Don't worry New Mama. We've all been there...what the heck are those for anyway???
Here's the thing. You've heard the expression "There's more than one way to skin a cat," right? Well, there's definitely more than one way to have a baby and raise a baby. I get asked by new mama's all the time about car seats, breast feeding, sleep problems, starting solids....and I'm no expert, but between having 2 kids of my own and nearly 10 years of experience in pediatric medicine, I've got a few tricks up my sleeve. So here is one of my favorites:
I hit this one first because it's the most special to me. Not the most important necessarily, but real dear to my heart. I have been fortunate enough to nurse both of my babies. And loved, loved, loved that special bonding time. My oldest nursed for a little over 12 months, and so far I'm about 7 months on my second one. Please hear me mama's that did nurse or give pumped breast milk - I am not judging you, shaming you, or saying you did wrong by your baby. Again...cat skinning.... Ok. Now that that's out of the way...here's a few tips for you to be successful.
- when your baby eats, you are either feeding them straight from the breast or pumping (This is crucial. The amount of milk you make works off supply and demand. So if for some reason your doctor or midwife is having you supplement with formula, give the baby the formula and then pump!!! Every. single. time. If you aren't stimulating the nipple when the baby eats, your body doesn't know to make more.)
- your job for the first couple of weeks is to feed that baby whenever they are hungry. If he starts to fuss for more milk just 30 minutes after you feed him , feed him again. If he wakes up at night to eat, feed him. Frequent feedings early on will help set your breast tissue up to make more milk now and in the future. If you want to try to sleep train him later, then wait until you've got a good solid supply which will take a good 6 weeks.
- it's always good to take a change of shirts out and about for you when you're newly feeding. Milk happens. :)
- the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months. This allows baby to get all of their needed nutrients straight from mama with all the added benefits of immunity without risks of food allergies. Some studies have shown that adding in food (or even supplementing with formula) before 6 months decreases the effectiveness of the immunity that baby gets from your milk. So unless there's a milk supply issue, try not to supplement with formula.
- keep taking your prenatal vitamin with DHA (good for baby, good for mama's energy)
- eat one extra small meal a day. This isn't your cue to go crazy, but if you are still hungry, eat again. Don't worry about losing that baby weight. Breast feeding will do it for you. And if you're hungry, your body needs it. I recommend a daily (or twice daily) Bod-e shake that you can get here. This has great health properties, is super easy, and tastes like melted ice cream. I use it a breakfast, for a snack, and even for dessert occasionally. Yes, I do.
- If it hurts real bad, there's a very good chance there's something wrong. Check with your hospital to get a follow up lactation consult. Sometimes they'll come to your house, and it may be included already in your hospital stay. You can also contact For Babies' Sake and they'll help you out!
- super sore nipples can be cured (yes, cured) with a prescription from your doctor or midwife. (only the midwives with a masters degree in nursing can write prescriptions - so if you had your baby with a midwife in the hospital, they're able to write prescriptions; the majority of RN midwives do not deliver at birthing homes or in homes.) Jack Newman's All Purpose Nipple Ointment will have you better in less than a day. You will need a compounding pharmacy and it may take a few calls back and forth to make sure they have the ingredients. Tell them that it is imperative you get the prescription today and if they can't do it, you will need to call another pharmacy. If you're in Arlington/Ft Worth area, the Randol Mill Pharmacy has been incredible! Some prescriptions call for an added advil powder as well. Make sure your pharmacy is making an ointment and not a cream. If your healthcare provider is unfamiliar with APNO, tell them the formula and that it can be found online from multiple breastfeeding resources. A lactation consultant will also recommend it.
- remember, when your baby is eating, you are either feeding them from the breast or pumping. This is key to keeping up your supply.
- fenugreek and mother's milk tea are extremely helpful to most people. Here's more about it from Kelly Mom.
- you may have a well meaning pediatrician, midwife, or nurse practitioner that tells you to supplement with formula. This is usually not necessary unless there are other issues going on. If your baby is gaining weight, there is no need to supplement. Doing so will only cause your supply to decrease further. If your baby is not gaining weight properly or is losing weight, you may need to supplement for a short period of time while you work on your supply. You do that by pumping. And pumping. And pumping some more. Feed your baby from the breast first every time, then pump while they take a bottle. This takes time, energy, and a lot of patience. But it can be done! If you're not sure how much milk you're making, you can exclusively pump for a couple of days and give baby that expressed milk. This will let you (and your healthcare provider) know how much milk you're making. Keep in mind that your baby is more effective than a pump so they are probably getting out more milk than what you are able to pump. Here is a great article on the issue.
WHAT DOES IT HELP?
This is a heavy question. Not only is this one of the sweetest bonding times you can ever have with your baby, but you can both have extremely great physical health outcomes from it. Breast feeding has been known for a very long time to reduce ear infections, respiratory infections, and many other childhood illnesses, (not to mention much faster weight loss for a previously preggo mama!) but we're also finding some new things it does! Including:
- reducing obesity
- improving brain development
- increasing IQ
- reducing breast cancer, heart attacks, hypertension for mom
"I JUST CAN'T DO IT!"
- A recent study showed that mom's who had a "breastfeeding only" goal missed their mark. What does that mean? They aren't getting the support they need. Wether that's from healthcare providers answering questions, family members (including dads), or their workplace, mama's need help!! Here's a great link about workplace laws and breastfeeding for us working mamas out there. Please know this, there is help out there. Ask questions!! Don't give up, because you can do it! You can always email me for ANY questions you have. If I can't help you, I can point you to the right person. It's not a bother. At all.
- You're not alone. Other mamas have trouble and need help. So pick up the phone, get on your email, and get some help! We all need help, no matter who we are.
Bottom line is this: if you can't breastfeed, get tired of breastfeeding, don't have the support, or just flat out don't want to do it, that doesn't make you a bad mama. Your child will still love you. They can still be doctors or lawyers or rocket scientists. They can still grow up to be healthy, well-rounded people. So cut yourself some slack. If you are like one of those mama's that really wants to breastfeed and wants to be successful at it, then find the help you need to do it.
For Babies Sake
La Leche League of Texas
THR Lactation Consultants