Okay, I realise I’m no expert in breast feeding. I’m not a lactation consultant, or medical professional, but I am a mom. A mom who (until starting solids at six months) exclusively breastfed Little Miss, and still does. I love it! Thankfully she was pretty easy with it (we had some issues but nothing dramatic), and I feel bad for any mother who tries to breastfeed and struggles in any way, from a lip tie on a child to supply issues. I wanted to share my experiences with it, and offer tips that I hope will help other mothers who wish to breastfeed their baby.
- Find support. I went online, but most places offer local help. I joined what is referred to as a Birth Board, where thousands of mothers with babies the same age as you converge to both seek and offer help to other mothers. The best part about these boards (or maybe the worst to some) is that there are all different kinds of women on here, and they all are sleep deprived and full of hormones. It’s funny sometimes, and other times it’s absolutely ridiculous, and sometimes it’s super helpful and informative. Every board is different.
- Drink water. You’ve probably heard this before but drink a crap ton of water. This is the single most effective way to help, as your body is using water at a very rapid pace, and without it not only will your supply suffer, but you will too, with headaches and constant thirst. Try for 100 ounces of water every day.
- Don’t get adventurous with your eating. Little Miss can tell when I eat certain foods, even if I just try to casually slip it into my meal. It usually involves super garlicky foods or spicy foods, and certain veggies like cabbage. But on the other hand, don’t try to always be perfect, either. Things like coffee are part of this too, as many mothers swear caffeine makes their child wired or fussy. I have found no such problem, as long as I’m reasonable. Many mornings I’ll have a coffee with my breakfast and then feed her before a nap and she will sleep for an hour or two (yes, I nurse her to sleep. That is a conversation for another post lol). I have heard through the grapevine (but don’t know for sure) that by eating a variety of foods while breastfeeding your baby becomes accustomed to different tastes and will be a less picky eater. Here’s hoping, right?
- Co Sleeping. I know this one isn’t exactly recommended by many professionals for safety reasons, and I limit my co sleeping to a part time basis (2-3 hours a night), but I try to do it safely and with purpose, such as when baby is teething or going through a growth spurt. Co sleeping allows your baby to cluster feed and comfort nurse. The constant sucking tells your body that baby needs more milk, and since this is a supply and demand situation, more demand naturally means more supply. It also allows mommy to get more sleep. Little miss and I have taken over the spare room for our co sleeping.
- Keep your phone handy. I can’t tell you how crucial this is for me, because when I nursed Little Miss to sleep or needed something and couldn’t get up it was like a life line. Nothing like texting Hubby that I’m thirsty or need a snack, or seeing what time it was or just for entertainment. Often I would turn on soft music or use a white noise app to help baby sleep. You might even be surprised to know that when pumping or nursing, looking at pictures of baby and thinking about the happiness they bring to your life will actually cause you to produce more!
- Eat Oatmeal. Most mornings I have oatmeal for breakfast, and not only does it help fuel me in the morning, it naturally increases milk production. There are other products too (teas and herbal supplements), but they aren’t as tasty.
- Supply equals demand. If you are worried about supply issues, pump in between nursing sessions. I did not do this as I nursed on demand (and hated every second of pumping), but in retrospect it might have been beneficial in order for me to produce more to have a “freezer stash”. Again, more demand means more supply.
- Try not to worry about it. Lots of moms worry that their baby isn’t getting enough when they nurse. True, you don’t know how much they eat (unless you weigh baby before and after on a baby scale), but trust in your baby’s satisfaction after eating and weight gain. Your baby should have at least 6-8 wet diapers a day. Don’t think that pumping is an adequate measure of how much your baby is getting either, as your baby is much more efficient at getting to the milk than your pump. They could be getting as much as double what you see in the bottle at the end of a pump session.
- Don’t skip a session. Leaving your little one at Grandma’s so you and Hubby can get some alone time? If you are, and you’re leaving your baby with a bottle of pumped milk, it’s super important that you pump when your baby would normally feed. The reason is simple: if your baby misses a feeding, your body thinks the baby doesn’t need that feeding. Then it stops producing the great results you worked so hard to achieve. Also, if you do miss a session (it does happen, we aren’t perfect) you will become engorged. Not only is this painful and could potentially cause mastitis (yikes), but it is hard for a baby to drink from an engorged breast. Not only is latching harder, but the force of the let down makes them choke on the milk, or spit up from drinking too fast. The only time this doesn’t apply is when baby starts sleeping through the night (which still has not happened for us, 7 months in). Once baby learns to sleep through the night, it’s okay to give up the night feeding. If you’re really motivated to build a freezer stash this is the perfect time to do so. Baby won’t miss it since they are sleeping peacefully, and your body naturally produces more milk at night!
- Don’t supplement if all is going well. If your baby’s doctor is satisfied with the weight gain of your child and everything is going pretty well, don’t introduce formula. Again, supply and demand comes into play, and every feeding you supplement with formula is a feeding your body thinks it doesn’t need. Also, the back and forth of formula and milk may upset your baby’s tummy. Of course there will be times when you think you aren’t possibly making enough milk. This is especially true during growth spurts, when it seems as though your baby is glued to your boob. Don’t worry. Your body knows what to do and all that time your baby is cluster feeding tells your body to start producing more, this kid is hungry.
I’m sure I’m missing some good tips. They will naturally come to me after I post this, making me want to kick myself for not thinking of it sooner. I hope it helps you mothers who are struggling with breast feeding, as all these tips helped me to relax and go with the flow. My little girl is now seven months old, and we have no plans on stopping any time soon!
Thank you so much for reading this long post. Gold star for making it to the end! Please feel free to leave your comments, questions or tips to anyone else reading. Happy nursing!
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