Breastfeeding: Encouragement For The First-Time Mom
August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week and we'd like to recognize all of the amazing efforts put in by mother's across the globe daily!
Now let me preface this entire post by saying the following on record:
There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with formula feeding your child
I have to get that out of the way before I continue, because while this post is about encouraging first-time moms to at least attempt to breastfeed; I do realize that the task itself isn't always easily met by many. I would hate for any of my formula moms to feel a way, especially when they are equally meeting the nutritional requirements for their baby.
Regarding breastfeeding however, I can start by saying that I appreciate the push set forth by so many social outlets these days to encourage and educate on breastfeeding. I remember having a discussion with my mom while I was pregnant and her mentioning that back in the 80's and 90's breastfeeding wasn't promoted as much as it is today. The convenience of formula-feeding became attractive to many mothers as companies like Similac and Enfamil made their push, and even sent new mothers home from the hospital with cases of ready-to-feed formula that lasted well into the third month. Additionally, at a time when breast augmentations saw a boost, she mentioned that with the procedure came a big miseducation and impression of not being able to successfully breastfeed, and therefor a lot of mother's avoided the task all together. She definitely noted that in the years that she gave birth to my sister and I, it was more often than not, where you came across a formula-fed infant, instead of a breastfed infant.
The message is completely different today however, and this is a great thing! More and more hospitals are becoming what is dubbed as "baby-friendly" (an initiative launched in 1991 by the World Health Organization [WHO] to promote and encourage enhanced mother/baby bonding and feeding aka breastfeeding), and there are organizations like Le Leche League and KellyMom who provide a wealth of resources to mothers such as answers to questions, lactation consultant referrals, helplines and more. In addition to the big players, there's also an expansive network of social influencers on outlets such as Facebook and Instagram that provide encouragement, and some are even makers of natural products designed to boost lactation. Some of our favorites include: @LegendairyMilk, @MilkyMamaLLC, and @EuphoricHerbals.
As for me, my breastfeeding experience came with its ups and downs just like many if not all mothers that I have spoken to, but I will happily say that it was the best decision I made. The truth is that, going into breastfeeding as a first-time-mom and having no idea what to expect (or feel), you will encounter some sort of curveball. Not only are you getting adjusted to your new life, but you're also getting adjusted to your new body changes, new schedule, the demands for you to produce milk for baby (and your pump stash if you decide to build one like I did), and last but not least - doing everything on zero sleep. So imagine - nursing every 2-3 hours, and pumping every 2.5-3.5 hours around a 24-hour clock - um yeah, it can be pretty overwhelming! However, if you prepare for what's to come, you will have a much smoother ride than others.
With all of that said, I'd like to offer some advice for expectant mothers and new mothers experimenting with their breastfeeding journey:
Read & Research
- This is important. As much as breastfeeding is very much a natural thing, I feel it's important to read and research it as much as your energy will allow you to in the months leading up to delivery. There are many resources that explain why breastfeeding is optimal and has so many key benefits for your child; you can click here to read a great one... However, you need to understand first-hand how it will change YOU. It's important to take insight on how your body will change into several phases the moment you give birth. How soon or late your milk may come in, the nutritional needs of your baby by age and stage, different reactions that your body will encounter, diets required, latch-problem solutions, milk-supply troubleshooting, pumping-amount expectations and more! There is a lot to cover when it comes to breastfeeding and it is wiser to know all of this before your baby arrives, than to have to scramble and power-read with a hungry infant at your breast. The best place to start would be KellyMom. It's an amazing site full of information that's easy to navigate and easy to read.
First 48: Supply & Demand
- The first 48-hours after you give birth, you will be exhausted beyond measure but I feel that this is a crucial time to get things going. It will be likely that within the first 48-hours after birth, your milk may not even be in yet. However, that does not mean that you shouldn't be latching or pumping on schedule. Latching will stimulate your milk glands and send signals to your body that it's time to put the milk factory to work. On top of latching, I also think that pumping during this time whether it's something you will stick with or not, is also super important. The more you can signal your body to produce from the very start, the better, because from there you can then allow your body to then adjust to your baby's (and pump schedule's) needs. Milk production is based on a 'supply and demand' system. So if there's not much 'demand' from the very beginning, then there won't be much 'supply'; and because milk production tends to be regressive, the less you latch, the less you will produce. So remember - for every bottle you present to your baby, your milk supply will indeed drop. Please latch on demand, and pump at least every 3-hours from the moment you get to your recovery room. Even if you have made up your mind that you won't be pumping at all once you get home, those pumping sessions in the hospital do matter and will make a huge difference.
Use Your Resources
- Many hospitals will make lactation consultants available to you at no cost while you are there, additionally many lactation consultant services are either covered or can be reimbursed by health insurances. Please tap into obtaining information on both, as it is a huge help for nursing moms!
- Another amazing resource to take advantage of while in the hospital is requesting to use their hospital-grade pump. Please leave your own pump at home! While in the hospital you will want to use theirs because it is often the Rolls Royce of breast pumps! What's the difference you ask? Well - majority of hospitals are equipped with the Medela Symphony pump, and this is truly the holy-grail of pumps. The pump is hospital-grade and motor is twice the size of any standard commercial Medela pump that they sell at places like Target, and because of this it is much more effective in the extraction of milk. A standard commercial Medela electric pump will run you roughly $200-450. A Medela Symphony retails for $1800-2000. So trust me when I say that there is a huge difference in performance. And, if you really want my two-cents then I suggest foregoing the purchase of a standard pump all together and renting the Medela Symphony instead! There are companies that will allow you to rent the pump on a monthly basis for a fee (usually around $50) which can sometimes be covered or reimbursed by insurance. If you plan to stick with breastfeeding for at least the recommended 6-months, then you'd be paying only $300 in rental fees for that period which is still lower than some actual commercial Medela pump prices.
And last but not least...
Do The Best You Can
- As much as I find all of the social avenues and bevy of encouragement available at your fingertips these days amazing, it can also turn out to be a big Catch-22. It's easy to come across images on social media of moms presenting insane amounts of expressed milk, or touting about their extended feeding time frames; all which can leave you very much in question about whether you're doing this right. For a new, first-time mom this can be a trigger and cause emotional upset. It's important not to compare yourself to anyone else during your breastfeeding journey - not anyone you follow on social media, or anyone you know in real life. Everyone is different and you should remember that your journey will be unique in every way. As I mentioned before, breastfeeding isn't an easy fete for many so should you find yourself having supply struggles, or only being able to breastfeed for a shorter amount of time than you originally intended, please know that it's okay! I tell people to keep in mind what is most important: the nutrition and thrive of your child! Don't ever lose sight of that, because as a mom you are commissioned to do whatever it will take, by any means necessary to ensure that your child is well-fed, well-nourished and is thriving at all times. That's what's the most important factor in all of this.
If you're a new mom or soon-to-be mom and would like to chat about breastfeeding, or would like more insight into my experience, then I'm more than happy to discuss. Please feel free to leave a comment here, reach me here, or send me a message on Instagram (@roselynm).