Breastfeeding, although a very natural thing, doesn't come naturally to a lot of moms.
It can be hard...an hourly/daily/weekly struggle that you may feel you will never get the hang of. And then suddenly, one day it's not so bad. I wanted to write this post to encourage moms to breastfeed their babies, and to seek help & support if they'e struggling. It's not something that just 'comes easy' to everyone, and there can be all sorts of reasons why it's hard (lots of these reasons can be fixed really quickly, and aren't all to do with a bad latch). I am really passionate about breastfeeding (mostly because your breastmilk is perfectly formulated by your own body, and designed to nourish your baby...giving them everything they could possibly need to grow big and strong in those first few crucial months and beyond!). I am also passionate about it because it makes life so easy...popping out a boob is SO much quicker and easier than having to worry about bottles & sterilising and temperature etc. I also do feel that formula is the cause of a lot of tummy & gut problems in babies and kids/adults later on in life...but that's a post for another day.
But, in saying all of the above, I have lots of friends who really struggled with breastfeeding/had to put their babies onto formula/chose to give formula and I just want to say, I really do understand. I don't judge. At the same time, I REALLY do feel there isn't nearly enough support for moms who want to breastfeed but end up giving up/stopping/feeling completely discouraged and it's these moms that I write this post for. I believe the breastfeeding journey starts out in pregnancy, and is greatly affected by how easy/difficult your pregnancy was, how easy/difficult the birth was, and most importantly, the support structures (friends & family, the nurses present when baby is born, the nurses who are on duty during those long and scary first nights in the hospital with a screaming newborn) and their attitudes towards breastfeeding.
So mommies & mommy-to-be's, here are a few tips, as well as bits and pieces of my own personal story that I want to share with you to help you in your own breastfeeding journey.
Your diet affects your baby, not just during your pregnancy, but especially when breastfeeding.
I think everyone knows that you need to eat healthy foods when pregnant, so your body can build a happy, healthy baby. This is especially difficult for those of us who are carb addicts (this is most definitely me...and one of the many reasons Farmboy and I follow a pretty much Banting/Low Carb High Fat way of eating). I say way of eating because we don't diet, and there are days when we will eat a pizza or order a pasta when we are out at a restaurant. But when we are home, we keep home filled with real foods (lots of veggies, locally sourced meat, eggs, lots of dairy and fruit).
My mom is an avid Tim Knoakes fan, and has also read just about every piece of literature on Banting & Low Carb High Fat. She also comes from a science background and so I trust her recommendations on food and the reasoning behind her strong convictions. I have also seen for myself the benefits of eating this way. The most important thing to take away from the idea of a Low Carb High Fat/Banting way of eating is this: no refined carbs or sugar, but real food. Get your carbs from veggies like sweet potato & butternut, fats from sources like full cream cheese & milk, almonds & meat plus eat lots of green veggies!
Hubby and I are not strict Banters, and I am definitely not being very strict because I am breastfeeding. I eat quite a lot of things that are on the Orange list for Banters, and I definitely don't count my carbs. But I just know that what goes in, is directly feeding my baby and I believe in this way of eating. Here is a really good article on Banting & Breastfeeding that you might find interesting if you have been wanting to explore this way of eating, there is also a basic introduction to Banting below:
Please note, I am just sharing my first experiences with this way of eating. I eat a lot of oats, add honey to sweeten food, and do eat bread (although I try to eat rye/sourdough bread as much as I can). I have never had an issue with a low milk supply...I have in fact had the opposite problem at times (I try to drink a lot of water and also really enjoy Kombucha...I am aware of the articles that caution against drinking it during pregnancy/while breastfeeding) but I was doing all of this before I was pregnant, and so it was what my body was used to & it's what helped form my baby when she was growing in my tummy. All of this has also shaped my view on solids for my baby, and it's why I don't give her any cereals or pre-package foods (when I can avoid it...while traveling overseas I bought a few of the organic, seemingly free from nasties foods to make life a little easier). And although it's not always convenient, I still make all of her food when I am at home. She is a Banting Baby and is flourishing. Here are a few blog posts on starting solids with your little one:
Join the La Leche breastfeeding group on Facebook
There is so much knowledge shared on this group, and the Leaders of the group are always around to encourage and answer any and all questions you may have. I joined the group in the beginning of my pregnancy, and while it was a bit overwhelming at first (and yes, there are always 'those' people in groups like these that can be a rather overbearing and righteous) I found popping in there during nights when I couldn't sleep to be really helpful. I had ZERO idea about breastfeeding, the only thing I knew is that I wanted to do it, and planned on feeding Everly until she is at least a year old, and I am so proud of myself for still going strong 9.5 months in. If you're wanting to know what pump to buy, how to increase your supply, how to deal with a forceful let down/oversupply, how to get a good latch, different positions to suit different babies, advice on tongue ties/thrush, bottles, nipple shields, expressing, pumping for working moms...gosh the list could go on and on! I learned so much just from reading through all the posts and using the search function when I felt a bit embarrassed to ask certain questions. Just bear in mind that the group is a PRO breastfeeding group, and some people feel VERY passionately about breastfeeding being the ONLY way to feed your child. If you are having difficulty in your breastfeeding journey, keep an open mind and rather seek help from a friend/lactation consultant before giving up entirely. You have to do what you have to do, and for some women, that means formula feeding. Please don't put any pressure on yourself, you're doing the best you can. Although I do feel that breast is best, it's not always as simple as that, and I have lots of friends who really struggled in their own breastfeeding journey.
Here is a wonderful post from my friends Kerri & Bailey, they are both real, raw and honest, and talk openly about their struggles with breastfeeding and what ended up working for them. Click here to read Kerri's story & click here to read Bailey's story.
Nipple Shields are your friend
Although lots of posts on the La Leche FB group talk about nipple shields being the devil, I will sing their praises from the rooftop! If they help you to successfully breastfeed your baby in those first few days & weeks, they are worth their weight in gold.
The biggest downside to them is some people have a hard time weaning baby off them. I just feel, if you're able to breastfeed successfully because they help you, then weaning baby off them is a small price to pay. Yes, they are a bit of a pain because you have to have them on you wherever you go, but I just made sure to keep a whole bunch of them all over the house/in the car/at Granny's house so they were always on hand. I used them on both sides for the first couple of weeks, and then sporadically attempted feeding without one/both. We had a few rough days where Everly would just scream because she couldn't latch properly but then suddenly I didn't need them anymore. I was at a wedding and needing to desperately feed my baby (full boobs and a screaming baby will really put you on edge!) and I didn't have a shield on hand. Hubby was nowhere to be found and so I just had to feed without one. It took a little while, but I just persevered and suddenly she was latching without it...what a wonderful feeling!
So while you may have your reservations about that, just buy a set and pop them into your hospital bag to have just in case. I only tried the Tommee Tippee brand, so those are what I would recommend. I have also heard the Pigeon ones are great too.
Pack a breast pump in your hospital bag
Thank you to my sister in law for this tip.
Although you might have read about how pumping is not advised in the first 6 - 8 weeks of breastfeeding, let me tell you, there are those days (or nights!) when your boobs will be rock hard, full to bursting and your baby won't be able to latch properly that you just need a little relief. It's recommended to rather hand express in the shower (here's some links on this >>>click here) but when you just need to quickly get rid of some milk, a pump is your friend. You also won't know when exactly your milk will come in (this is usually around day 3) but can be earlier/later and so having a pump on hand is useful. Another thing, you won't know how your birth is going to plan out. I was dead set on a natural birth, but ended up having an emergency c-section and so was in hospital for longer than I had planned. My milk came in while in hospital and I was so grateful to have a pump. My little girl also had to be under the UV lights for Jaundice and as your body really just goes haywire after having a baby, there were moments when I couldn't just pick her up to feed and relieve my aching boobs. A pump was a life saver.
Also, having it n your bag doesn't mean you have to use it. It's there for those 'just in case' moments.
If you're wondering what pump to buy, the best advise I was given was to buy a manual pump (I was recommend the Avent Manual Pump...but have heard the Click brand of Manual pump is amazing and just as good for a fraction of the price) and rather invest in an electric one if you need to later on. As I work from home, I am always around to feed Everly, and the few times I've been away from her, the manual pump has done the job just fine. You also don't know how your breastfeeding journey is going to pan out. If there are complications and your baby has to go into NICU and you decide it's just to much stress to pump all day and all night, a fancy electric pump might be a waste of money rather spent elsewhere.
All Breast Pads were not created equal
I've tried just about every breast pad under the sun, and have recommendations for both disposable & re-useable/washable pads. Some of my friends said they never needed to use breast pads, but as I had such a forceful letdown (and no old told that when you have a let down, the milk comes down from BOTH sides...this may seem obvious now, but when you forget/don't have a cloth on hand, you're going to end up with a VERY unsightly wet patch on your shirt.
Although we are an environmentally aware household, using cloth nappies (click here for more on cloth nappies) and my ultimate preference for breast pads being the washable ones, there was many a day in the first few weeks when I used disposable ones. While I highly recommend washable breast pads (and I'll share which brand gets a double thumbs up from me below) not just because they are cost effective & environmentally friendly, but also because I found them to be the most absorbent.
Here are my top recommendations:
Disposables: Pigeon (I've gone through SO many of the big boxes and they are not only budget friendly, but they work well).
Re-useable/Washable: Biddykins Washable Resuseable Pads
I'm still using breastpads today, nearly 10 months down the line, although I just use one a day, and move it over to the other side when feeding. It helps me remember which side to start with next! Although this has definitely been easier since Everly started feeding from just one side at around 6 months old. I had never heard of that being a thing, and was worried she wouldn't be getting enough milk, but she clearly is not milk deprived (she still has the cutest fat rolls everywhere) and she would have complained about being hungry long ago if that was the case. Feeding from one side a feed just makes everything easier (and faster!).
Another myth busted...big boobs don't necessarily mean lots of milk. I certainly don't have the biggest bust around, and have always had lots of milk. So don't let the fact that you have small boobs make you think you won't be able to breastfeed.
My Breastfeeding Schedule
I also thought I'd share my breastfeeding 'schedule' with you, as I always was on the hunt for info on how long to wait before feeds in the beginning, and also to work out what worked for other moms. I hope you find this helpful:
Newborn: I pretty much fed on demand, but this for Everly was roughly every 3 hours. After bedtime (which was between 5 & 6 pm), she woke 2-3 times for night feeds right from the very beginning (so usually around 10pm, 1am & around 4am.) She would wake at 6/7am and that's when we would start the day.
Around 3 months she dropped one of her night feeds, waking up around 11pm & then 3-4am. I was still feeding every 3 - hours during the day. Her morning wakeup time was still 7am.
Around 4-5 months I started stretching Everly to 4 hour feeds during the day, and she also dropped her 11pm feed, waking just once at night, some time between 3 - 5 am. Her wakeup time was still 7am.
At around 6 months, after we had been started solids, I went back to a 3ish hourly day feed schedule, as I found this worked best for me with making sure she wasn't too full/too hungry when it was time for solids. She also started stretching her night feed, going from 6pm bedtime to one night feed between 3 - 5am. By 7 months I had weaned her off her night feed, and she was going from 6pm - 6/7am. I didn't know this, but at about 5/6 months old, babies are physically able to stretch the whole night without a feed. This doesn't mean that all babies will though, and many wake for comfort. In fact, it seems that babies who sleep through (and through being 10 - 12 hours are the exception to the rule as I think most of us first time moms are really just winging this whole parenthood thing and figuring it out one day at a time). I found this to be very reassuring, as I was always worried she was waking up after 6 months because she was hungry, but once I realised it was more for comfort, then it became my choice to either feed her, or go into her room and settle her and soothe her back to sleep without a feed. We went through about 3 nights of very little sleep as she cried and really complained about dropping that feed, but then by the fourth night she didn't wake at all.
At around 7.5 months we went overseas to the UK for 3 weeks, and she started waking up at around 3am again, and I just went back to feeding her at that time because we were traveling with family and I didn't want to keep the whole house up with her protests. I was very worried about weaning her off it when we got home, but it only took 2 night of protesting before she started sleeping through again.
From 8 months to where I am now, Everly feeds 4 times in 24 hours. Here is the rough schedule we are on now:
7am wake up, breastfeed
10h00 wake up, breastfeed
11am breakfast (solids)
14h00 wake up, breastfeed
15h00 lunch (solids)
16h00 nap (although she has just about dropped this nap and is fighting it hard!)
16h45/17h00 supper (solids)
18h00 bath, story, breastfeed, bed
I've tried to always follow a wake up, feed, play, nap routine so that she didn't ever get dependant on being breastfed to sleep (although, as with everything, there have been times when I've been at my wits end and just nursed her and popped her down). It also takes a bit of time to get into a routine, especially when introducing solids, and then of course realising that every baby is different.
Everly has always needed/loved her sleep. Some kids her age (9.5 months) have 3 hours of awake time between naps. Ev is literally a crying wreck by the 2 hour mark, and her first awake time of the day is never longer than 1.5 hours. Some babies refuse to sleep any sooner, you just have to figure out what works best for you, and to learn your babies sleep cues. I had lots of people tell me that I forced Everly to sleep too much, but I always said if she didn't want to sleep she wouldn't sleep. While we do follow a little bit of the cry it out method, I don't leave her crying in her cot for hours on end. But I can tell when she's just fighting her nap, and usually will put herself to sleep within 10 minutes of being put down. Even though those 10 minutes may be filled with an awful lot of protesting and winging.
But as is always the case with these little humans, the moment you feel like you've got the routine waxed, they go and shake things up (with teething, a growth spurt, a sore tummy, learning a new skill that they suddenly want to pracice at every opporunity they get) and then you start all over again figuring them out. We did and do still have nights when she wakes up (sometimes multiple times) and we have no idea why. We always leave her for at least 5 minutes once we hear her wake up, and 90% of the time she puts herself back to sleep. The other 10% of the time it's hubby or I going in to do bum pats, pop the dummy back in, and gently coax her back to sleep.
At the end of the day, you have to figure out what works best for you, for your baby, and for your family. Everly has been in her own room since day 1, and I have chosen to get up and go to her for feeds/nappy changes rather than have her in our room. But every family is different, just as every parenting/birthing/breastfeeding journey is unique.
So there you have it, lots and lots of what's worked for me, with a few tips thrown into the mix. If you have any other questions you'd like me to write about, please feel free to leave me a comment below.
Here are all my posts so far on this wonderful journey to being and becoming a mommy: