One of my favorite experiences as a Mom is breastfeeding both of my children. Growing up with sisters who all breastfed their children and having one as a Labor and Delivery nurse allowed me to gain a lot of knowledge at a young age. I have always nannied children before I ever even dreamed of motherhood, and I appreciated breastfeeding even then when I would heat up bottles of breastmilk or go wake up a sleeping mama for her baby to nurse. I am so thankful for knowing all that I knew before I got pregnant and then choosing to read about breastfeeding while I carried Nolan. Breast is best for many reasons: mother and baby seem more connected, babies grow healthier and smarter, and a baby’s immune system is healthier. In addition to containing all the vitamins and nutrients your baby needs in the first six months of life, breast milk is packed with disease-fighting substances that protect your baby from illness. If YOU want to be the food source for your baby once he or she is born, I KNOW that it is really important to have knowledge about it beforehand. Mothers that go into breastfeeding blindly can get so frustrated at not knowing what’s around the corner that it causes them to quit. Breastmilk is like liquid gold, and as a mom that has breastfed two children, I have seen and experienced some pretty interesting things.
Successful nursing requires proper education – the way any important aspect of your life does. It’s not smooth sailing for everyone… Nolan was so easy when he breastfed. Moments after he was born, he started nursing. Harper, on the other hand, took a few days to get the hang of it. She would nurse for a few moments then fall asleep, and it freaked me out a little, but I KNEW that eventually she would get it. Babies need a learning curve just like you do. They will eat when they are hungry, so do not worry that you should supplement with formula. Supplementing with formula is such a slippery slope and causes many moms to self-sabotage their breastfeeding journey. Supplementing fills your baby up, keeps them fuller longer, and this makes your body think that baby doesn’t need as much milk so it doesn’t produce as much as before. My advice to all new moms is to never keep to yourself if you have questions…ask other breast feeding moms, ask lactation consultants, comment in breastfeeding groups or pages on Facebook or Instagram. THERE ARE WOMEN WHO WANT TO HELP YOU SUCCEED. You are NOT alone, and yes, it can be really frustrating until you both get used to each other, but it is so worth it! The World Health Organization agrees—saying moms can breastfeed babies for up to 2 years of age and beyond with appropriate complementary foods. Nolan breast fed until 2 and a half, and Harper still breastfeeds every day. That stuff you’re producing without even really trying (well, ok, you’re drinking a lot of water) is full of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, enzymes, hormones, vitamins, and minerals, that are essential for your wee one’s development. In addition to nourishing your baby, breast milk supports her developing immune system by providing antibodies. It promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the stomach, protects against gastrointestinal and other infections. It helps reduce newborn’s mortality. It has even been shown to help reduce the rates of later health problems such as diabetes, obesity, and asthma.
The number and type of vitamins found in breast milk are determined, in part, by what you’re eating. This is one of the many reasons it’s essential for a mom to eat a broad mix of good nutrient dense foods not only when pregnant, but beyond. Most lactation consultants and pediatricians suggest moms continue to take prenatal vitamins while nursing.
For all my sweet new mama friends, I’m listing a few things that I have found are CRUCIAL to maintaining a breastfeeding relationship with your little one.
1. Water – Since the average six-month-old consumes around 1 quart of breast milk daily and 90 percent of that milk is water, it stands to reason that mother should drink four extra 8-ounce glasses of fluid daily. But don’t become a compulsive water drinker. Get in the habit of drinking an 8-ounce glass of water every time you breastfeed, plus a couple more each day. When baby drinks, mother drinks. If you get into the habit of drinking an 8-ounce glass of water every time your infant feeds (which is usually 8 to 10 times a day), you will meet your hydration while breastfeeding needs.
2. Earth Mama Baby Nipple Butter – All new moms know how difficult the first week is, especially when you’re trying to breastfeed. My nipples hurt so badly, and I couldn’t seem to get Harper to latch differently to relieve the pain. This nipple cream kept my nipples soft and promoted healing between feedings. While I still developed some blister areas on my nipples, and a particularly deep crack on one nipple, I never bled and I could tell that healing was being promoted with this product. My baby’s suck is incredible and she was a hardy feeder, wanting to suck for an hour and a half at a time the first couple of days home! Obviously, my nipples were going to sustain some injury, regardless of the type of cream I used! Trust me when I say that you do not want to skip out on having nipple cream nearby!
3. Breastpump – I was so engorged with milk after both of my kids it was very painful! I would go and sit in a hot shower and let the water just hit my chest. This would cause them to start shooting milk out and thankfully, I got A LOT of relief. Getting a hot wash cloth and laying it over your boob and massaging will also cause some relief. Even after I would do this and feed the kids (after Harper was born I would let Nolan nurse as well) I could easily pump 6oz on each side. I suggest getting a breastpump for those times and also for anytime you need to be away from your LO (little one) and they still need mama milk. I once left for a few hours and forgot my pump and literally resorted into squirting milk into a cup.
-Pump in the mornings right when you wake up. Your milk is most plentiful then, and you will pump more.
-Pump before you nurse. The female body KNOWS that your baby wants more milk, so you will produce more milk if your baby nurses 15 minutes after pumping. If you try and do this the other way around, your body knows the pumping is not your baby, and you will not produce as much milk.
-Count the number of times your baby nurses. That’s your magic number. when you go back to work, the number of times you pump at work and the times you feed your baby at home should equal your magic number.
4. Snacks – When you nurse a lot you are HUNGRY! I swear all the calories you burn by breastfeeding will make you wonder how long you can nurse! I have to stuff my face (with healthy foods) to keep weight on! I love to eat almonds, fruits, veggies, oatmeal and smoothies to stay full during those times. I researched foods that I should stay away from and foods that I should eat while I am breastfeeding and I am so glad I did! I will never forget, right after I had Nolan, I ate a buffalo chicken pizza from Creek Ratz and the poor baby had gas so bad he screamed for what felt like hours. I swore after that experience that I would KNOW what is best to eat before putting it into my mouth.
5. Breast Pads– there’s this wonderful thing called a “let down” and it will happen every time you are nursing, thinking of nursing, hear a baby cry, etc. While your little one is nursing, the other breast still has a let down, so breast pads are a saving grace. They catch all the milk and keep you from having to change your shirt and bra every time you nurse your LO.
I encourage all moms to try breastfeeding. It is such a magical experience to be able to make your baby grow from what is created in your body. GOD created mamas to feed our children our breastmilk and the benefits both mother and baby get from it are enough reason to try it. Some of my most favorite moments are moments I have breastfed Nolan or Harper to sleep. I want every mama to experience that sweetness at least once in her life.
I’ve linked my must haves while breastfeeding below!