DO’S AND DON’TS OF BREASTFEEDING
As great of a debate as breastfeeding has caused, I still consider it a personal matter and personal choice for each mother and her child. This month, I celebrated one year of breastfeeding my son, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the beautiful journey it has been. From day one, we’ve had a strong latch and great supply. I had visions of pumping and bottle feeding, but at this point, when Max signs ‘milk’, he doesn’t mean from a bottle or cup. And before you start wondering, the only thought I give to weaning is when someone else asks me about it.
It can be bothersome how judgy people can be, whether they know it or not, but the biggest lesson I’ve learned is to trust my instincts. Here are a few of my Dos and Don’ts through my journey of breastfeeding:
Don’t beat yourself up if you have not had a successful experience nursing. The most important thing to remember is a healthy baby is paramount, whether breast or bottle fed.
Do use the resources available for nursing mothers—so many of them are free of cost.
Don’t lose patience if breastfeeding is a challenge in the beginning—persistence and patience usually pay off.
Do realize that you can nurse for as little as long as you’d like—whatever is best for you and your baby.
Don’t buy expensive nursing bras too soon. Wait until around three months postpartum when you’ve developed a rhythm and your breasts have settled into a consistent size.
Do continue to take your prenatal vitamins and eat healthy—nursing strips a lot from your body.
Don’t forget that you’re never alone in this journey—use forums, blogs and social media to find other moms to connect with.
Do know that breastfeeding burns calories—so consistent nursing can help shed pregnancy pounds.
Don’t compare your experience to anyone else’s—every mother’s experience is unique.
BREASTFEEDING: WHEN THINGS HAPPEN OTHERWISE
Not every mother has the experience she hopes for when embarking on her breastfeeding journey. Throughout your pregnancy, you’re told to keep an open mind for the possibility of changes—of things not happening the way the way you’d like, plan or expect. Breastfeeding is one of those things, and every woman’s experience is different.
If you meet challenges when you first begin breastfeeding, don’t throw in the towel too soon. Your issue may not be milk supply, but your baby may need extra practice learning to latch correctly. Your hospital will likely have a lactation specialist visit you shortly after delivery for some extra guidance. If you decide to deliver using the aid of a midwife and doula, they will give many resources and likely be well-educated on lactation and breastfeeding.
Pumping & Milk Storage
Pumping is a dedicated task, so you want to make it as easy for yourself as possible. Consider a hands-free, double pump that allows you to do a little multi-tasking, especially since you could easily pump every 4 to 5 hours.
Once a few weeks of successful pumping happens, you’ll find a rhythm that works for you. Depending on personal preference, you may opt for a pump that expels milk directly into storage bags. You may find that pumping into bottles works better. Our advice, try it all—that’s what the baby shower registry is for.
Call it a gift and a curse, but some women produce more milk than their baby can drink. This can cause engorged breasts if you don’t pump, or aren’t pumping often enough. There are a few options you may have:
(1) Find a good breast pump. Many insurance plans cover the cost of popular brands like Medela. Also, be sure to ask with your hospital about rental options.
(2) Create a stock pile. When you decide to stop nursing or can’t nurse for whatever reason, you’ll have an abundance of pumped milk and can avoid formula.
(3) Donate your excess milk. Some women can pump hundreds of ounces of milk in a matter of days or weeks. Many donate portions of their stock piles to reputable organizations for mothers who prefer breast milk to formula, but may not be producing adequate milk for their baby. Make sure to seek companies that conduct extensive screening before making a choice.
Some moms don’t product enough or any milk for their babies. This topic can be sensitive for women who make the plan to exclusively breastfeed, yet experience challenges. It’s normal to feel discouraged, but there are options and resources for these moms, too:
(1) Utilize breast milk donation organizations. A quick Google search will tell you about the options in your area. Be ready to pay steep prices; it’s worth knowing you’ll receive quality milk.
(2) Supplement with formula. It may not be the first option, but it is an option. Familiarize yourself with ingredients and don’t settle for what’s being advertised. Well-known brands aren’t always the best.
(3) Take a holistic approach. There are endless articles and resources on natural remedies to increase milk production. From garlic to fenugreek, to oatmeal and beetroot—even if you find these to not work for you, at least you’re still putting good stuff in your body.
Health & Developmental Benefits
The benefits of nursing your baby are far-reaching. Not only does the mother pass antibodies to her child through nursing, the closeness that occurs during feeding creates a strong attachment for baby and lasting bond between mother and child.
Most experts on breastfeeding recommend babies be breastfed for the first year of life—and the longer, the better. It can be challenging the first 6 months, so to make it a year or longer is commendable. Don’t be hard on yourself if you’re not that mom who nurses her baby to the age of 3. It’s not for everyone, and that’s OK.
By: Amber Aaron & Morgan Mangana
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