Before I start, this blog post is NOT here to put any woman down, no matter what their reason, for not breastfeeding their children. Showing love and support for all women’s circumstances is an integral part of having a positive mother-community. Mothers should lift each other up, encourage, and support each other. Each birth, mamma, and child is different. Also, by no means am I a professional lactation consultant. I suggest hiring one if you don’t have the support you are looking for. I am here simply sharing what has worked for me.
Breastfeeding to me was so scary. I would watch hours of youtube videos, ask thousands of questions to my midwife but still felt nervous. I knew all the benefits of a natural birth and breastfeeding but was deathly afraid of the horror stories. Even family members scared me into believing I would have scabs on my nipples, be in excruciating pain, and potentially have to give up if it was too difficult. Giving up was not an option for me. Very similar to my stubborn 42 hours of labor birth story, I was determined to make it work. I was lucky, the second Grant made it earth side, he latched on beautifully. Ever since then he has been an incredibly eater; I even have times of complete bliss and pleasure when breastfeeding him now. This is what I want for you. This is why I wanted to write this blog post: to share those tips with you which made a positive difference in my personal breastfeeding journey.
Picture below: Both exhausted from 42 hours of labor. Grant holds the nip for comfort.
Breastfeeding is especially hard first time moms because not only is it your baby’s first time learning how to eat from your boobs, it’s also YOUR first time learning how to feed your baby from your boobs. You experience more in the first few days of motherhood than anyone can explain to you. Don’t get frightened or overwhelmed by what anyone may say to you. Listen understanding that they are simply speaking from their experience. There are thousands of stories ranging from horrible hellish breastfeeding experiences to joyful orgasmic ones. You get to decide your journey. If you are reading this already having tried to nurse your first or second child with failed attempts, that does NOT mean you unsuccessful with your next. The mass majority of women have the physical capability of being successful at breastfeeding long term. Some sources, and most midwives, even say up to 99% of women have the potential to produce enough milk for their child. But many simply don’t have the right support, knowledge, and care from others. This leads to confused and overwhelmed mammas who may then find themselves unable to breastfeed. There are, of course, exceptions which prevent mothers from breastfeeding their children.
PUMPING CAN BE YOUR BEST FRIEND AND YOUR ENEMY
No matter what you decide, it should be what’s best for you and your baby. I have friends and family who are exclusively pumping, and I have friends who only breastfeed.
All of their babies are happy.
Don’t let the media, your friends, or even your previous expectations pressure you into a decision that makes you uncomfortable. Whether you strictly breastfeed, exclusively pump, or mix and match – make sure you are well-informed and enjoying the time you spend with your baby.
HOW TO LET YOUR PUMP SERVE YOU
Get a pump before baby arrives. I suggest having a hands-free electric pump (with the pumping bra), a manual one, and a Haakaa so you don’t waste one drop. Put these on your registry and most likely family and friends will purchase them for you. These are a must in my opinion and about as bare minimum as I would be willing to go. Each have their purpose for successful breastfeeding.
LETS TALK ABOUT THE PROS OF PUMPING:
1. It can actually trigger contractions. When my water broke, the first thing my midwife told me to do was to bust out the pump. I had no idea what I was doing and probably read the directions a thousand time. However, after the nervous chaos of, “Holy shit I am going to have a baby soon,” it worked!! Contractions started coming in more regularly which sped up the process since my water broke early. I do believe that because I started pumping early, it allowed me to have over supply right at the beginning which was a God send (at the beginning).
See pic. This is 7 ish hours into labor, on my ball, and pumping away. Contractions where relatively regular.
2. It enables mom to go back to work if/when she is ready, have a sitter or family for help. In other words, mamma does not always have to be only source for food.
3. By pumping and bottle feeding, it’s easier to monitor your baby’s intake because you know exactly how much your baby is eating at each feed. In my opinion, this is not necessary unless there is an obvious weight-gain problem with your baby. You already have so much to worry about, the last thing you need to over analyze is how much your baby is eating. Listen to your baby, and listen to your boobs, they are smart and know exactly what your child needs. Thats just my opinion though.
4. Takes less time. You can pump, freeze or fill the bottle, and get back to it.
5. Can save your nipples at the beginning
Before we jump into the cons… lets understand this.
“Breastfeeding is a supply and demand relationship.” This is absolutely true. With my experience, when my supply has dropped, my baby wasn’t needing that much, and vice versa. When my supple increased, Grant was feeding all the time for long sessions and/or I was pumping more. So the more your baby sucks at your breast with a good latch, the more milk your body will produce. If your baby is given formula, he or she will not suck at your breast as often, which will inevitably decrease your milk supply. Your body is so smart! Realize you can signal to your body and give it what it needs, to in turn get what your baby needs.
Let me explain. As your baby sucks at your breast, the sucking tells your body how much milk to produce. So the more he sucks at your breast, the more milk your body is told to produce. For example, if a baby is given formula during the evening, this means the baby will not be sucking at the breast at this time. Now, that one time likely won’t affect how much milk the mother’s body will supply the next day. But if the baby is given formula once a day or during the evening for three or four days, the body realizes, “Oh, I guess the baby doesn’t need that extra feeding session anymore, so I won’t produce that extra amount.” We are literally telling our body that we don’t need milk during that time. This is just one example of what starts an inevitable struggle to produce enough breastmilk to fulfill all the baby’s caloric needs. But with the right knowledge and support, you are much more likely to avoid this type of struggle!
NOW THE CONS OF PUMPING:
1. Can confuse your body. When I first started pumping, I was LOVING all the breast milk that was coming, in just a matter of ten minutes, I had both bottles filled to the brim. However, after a few weeks of consistently pumping plus feeding Grant, my boobs assumed I must be feeding 4 children! The demand was high, and so was the supply. This confused my body and sadly led to sore, engorged breasts that needed to slowly be weened to avoid mastitis.
2. Its not the same as breastfeeding. BREASTFEEDING IS ABOUT MORE THAN THE MILK. BABIES DON’T JUST BREASTFEED FOR NUTRITION; THEY NURSE FOR COMFORT, CLOSENESS, SOOTHING, AND SECURITY. When bottle feeding may be more convenient, and a must for some parents, it is no doubt that the baby misses out on that opportunity to connect and bond with their mother in that way. Of course, breastfeeding is just one of the many ways we can do to make sure our children know we love them and care about them. It just happens to be my favorite.
3. Infants fed directly at the breast have better self-regulation, which in turn could mediate the relationship between breastfeeding and childhood obesity I have seen this first hand with Grant. When he gets a few meals from the bottle, he is ravenous for more. However, if he has a fully breastfed day, he simply eats until he has had enough, then goes back to discovering his world.
4. Fewer immune system benefits. There is not a feedback loop between the baby and the breast milk when a woman exclusively pumps their milk or uses donor milk. Pumping means the milk may not be as tailored to the baby’s needs at any one moment, and so it will potentially offer fewer benefits for the immune system.
5. Cleaning Parts. It is an endless cycle of washing and sanitizing bottles and nipples.
TIPS FOR PUMPING
The best way to get a good amount of milk stored up in the freezer is to start pumping once everyday around the same time of day. This will teach your body to produce an extra amount consistently. Its as if your baby need an extra nursing session. Start at the beginning of nap time that way you have enough time to pump and have your milk replenish itself by the time baby wakes. Early in the morning is when you have the most milk, so this is when I personally find to be the most beneficial time of day to pump. If we have some date nights planned or travel on the agenda, I make sure to have a few bags on hand, just in case. Just like breastfeeding should not hurt, pumping should not hurt either. If pumping hurts your nipples, try a lower suction setting and if that does not help, then ask an experienced mom to help make sure you are using the pump properly. This is why I love the Spectra because it has a vibrating button that actually feels good on the nips. A natural vegan nipple cream might help soothe your nipples.
WHEN TO INTRODUCE BOTTLES AND PACIFIERS
It is best to not introduce bottles (or even pacifiers) until breastfeeding is well established. I would say if you baby has a solid latch and nursing feels effortless, you can begin to incorporate the pacifier. The reason to not introduce them too soon is because the baby could get nipple confusion. Many times if a baby is introduced to the bottle super early on, they end up not enjoying the process of breastfeeding as much because it takes more effort to get milk out from your breasts than it does from the bottle. They already like efficiency 🙂
When you nurse, not only are you burning calories, but you are depleting your own stores. For more breastmilk and to feel better all around, drink copious amounts of water. I love hydrating food like coconut water, kombuchas, fruits, and smoothies. This is a yummy fresh way to always stay hydrated. For my favorite smoothie bowl recipe click HERE
If you want to have healthy breastmilk and not “dry up,” it is critical you eat enough calories to sustain yourself. Your body is burning extra calories making breastmilk for your baby, so remember to eat, girl! If you don’t take care of yourself, how are you supposed to take care of your child? Trust me on this, eat an extra healthy meal or calorie dense snack a day, and watch the magic happen. You will have more energy to get more done, will feel less tired and emotional depleted, and breastmilk will be flowing (AKA happy baby). Most sources say a breastfeeding mother needs an extra 400-500 calories a day to sustain themselves. High calorie whole plant foods (like ripe spotty bananas, mangos, dates, potatoes, yams, rice, and quinoa, plus some avocado, coconut meat, hemp seeds, etc) will help you feel your best even with the sleepless nights. I love munching on nuts and dates throughout the day + my favorite lactation cookies. (More on those soon) No calorie restriction for me! Thank you, whole foods vegan lifestyle for the abundance factor. Seriously moms, don’t jump into a diet while breastfeeding. You are doing you and your baby a disservice; and thats not fair. Breastfeeding is your best weight loss friend anyways. Focus on whole, calorie dense, plant based foods.
BE CONFIDENT IN YOUR BODY’S ABILITY TO NOURISH YOUR CHILD
I know this might seem silly, but your state of mind has a lot to do with supply. You know those days where you just cry thinking, “I can’t do this, this is too much; who am I?” Then contrast it with the days where you feel on top of the world and bust out 3 loads of laundry, healthy meals, and still connect with your baby? What the difference between those days? Most likely, the only thing that is different is your mind. Just like breastfeeding, you are fully capable of giving your baby everything he or she needs.
Throughout your day, especially when breastfeeding, repeat to yourself,
“My body has just the right amount of milk for my child, milk is flowing to nourish and strength my child. My baby is wise and only asks for what he/she needs. We are connected. I am enough.”
Being stressed is hugely detrimental to your milk flow. I know its so easy to get stressed out but find ways to relax while you are with your baby. Without a doubt, every time I am relaxed, so is Grant. Every time I am stressed, so it he. Babies are smart. They can sense it. So take a walk, a bath, put on some good music, or even take a nap with your baby. There are numerous activities you can bring your baby along that can relax and chill you out together.
As you relax and stay low stress, your milk will flow easier and more freely. This tip is especially crucial in the first few months as you build a good supply. The better your milk flows, the happier your baby will be to suck at the breast. And as I said before, the more your baby sucks at your breast the more milk your body will know to supply.
“When we as a society begin to value mothers as the givers and supporters of life, then we will see social change in ways that matter.”-Ina May Gaskin
MY FAVORITE FOODS TO INCREASE MILK SUPPLY:
- Oats: I make a big pot of oats at the beginning of the week, that way I can just scoop, throw it in the microwave for a snack and pack in the yummy breastmilk production. For my favorite oat recipes, click here: pumpkin proats
- Boob Food : I have been eating these cookies and most delicious brownie for just over a week now and I am in LOVE. I can totally see a difference in my supply. Boob Food Cookies are made with healthy milk producing ingredients that include whole oats, brewer’s yeast, dates, vegan chocolate chips, and flaxseed. If you want to check them out click here and use PLANTINGSEEDSMAMMA for 15% OFF your order.
- Fenugreek : I take these off and on; i.e 10 days on, 10 days off.
- Red Clover : I totally stumbled upon this one by accident. I was making red clover tea and realized that within just a few days of drinking it, it felt like my milk supply went through the roof. I looked it up, and sure enough, its known as a lactogenic food. Here is a great way to get it in: Red Clover
- Garlic : Garlic is the best! Lets admit it. It has chemical compounds which help in lactation, mix it in everything you can. I suggest throwing it in with sautéed veggies, soup, and sautéed brown in a cup of rice with dinner. Not only is it great for lactating but for preventing all types of cancer.
- Asparagus: a must-have food for me when nursing. Its extremely high fibre, Vitamin A and K, helps stimulate hormones in us nursing mothers.
- Brown Rice : I honestly think I have brown rice every day. According to the research paper Increase Breast Milk Supply With Herbal Galactagogues published in the World Journal of Pharmaceutical and Life Sciences, brown rice enhances breast milk production! Amen to that.
- Mothers Milk Tea (a way to get in fennel and other herbs). I love fennel, however I find it hard to eat. In my experience, the best, and most delicious, way to eat fennel to increase milk supply is in Mothers Milk Tea. So yummy!