We always hear about the benefits of breastfeeding—it truly IS liquid gold! The list of health benefits for both mom and baby is a mile long. But what isn’t discussed as often is the mental fortitude required for breastfeeding. One of the most common times moms express emotional fatigue during their breastfeeding journey is in the beginning, when their hormones are fluctuating, they may be experiencing discomfort from newly nursing, and uncertainty about whether they are doing it correctly. Add on the sleep deprivation factor, and breastfeeding can be a trying time. Moms may feel particularly isolated for several reasons.
The first couple weeks after giving birth, as the baby started crying and I got up, in the dark, to feed him, I would look over at my husband, who was sound asleep. How do you not hear him? And it’s not his fault—he told me over and over again to wake him up so he could help with the baby in the middle of the night, but there is something we do as moms that sometimes makes us feel like we have to do it all. Like we need to be superwomen. (And we are!). So while he slept, and the older children slept, and the dogs slept, and the house was totally dark and quiet except for the baby suckling away and me wide awake, an overwhelming sense of isolation bloomed. Surrounded by people who love me and are willing to help, and yet I felt so alone. I’m the mom with the breasts who has the responsibility of feeding the baby…all day and all night long.
This isolation effect can also manifest at any other time of the day too. With my first child, wherever I was (even in my own home), if there were other people around I would hide away to a private place to feed the baby. By the second child, I was more likely to feed the baby around people I was comfortable with, but still in the corner of the room. By the third baby, I told myself I was not going to miss out on socializing when company is over, or lock away in a room by myself for what could sometimes be 30-45 minutes during a feeding while everyone else continued on, so I feed him wherever I need to.
How can you overcome the isolation effect of breastfeeding?
It started with a conversation about a zombie apocalypse, because what good conversation about breastfeeding doesn’t bring up zombies? The following exchange happened on the way to school yesterday and I took it as a good opportunity to explain to my two elementary-school aged boys what to expect when the new baby comes and mommy breastfeeds:
John: “You know, in a zombie apocalypse, the biggest danger is running out of food to eat. And babies cry too much so I think this new baby wouldn’t do too well.”
Mom: “But at least we wouldn’t have to worry about getting groceries for the baby—Baby will get all the food he or she needs from mommy’s milk.”
Conner: “What?! That’s crazy! Is the baby a cow?”
Mom: “No, but all mammals can drink milk from their mommies. Don’t you remember seeing the goats at the zoo drink from their mommy’s teats? And puppies drink from mommies. And all the animals do, just like humans.”
Conner: “So, do you just pee out the milk??”
Mom: “No, it comes from my boobies. Why do you think girls have breasts? Just for decoration?”
Mom: “Well they don’t. It’s to feed their babies, and that’s how your baby brother or sister will be fed too.”
Conner: “That’s cool.”
John: “But that doesn’t solve the baby crying and giving away our location to the zombies.”
Talking to kids about breastfeeding can be an uncomfortable subject for some parents, but why? For most, at least subconsciously, it is because breasts have been sexualized, and we project our own feelings about that onto the subject of something as natural as breastfeeding. But there are a few tips to help your older children understand breastfeeding.
December 4th is National Cookie Day! Let's celebrate with a yummy cookie recipe that may help promote milk production. And let's face it--they are downright delicious! This recipe, along with many others for during pregnancy and lactation, can be found in the cookbook "Eating from Bump to Baby", on sale now at Amazon at: http://a.co/d/8QGuk2w
Oatmeal “Lactation” Cookies
Yields: 2 ½ dozen
Some people spend big bucks on buying so-called “Lactation Cookies”. They are so popular because they usually contain three common galactagogues: flaxseed, oatmeal, and brewer’s yeast. Whip up a batch of your own for a fraction of the cost and 100% certainty of the ingredients you’re getting. In place of the chocolate chips, you can substitute raisins or dried cranberries. A big batch of these can be made in advance and frozen for up to 3 months, so you can make them before baby arrives and have them ready to go!
2 sticks butter, softened
¾ cup brown sugar, packed
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ¼ cup flour
¼ cup flaxseed meal (ground flaxseeds)
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup brewer’s yeast
3 cups old-fashioned quick oats
1 ½ cups mini chocolate chips or raisins
Preheat the oven to 350 F degrees.
Beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time until smooth. Add the vanilla.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, flaxseed meal, salt, baking powder, and brewer’s yeast. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until combined.
Stir in the oats and chocolate chips or raisins. Drop cookies by the tablespoon onto a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
Bake 10-12 minutes or until just slightly brown.
Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.
Store in an airtight container for up to a week or freeze for up to 3 months.
Those first few moments after giving birth are some of the most important in a baby’s life. In times past in the United States, babies—even healthy ones--were often given a minute or so with mom and then whisked away to be cleaned, weighed and measured. As more and more hospitals transition to Baby Friendly hospitals (ie. hospitals that promote and support breastfeeding using the WHO standards) and understand the importance of those first moments after birth to the physical and emotional health of both mom and baby, skin-to-skin contact, or kangaroo care, is becoming more commonplace.
What is Skin-to-Skin?
Just as the name implies, skin-to-skin contact is when the naked baby (or clothed in just a diaper) is placed on a bare chest. The concept was first recognized in the 1970s in Bogota, Colombia when there was a shortage of incubators and skin-to-skin contact was used to help keep babies warm. During this time, they noticed many other benefits that were happening while babies were engaging in kangaroo care.
Who Can Do Skin-to-Skin?
Traditionally, the mom is usually the one to first experience skin-to-skin contact, but any parent or caregiver can also participate! As part of some birth plans, dads wear a button-down shirt to be able to easily engage in skin-to-skin contact with the newborn, which is particularly helpful if the mom needs to be whisked away for surgical or other health reasons.
What are the Benefits of Skin-to-Skin?
The benefits of kangaroo care are numerous to both mother and baby.
How do I do Kangaroo Care?
Talk with your healthcare provider about your birth plan and your wish for skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth. Have the baby placed belly-down on your bare chest. The nurses may wish to dry off the baby and put on a hat first. You can then wrap a blanket around the both of you to keep you warm. For skin-to-skin contact at later times, you can leave the baby diapered. Moms and dads can both participate in skin-to-skin contact, and the benefits will continue, providing a naturally calming way to bond with your baby.
You’re out at a restaurant with your little one who decides you shouldn’t be the only one eating right now. Can you breastfeed at the table in public?
The short answer: Absolutely.
All 50 states and Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, protect a woman’s right to breastfeed in any public or private location. No nursing cover is necessary. Of course, because many women feel less exposed (and their baby less distracted) if they can nurse in a more private area, many states and private companies have gone a step further and require certain places to have designated lactation rooms, such as airports and malls.
Not all babies are willing to nurse while they have a cover over their heads—it’s hot and dark and impersonal. For this, among other reasons, moms may choose to nurse al fresco, and that is their 100% legal right to do so. Remind nay-sayers of this if you are ever unfortunate enough to have negative comments thrown your way while you are feeding your child in public.
Below is the National Conference of State Legislature’s most recent update of breastfeeding laws by state. And remember, breastfeeding your child is a natural act that you should be proud of; do not let uneducated individuals shame you into thinking you have to hide in a bathroom to feed them. Your baby has just as much right to eat whenever and wherever as a bottle-fed child.
In families where there is a non-breastfeeding parent, whether that is a father or other partner or family member, some moms may feel alone in the breastfeeding process, since they are the sole source of nutrition for their exclusively breastfed infants. And many partners feel helpless or clueless as to their role when the other parent is breastfeeding. How can the non-breastfeeding parent get involved in breastfeeding?
So, you’re ready to go back to work. Or maybe have a kid-free date night out planned. Or maybe you just need a few hours to yourself. For most breastfeeding mothers, there will come a time when their babies will need to use a bottle. You may pump and pump, making sure you have enough milk to feed your baby when you’re away, only to realize that the issue wasn’t going to be the milk, but the bottle. It’s fairly common that exclusively breastfed babies reject bottles at first. After all, why have a rubbery nipple and lukewarm reheated milk when you can have the real thing at the perfect temperature? So, what should you do if your baby is experiencing a bottle strike?
It's cold and flu season, and one of the most common questions moms ask is: "Can I still breastfeed my baby while I'm sick?"
The short answer: Most definitely!
The beauty of breastfeeding is that the composition of breast milk can change from day to day. While your body is busy building antibodies to fight off whatever illness you catch, your baby benefits by consuming those antibodies, which will act as a protective feature to their immune system. When my youngest son was breastfeeding, my older son came home with a nasty case of the stomach bug, which he promptly passed along to me. The only one who was safe from any symptoms was the baby who continued to breastfeed throughout.
With some severe illnesses, like the flu, limiting your baby's exposure to sick contacts is important, but you are still encouraged to breastfeed if you do not have a healthy partner who can give your baby expressed breast milk, or if you are unable to pump.
What about medications? Most antibiotics and antiviral meds (for the flu) are safe to take while breastfeeding. Like with all new medications, let your physician know you are breastfeeding so that they can prescribe the right medication for you.
And of course, prevention is key: Wash your hands frequently and continue to eat a well-balanced diet to stay healthy!
The holiday season--the most wonderful time of the year? It sure can be, but for breastfeeding moms, it can add an extra element of stress. With traveling, family visits, and parties, keeping a breastfeeding schedule can pose to be challenging. Here are some tips to help you survive the holidays while breastfeeding.
* Feed baby before you arrive, if possible. While we know babies work on their own schedule, if you can feed baby before you go to the party, it may buy you a couple hours of stress-free (or lower-stress) mingling without worrying about finding a comfy spot to nurse...or trying to pry away your adorable little one from Aunt Betty.
* Choose the non-alcoholic eggnog. A glass of wine or a beer is okay for most nursing moms, but make the majority of your festive drink choices non-alcoholic because some alcohol can transfer through your breast milk.
* Plan to stop. Your road trips may take a little longer, but planning to stop at regular intervals based on baby's normal feeding schedule will help make the journey smoother.
* Bring snacks and water. Nursing can make you hungry and thirsty, and keeping well-nourished and hydrated is crucial to making milk for baby. Keep some portable snacks and water bottles on hand.
* Pump. If you plan to feed baby by a bottle while you're on the road, be sure to bring either a hand pump or an electric pump with a car charger.
* Nurse during take-off and landing. On flights, the pressure change that happens during take-off and landing can pop baby's ears, just like it does yours. Breastfeeding during these times will not only soothe baby but also encourage him to swallow, which will reduce the chance of the uncomfortable ear pop.
* Follow baby's lead. While away from home, continue to nurse on baby's normal schedule. When the crib and other surroundings may be unfamiliar, mama's milk is a source of normalcy and comfort.
* Dress accordingly. Plan ahead for temperature changes. Pack extra swaddling blankets and appropriate winter gear. Expect that the place you are staying may not have the same ideas about ideal thermostat temperatures as you do at home.
* Have fun! Babies can sense mama's stress. This is your vacation, so enjoy it. After all, it's the most wonderful time of the year.
Okay, so maybe not boobs specifically, but making a plan with your boss before going out on maternity leave can make the transition back to work while sustaining breastfeeding much easier. The conversation may be uncomfortable and awkward for some women, especially if their boss is a male, but breastfeeding is natural and healthy, and you are legally protected to express milk at your place of employment.
After the birth of my first son, I was not given a private room to pump during the day—I expressed milk 2-3 times per work day in the corner of my cubicle. I did not have a conversation with my boss about pumping at work, and quite frankly, I’m not even sure he knew I was breastfeeding. (We did not share an office space). However, if I had, I may have been able to have a more comfortable experience returning to work and continuing to breastfeed.
So, how do you ask for breastfeeding support at work? Start the conversation during pregnancy. Things to discuss: