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Simple Breastfeeding Tips

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

  1. 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”.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!

  1. 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?

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Lactation Cookies

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I have scoured the internet and tried many varieties of lactation cookies. I have been underwhelmed with many tastes, textures, and baking thus far so decided to tweak some recipes until I found my own favorite. I am sharing my version today on my blog after receiving postive feedback on my instagram yesterday. They are gluten free (I buy gluten free oats), refined sugar free– and if you wanted to make them completely sugar free, you could omit the maple syrup. The dates add quite a bit of sweetness. I could not find fenugreek at any of our local stores, so I had to order from Amazon.

Lactation Cookies

2 T Fenugreek seeds
1 T Anise seeds
1/3 c. Flax seeds
1 c. Almonds, chopped
1 c. Dates
1/2 c. Coconut oil, melted
1/3 c. Shredded unsweetened coconut
1 c. Oatmeal, soaked overnight
1 c. Almond flour
1 T. Vanilla extract
1 tsp. Baking powder
5 eggs
1/2 c. Maple syrup
1 c. Lily’s chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Put fenugreek, anise, flax and dates in a food processor, blend until smooth.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together remaining ingredients.
4. Add in date mixture and mix well.
5. Scoop heaping tablespoons onto parchment lined baking sheet.
6. Bake 12-15 min.

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From Boobs to Books

I mentioned in a previous post that I was in the process of weaning my toddler. I am happy to report that we have had success! The weaning process took a bit longer than I anticipated, however our second goal date was achieved!

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It’s All About Distraction

This has been a gentle process, and I am so happy that the toddler mind is maleable. With our son, changing his routine and keeping him busy has been the key. Daddy has taken over many roles, this worked out well with our timing and the Christmas holiday. Now that daddy is back to work, I am working to keep him distracted.

Our morning routine is pretty strict. Ezra naps between 10:30 and 11 each day, so I schedule our morning chores in that early morning window. We are home by naptime and he is so sleepy, he just tells me bye and falls right to sleep in his crib without nursing.

Bedtime has even been an easy transition, although the last to go. It has been a similar process. Dinner, bath, and then we move away from our typical nursing spot (my bed) and on to the sofa. We pick several books and have storytime before bed. I will read one and daddy reads another. Then we say our goodnights to one another and to random objects in the house. He goes to his bed, rolls over and falls asleep without a fuss.

 

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Read to Me, Mama

I have placed piles of books in our typical nursing spots. Ezra loves board books with silly rhymes or recognizable pictures. For several days, each time I would sit down, he would collapse in my lap and sign milk.

Instead of obliging, I would pick up one of his favorite books and start reading.  After a few sentences he would quickly forget about the milk and become absorbed in the book. After 3 days of this, asking for milk is no more. Now he brings the book to me and will cuddle on my lap for reading time.

Nurturing our Emotions

The nursing relationship is a special one. It is bittersweet to move on from this phase of parenting, and both Ezra and I still need to have moments of bonding that would resemble our nursing moments.

I wake up ready to nurse him in the mornings, even though I know it is over.  Ezra is not cuddly for long stretches of time, however I savor those moments when he nestles his head into my shoulder for some extra mama reassurance.

It has taken diligence and discipline on my part. Breaking my habit of giving in each time he asked or whined for milk and being firm has helped define the boundary. Toddlers need boundaries and guidance to what is allowed and what is not. Once the boundary was defined, the whining stopped.

My deepest fear was losing the connection that Ezra and I shared. Breastfeeding is more than just nutrition. It is a hormonal bond, the release of oxytocin– the “love” hormone. I did have to grieve for a brief moment.

Parenting is a series of phases, and accepting that this phase needed to be over for my comfort and sanity before the birth of our next baby was crucial. After accepting it, and allowing my little bird to grow his wings so he can move on to his next phase has been quite a journey. For Ezra, he is using this time to develop his language skills and show us what he has been trying to say!