Some of you don’t know there was a time when I was
crazy writing two blogs. There was (and is) my blog you’re reading now, Kristen’s Raw.
I was also writing a Green Mommy Blog where I shared my “green mommy” ways.
Shortly after I entered motherhood, I realized that it was a wee bit nutz to maintain two blogs so I stopped writing the Green Mommy Blog.
Fast forward to today and I decided to (soon) close that blog, but not without sharing some of the gems of posts. I’ll be updating the information, as well as including some of the helpful comments people wrote. Here’s the first article.
Let’s talk breastfeeding.
Today, I’m sharing a combination of posts on the topic of breastfeeding, because breastfeeding is near and dear to my heart. Many of my most cherished memories with Kamea were when she was breastfeeding. It was beautiful.
She nursed as long as she wanted, which meant she didn’t stop until a few months after her third birthday. During the 6 to 8 months prior to her stopping, she reduced her breastfeeding, but still enjoyed a daily dose.
I realize not everyone can breastfeed. I’ve also heard stories of women who thought they couldn’t breastfeed their baby, when in reality they weren’t supported enough and wished they’d tried more. Again, though, I know that doesn’t apply to everyone. If you’re a mom who can’t breastfeed then so be it.
Here we go… Breastfeeding Goodness.
Breastfeeding was a magical experience for us. Truly, one of the most meaningful times of my life. It was empowering and magical.
Breastfeeding 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 grateful (seriously… soooo glad!) that I stuck it out. The reward was enormous.
I remember one time where I had nipple pain and was thinking of how to endure another nursing session. Then, a friend of mine wrote to me about how there were times she cried while nursing, and she squeezed her husband’s hand to get through it (really hard), but that it was temporary and would get better – she promised.
Yes, it got better. I don’t want to scare mamas away with the thought of crying while breastfeeding. It doesn’t always happen. I had tenderness in the beginning weeks, but it seemed to go away as quickly as it came.
Breastfeeding had other challenges for me in the beginning. On top of the tenderness, Kamea liked to feed every couple of hours most days. This meant very little sleep for me and very little anything else. Who cares I thought? I had a baby! My happiness trumped breastfeeding discomfort. (Besides, side-lying breastfeeding while co-sleeping is a dream come true.)
And, as I wrote, it got better. And better. And better.
A Breastfeeding Interview with an Expert*!
I interviewed a lactation expert, Averie, who offered some great information for breastfeeding mamas.
Averie’s bio: Averie is 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.
Kristen: 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?
Averie: 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.”
Kristen: 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?
Averie: 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.
Kristen: Do you have some recommended galactagogues for mamas not producing enough milk?
Averie: 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).
Kristen: 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?
Averie: 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.
Kristen: 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.
Averie: 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.
Kristen: 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?
Averie: 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.
Kristen: I’ve heard that some babies / toddlers will bite mama while feeding. What can be done about this?
Averie: 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.
Again, it happens, but don’t let the “fear of baby biting” prevent you from nursing.
Kristen: What tips or tricks do you have for breastfeeding in public?
Averie: 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. 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 usually.)
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!
Kristen: Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share?
Averie: 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!
Thanks, Averie for answering those questions about breastfeeding.
But, that’s not all. Here is more breastfeeding information with 11 tips for breastfeeding in public…
I became something of a pro with breastfeeding in public. I’d just whip my boob out quickly and FOOMP (that’s the sound of putting her on with precision and speed). Breastfeeding became second nature, and I’ll be honest, I loved that people would see me breastfeeding.
I found it was easier to wear a shirt that provided easy access and forgo the covers, blankets, etc. We need more mamas out there breastfeeding to spread the idea.
That said, I inquired with my friends for extra tips and advice on breastfeeding in public.
Breastfeeding Question: What are your tips for getting comfy (in the literal, physical sense) nursing in public.
- Crossing a leg so an ankle is resting on the opposite knee and resting the arm cradling baby’s head on the crossed leg… so the baby is propped a bit.
- Nurse in a Moby or sling which serves as a cover.
- Prop arm on purse or diaper bag. If baby is easily distracted, cover up with a blanket.
- Try to either lean back a little so baby’s weight was off mom’s arm.
- Try to find a chair with an armrest.
- When baby is a toddler… baby just stood and nursed.
- At even a very early age: Nursing while baby sits up on a knee, head supported in hand… I find this position works great in public situations when you dont have a pillow on hand but it also helps prevent gas-keeping baby happier, longer.
- When they were old enough to sit up, I would let them sit on my lap/vertically to nurse.
- Use a blanket as a pillow.
- Had a ring sling also called a William Sears Sling designed by Dr William Sears, breastfed my daughter in it till she was 27 months.
- Personally, I have also found that I prefer normal shirts or tank tops that I lift up, as opposed to the breastfeeding tank tops that unsnap on the strap and you pull down. I think it’s more obvious and attention grabbing with the latter.
- I use a pregnancy belly band to hide my tummy- I tuck the top under my bra and just pull up my regular shirt. It just looks (well, I think it looks) like a tank under my shirt.
- I use a baby blanket-size cloth (with a little more length) with a slit in the center about a foot to 1 1/2 feet long. The cloth is light and airy and you can actually see through it if you hold it over your face, but with the design people can’t see through. My babe can see me and I can adjust and see her by looking down through the slit.
- I usually find a booth in a coffee shop like Panera. If out and about, I find a dressing room because they have benches- I can sit, relax, if she fusses it causes less commotion, etc. But I have also done it out in the open- I force myself to in an effort to normalize it. A coworker who knows I BF told me she saw a woman walking and breastfeeding in a busy shopping area, with no carrier or cover. I only said, “Wow, good for her that she is able to walk and do it, I am not that coordinated!” She was incredulous- she thinks women should use covers or do it in the bathroom if they can’t find some private place. I replied that bathrooms are gross, there are almost no private places when shopping, dining out, etc, and my kid, and many others, hate being covered. I told her, its not like stripping, the child is eating. If it makes you uncomfortable, just look away.
- I have a friend who had a baby boy in January- he eats constantly so she is always having to breastfeed in public… I am amazed at how good at it she is. She usually uses the diaper bag to put her elbow on and some how turns him so he is somewhat facing her. She does use a cover but only becuase her son gets distracted too easily! I have not had a biological child yet but plan to in the near future and breastfeeding in public will definitely be on my list of things to tackle thanks for the tips!
- Crossing the legs to prop up is easiest for me. Everything else gets in the way! Pulling the top up or down didn’t bother me – I even got used to bras with clips everywhere. I had to get used to not covering up much, because the baby couldn’t stand it. And practice makes perfect, like most things. I think the most important part to breastfeeding in public is JUST DO IT! The more people who see it, the more common it becomes (although it must be little bit common throughout history! lol), then more mothers will be brave enough to do it.
This post on breastfeeding is the gift that keeps on giving. Here are helpful and encouraging reader’s comments about breastfeeding from my Green Mommy Blog:
“My third child bit (hard) me when he was around 2.5 years old. It did turn into a pretty bad breast infection that needed treatment. He weaned during a pregnancy about a year later or so but he was my nursing challenge. For the first 5 months of his life he refused one breast and I had to trick him into nursing from that side. We never did figure out what it was (I was a LLL leader at the time) and relied on more experienced women to guide me. I also think those nursing covers look odd IMO- I prefer a sling for nursing and I’ve nursed older toddlers in public without anyone knowing what was going on.”
“Ouch. Hayden has bitten me a few times (she thinks it is a game or something) and even drew blood (I thought I was going to lose a nipple or something, but thank goodness that didn’t happen). That’s the only reason I started weaning her a couple months ago. She is now 15 months, and she still enjoys a feeding before bed. She likes the closeness, which is probably why she never took a bottle. It is something special.”
“Great post. My little one was born 5 short days ago and we already have a great BF relationship. We had one hiccup of her not latching to my left breast for a couple days and i had to pump because I was so full. Then on day 4 she started latching on…so I suggest if anyone is having problems to pump. It’s better than not having breastmilk at all and helps your milk supply. Also find a support group that can help with any questions. The La Leche League www.llli.org is a great start. I was fortunate to not having any issues so far (crossing my fingers) but know plenty who had trouble and worked through the sore/cracked nipples. Kudos to you all! Even though we are very much attached at the breast right now, it’s a great feeling knowing I am starting her out in life with a great start.”
“I have been impressing seeing my sister breastfeed despite LOTS of pressure from the older generations to quit. It seems it just wasn’t encouraged with my parents and grandparents. Kudos to the moms who can do it and do it well!”
“This is a great post! A lot of my friends gave up before 6 weeks because they were so discouraged. However, none of them made breastfeeding a priority nor did they try to seek help with La Leche League or a lactation consultant. My mom always tells me the story about when I was just born. She used to cry at night when she heard me crying because her nipples were so sore. She breastfed me for 6 months until my twin sisters came. She pushed through the hardships and I am so thankful” ;-)
Please share this post via social media and friends so we can spread the breastfeeding love.
Image credit: Naturemandala