Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Reaching Your Breastfeeding Milestones

In our modern world, breastfeeding has become this thing for so many that you might try, but you'll keep your can of free formula in the pantry, "just in case." In those instances, you give yourself goals, milestones that you'll reach and feel good about:

"I'll breastfeed exclusively for 6 weeks."

"I'll try to make it to 6 months before giving any formula or solid foods."

"My goal is 1 year. I really want to make it to at least a year!"

"I plan to let the baby self wean, whenever that happens."

No matter what stage you and your baby are in your breastfeeding relationship, pat yourself on the back, because YOU ARE BREASTFEEDING! You have succeeded, no matter what your goal was. Now, keep going, because you've come this far, so why stop now? (Also, if you haven't yet, go throw away that can of formula. You don't need it.)

For us, formula wasn't really an option. Not that I was super gung-ho about breastfeeding from the start, but from what I could see in my family, breastfeeding is just what we did. I didn't set a goal, per se, I just kept on breastfeeding. 6 weeks, 6 months, a year, 2 years, 3 years, tandem nursing, tandem nursing while pregnant... once you let go of your milestones and just let it happen, it happens so beautifully and so quickly!

If you're struggling with breastfeeding, having one problem after another, I urge you to keep going! At some point, you'll have mastered every issue and will be all the better for it! When you reach your milestones, celebrate! Be proud of yourself, tell the world what you've accomplished, because you have given and you are giving your baby the absolute best, and that is something to be VERY proud of!

Happy breastfeeding!!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Breastfeeding Diet

Hi again!

I wrote about colds in breastfeeding babies last time, and today was going to be about stomach aches, but I got a special request. The breastfeeding diet, what's allowed, what's not, and how to find a happy balance with your babe on those things that are a little iffy.

I want to start off by saying that no matter what you eat, as long as it sustains you, it will be turned into adequate milk for your baby. Be it a diet of McDonald's or completely raw and vegan, your milk is perfect for your baby. A lot of moms think that they can't have foods while nursing: dairy, wheat, cabbage, broccoli, garlic, onions, chocolate, and coffee are ones I hear all the time. Yes, those are common problem foods for nursing babies, but nothing says that YOUR nursing baby is going to have sensitivities to those foods.

Anything that you want to eat, eat. Basically, that's it. You should be around 2500 calories a day to make sure you and your baby are getting enough. If you find your baby has a reaction to something, think back 6-8 hours and try to remember what you ate/drank/took. Vitamins and medications can cause issues just as well as food, so don't forget about those.

For the longest time, I thought that baby Allie couldn't stand me drinking coffee. After discovering that she had a seafood sensitivity (sigh, no more sushi), I did an experiment of continuing to take my fish oil pills, but not drinking coffee for a few days, and she was just as fussy. Cut out the fish oil, and no more fussy baby (except for when those darn teeth start acting up)! When she's a few months older, I'll slowly introduce seafood again and see if she's outgrown the sensitivity. If not, we'll go another few months. All it takes is a bit of reading the labels and avoiding my favorite food (sushi). It is a sacrifice, but one I will absolutely make for my baby.

Some babes have fussiness from birth, and their mothers just toss and turn trying to diagnose the issue. Sometimes the simplest (and most trying, it seems) thing to do is an elimination diet: boiled chicken, white rice, and water. After that, you start adding back in ONE thing every few days. I'd start with a prenatal vitamin, so you're getting nutrients that you might be missing by not eating a large variety of food. Watch carefully as you reintroduce foods, keep a strict journal, and don't overdo anything. You'll likely find something in your daily menu that your baby can't stand, and all you have to do is cut it out. Everything else is a go! In my experience, it helps to focus on the things you can have (ice cream and coffee for me!) instead of the thing you can't (any kind of seafood or fish oil pills).

I mentioned once to a friend who was worried about her diet being "good enough" for her baby's milk that there are malnourished mothers in 3rd world countries that are able to breastfeed, and their babies LIVE because of that milk. If they were on formula, they would (and do) die.

Any breast milk is better than none, and breast milk is almost always better than formula (except for when mom has to be on a medication that has no lactation friendly alternative). As you work to find what ails your baby's tummy, just remember that you're doing this for your baby and for you. It might take a while to get things just perfect, and find that balance (I can have as much coffee as I want as long as I drink plenty of water to go along with it), but once you do, you're going to be able to truly enjoy your breastfeeding relationship as you deserve.

Happy breastfeeding!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Getting Back to Blogging (and Breastfeeding)

Hi all! I've missed writing, and I'm so sorry for skipping 6 months worth of blogging, but I've been a bit overwhelmed lately. What with the birth of my 3rd baby, having my husband home (he was away for the first 7 months of this year for military training) and wanting to spend every second with him, and then beginning to plan our World Breastfeeding Week celebrations... time has just slipped through my fingers. But I'm back now, so be prepared to have your noggins filled with breastfeeding knowledge!

I have a book called "Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple." I refer to it as my big book of answers, and it really covers EVERYTHING in its 864 pages (index not included). Starting now, I'm going to be flipping to a random page and writing about the issues printed. My goal is that by reading this blog, you'll learn everything you need to know to successfully breastfeed and get over any hurdles that may block your path.

The topic: Illness In the Breastfeeding Baby. Colds, flu, ear infections, and breathing problems. I'm obviously not a doctor, so take everything here and use some common sense. If your babe is sick for more than 3-5 days, and seems to get worse over time rather than better, go to your doctor. My solutions here are to get your baby to nurse, which should help him/her get better. If it doesn't, it might be more serious than just a cold.

With colds, flu, and ear infections, there's usually a lot of fluid build up in the sinuses, which may make nursing difficult. But don't worry! There are solutions to nurse your stuffed up baby. To start, keep baby upright in a sling or in your arms so the sinuses can drain a bit. If that doesn't quite do the trick, use a bulb syringe to suck out the ickies.

You can breastfeed in an upright or laid back position to facilitate breathing, and I've even found that nursing for a short while in a position where baby's head is tilting back slightly can cause the milk to come out the nose, thus clearing out some of that fluid build up. Looks gross, but it is quite effective.

If baby is refusing to nurse because (s)he is struggling to breathe, you might try pumping and feeding baby with either a bottle or a cup, and still frequently offer the breast. Squirting your breast milk up baby's nose can help clear it up, and squirting it in baby's ears (many times a day) can help kill the infection within.

A warm, steamy shower can help loosen up those fluids, and it's a lovely experience to sit in the shower and nurse a babe. One of my favorite things to do when my kiddos have gotten colds.

My next post will be on stomach illnesses, so stay tuned (and if I fall behind, somebody poke me!).

Happy breastfeeding!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Milkin' Cookies

For our LLL meetings, I like to bring lactation/milk/milkin' cookies along. They're not just for those who need a milk supply boost; packed full of healthy and delicious goodness, they're a fairly guilt-free snack, and good enough to share with the kiddos!

There are several recipes floating around; most contain flax and oatmeal, which have been shown to increase milk supply. Here's my mash-up of several recipes, which happen to make quite moist, delicious, nicely shaped cookies. Enjoy!

Happy breastfeeding!

Milkin' Cookies

1 cup flax meal

4 tbsp water

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

½ cup melted butter

2 cups Agave nectar

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

2 cups chocolate chips

1 cup crushed cranberries

1 cup crushed nuts of your choice (I used walnuts)

3 cup old-fashioned oats

½ cup unsweetened applesauce

Preheat oven to 350* F.

In a bowl, mix flax and water until thoroughly mixed, set aside.

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a bowl.

In a large bowl, beat butter, ONE cup of Agave nectar, sugars, vanilla, and eggs together.

Add flax.

Add in flour mixture and combine well.

Mix in cranberries, nuts, and chocolate chips.

Mix in oats.

After everything is blended together well, add

the applesauce and final 1 cup of Agave nectar and stir through.

Scoop onto greased cookie sheets, press down lightly on each with a fork.

Bake 12-14 minutes.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Breastfeeding Supply Issues and CCK: Your Supply Is Fine, It's Your Timing That's the Problem!

Here's a post I want to share with you, which I originally wrote for Daily Momtra, and can be found here.

"My baby eats all the time! I think I need to give him formula to satisfy him.”

“When my baby falls asleep with a pacifier, he seems much more satisfied, but I’m always engorged.”

“No matter how often she eats, I feel like she wants to eat again in 10 minutes! I must not have enough milk.”

It’s a very common issue: mommies think that because their breastfed baby just wants to eat and eat (and eat and eat), that they’re either not producing enough milk, or the baby just needs way more than mom can make. I’m here to tell you, in most cases, it’s just not true!

Babies have this neat hormone in their system that tells them when they’re full (high levels) and hungry (low levels). It’s called cholecystokinin (CCK), and it aids in digestion and gives feelings of satiation and well-being in mom and baby. When a baby nurses for a good amount of time, their levels rise and they may get that milk drunk look or just fall asleep. After a nice little nap, their CCK levels drop a bit, so they want to nurse again. They may not actually drink, but just suck until they fall back asleep.

Giving a pacifier can trick this hormone, since it’s created by sucking, but can mess with your supply, and make baby cranky when she wakes up. Breastfeeding your baby when she’s fussy is the best way to restore those full CCK levels and make a happy baby once again. It’s been found that babies with colic have lower levels of CCK in their systems, usually because of an abnormal amount of spitting up. These babies may need a pacifier to help calm them and raise their CCK, when nursing just won’t cut it. The most important thing to remember when using a pacifier is “If you have to, use it, don’t abuse it, quickly lose it.” (Dr. Sears)

CCK is nature’s alarm clock; a very well organized “schedule” to keep your baby well fed and build up your supply. So keep feeding that baby on cue, don’t give that unnecessary bottle or pacifier, and you’ll find yourself in a happy nursing relationship for months (or years) to come.

Happy breastfeeding!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Your Birth and Breastfeeding

How your baby comes into the world can have a large effect on your initial success with breastfeeding. More and more information has come out about how birth affects breastfeeding and hospitals are becoming "Baby Friendly," to encourage and support breastfeeding immediately after birth.

Mothers are having out-of-hospital births (in birth centers and at home), because the chance of them having interventions that hinder breastfeeding are slim to none. I'm going to share with you how each part of today's "normal" births can put a roadblock on your path to successful breastfeeding.

Induction: When a mother is induced, there's a chance her baby is not yet to term, which can cause a delay in the mature milk coming in. Inductions can also double the chance of a c-section, which can give a whole new set of problems.

Pain medication (especially the epidural): When a mother gets an epidural, she must remain in bed until well after the baby is born. She also must have a saline IV, which fills her body with extra fluids that can cause pathological engorgement (breasts not overly full of milk, but of saline [which can't pass through to the milk]) and make latching extremely difficult. The saline can also raise the baby's weight, distorting the actual birth weight and causing unnecessary concern over weight gain.

Cesarean- Mothers can successfully breastfeed after a c-section just as they can after a vaginal birth, as long as they remain committed and have the baby near them as soon as possible after delivery. Some may still struggle, and the milk may have a delay in coming in, but it's just as possible, and even more important for a baby born via c-section to breastfeed.

With determination, education, and support, every woman can have a fighting chance at successfully breastfeeding from birth. Check out Breastfeeding 101: Surviving the Hospital and Newborn Days for more tips!

Happy breastfeeding!!

Monday, January 17, 2011

The ABCs of the Consequences of NOT Breastfeeding

Last week was our monthly La Leche League meeting, and we discussed the ABCs of breastfeeding. You can "like" the La Leche League of Canyon County, ID page on Facebook to see the ABCs that our group members came up with... they'll be posting one letter a day for the next few weeks.

I'm going to share with you the ABCs of the consequences of NOT breastfeeding, taken from my CLEC course. Everything listed here can happen to breastfed babies, but the risk is MUCH higher if the child is given artificial baby milk (formula) instead of being exclusively breastfed.

The benefits of breastfeeding are endless, but the risks of NOT breastfeeding are so much more important to take into consideration.

A- Asthma
B- Bronchitis
C- Celiac Disease
D- Diarrhea
E- Eating Disorders
F- Food Allergies
G- Gastro-intestinal issues
H- Hodgkin's Disease
I- Immune-regulatory diseases
J- Jaw development problems
K- Kidney transplant failure
L- Leukemia
M- Meningitis
N- Neurological Disorders
O- Otitis Media (middle ear infection)
P- Pneumonia
Q- Quantifiable IQ deficit
R- Respiratory problems
T- Tongue Thrusts
U- Ulcerative Colitis
V- Viral infections
W- Water intoxication
X- eXcessive weight gain
Y- Yucky diapers
Z- Zinc deficiency

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Support: The Key To Successfully Breastfeeding

Once your brain is full of all the breastfeeding resources and information you can handle, the next step is building your support system.

Some women are blessed to have family and friends all around them that are supportive of breastfeeding, having nursed many children and for quite a long time. Some women have a few cousins or maybe a sister that nursed their babies and know the benefits, but weren't really all that into it. Most women have nobody around them to give them the support they need to succeed.

If you have no friends or family, but have the internet, you're in luck! There are great social networking sites that can connect you with like-minded moms across the country and throughout the world. I've met several moms on the website, who have encouraged me, supported me, become great friends, and have helped me in so many more ways than I can list. They turned me into a lactivist, reminded me why I was nursing through a pregnancy when it got hard, and we all love to share information with each other. Though I've met very few of them in person, we have such amazing bonds that I don't have with many people locally. There are several other mom-sites to join, too!

I've linked it a couple other times, but check out La Leche League for awesome local support! Many hospitals also have breastfeeding mom groups run by IBCLCs (internationally board certified lactation consultants), that can be a good alternative if there isn't an LLL meeting in your area.

You may know of friends from high school or college that went on to become full time moms, and nursed their children... now would be a great time to reconnect with them! I've had several friends and acquaintances from high school find me on Facebook for advice about breastfeeding, and I'm oh-so-happy to help and share what I've learned!

For an un-supportive spouse, see the post before this about the father's role in breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding can be tough, and having a good support system will really help you succeed!

Happy breastfeeding!

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Father's Role in Breastfeeding

Once your baby is born, there seems to be a whirlwind of visitors, mixed in with several nursing sessions a day, and several diaper changes to go along with those feedings. In all of the craziness, you may feel like you need a break, or Dad may offer to do a feed so you can have a nap or shower.

If you're planning on going back to work or school after 6 weeks, and are going to leave baby with a sitter and some pumped milk (which we'll talk about in a future post), starting to give a small bottle of pumped milk around 3 weeks can be very beneficial. But if not, that occasional bottle can really do some damage.

Dads can be incredibly helpful in those first few weeks, even without doing any of the feeding. Bringing you snacks and water, helping out with the household chores while you're nursing, rocking the baby after s/he's finished feeding, changing diapers, holding a full or sleeping baby while you shower, and just giving you the support you need to continue breastfeeding if/when you face any hurdles.

Fathers have such important roles, and they don't need to involve bottles or milk. In those first weeks, if the mom can take care of the baby, and the dad take care of the mom, a household can run very smoothly.

Check out La Leche League to see if there are any father-friendly groups in your area!

Dads, along with the support and encouragement, one of the best things you can do for your nursing partner is to shower her with compliments. Sometimes, breastfeeding may make a mother feel "blah;" if you're there to tell her what an amazing mother she is, how breastfeeding makes her so beautiful, and that she's a goddess, you will raise her up so high. :)

Happy breastfeeding!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

What You Need to Know While You're Still Pregnant

That first BFP (big fat positive) on the pregnancy test can bring up so many emotions. I started balling when I got my first. Not strictly out of happiness... more fear, stress, and an overwhelming "ohmygawdwhatamIgoingtodo?!" The second and third just put a HUGE smile on my face, and I immediately started planning. Books I needed to get (and read!); appointments needing to be made; baby registries to be started.

Of everything that needs to be done, I feel that the two most important are: deciding on your birth plan, reading EVERYTHING you can to ensure that you know fully what to expect -good and bad- and making an early decision to breastfeed. Not, "Well, I'm going to try..." but a very determined, "I AM going to breastfeed my child." At the bottom of this post, I'll list some amazing books (and a couple to avoid) to get you started in the birth and breastfeeding arena.

Most hospitals offer breastfeeding classes, and many birthing centers do as well. They're bare bones "get you started" classes, and can be a great jumping off point! Take what you learn there, and look more deeply into subjects online, in books, or by asking friends and family that have nursed. It's definitely not enough information to call it good and expect breastfeeding to go smoothly, but is still worth the 2-3 hours.

Once you've begun your information download, the next step is to start attending your local La Leche League meetings (the link will take you to a map of all the groups worldwide!). LLL is a mother-to-mother support group, full of women that are pregnant for the first time up to older women with grown children that have nurslings of their own... a fantastic resource for all mothers. These women have discovered how breastfeeding blossoms into nursing, and how mothering at the breast creates an amazing bond and makes breastfeeding so much more enjoyable, and more than anything, want to share.

Just like you've begun to write out your birth plan, you should begin to look into making a breastfeeding birth plan. This includes the most natural birth as possible (as epidurals and c-sections have been proven to delay breastfeeding and can sabotage the nursing relationship), breastfeeding within the first hour after birth, and limiting visitors in the hospital/birthing center and also when at home. Here is a fantastic article about getting started with breastfeeding at the hospital.

After you've made your birth plan and your decision to breastfeed, the next step is to ASK. Any questions you might have, even if you think it's silly or TMI. You need to know as much as humanly possible in order to succeed. Ask friends, family, LLL leaders, lactation counselors, the peer counselors at WIC (if you're on it), and me! If anyone gives you a piece of advice that you find yourself questioning, get a 2nd, 3rd... 17th opinion. Best intentions don't always equal the best information.

Happy pregnancy!

Some awesome books to read:

Ina May's Guide to Childbirth, by Ina May Gaskin
Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn: The Complete Guide, by Penny Simkin, Janet Whalley, and Ann Keppler

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, 8th Edition, by LLL International
So That's What They're For, by Janet Tamaro
The Breastfeeding Cafe, by Barbara Behrmann
Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding, by Ina May Gaskin

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Breastfeeding's Not Just For Hippies

Many people think that breastfeeding is outdated... it's what the cave women did, after all. The hippies in the 70s picked it back up after a long time of formula being the norm, along with not shaving their armpits and letting their hair grow to their waists.

But not only is breastfeeding not outdated, it is timeless. Every mammal in the world nurses their offspring; Mammals... Mammary glands. Get it? We're designed to put our children to breast as soon as they're born, and let them keep coming back until the "milk" teeth (baby teeth) fall out and adult teeth start coming in (between 4-7 years old).

Society puts a lot of pressure on new moms to go with the flow, do what everyone else is doing... be a sheep and don't educate yourself at all. Well, starting now, quit that. Use your education, your common sense, and your instincts to parent. When the baby's born, what do your instincts say to do (when there's not a bottle of formula waved in your face)? They tell you to give that baby the milk you've been making for the past 6 months (breasts start to produce colostrum, the first milk, around 10-14 weeks gestation), straight from the tap, as soon as possible after birth.

Breastfeeding is just biologically normal. Not super serum, or liquid gold as it's often referred. Just normal. Human milk for human babies (and toddlers!), because it's designed specifically for them. Of course it's been shown to affect cancer rates, IQs, a slew of diseases and conditions; but the question to ask on that (and I'll come back to it in a different post) is, "Does breastfeeding reduce these rates, or does NOT breastfeeding RAISE the rates?"

There's an environmental aspect to nursing: no waste from packaging, no waste from manufacturing, no water being used to make the milk besides what you're already drinking. That probably catches the "green" eye, but for most breastfeeding mothers, it's just icing on the already awesome cake.

Whether you're doing it for the environment or for your (and your baby's) health, breast milk is still the best thing for your baby... because it's what we're designed to do.

Here We Go!

Welcome to Boob 101.

My goal is to have a blog filled with information about breastfeeding, tricks and tools to assist you, and personal stories to help you know that you're not alone!

A little about me before we get started:

My name's Melanie. I'll be honest with you and tell that I'm 21 years old; I've been married to my wonderful husband, Austin, for 4 years; we have an almost 4-year-old son, Liam, and an almost-2-year-old daughter, Fiona; Baby Alaina will make her grand appearance in April. I began my parenting journey when I was 17 and had Liam; before then, I did no research whatsoever, and it's quite amazing to me that he turned out as well as he has. ;) Once I got a hold of information sources, I've held on tight and continued to learn as much as possible.

I've been breastfeeding since April 30th, 2007, nursed Liam through my pregnancy with Fiona, and then tandem nursed them for 16 months, at which point, I was pregnant with #3, and Liam self-weaned. Fiona is happily nursing through this pregnancy, and will tandem nurse with her little sister until she's ready to stop.

Helping other mothers with breastfeeding has been a passion of mine for a while... I started out quite ignorant, just nursed because my older sister did... and because I was completely shocked at the price of formula. When Liam was a few months old, I became a lactivist, with overwhelming ideals and an in-your-face position. After I learned that that doesn't actually accomplish anything, I took a more laid-back stance, and only answered questions when asked; only offered help when someone was clearly struggling.

The impact that breastfeeding my children has had on my life and my parenting is immeasurable. My decisions are all fueled by research in order to give my kids the best start to their lives as possible, and that includes exclusive breastfeeding, healthy eating, and child-led weaning.

My goal is to become an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). I will be one by the time I'm 25-- just wait and see. I recently finished my certification to be a Lactation Educator-Counselor (CLEC), and I'm a leader of a mother-to-mother breastfeeding support group.

Though I am an activist and supporter for many things, I'm going to do my best to keep this blog about breastfeeding. Some things do cross into the realm of breastfeeding, and I'll very likely talk about them... but please, take what works for you, ask me to specify on things that you don't quite understand, and keep in mind that what I say might not be the most popular thing, or very mainstream, but it may be very worth it to give it a try.