Breastfeeding was my first choice as I did my research and decided it was the best fit for my baby and I. I imagined it being really simple and saving me some time on washing and sterilizing bottles. While that’s true, it was a little more challenging than I expected.
If you are reading this, maybe you are mommy-to be-, already a mommy, or just curious! I hope that this blog can help shed some light for you.
THE MOMENT YOUR BOOBIES ARE NOT JUST BOOBIES ANYMORE
Skin on skin is a “stimulant” for your milk to come in. Your body understands pretty quickly that your little loaf of bread came out and it’s time to go to the next level. I was really nervous that my milk wouldn’t come in, and I think it’s a pretty common fear for moms!
I mean, “how?!” I’m sure you’ve asked yourself!
At first, it’s called colostrum, mine came the next day after giving birth! It’s an orangy color and it’s the “caviar” of your milk. These little drops of milk are full of the good stuff, most importantly antibodies that your baby needs.
If you give birth in a hospital, you will have a lactation consultant come in to show you & explain to you the basics. She’ll see how your baby latches, will explain how to hold and position yourself. I was so nervous, Oliver was crying and I had no idea what to do. She placed Oliver and sadly my nipples were “flat” so he wouldn’t latch. It can be very frustrating and emotionally hard on a mom if your baby doesn’t latch properly, but what I’ve learned is that there is a solution for most difficulties that comes along the way! I think it really depends on what you set your mind to.
For a solution to my problem, she pulled this plastic nipple looking piece called a nipple shield, placed it on my nipple and Voilà! Oliver latched! (I used it until he was about 4 months). He was only getting little drops of colostrum and she said “Listen! He’s swallowing! Look at his little throat!” That was surreal and I couldn’t believe what my body was doing!
If you are giving birth in different circumstances, I think it’d be great and much easier to have someone lead the way to your breastfeeding “career!” Midwives & doula can be very helpful! You can also simply get a lactation consultant!
WHEN THE LECHE COMES IN
It took about three to four days for my milk to fully come in. It’s different for every women. Because Oliver was on the smaller side and they made me quite nervous about it, I supplemented with Organic formula until my milk came in. I started pumping with the hospital pump after seeing the lactation consultant to stimulate my milk to come in.
I remember leaving the pediatrician’s office with Kyle and Oliver for his first visit and I felt this “rush” in my breast and my skin tightening. I was hysterically happy and relieved but also a little panicked as it was getting fuller and fuller by the minute. By the time we got home, I was running around like a crazy person. My little milk eater was sleeping so I needed to pump this milk out NOW! I just remember Kyle looking at me with Looney Tunes eyes not knowing what to do and my shirt was literally soaked. I finally found the pump that I had no idea how to use, I got so angry I tossed it on the ground a few times, held my boobs like two giant rocks and turned into a monster as Kyle was just watching the horrifying start of his new life. If you don’t want that to happen maybe it’d be a good idea to learn how a breast pump works beforehand and not wait until the last minute like me! I finally figured it out and that was my first day as a full-on leche maker, and Oliver was very happy.
HOW YOUR MILK SUPPLY WORKS: THE BASICS
Your milk supply is sustained by the demand. As your baby eats, your body knows how much to produce for your baby’s needs. My supply wasn’t always the same, it dipped then went back up and so on (especially when you get your period back! sorry mama!) At the beginning my supply was abundant and I was greatly recommended to pump at least twice a day to keep that supply up. Although, with a brand new baby it’s not the easiest thing to do and I didn’t which eventually I only produced what Oliver needed but when I hit the growth spurts, that’s when it got tricky and tiring. I nursed and then had to pump an hour later, when you think you’re getting a break…you have to keep going. Breastfeeding was very time consuming, especially that Oliver didn’t breastfeed sitting up. I had to make sure I had milk backed up and we travel a lot! I can’t tell you how stressful it was during flights when I had to pump every three hours or when that one time our flight didn’t have outlets, I almost fainted of anxiety but luckily our flight had a technical problem and we ended up flying the next day! phew! (the one & only time I was thankful for a cancelled flight) Then I realized there was a portable battery charger 🙂 Even with all of that, I’d still breastfeed all over again! And I’d pick the comfort of how easy it is to feed your baby at night over having to make to bottles all night in a heartbeat.
I can say that for me, pumping helped me up my supply when I needed. Just a few days can do wonders to your milk supply! Some moms produce enough for baby to always be satisfied at each feedings so they’re totally fine not pumping.
Let’s say you want to produce more milk, that’s when you “trick” your body into thinking your baby eats more. How? Here are some ways to do so:
#1 – Stay calm and relaxed: breastfeeding is very psychological. The more you stress and have negative thoughts over your milk supply, the less you’ll produce.
#2 – Make sure your baby eats on both sides of your breast. He might like one better than the other.
#3 – If your baby didn’t empty your breasts, pump the rest so your body thinks your baby eats a lot more and you can maintain your supply.
#4 – Only use supplements if needed.
#5 – Pump twice a day + regular daily feedings.
#6 – Pump the other breast while the baby feeds on the other one.
#7 – If you really need to up your supply, pump an hour after feedings.
#8 – If you see a change of pattern in your baby’s feedings (later on) for instance he might eat less, or sleep more at night, keep pumping at these usual feeding times or pump at irregular hours. This is because your body will also start producing on your baby’s schedule.
LECHE SUPPLY + SUPPLEMENTS
There are a lot of things you can eat, drink and supplement out there that can help you if your supply needs a little upper!
My favorite supplements that worked the best came from Legendairy Milk.
Great foods to up your supply:
#1 – Oatmeal –> fiber, energy
#2 – Fennel seeds –> Can help a colicky baby
#3 – Garlic –> so healthy for you! (don’t go crazy at the beginning as newborns are sensitive to strong flavours)
#4 – Barley –> keeps you hydrated.
#5 – Brewer’s Yeast –> just add to smoothies, baking or sprinkle in recipes.
#6 – Flaxseed –> packed with Omega 3’s
#7 – Coconut Oil –> very beneficial for milk, considered a superfood.
What To Avoid:
#1 – Parsley
#2 – Sage
#3 – Peppermint
#4 – Thyme
These are known to lower your supply. In fact, if you want to dry up your milk when you’re done breastfeeding, eat tons of parsley! Grandma’s recipe: omelet with lots of parsley.
BREASTFEEDING OPENING HOURS
It really varies on your baby but some eat more than others and take a longer time to finish a feeding. Oliver took about an hour in a half the first month and then eventually turned into speedy Gonzales. Very often the first few weeks your baby will have a cluster feeding for a few days that will seem like it will never end. Oliver fed practically every hour to two hours. It’s tiring and challenging, the hormones surely don’t help but just tell yourself that it’ll get easier because it will! cabin fever and long feeds are not forever! Before I knew it, it was over and I realized I should’ve enjoyed the cuddling and closeness because it goes by so fast! Either way, I see the positive side of these learning experiences as I will probably enjoy way more breastfeeding my second baby!
I received so many comments and messages on my social media from women that were so helpful and encouraging, it brought so much warmth to my heart! They have no concept how much it helped to read their “it’s going to be ok” messages. It’s important to get the help and encouragement that you can! Especially not having my mom around anymore and having to figure out all of it by myself, it meant everything. (probably why I started this blog!) Also, during growth spurts, high feeding demands as well from your bambino. Then it starts spreading out and your baby starts getting fuller, eating quicker and your life starts becoming less about feedings. In the hard times, I just remembered how good it is for them and the bonding is magical.
Again this is different for every woman but the one question I get right away, which was the same I asked myself is:
“Does it hurt?”
Well, it’s not a walk on the oceanside, but my experience went from pain to my body completely adapting. What helped me was to clean my nipples after each feeding and apply nipple cream, massage my breast and not let it get too full to the point where they’d get hard. The milk can turn into little clumps and that’s painful. Pumping and feeding really help to avoid that. Hot shower, massage and hot compress are very relieving. The pain for me didn’t last long, it was beautiful how quickly my body adapted. Also, let me tell you….right after giving birth…pain wasn’t too much of a concern, it was more mentally that I had to really keep up. I also realized the pressure moms will put themselves through to make sure they can breastfeed and if it’s too hard, too painful…it’s okay!
You’d be surprised that there’s more than just one position to feed your baby! In the beginning, I used “my breast-friend pillow” which you’ll find below in my must-haves. That’s the generic position. There’s the football, the lying down….etc…The best bet is to get a good breastfeeding book and try out different positions. I breastfed Oliver lying down too early and I think he loved that position way too much that he didn’t want to feed in any other positions when he was about 4 months. He would literally scream bloody murder and I just couldn’t take it. I’ve tried but he just refused.
I loved this book. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
Some babies are very picky eaters! They only like to feed in one particular chair or in quietness…For instance, Oliver wouldn’t feed if daddy was in the room and I couldn’t caress his face. He’d just look at me like “I’m eating mom.” actually here’s the proof:
I also used a bib at every feeding in the beginning because it would get a little messy!
BREASTFEEDING IN PUBLIC
First of all, I come from France where the woman’s body, is a body. A beautiful body that creates life. Breasts are not sexualized at all the way they are in the US. I grew up watching commercials with naked women and going to topless beaches. It’s normal. Literally. Meanwhile, a woman breastfeeds her child at a restaurant and some people stare like they’re offended. Are you kidding me? I had moments where I felt judged and uncomfortable for feeding my baby in public (when Oliver didn’t hate breastfeeding sitting up yet) and I just think it’s hard enough to be a mother, we don’t need trolls that think nipples are the worst thing on the planet. So I got really cute breastfeeding wraps, and voila! You get used to it and you just start saying screw you to the people who have an issue with the most natural thing on the planet.
This mom said that she was asked to go feed her baby in the bathroom, and I realized that if anyone asked me to do the same, I’d ask them if they’d want to go have their meal on the toilet? If not, neither does my baby.
Oliver would actually feed in my arms if I was walking or bouncing. In case you wondered why I’m standing 🙂
WHEN YOUR MILK GOES BAD
Breastmilk can be kept up to 6 hours at room temperature unless it’s really warm. Your nose can’t lie either way! Take a sniff and you’ll know!
It can last up to 5 days in the fridge. When it goes bad, you’ll notice little pieces and when you shake it, it doesn’t blend.
Never heat up breastmilk in the microwave!!!!! Bottle warmer or hot water in a cup. After warming up, it can last up to an hour at room temperature.
You can add breastmilk to an already pumped milk container. Just make sure they are at the same temperature. If one was in the fridge, refrigerate the newly expressed milk before adding it.
Store up to three months frozen.
BREASTFEEDING APP & BABY APP
Because you don’t know how much your little one is eating, it’s helpful at the beginning to keep track of your feedings; to watch weight gain, patterns, growth spurts….you basically just have to click on the timer when you start and click when you’re done! That way you know how long your baby eats from each breast and so on…Also, it’s important to keep track of poops, pees and all that good stuff to see how your baby is doing!
My favorite app was Glow Baby. It’s so easy and amazing. I would just show it to the pediatrician and be done. I still use it for Oliver’s growth chart!
Another app that is extremely helpful to understand cluster feedings, sleep regressions, stranger anxiety etc… and phases that you’re baby goes through and it an absolute must for a new mom. It’s The Wonder Weeks app.
NO MOM SHAMING!
It’s not about breast milk being “better” or not. It’s about you doing what works for you, your baby, your lifestyle, your comfort! I’ve gotten such “applause” from some people because I was breastfeeding, to the point where I’d ask myself, “well what if I wasn’t breastfeeding?”
You better believe some people would make you feel like a terrible mother for giving formula to your child. My choice was my choice. I definitely backed up my decision firmly but I didn’t judge another mom doing it differently as far as what they feed to their babe.
NURSING BRAS + SHIRTS
It’s not an easy thing to stay in “fashion” while nursing. You always have to be prepared with a shirt that’s easy access when you go out and about. Stealing your man’s shirts are great or getting nursing tops is a good easy way to do it! There’s a lot of cute ones.
As far as bras, I got a bunch of padded bras and wired before giving birth because I wanted to be prepared.
A) I surely didn’t need any padding.
B) You’ll want to be comfortable!!!!!!! I can’t stress that enough.
The padding and wires are so annoying when your baby is losing their mind and it gets in the way, uncomfortable for your baby to place his mouth…etc…you get the picture! Simple, unwired bras are the best and I ended up with DDD’s, so I still chose comfort over major support.
WHAT ABOUT DADDY IN ALL OF THIS?
The daddy will feel left out and unsure about where he fits and how he can help. There needs to be a lot of communication and patience. Kyle helped out with everything else but he felt helpless during the nights and days that were the hardest and super isolating for me. Pumping is definitely great to have daddy feed the baby & bond. Either way, I don’t think that couples usually say that a newborn is the easiest thing! It’s hard individually and on the relationship!
Breastfeeding is one of those things where the mom is in control and juggling the unknown, sleep deprivation and some…it gets messy. It’s important to know that it’s all temporary and to enjoy it for that reason, no matter how hard it is. Your baby will grow and you’ll always have to adapt to new obstacles – as a team.