- Keeping baby interested and awake. Learning how to read feeding cues and responding immediately is the most effective. I am a c-section mama and my babies are usually a little lethargic from the anesthetic so I have to make them uncomfortable. I undress them, get them a little cold, tickle their faces, or wipe with a washcloth.
- Supply issues. “Breastfeeding is a supply and demand relationship.” I have really found this to be true. With each of my kids, the more they want to nurse, the more milk I have. If they back off, my supply dips. So the more your baby sucks at the breast, with an efficient latch, the more milk you will produce. I avoid supplementing at all costs. The reason for this is that supplementing with a bottle or formula fills the baby and signals your body that baby isn’t needing this feeding, production will adjust to baby’s needs. The first day of supplementing likely won’t decrease your supply, however, after about 3 days of consecutive supplementation, the message will be received.
- Slow to regain birth weight— I had a few moments where my babies have lost too much weight or have been slow to gain initially. I remedy that by pumping AFTER a feed and immediately supplementing with my own milk, or collecting with the haakaa and using that collected milk as a supplemental boost. It can take a few weeks to get the hindmilk/foremilk balance regulated. I also buy a scale and weigh my babies at home and chart it out. This gives me peace of mind and is a visual that baby is eating and growing in between those well-checks.
Self-Care for Mama
Breastfeeding can be stressful, and I know this may sound a little crazy but mom’s state of mind has a lot to do with supply and confidence. Trust your body and know that you can feed your baby– and regardless of your choices YOU know what’s best for YOU and YOUR baby. I have written before about postpartum emotional well-being which elaborates much more on self-care.
Staying relaxed affects both you and your baby. I know that if I am stressed out or tense, my kids immediately feed on my energy and are stressed out or chaotic. Babies are smart and they are attuned to their mamas! I will have a chat with my kids when we are going through difficult times (even newborn) and tell them we are in this together and I’m here to provide their food. I promise it works!
- Affirmations are a powerful way to stay relaxed and confident in motherhood. I write affirmations down on post-its in the bathroom so I see them each time I look in the mirror or wash my hands.
I am able to provide all of the nourishment my baby needs. We are connected. I am enough.
2. Hydrate– Water is so important! 3-4 quarts of water per day is what a pregnant or nursing mother needs. This helps with mental clarity, fatigue, milk supply, and general wellness.
3. Essential Oils– I use oils to help with my milk supply, my mood, and my energy. It is amazing that these little tools can be so powerful for many aspects of motherhood.
4. Get outside– Fresh air and sunshine do so much! Having a new baby or a baby and other kids can make it more difficult to opt outside. A short walk around our neighborhood does so much to elevate my mood, so it is worth the effort to pack up the kids in the stroller and get out!
I think it is important we share our stories and I think that is what World Breastfeeding Week is about– bridging the gap so we can support mother’s who did not have the outcome they were seeking.
Let’s share our stories.
What worked for you, and what didn’t?