Breastfeeding is such a magical experience. Truly one of the best I’ll ever have in my life. I cherish each and every time Kamea wants to feed. But. It wasn’t always easy. Those first few weeks were a learning curve compounded by postpartum fatigue, painful nipples at times, anxiety over whether Kamea was feeding enough, and trying to get a great latch. I’m so glad (seriously… soooo glad!) that I kept at it and stuck it out. The reward has been enormous. I remember one time during the beginning where I had nipple pain and was thinking of ways on how to endure another nursing session. Then, a friend of mine via Twitter wrote to me about how there were times she cried while nursing and she squeezed her husband’s hand to get through it, but that it was temporary and would get better – she promised. Now, I don’t want to scare any mamas away with the thought of crying while breastfeeding. I doubt this happens often. I had tenderness in the beginning weeks, but it seemed to go away as quickly as it came. But, you know me… I keep it real on this blog. Breastfeeding had its challenges for me in the beginning. On top of the tenderness, Kamea liked to feed every couple of hours much of the time. This meant very little sleep for me and very little anything else. Who cares I thought? I had a baby! My happiness trumped any breastfeeding discomfort I had. (Besides, side-lying breastfeeding while co-sleeping is a dream come true – in more ways than one.)
And, as I wrote, it got better. And better. And better. Now, I can’t wait for those moments to connect with my daughter.
So. I wanted to share some helpful information for all of the breastfeeding mamas out there. I asked one of my dear friends, Averie*, if she would mind answering a few questions for us. Oops… those “few” questions quickly turned into 9 questions, of which some had multiple questions. Sorry, Averie, my bad. Thank you so much for being a trooper though and answering them all. You rock the lactation house!
Here we go!
1) Everywhere I turn, when looking for details on what I “should and should not eat” while breastfeeding, it seems there is contradictory information (wheat, soy, citrus, garlic, broccoli, kale, beans, avocado, pineapple, etc – to name a few that I found mixed reviews about.). At the end of the day, it looks like the only things that are safe to eat are cucumbers, apples, and bananas. I’m exaggerating, but you get my point. When I was first starting out, I would google a food to see if it was safe for breastfeeding and I could usually find a site saying it was not a good idea or it could cause problems with baby’s digestion. (Let’s ignore caffeine, alcohol, etc – I know those are bad.) So, in your opinion, is there a list of true no-no’s that a mama should avoid eating while breastfeeding? And, does this change over time? For example, if I avoided chocolate or beans in the first few months, could I eat them in later months?
There are no foods a mother should absolutely avoid just because she is nursing. Some foods a mother may find may bother her baby such as cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cabbage, kale, etc), but until a mom notices that yes, this food is definitely not agreeing with my baby, eat it and enjoy! So-called “gassy” foods have no more potential to cause gas in a baby, i.e. beans, broccoli, cabbage, because milk is made from what passes through mother’s blood, not from what passes through her stomach or digestive tract. Again, if you notice an issue with certain foods and your baby, do what you see fit but don’t swear off certain foods just because of what you’re “heard.”
2) Talk to me about colostrum and those first days of breastfeeding before a mama’s milk comes in. Can you allay any fears about baby getting enough when they consume so little in the way of quantity?
See this chart … And realize that most women produce enough milk. Make sure the diaper counts are there, that you are nursing frequently which means at least 8 to 12 times in a 24 hour period (not 6 to 8 times in a 24 hour period) in those early days. Make sure the baby is gaining weight (note a slight weight loss of 5-7% is normal), but trust in the biology of our bodies to support our babies from our milk.
3) Do you have some recommended galactagogues for mamas not producing enough milk?
Fenugreek, fenugreek seed, anise/fennel, fennel seed, alfalfa, ginger, oats/oatmeal – common and easy to find almost anywhere. Also effective and most any health food store or Whole Foods will have these: astragalus, blessed thistle, chasteberry, flaxseed oil, Goat’s Rue, hops, nettles, red raspberry leaf tea. More Milk Plus Tinctures and Capsules by Motherlove are excellent and contain a balanced blend of herbs.
Note that some of the “nursing teas” on the market contain peppermint or mint which can reduce supply in some women (the opposite effect of what they intended).
4) What do you think about pumping? Should a mama stick to breastfeeding on demand, only from the breast? Or, should a mama pump and freeze some in case of emergency? Is there any truth to nipple confusion if a baby has a bottle and breastmilk from the breast?
In a perfect world, baby would be at breast and a mom wouldn’t have to pump but some women have to return to work, or for whatever their particular situation, the mother needs to pump. I wouldn’t recommend introducing bottles until about 4-6 weeks but after that, most babies will go between breast and bottle. For babies who won’t take a bottle or will only “drink from the tap,” these babies are not confused, i.e. nipple confusion. No, not at all! These babies have a preference to nurse directly from mom because nursing is more than just being about eating. It’s about being close to mom, too!
For babies who get used to a bottle and then seem to not want to nurse, again, they are not confused. They develop a flow preference, i.e. some babies prefer the very fast flow of bottles over the slower flow and sucking work it takes to extract milk from the human breast.
Babies are very smart, they are not “confused” in either case. For any moms who have need to pump or pumping questions, I cannot say enough wonderful things about this group. The archives are magnificent and just like every every health and fitness tip has already been shared on healthy living blogs, every pumping tip, question, concern, and then some has been shared here. Join if you’re a pumping mom.
5) If a mama notices that she’s not feeding enough on one side and therefore milk production seems to be decreasing on that side, what can she do to get it back to normal? This happened to me because I traditionally sleep most of the night nursing Kamea with my right breast and not as much from my left.
Nurse on that side first. Make the baby really drain that side. And each time baby wants to nurse, start on that side. Really put the demand on that side. If this means pumping that side, too, (or pump both breasts while you’re at it and sitting there anyway), then pump. Nursing is about putting the demand on the breasts and the supply will follow. Breastmilk production is demand-supply driven, not the other way around. You must put the demand on first, supply will follow.
6) What is best – letting boobs hang out all day (when at home) so there is no bra restricting them? Or do you recommend wearing a bra for constant support?
Whatever is comfortable for mom! Do what is comfortable and if you are wearing a bra, don’t wear underwires in the very early days of nursing and if/when you are transitioning from a soft cotton non-wire bra to an underwire, make sure the wire is not poking your breasts anywhere or it could lead to a plugged duct. Also make sure your bra at any stage of nursing is not too tight. Overly compressing the breasts could reduce supply in some women and frankly, overly snug and tight bras just aren’t comfortable for most nursing moms.
7) I’ve heard that some babies / toddlers will bite mama while feeding. What can be done about this?
Most babies will bite at some time. It happens. If you have given birth, really, a bite is livable. Babies bite for all different reasons; teething, sleepy, the flow isn’t fast enough, the baby wants to get a reaction out of mom, the baby is done nursing, etc. Take the baby off breast, end the nursing session for awhile, and try again later.
This page is very helpful. Again, it happens, but don’t let the “fear of baby biting” prevent you from nursing. More information here.
8) What tips or tricks do you have for breastfeeding in public?
Just do it! I am fortunate to live in Southern California where nursing in public is extremely common and people don’t even bat an eye. Nursing in public is one of those societal consciousness things, though. The more that women nurse in public, the more other women will see it and nurse as well, and the more that younger women and new moms will see it and nurse too. There is nothing to be afraid of. This is not sexual. This is feeding your child. Don’t be afraid to feed your child!
Most states have laws protecting a woman’s right to nurse in public, and employment laws regarding nursing on the job or being given adequate pumping breaks. See this chart (and per #4, see the Pumpmoms Group and related archives for any pumping at work questions).
One thing I will mention about nursing in public is that it’s best to NOT wear one of those massive cover-up things that look like mom is wearing a small tent around her, or one of those apron-like contraptions. I won’t use the brand name. That just brings attention like a flashing neon light: “something is going ON underneath that tent/apron. Wonder what it is?! Oh, she’s NURSING under there. Oooooh. Let me stare!” (Pardon my interruption, it’s Kristen here, but I agree with Averie on this. I tried one of those “covers” on and Greg looked at me and said I looked like a butcher. If a woman is wearing one of those to be discreet, the opposite is achieved in my opinion.)
Instead, don’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself and just don’t wear one. Casually lift your shirt, latch your baby, and then just pull your shirt down around the top of your baby’s head. It will look like you are cradling/holding your sleeping baby, not nursing him. Practice in front of a mirror at home. Nursing does not have to be a flesh-flashing show. I nursed until my daughter was 3 and many times people would come up to me, right on top of me, and practically ask to hold my baby, because they thought I was just cradling her. Wrong. She was latched and nursing. You have to practice a bit to make it look easy and not flash the world, but again, practice at home in front of a mirror and then, just go out and do it. Baby needs to eat, mom needs to let baby eat. It just boils down to that basically!
9) Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share?
Nursing is not necessarily easy, nor “natural,” for many women. And, the early days of nursing can be downright rough and you may wonder what you have gotten yourself into! Promise yourself you won’t quit in the middle of the night. Everything is better in the morning. And really, give yourself and your baby at least 4-6 weeks before you quit, if at all possible. Most of the kinks are worked out after 6 weeks and then it truly does become natural and second nature.
Some women say that being pregnant was the most amazing experience of their life. For me, nursing was the most amazing experience. I had to overcome a series of challenges, and in the process learned so much about nursing, which is why, in part, I decided to pursue becoming a CLEC. Nursing is just such a wonderful thing and I hope all women feel this way and try to nurse their baby. The gift you are giving your baby, and yourself, is something you and your baby will cherish forever!
Averie (Love Veggies And Yoga – her blog) is a Certified Lactation Counselor-Educator (CLEC) through the University of California, San Diego (UCSD)
*The advice and information I provide is not intended to replace that of personal advice or consultation from your doctor, nurse, midwife, pediatrician, lactation consultant or other health care professional. Nor is the information I provide going to fit every mother/baby dyad in every circumstance, or for those who are experiencing special or extreme circumstances. Rather, it’s intended to be helpful to a majority of women in the majority of situations, but nothing can replace one-on-one in person advice from a trusted, local medical professional, so consult with one as needed.