Simple advice from friends can sometimes become the most beneficial information. As a friend and I were talking while I was still pregnant, I told her my desire to breastfeed but I was afraid I “wouldn’t be able to”. Her reply, “everyone can breastfeed- just don’t give up." Little did I know how encouraging those few words would be to me through my struggle. When my babe arrived I felt prepared. I had taken classes, done research, and had “all” the tools to succeed. So I thought. When he made his arrival, I was confident, but that confidence slowly dwindled when those first few moments of life, he would not latch. I mean for the life of me, this kid WOULD NOT LATCH. I didn’t understand. I knew what I was doing, I was graced with knowledge and tools, so why couldn’t I get MY kid to latch? After all, isn’t it a part of their natural instinct? WRONG! Some babies come out of the womb latching and sucking away. Well, mine didn’t. Mine had to be taught, and I had to be a mom who was patient with him if I wanted to succeed in this breastfeeding journey. It took month of practice, many, many tears, sleepless nights (I praised the Lord for even 30 minutes...), and more cries out to God than I could have every imaged. But God had a plan. He gave me a drive to breastfeed, invest my time to glean knowledge and information, and the patience to succeed. He knew Zayin would need all the nutrients, antibodies to fight sickness, and healing components breast milk provides. He knew Zayin would be born with an abnormality. He knew he would need 3 surgeries to help fix his abnormality before his first birthday. So, he prepared me, as his momma, in ways I never knew I would soon invest my time in. I am so grateful for the patience he provided and the drive He bestowed upon me to succeed. It’s been 21 months and Zayin has just stopped nursing. My goal was a year. During that year, the Lord provided me with enough milk to feed my son, as well as feed a friend’s son whom they adopted. For me to provide their child with breast milk was not in our plans. They never came to me and asked if I would provide, but they had been praying for breast milk for their child for the first year even before they met him/her. Not knowing when the Lord would bless them with a child, He brought their sweet boy home to them just months after Zay was born. The Lord’s timing is always, always perfect. He places things so powerfully on our hearts so that we might find His glory through the work He does in our lives and other's. This was solely the Lord’ doing. I am forever grateful for his provision, his plan, and his purpose in this breastfeeding journey. If it were up to me, I would have thrown in the towel a few weeks in, but he had a purpose for my struggle, and a plan for the milk!
So.... I am sharing tips and tricks of what I found along the way to be most beneficial to me. Keep in mind every baby and every mom is different, take what you find helpful, and toss the rest! :)
Tip and Tricks to Becoming a Successful Human Milk Machine:
1. SKIN TO SKIN FROM BIRTH- lots of initial skin to skin with you and baby within the first few moments to the first few weeks after birth is essential to producing a good supply. Believer it or not, your naked baby's skin on or near your breast stimulates your body to produce milk.
2. PUMP IT UP- Pump after feeding (when possible) specially if your baby doesn’t eat much or skips a feeding- your body needs stimulation. If baby is feeding and emptying your breasts- awesome! Some babies don't like Zay so I pumped after each feeding- basically telling my body to produce more than what he was eating- but that’s a good thing! The more stimulation, the more you are telling your body the baby needs to eat and the more milk you will produce- it's the supply and demand theory!
3. SUPPLEMENTS- Mothers milk tea, lactation cookies, fenugreek supplement are good ways to increase supply. Of course, consult your doctor before taking any supplements. Here's a link to what I found to be the best tasting lactation cookies- and when I say best tasting, I had to pry my husband’s fingers out of the cookie jar!! http://www.food.com/recipe/oatmeal-chocolate-chip-lactation-cookies-by-noel-trujillo-192346 for healthier options- sub honey or pure maple syrup for sugar
4. LIFE GIVING WATER- drink tons of water! Drink an 8oz glass every time you nurse- have hubby help assist you with that! I found a friend, her name was Bubba and she was my drinking partner. Meet her below. I compared her to a regular 8oz glass- as you can see, she's large, in charge and can hold up to 32oz of goodness.
5. POSITIONS- It's so important for both you and baby to be comfortable while breastfeeding. Let's be honest- sometimes it takes a while for baby to complete a meal (specially the first few weeks of life). We want to save you from future back pain! Be sure to always have something to support your back- like a pillow. Different positions (football hold, cross cradle hold, etc) provide different levels of comfort for both you and your baby. Practice these different positions and see what works best for you and babe. Personally, I noticed the “football” position working well while my little guy was newborn, and then once he was older, the cross cradle worked great.
6. LATCHING- A Good Latch is key-When the baby latches, you should only feel toe curling discomfort for a few seconds and then it should dissipate. If it continues to hurt, pull baby off by sticking one finger into his/her mouth, which will release his/her latch and try the latch again. Again, it takes practice, so patience is key! Why a deep latch? It's is essential for baby to efficiently pull milk from your breast. There are a lot of, quite frankly, unhelpful videos out there, but this one in particular I had found so incredibly helpful. View video demonstrating the deep latch technique here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FJuBn2bgNk
7. BREAST & BABY- Bring the baby too the breast, don’t take the breast to the baby. This was one my husband always reminded me of …His reminder was helpful! Thanks babe :)
8. IT DOES GET EASIER- (I promise) My hardest times were the first 3 months, but after 3 months it gets a lot easier! You and baby become more and more comfortable and confident.
9. CELEBRATE (when you can)- Let each day you get through breastfeeding be encouragement to you, knowing you have made it one more day!
10. LIQUID GOLD- The first few days before your milk comes in you produce colostrum, which is rich in antibodies (even more than your milk, I believe) high in carbs, high in protein and low in fat. It may appear clear in color or a little yellow. Colostrum is what the baby will get the first few days before your milk comes in. They call your BM liquid gold, and colostrum is like liquid gold times 10! It’s like giving your baby his/her first vaccines with all the antibodies it gives your sweet babe! So, when you think to yourself the first few days before your milk comes in- how in the world is my baby getting what he/she needs from no milk? Boy, oh, Boy rest assured your baby is getting a nutrient packed meal each feeding full of antibodies and disease/illness fighting goodness.
11. NURSING ON DEMAND VS. SCHEDULED FEEDINGS- I’m a big believer of nursing on demand, particularly because I saw the incredible milk producing benefits! When babies are put on schedule feeding (when nursing), it can actually hinder your milk supply. Read his or her cues for hunger- ie- baby sucking fingers or roots. I always offered at least every 2 hours. Some babies nurse every hour and a half. Is this taxing? Absolutely!!!!! But it will help your body produce the milk it needs to feed your babe for the first year+, or however long you decide to nurse. Some babies will put themselves on a schedule, usually every 2-3 hours, and that’s great! But if they one day decide they want to grow and need it every hour that day, so be it! :) They’re growing baby girls and boys! So, go give your life giving milk and have a book handy to read while the milk flows!! :)
12. DRAINING BREASTS- Have baby drain one breast before latching him/her onto the next- so look at it like this- if you nursed left breast only last feeding, start next feeding on the right breast- have baby drain breast before moving him/her over to left breast during that feeding- so in that feeding, right breast is baby’s “meal” and if he does go over to left breast during that feeding- he or she wants “dessert” ;). Next feeding, start him on the breast he ate dessert off of or didn’t nurse on at all. This will help milk production- specially allowing baby to drain breast(s). One way you know your breast is drained is it may feel like a pancake and/or you don’t hear baby swallowing milk much anymore.
13. FORE MILK VS. HIND MILK- You produce two types of milk- Fore milk and hind milk- this is crucial when wanting baby to gain weight. When eating off one breast, have the baby try to drain that breast (like mentioned in tip #12) because the fore milk is what you produce first. It squirts out (if you've ever pumped, you know what i’m talking about hah!) and the baby gulps and gulps. After the fore milk you start producing hind milk, which is the GOOD stuff! It contains tons of fat in the milk, which helps baby gain weight. If you nurse for a couple minutes on one breast and then switch to the next breast, the baby could potentially only be getting the fore milk- so try to have baby on one breast and drain as much as possible before moving onto next breast (if baby wants “dessert” ;) Always offer other breast if baby drains the first breast.
14. NUTRITION- It’s super important to eat well balanced meals for your body to produce milk. Just think- solely nursing alone- you burn anywhere from 500+ calories a day. That’s like working out, people, but instead of going to the gym, your sitting in your rocking chair! (Yep, I'll take that) While you are burning calories, you also need to be consuming nutrient dense calories to continue to produce. Eat at least 1 food that will provide your body with some sort of nutrients each meal. Try to stay away from lifeless foods (empty calories)- foods that don’t provide any nutrients at all. God gave us the earth. He also gave us food growing from the earth. Eat that food. It’s going to provide your body the nutrients it needs to keep your breastfeeding journey going successfully without leaving you feeling DRAINED every. single. day & night. Let's face it, nursing is hard and draining anyways; hard and draining on your body both mentally and physically, so help feed it the fuel it needs to keep going.
15. TALK- Don't be afraid to ask for help. Talk to friends, ask questions and/or seek professional help from a lactation consultant.
16. BE ENCOURAGED. Seek emotional and mental help from other breast feeding moms that ‘get it’. Breastfeeding was, (apart from parenting in general) the most daunting, tiring, emotional, struggle, and tedious task I have ever taken on. Surround yourself with people that will encourage your breastfeeding journey. Talk to other mom’s that are breastfeeding the same time as you, and talk to them often.
17. (Lastly) TAKE A TIME OUT, DARLING- (most importantly) Give yourself a break- take a breather in Jesus. Don't be so hard on yourself. Know you are doing your very best even when you may not succeed in the 1,056th feeding of the day. I didn’t get it right every time, nor will you. But each day down is a day to celebrate. Goodness, after each successful feed, I got up and danced. Poor zay, probably wondered- what is this crazy woman doing?!
Feel free to leave a comment or email me directly- firstname.lastname@example.org
All you breastfeeding mom’s- it’s hard, so go give yourself a pat on the back, take a time out when you need it, go eat a cookie and embrace your ability to be a human milk jug while you can. It's YOUR superpower!
With all my love,