Although breast feeding is the natural way to feed a baby, it's definitely not easy!
I knew that I'd face an uphill battle- I've heard stories from cousins and aunts who had sore breasts, how one can get infections, and that breasts can become hard as rocks.
Does not sound like a good time, huh? But if you read my other posts about breastfeeding here and here, you'll see that the benefits far outweigh the pain and discomfort. Not too mention the cuddling and bonding time I get with my son is priceless!
I chose to share some of my breast feeding hurdles with my readers not to scare, but to inform. My supervisor also breast fed and no one told her it could be difficult, uncomfortable, or sometimes painful. She thought that since it was natural it would be easy. But it's not! I've come to realize that a lot of women who feel breast feeding should be easy end up feeling like failures when they feel like quitting.
Want to know a secret? Almost every single breast feeding mama will tell you that at one point, they thought of quitting, too.
So what kind of hurdles did I encounter? Pretty much the general hurdles most mamas face.
-Poor latch/Positioning: Getting Phillip to latch wasn't difficult. What was difficult was identifying a good latch and getting him to latch correctly. My lactation consultants told me that if I feel any pain at all, his latch is not deep enough and I need to try again. I was told to unlatch (using my pinky to gently break his suction death grip) and try, try, try again. He had to learn just like I did.
Most of the pain that women feel while breastfeeding is due to poor latch and is not normal! Although it happens often, it's not something mamas should feel they have to suffer silently through until they can toughen up. No way. The biggest clue I got was, "It's called breast feeding, not nipple feeding." That helped me correct most of our latching issues.
-Nursing in Public (NIP): Can you say awkward? Phillip is almost 4 months and I still have trouble when I NIP. He hates having a cover over his head and will rip it off EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. So most times I just nurse in the car, parked in the back of the parking lot. We have our windows tinted as dark as we are legally allowed so that helps.
Now that he's growing we have other issues than just dealing with potentially flashing a crowd. He's getting so tall that when he nurses his feet are up against the door, armrest, or carseat. I have to maneuver my body into a sideways position so that he can fit. Pretty soon we're going to have to unlatch the entire base so that I can sit in the middle of the backseat!
-Keeping Up My Supply: During my pregnancy I read up on a few things about breast feeding. One of the major tips given was to nurse nurse nurse your newborn as often as you can. This helps to bring in mother's milk and keep supply up. For the first 3 months of life supply is driven by hormones and demand.
To make sure my supply was well established I nursed Phillip every 2-3 hours during the day and 4-5 during the night, or sooner if he wanted. He rarely went longer than 2-3 hours without eating. Once or twice we had to wake him up during the night to feed. But as soon as hit 13lbs our pediatrician said we didn't have to wake him anymore at night, but to continue feeding him every 2-3 hours during the day.
I also made sure to pump after most feedings. This way I could slowly build my milk supply for when I returned to work. Although I would be pumping at work, my supply could dip so I needed back up, just in case.
Another way to increase milk supply is galactagogues. A galactagogue is simply a substance that increases milk supply.
I have tried the following:
-Coconut water: For the electrolytes! The glands that are responsible for milk production are the same as sweat production. When producing all that milk, mothers need to replenish the electrolytes they've lost. Some mothers use Gatorade but I prefer a more natural source of vitamins and electrolytes.
-Oatmeal: Not the instant kind, but the old fashioned kine that you need to cook in a pot. I have no idea why this works. But it does, for some. I didn't get fantastic results with it but noticed a slight bump.
-Fenugreek: An herbal supplement sold over the counter. You need to take about 6 grams a day. That's about 12 capsules daily, so about 4 with each meal. You'll know you've taken enough when you start to smell like maple syrup. My husband always said I smelled like waffles LOL. I stopped taking Fenugreek though because Phillip became really gassy and cranky.
-Mother's Milk Tea: There are a few brands that sell lactation teas. I drink about 3-4 cups a day. The taste isn't the best but ya gotta do what ya gotta do!
-And my favorite way to increase supply? Lactation cookies! Made with oatmeal and chocolate chips, the active ingredients (oatmeal and Brewer's Yeast) help bump up supply. The only downside is that I ate so many of these that I started to gain weight. So I backed off for a couple weeks and am thinking I need to make another batch soon =)
With all the hurdles we faced I'm really glad I stuck with it. It isn't easy but it definitely is very very rewarding! I hope to be able to keep this up for at least 6 months. He'll be 4 months on Sunday so we're almost there!
Before I was even pregnant with Phillip I knew I wanted to breast feed.
There didn’t seem to be any other option.
I grew up with aunts who breastfeed and once my family generation started having children, my cousins also breast fed. I remember helping my cousin express milk from her breast into a cup because she had become engorged (I held the cup, in case you were wondering).
Whether instinctively or sub-consciously I knew that breast milk was the healthier option for my baby. During my pregnancy I started to look a bit deeper into the health benefits for baby and mom while breastfeeding.
Decreased Risk of Developing Diabetes
What really stood out for me was the fact that breastfeeding decreases my chances of developing Type II Diabetes later in life.
Most of my readers know I developed Gestational Diabetes during my pregnancy. That alone increases my chances of developing diabetes, however, by breastfeeding I help to lower those chances and increase my odds for living a long and healthy life.
Women who give birth and choose to not breast feed their children for at least a month are twice as likely to develop Type II Diabetes.
Increased Bonding Between Mother and Baby
Breastfeeding also helps to increase the bonding between mom and baby. While bonding is a natural process, it isn’t always as easy or automatic as one might think. Majority of new moms experience “baby blues” which a period of deep sadness caused by the sudden drop of hormones.
I experienced “baby blues” during the first 2 weeks after I gave birth. I cried. A lot. Sometimes for no reason. My hormones were all over the place- add that to the stress of being a new parent and it can be very overwhelming, very easily.
Most mothers recover from the blues within 10 days. Some don’t, and that is usually referred to as Post-Partum Depression. Breastfeeding helps to regulate those hormones responsible for the emotional roller coaster many new moms face.
Other Major Health Benefits:
- Breastfeeding builds your baby’s immune system
- Breastfed infants have added protection against-
- Heart Disease
- Immune system cancers
- Allergies and Asthma
- Type 1 and 2 Diabetes
- Breastfeeding also reduces Mom’s risk of cancer and other health conditions (like Diabetes).
- Moms return to pre-pregnancy weight faster (oh yeah!)
- Middle ear infections
- Gastroenteritis (stomach flu)
- Urinary tract infections
- Necrotizing enterocolitis, a digestive tract disorder that is a leading killer of premature infants
One of the coolest pieces of information I found was about the antibodies that passed between mother and baby.
“Antibodies, or immune molecules, in a mother’s breast milk are transferred to the baby, giving them immunities to illnesses that the mother is immune to. The converse is also true--if your newborn is exposed to a germ, she will transfer it back to the mother while nursing. The mother’s body will then make antibodies to that particular germ and transfer them back to the baby at the next feeding.”- Dr. Mercola
Isn’t that neat??
So if you’re on the fence about breastfeeding or formula feeding I urge you to look into the research and really take a look at the health benefits you’ll be giving to yourself and your baby.
As a mother there are many decisions I’m forced to make for my son. One of those decisions that I feel very strongly about is breastfeeding. I chose to exclusively breast feed (EBF) my child before I even became pregnant.
I've started a few posts that I'd like to include as part of my "Breast Feeding Series". I'll share my breast feeding journey, why I chose to breast feed, my struggles, and my tips for overcoming those struggles.
Breastfeeding for us started minutes after I gave birth.
During my personal research I learned that having immediate skin-to-skin contact with my newborn is vital to establishing a healthy breastfeeding relationship.
Phillip was put directly to my chest after his cord was cut. He latched on like a champ and nursed for almost an hour.
In the hospital I nursed him on demand- meaning anytime he cried for food, I gave it to him. This turned out to mean I nursed him every 1-2 hours for anywhere from 30 minutes to 45 minutes per side. I didn’t mind, though. Frequent nursing sessions are important because they help to ensure my milk comes in rapidly.
**A mother’s milk doesn’t come in right after birth. Colostrum, a thick milky liquid, is instead present for the first few days. It is a nutrient rich liquid but very low in volume. Although it may seem that the newborn isn’t getting enough “milk”, it’s not a huge concern because colostrum meets all of the baby’s nutritional needs.**
Frequent nursing sessions served as great bonding time for me and my son. I worried about him becoming too jaundiced but the nurses told me that as long as I nursed him often, the colostrum would help to expel the billirubin that causes newborns’ skin and eyes to turn a yellowish hue. I was also worried about his weight gain since that is a huge indicator of a newborn’s health. These were great motivators for me to keep on nursing, even though it started to get rough.
I developed some tenderness. The lactation consultant that worked with the hospital visited me daily and helped correct Phillip’s latch. A lot of new mothers will go through some discomfort when first learning to breastfeed but pain is not normal and can usually be corrected by adjusting baby’s position and latch.
The nurses gave me great support and checked in on my often to see how we were doing. Because they knew that I wanted to EBF, they didn’t once utter the word “formula” near me. They also sent me home with a list of breast feeding resources as part of my discharge packet.
Once we were at home, that’s when the trouble began.
The soreness increased and they also became very tender. I used lanolin (a moisturizer similar to Vaseline but safe for baby to digest) at first but Phillip did not like the taste.
I ended up setting up an appointment with a lactation consultant to look over Phillip’s latch and help correct if necessary. His pediatrician is also a Certified Lactation Consultant so she was a great resource as well.
It took us about 2 weeks to get into a good nursing “groove” with virtually no pain. There was still some discomfort but nothing like the earlier days.
By 6 weeks I could nurse at home with no problem. I still wasn’t comfortable with nursing in public. It made me nervous to try and maneuver an infant, my breast, and nursing cover at the same time. When I had to nurse in public I would nurse in the car so I wouldn’t have to worry about flashing strangers.
Well, except when we were at our pediatrician’s office. She’s a huge breast feeding supporter here in Hawaii and I felt comfortable nursing in the waiting room. She would even offer her office or an empty exam room to her patients’ moms to make them feel more comfortable.
This was also around the time we started teaching Phillip how to drink from a bottle. That was an uphill battle but we won with a lot of consistency!
When Phillip was 2 months we were well established with breast feeding. I nursed in public about 2 times (both at a restaurant and with the help of my husband with my nursing cover) and nursing at home was a breeze!
Now that I’m back at work Phillip is almost 4 months old. I can nurse with no problems at all. I still struggle with being comfortable while nursing in public but it will get better/easier. Some days I do get tired of being attached to a baby for most of the day but I find encouragement in knowing that I’m doing the best for my son. Sometimes he’ll go back to a bad latch but nothing I can’t correct on my own.
Since I’m working now, we do have another issue to face: My milk supply.
My supply took a small dip because I’m not nursing as often. Even though I’m pumping, a pump isn’t as efficient as a baby in getting the milk out and I’m not pumping as often as I’d be nursing.
To help keep my supply up I’ve tried taking Fenugreek which is a supplement that helps keep up milk supply.
But it made Phillip gassy and fussy so I had to stop. I now drink a lactation tea and also made lactation cookies (yum!). I drink plenty of water and make sure to replace the electrolytes used to produce my milk.
Ultimately my goal is to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months. We’ll start to introduce foods at that time and hopefully I’ll be able to continue to breastfeed until he turns one.
Although it was rough in the beginning, I am so glad we stuck with the program!