If you asked me while I was pregnant what my plans were for feeding my little one once she arrived, I adamantly responded with “we’re going to pump”. Period. End of discussion. My reasons were, and still are, justified: I wanted my husband to be able to bond with baby in that way, I didn’t want to be the one having to do all the night feedings while my husband lay snoring next to me, I didn’t even really want my husband to see me like that (how could he ever see me as a woman – and not just a mom – ever again?), and, after seeing the invisible tether between my friends’ boobs and their babies determining what they could do and when they could do it, it was decided that breastfeeding was just not for me. These reasons may seem stupid and selfish to some, but perhaps relateable to others. Little did I know, this was just the beginning to my - our - journey.
My husband and I planned a home-water-hypno birth, and after learning how beneficial immediate breastfeeding is for baby and mama, we decided to have a little give in our plan and breastfeed following our birth. And this is where it all changed. That instinctual latch, those first gulps, the look in her big blue eyes, and those amazing “I’m really a mom” feelings.
To say our journey has always been this blissful and easy would be an outright lie. We definitely had our ups and downs. My milk took abnormally long to come in, our little one lost too much weight, then took to hour long feedings, and I continued to question whether or not every little thing I was doing was right. Many of the feelings behind my initial plan to abstain came flooding back: Sitting up in bed, half asleep, breastfeeding every 2 hours, having to seclude myself in another room for however long it took for baby to be satiated whenever company came over - how could they not? I even remember saying to my husband, in a stressed out state, “This is why I didn’t want to breastfeed!”
And then something clicked. I took a deep breath, decided to stop stressing about how much she was getting, how long she was feeding for, how often she was feeding, why she was feeding, and just…let it happen! I was also fortunate enough to stumble upon some amazing articles online which helped me solidify my positive relationship with breastfeeding, and it was like the fog cleared:
“Easy, long term breastfeeding involves forgetting about the “breast” and the “feeding” (and the duration, and the interval, and the transmission of the right nutrients in the right amounts, and the difference between nutritive and non-nutritive suckling needs, all of which form the focus of artificial milk pamphlets) and focusing instead on the relationship. Let’s all tell mothers that we hope they won’t “breastfeed” – that the real joys and satisfaction of the experience begin when they stop “breastfeeding” and start mothering at the breast.”(1)
The concept of “mothering at the breast”, along with understanding that this act is about more than an exchange of nutrients and calories, honestly changed my life. I began following such online campaigns as #milkmemo from Breastfeeding USA, which posts encouraging and uplifting photos and comments for moms who may be struggling with or questioning their breastfeeding experience. I began to feel confident, relaxed, and in love with this new relationship.
We are now six and a half months into our breastfeeding journey, have begun to introduce food, and have no plans of ending our relationship with breastfeeding anytime soon. I am now the mama who sees breastfeeding as more than a meal. I am the mama who leans into the carseat to breastfeed while the hubby drives. I am the comfort breastfeeding mama. I am the co-sleeping, nurse-all-night-if-you-need-to mama. But more importantly, I am a mama who has learned that not everything works out how you planned, that feelings change, and then change again, and perhaps once more. That every woman and baby have the right to experience feedings (and any of the other myriad of things to do with parenting!) however they feel is appropriate for them and their family, and that these decisions should be respected, even if they change several times. That’s life. And that is most definitely parenthood. I’m sure this is just the first of many things my little one will teach me.
(1) Wiessinger, Diane. "Watch Your Language." Journal of Human Lactation 12.1 (1996) Web. 27 April 2014
How does one relieve gas in a fussy baby? Remedies are being discovered so often that it can be hard to keep up. Moms are creative, quick-thinking, and fast at figuring out solutions to pesky problems, like an infant screaming because of gas pains. A few natural remedies for a gassy baby that are highly effective are probiotics, flat back squats, gripe water, and simethicone.
Babies are born with an inadequate amount of natural bacteria in the intestines, which inhibits proper digestion. The gut is so immature in babies that scientists say that the digestive system is still learning to process effectively for at least the first five to six months of life, making it even more important to be choosy with baby’s intake.
There are (allergen) foods that can make it difficult for baby to absorb necessary nutrients and digest well. The most common of which is dairy. Medicines also make it harder on a baby’s belly as well, like antibiotics and antacids (both of which can be very detrimental to the growth and development of baby’s esophagus and stomach). Some other reasons for gas could be that mom's letdown was heavy and fast, that the baby has eaten too quickly, excessive crying (as baby can bring in large amounts of air), or the introduction of new foods.
Babies with colic may have more bacteria in their intestines, gastrointestinal inflammation1, and/or an adverse reaction to ingredients in formula or foods. To combat the lack of healthy natural bacteria and the inability to digest well with the help of breastmilk, probiotics are recommended. Probiotics, “good bacteria”, have been proven to ease colic in babies treated2 and help to ease or eliminate irritable bowel syndrome, rotavirus, asthma, eczema, stomach ulcers, and food allergies, among other common ailments3.
Probiotics are typically given to infants and babies in powder form, which can be mixed in a bottle with breastmilk or formula, or given orally via a medicine dropper, after being mixed with a bit of water or other solution like breastmilk.
Flat Back Squats puts pressure on the abdomen, helping gas be released. The way to do this is to lay baby on his/her back. Gently bend the baby’s knees while lightly pushing them towards the baby’s chest. Or, lift the legs as you would do while changing the baby’s diaper, but pushing gently towards the baby’s chest. This can be done while holding the baby, too. Hold the position for a few seconds and release. Repeat, and continue to do so for a few minutes at the least (if you have not already successfully expelled gas). Make it a game for baby by smiling and talking while doing this. It may not calm baby down completely, but helps reassure baby that mommy wants to help. Place your hand on baby’s abdomen to better feel whether the flat back squats are helping.
Gripe Water, like everything else discussed in this article, is all natural and safe for babies of all ages. Gripe water is free of alcohol, wheat, soy, sodium bicarbonate, dairy, and animal products. Additionally, there are no known side effects. It is a simple mixture of fennel, peppermint, chamomile, ginger, blackthorn, aloe, caraway, lemon balm, and vegetable carbon, and could be made at home if preferred.. Gripe water aids in reducing gas, stomach pain and cramping, reflux, and hiccups by combating bacteria in the stomach.
Simethicone is used to relieve gas and bloating in people of all ages - from infant to elderly - because it is not absorbed into the bloodstream. It helps to break up gas bubbles currently residing in the stomach by decreasing their surface tension. In doing so, bubbles combine to form larger bubbles, which are more easily passed through the digestive system. Simethicone is not used to prevent gas; it simply speeds up the rate at which gas leaves the body, and may need to be used multiple times to ensure that all gas is expelled.
Sometimes, babies just need to burp. Often, though, it takes time for the gas to pass. Try to make baby feel as comfortable and secure as possible until then. Gas pains - as we all know - are horrible and can be especially scary for a baby.
Try to determine the reason for the gas and consider treating, fixing, or eliminating the root cause. For example, baby may become more irritable and gassy after nursing when mom has had a cup of coffee within the last couple of hours. Reducing the intake of caffeine will in turn lessens the likelihood of gas and discomfort being of concern for baby. If it is suspected that baby is gassy due to a hard letdown, mom can pump for a couple of minutes (until immediately following the letdown) prior to feeding baby, or allow baby to suckle until mom feels the letdown approaching, and remove baby until the milk has come in.
1Parker-Pope, Tara. "Probiotics for Colicky Babies". New York Times. 14 Feb 2011. 06 Jan 2014 <http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/14/probiotics-for-colicky-babies/?_r=1>
2 Anabrees, Jasmine. "Probiotics for the Management of Infantile Colic in Breastfed Infants." NCBI. US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. 2013 Jan-Mar. 06 Jan 2014. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3761958/>
3"Oral Probiotics: An Introduction." US Dept of Health and Human Services. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Jan 2007. 06 Jan 2014. <http://nccam.nih.gov/health/probiotics/introduction.htm>
As if society does not place enough pressure on breastfeeding mothers, add in that nagging “good mother’s voice” and times of low milk supply with a demanding infant ready to nurse, and one has the ultimate recipe for a milk supply strike. First and foremost, women have been breastfeeding for thousands of years. The body is perfectly engineered to give baby what baby needs, when baby needs it. Demanding the breast and constantly wanting to nurse is a sign of a healthy eater who wants to breastfeed. It may mean less restful sleep for mom, or possibly sore breasts, but it is important to stick with it, and know that baby will help the body produce more milk. A woman’s body is designed and destined to work with the baby. As the baby demands more milk, the body produces it. Sometimes, it may feel as though the body is not keeping up with baby, and then - as if with a snap of fingers, the white gold flows.
Babies go through an average of five to seven growth spurts within the first year of life.1Growth spurts are directly correlated to the sleep and eating patterns of babies. One of the most common reasons for ending nursing early, supplementing with formula, and causes for stress for a breastfeeding mother is what is thought to be a low milk supply. Often, during growth spurts, the body takes a bit of time to catch up to the always-changing demand of the baby. It is vital that the baby be allowed to continue to attempt to nurse, especially during times of growth spurts, in order to solidify the longevity of breast feeding. Supplementing takes away from time at the breast, which is a contributing factor to low milk supply in the first place.
There are many reasons one may have a low milk supply; stress, baby not nursing due to lip tie, hormones, recent surgery, lack of time at the breast/pumping, poor nutrition, etc. Regardless of the reason, there are plenty of ways to help pick that milk supply back up in order to nurse on! After determining (the best one can) the cause of the drop in production, consider some of the following to aid in getting back on track.
Staying hydrated is important for anyone and everyone, but especially so for breastfeeding mothers. Skip the caffeine whenever possible. Too much caffeine can deplete the body of vital nutrients and cause dehydration. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. For those who easily bore with basic water, add in some almond milk, coconut water, or a juice of a variety of fruits and vegetables. It is natural and normal for mothers to feel dehydrated when nursing. Keep a water bottle handy and within reach, and sip the day away.
Just as there are natural remedies for ridding the carpet of that pesky stain, and for lessening the duration of the seemingly ever-lasting cold, increasing milk production has its own herbal best friends. Fenugreek and blessed thistle are classified as galactogogues, or milk makers.2 Other beneficial natural herbs include fennel, brewer’s yeast (used most often in “lactation cookies”), raspberry leaf, alfalfa, hops, stinging nettle, motherwort, milk thistle, basil, chamomile, and goat’s rue. These herbal ingredients can be consumed as a tea, mixed in with water, used in foods, or taken as a supplement. Do some further research on each to determine if it is the right choice, and become familiar with the galactogogue of choice. Mother’s milk tea, from Earth Mama Angel Baby, is widely recommended, as it encompasses a few galactagogues in one, easy to drink tea.
Along with staying hydrated and adding herbs to the diet, eating proper and healthy meals throughout the day is also important; not just for maintaining and producing breast milk, but for the baby, too. Anti-inflammatory foods may help; like garlic, ginger, and turmeric. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, along with an adequate amount of protein, will produce great results, and help mom and baby to feel fantastic all day long.
Boob, Boob, and More Boob
One of the easiest, yet tedious and tiring, ways to produce more milk is to trick the glands into thinking that it is growth spurt time. Offer the breast at every given possibility, even if baby only nurses for a short time. Pump or express milk, too. Massage the breasts in between nursings and/or pumping/expressions. This will help to reduce the likelihood of clogged ducts (another reason for a dip in supply). Think happy baby thoughts while pumping and/or nursing to help with the let down and stimulation of milk ducts. Look at pictures of the lovely little one, or read a magazine or article about babies or breast feeding.
Being stressed is bad all-around, not just for breast feeding. The higher the stress level, the less milk is produced. How, though, with such little time in the day, do moms find time to unwind? Taking a few moments to meditate can be as calming as taking a long run, just as doing yoga with or without baby is a stress reliever all the same. Other things to reduce stress are to journal, talk with a friend, go for a quick walk, take a bath or shower, drink some tea, read a book, take a class, do a craft, do an at-home facial, sit in silence for five minutes, cuddle, cook a favorite meal, paint nails, look at old pictures, plan a vacation, do some pushups or a quick ab workout, color or paint a picture, write a letter to baby or a friend, or do something else that requires some “me time”.
If absolutely necessary, there are natural herbs and foods that can help alleviate stress, like L-Theanine, Inositol, St. John’s Wort, lavender, and magnesium. Of course, as always, do personal research, as other medications being taken may interact. The main point in taking such herbs is to lower stress levels. Long-term use of such herbs may not be best for everyone. Therefore, finding stress relieving avenues that do not involve herbs and medications, and fits well with one’s lifestyle and schedule, is recommended.
Other Ways to Increase Milk Production
Skin to skin contact with baby may help make baby want to nurse more, and may help to stimulate milk production in mom. Some mothers opt for acupuncture as a means to stepping up the breast milk game. If back issues and pain are contributing to a decrease in milk supply, seeing a chiropractor may help. Antibiotics and other medications can contribute to a dip in production, too. Taking probiotics daily can help the body to combat the effects of such medications.
Decreasing the use of nipple shields, bottles, and pacifiers may aid as well, as sometimes cause barriers to nursing at the breast. If there is an issue in regards to nipple confusion or baby pacifying, try limiting the use of such products. "Babywearing" helps to keep baby near the breast, which - like skin to skin contact - helps both mom and baby with wanting to nurse.
An old Irish wives tale is to drink half (about six ounces) of a craft beer daily. It is thought that not only will it help mom to relax, but the barley and hops (typically higher in content in craft and specialty beers) helps with milk production as well.3 Doing so is at the discretion of the mother, and should be done with proper timing, as to avoid possibly (although unlikely) contaminating the breast milk. As TBS can not condone drinking while nursing, please do thorough research and always be responsible, as TBS knows moms are with every decision.
Consuming the placenta has been known to help increase milk supply as well as many other fascinating benefits. The placenta can be dehydrated and encapsulated, initially eaten raw as part of a smoothie, or consumed more long-term as a tincture.
If all else fails, yes, there are medications that have been known to help increase breast milk supply. Speak with a physician or lactation consultant, and research further about medication. There are many known side effects, and medication is not personally recommended, but it is an option. Physicians can determine if low levels of prolactin or other hormone imbalances are a part of the problem. Some medications that are commonly prescribed for low milk supply are Metoclopramide (Reglan), Sulpiride (Dolmatil, Eglonyl, Sulpitil, Equemote, Sulparex), and Domperidone (Motilium). Empowering and educating oneself is the first step in determining whether or not medication is the right path to take.
Chin Up and Feed On
Breastfeeding moms with a dip in supply can most definitely bounce back to nursing bliss. Surrounding oneself with support and positivity can work wonders, along with the help of nature, exercise, baby, and sometimes, doctors. Do not suffer in silence, or stress over “not producing enough for baby”. There are already so many factors working against breastfeeding mothers, that mothers’ thoughts need not be one.
Nurse away, and do so with the confidence that breastfeeding and baby’s health are absolutely worth it. Seek help if needed, confide in others, and rest assured that more mothers suffer from low milk supply than one would think. Again, there are many factors that are attributed to a decrease in milk production, but the majority of them can be resolved easily and painlessly.
With these suggestions, next stop: How to Manage an Oversupply…
1Life Stages Feeding. Brittney Kirton. Everything you need to know about infant growth spurts. <http://www.lifestagesfeeding.com/blog/everything-you-need-to-know-about-infant-growth-spurts/>
2 Ask Dr. Sears. 2013. Herbs to Increase Milk Supply <http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/feeding-eating/breastfeeding/while-taking-medication/herbs-increase-milk-supply>
3 Mother Food - A Lactogenic Diet. Hillary Jacobson. 13 Oct. 2011. Beer as a Galactagogue - A Brief History. <http://lactogenicdiet.blogspot.com/2011/10/beer-as-galactagogue-brief-history.html>
Lately I have asked many of my friends who are new moms what they wish someone would have told them about having a baby. The answer I kept hearing was breastfeeding. They all said something along the lines of breastfeeding needs to be talked about more, and no one told me it would be difficult and sometimes it is. Some would argue that it’s a natural thing so it’s easy. Hurray if it is. If however you find it a bit of a struggle, know that you are not alone. Here are some tips that really helped me out when I got started.
The first thing you should remember is to stay calm. If you are getting emotional and frustrated, baby will sense that, and get worked up too. Take a moment to relax. Get comfortable. Pillows are often the best tools you can have to get baby situated so you are both comfortable.
Secondly realize that it might take some time to get to the point where you both don’t have to think about it, and that’s okay. Baby is new at this, as are you. Its okay to give it some time to move smoothly. It is also a good idea to ask for help and reassurance from people who support breastfeeding - it could be your mother, friend, sister, peer counselors, postpartum doulas, mother groups like La Lache League, lactation educators, childbirth educator, doctor or lactation consultants.
Thirdly it doesn’t have to hurt. It might be a little painful at first but if it keeps on hurting, look at what could be changed. Could you and baby try a different position? Is baby latched on correctly, with as much of your breast tissue in his mouth as possible? (Remember its not called nipple feeding) Sometimes you could be doing really well as far as positioning and latch but another medical reason is to blame. Is baby tongue-tied? Has thrush developed? Is mom engorged or developed mastitis? These things are all fixable and with a little help and time. You don’t have to give up.
Forth mom, take care of you. This is the time in your life when asking for help should not be embarrassing. You need to heal, you need to wake up in the night to feed baby, and if you are tired and not eating and drinking well, it only makes it a bit harder. Take a nap during the day if you can. Have lots of healthy snacks in the cupboard that you can just grab and go. And do what you can to remember to drink lots of water, whether it is lining up your cups on the counter, having a water bottle that you know you have to drink by a certain time and then refill. There are lots of strategies so find one that works for you.
And fifth do what you can to get breastfeeding off to a good start. Get baby to the breast as soon as possible after birth, within the first two hours. If at all possible, room in with your baby. Do some skin on skin time. Before baby is born, do your research, read books, attend either childbirth classes where they cover breastfeeding or a breastfeeding class. Make sure your spouse is on board, and decide how determined you are to do this.
Breastfeeding can be a wonderful thing; I know I love snuggling my sweet warm baby while she nurses. Just because it can be wonderful doesn’t mean that it will have zero challenges. But don’t let the challenges get you down usually in a few weeks; both you and your baby will be pros.
Keep up to date with changes and updates with newsletter via email . Contests, new articles and much more!