5 Truths About Breastfeeding

I felt propelled to write this article after visiting the pumpkin patch with my family last night. My husband and I are new parents to a beautiful baby girl. She's 2 months young and we are so incredibly blessed that she's ours. 

I was scouting other people's children to take to the pumpkin patch before having my own, so even though a 2 month old can't really "experience" it, mom and dad can! And if not dad, mom can! 

Babies attract a lot of attention in general and while at the pumpkin patch we had plenty of people awe-ing over our little bundle of sweetness. I expected that. 

What I didn't expect was to feel questioned as a parent. A lady came up to us and asked how old she was at which my husband replied, "2 months". She commented on how small she was and then proceeded to question as to whether she was gaining weight, if we were feeding her enough, if she was acting like a normal baby, etc. She made sure to inform me that she was a Nurse Practitioner and was "just making sure". 

I let that woman ruin my first experience at the pumpkin patch. She made me feel inadequate as a mother. She made me feel like I didn't know what I was doing; like I was failing at my only job. 

Harper IS tiny. She's breastfed (as well as bottle with expressed milk) and we've had our troubles, but she is GAINING and GROWING. She's long and lean and has an average sized head. She's happy, laughs, giggles and plays. She's content but lets me know when she's hungry and every day I'm learning more and more about each little cue and what it means. Being a first time mom isn't as natural as one would expect. Together, you and your baby get to know each other, learn from experience and find what works best for you! 

Shame on me for letting that woman ruin my night. Shame on me for questioning my abilities of being a mother. Shame on her for sticking her nose in my family's business. 

Breastfeeding is what I've chosen to do. It's been weighing heavy on my heart whether or not I should continue with the circumstances at hand but I'm hell bent on making it work. If you're right there with me, read on for what I've learned along the way. I'm no professional and this is my first rodeo, so please comment with advice... I could use it and I'm sure other readers could use it too!

1. As natural as it is, it can actually be very difficult

Latching

Babies have a natural instinct to latch on, but for various reasons, it might be difficult for them. This is often the first thing you'll struggle with if you're breastfeeding, but it won't end there. Some babies simply aren't strong enough to latch and suck any milk out. Other babies are impatient and latch but get frustrated when you're milk hasn't 'let down' yet. If you have flat or inverted nipples, your nipple might not be activating your baby's reflux to suck (we'll talk more on this below). 

If your baby is having trouble latching, it is well worth it to see a lactation consultant, especially if you're dead set on breastfeeding! 

Nipple Shields also help with latching (and may need to be used if you have flat or inverted nipples) but they can become a "crutch", so before you resort to that, exhaust a few other options. 

Don't get frustrated. There are many moms who try for weeks and weeks to get their babies to latch, and then one day, it simply happens. If BF is what you want to do and you're willing to work for it, just keep trying! 

Weight Gain

Weight gain becomes one of the scariest/most rewarding parts of being a breastfeeding mom. It is likely that you're baby will lose weight those first few days of life if you're solely breastfeeding. It's hard to know if you're baby is getting enough food when you can't visually measure or see how much you're baby is consuming. 

With breastfeeding, there comes a lot of pressure to make sure your baby is gaining appropriately. Work closely with your pediatrician and be clear about your intentions. If you want to solely breastfeed, make sure your pediatrician knows that. If you're open to formula, that's okay too! 

Two months in, I'm still struggling with this. Harper is definitely gaining weight and growing but on the lower end of normal. 

If you're struggling with this, keep these in mind:

  1. Offer the boob whenever you suspect hunger
  2. If he/she is full, she will be content after a feeding
  3. Let him/her end the session
  4. If he/she cries when food is taken away, he/she is probably not done eating
  5. My pediatrician suggested at my last appointment to pump before every feeding and bottle feed her the expressed milk. I've been keeping a diary of how many ounces she's actually consuming. We go in today to weigh her and rule out whether or not it is a volume issue. Then we'll figure out where to go from there. 

Most of all, trust that whatever you're doing is right. Find what works for YOU and YOUR baby.

Inconvenient

It's seems as though the opposite of this would be true. It's natural, always at your fingertips and doesn't require equipment. 

But let me tell you... 

  • Every time you're ready to eat, conveniently so is he/she. And sometimes feedings can take up to an hour depending on the baby.
  • If you're in public, you either have to become comfortable with feeding in public or plan ahead and have pumped bottles ready. Otherwise, you have a 2 hour window that you can be away from the house. 
  • You have to watch what you eat. 
  • You have to be strategic about your alcohol (pumping ahead or limiting to 1 drink). 
  • Be ready to spend the majoring of your day with your child attached at first. 

2. Painful

Nipple soreness- There's nothing you can do to prepare your nipples for this, so start by preparing your mind. You will be sore. It can be excrutiatingly painful but it GOES AWAY. Don't let this be the reason you don't want to breast feed. Invest in some nipple cream, work on your baby's latch and power through. I used Lansinoh Cream and it brought immediate relief! Before long it will only be a memory!

Engorgement- This should go under inconvenient AND painful. Depending on your supply, your boobs will become engorged if you go too long between feedings. So, if you're a new breastfeeding mom heading out on the town for the night, bring your pump! My little babes is sleeping through the night but don't worry, my boobs wake me up to tell me it's time to pump. 

I would argue that my pump is by far the most used baby gift I received! I'm a stay-at-home mom and didn't think this contraption would be necessary since I wasn't going back to work and needing to pump all the time... boy was I wrong! 

3. Not all nipples are created equal

Mother's nipples come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Most mother's will not have an issue with breastfeeding, but those with flat or inverted nipples may be posed with issues of latching. While is it BREASTFEEDING and baby sucks from surrounding tissue, that baby still has to latch onto something in order to do so. This may be a problem for small or weak babies. Most hospitals will offer a nipple shield to help the baby latch and allow breastfeeding to be possible. 

Nipple shield- A nipple shield is a small piece of plastic that fits around the nipple and helps it to protrude out and give baby something to latch on to. It can be very difficult to wean your baby off the shield when he/she is strong enough to feed without it. If a nipple shield is that only way you're able to make breastfeeding happen, and it's important to you, it can be a great tool. They come in all sizes and from my experience, I like the Medela one best!

4. Milk Supply

Enough milk

Some women find that they don't produce enough milk. If you don't establish your supply from the beginning, it can be hard to build it up. Always remember, breast milk comes by popular demand, so the more you feed, the more milk your body will start to produce. Pumping isn't necessarily a good indicator of the amount of milk you produce, because a good breast feeding baby will extract milk out better than a pump, but it does give you some kind of indication. 

If you suspect you have low supply try this:

  • Feed baby more often
  • If your baby sleeps through the night, wake up and pump.
  • Go on a "nursing vacation" (spend all day/weekend in nursing and pumping)
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Make lactation cookies! (they are all over pinterest, even if they don't work, it's a nice excuse for a cookie!)
  • Drink Mother's Milk Tea

I did all of these things and found that my supply increased in a few short days.

 

5. Pressure

Breastfeeding is HARD. Lately there's a lot of controversy and opinions about breastfeeding vs formula fed babies. With recent research, it has been proven that "breast is best", although the infant formula industry is alive and thriving and many kids turn out just fine feeding off that as well! 

A snip-it from a peer reviewed research article:

Health outcomes in developed countries differ substantially for mothers and infants who formula feed compared with those who breastfeed. For infants, not being breastfed is associated with an increased incidence of infectious morbidity, as well as elevated risks of childhood obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, leukemia, and sudden infant death syndrome. For mothers, failure to breastfeed is associated with an increased incidence of premenopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer, retained gestational weight gain, type 2 diabetes, myocardial infarction, and the metabolic syndrome. Obstetricians are uniquely positioned to counsel mothers about the health impact of breastfeeding and to ensure that mothers and infants receive appropriate, evidence-based care, starting at birth.

Breastfeeding is best

  • Reduces allergies in baby throughout life
  • Whatever virus/bacteria mom comes into contact with, baby gets the antibodies to fight it off through breast milk, helping babies to develop a stronger immune system
  • Creates better microbiome in the gut which is tied to health factors in later life (obesity, diabetes, etc)
  • Helps protect mom from specific cancers such as ovarian and breast cancer
  • Creates special bond between mother and baby

Supplement with Formula

In some cases, breastfeeding may not be possible due to returning to work, low supply, effective latch, or simply mom not wanting to. Compiled below are a list of great formulas that can be used in conjunction with or as an alternative to breast feeding. You should never feel like less of a mother or bad for not wanting to or being able to breastfeed. It's a HUGE commitment, especially for the working mom. So, if you're choosing to do formula instead, stand confident in your choice. 

I'm in no way sponsored by any of these brands. I'm providing you with my opinion based on research and knowledge which brands I would be most compelled to feed my baby (I have not used formula yet). They do, however, contain affiliate links. Meaning, if you click on any of the links in this post and buy any of these products from amazon, I will receive a percentage of the sale to support this blog.

Baby's Only Organic

Earth's Best Organic

Vermont Organics

Each of these brands have made efforts to mimic human milk using the only the best ingredients. I researched for hours and found reputable sources, gained loads of knowledge and am now sharing with you my findings. Check out these articles to get full disclosure and details of these formulas:

Gimme The Good Stuff

Food Babe

 

Harper and I are still working through the 'kinks'. It's been 2 months in the works and I feel a breakthrough coming on! I know we're deserving of it after all this hard work. If you'd like to connect, e-mail me, leave me a comment or reach out via any of my social media accounts! Support is always good!

 

XoXo,

Harper's Momma