They say the days are long and the years are short. I don’t think any year has gone quicker than this past one with my little girl. It’s hard to believe I’m ordering invitations for her first birthday already! I’m going to have a toddler! I’m sorry – what?! This just seems to be happening way too quickly!
When I dreamt of being a mom, and listed out my goals, breastfeeding my child(ren) was not even a question for me. While I don’t want to offend any mommas who went the formula route – because you’ve gotta do what’s best for you & your family and there are many different reasons for that path – there are just so many benefits to breastfeeding that it was a no brainer for me. Take a look at some of these stats, courtesy of Really? Really.
Breastmilk has live antibodies, and is created in part through feedback it receives from the saliva of your baby during nursing sessions. It will adjust its composition to best suit your little one during a growth spurt, a cold, etc. It also changes as your baby grows – so milk consumed when a baby is 3 months old varies slightly from what they need at 6 months. How freaking cool is that?!
I couldn’t pass up all these benefits – and not to mention – it’s FREE! I mean, free in the sense that you don’t have to pay for it. It does cost considerable patience, dedication and time. Like I said, we are approaching her first birthday and I’m so freaking proud of us for sticking to it. Let me tell you – pumping at work, three times at first and now twice a day, is a commitment. Setting an alarm on my phone, ducking out of a meeting. Screening phone calls and having to call people back. All in the name of motherhood. It is dedication.
As I reflect back on my success – some of it being biology, some if it being useful tools – I want to share with other mommas a few tricks I’ve learned in the hopes of encouraging and supporting moms who are also wanting to take on this commitment.
First things first. As a new mom, you have really no idea what’s happening with breastfeeding. You obviously understand the basic mechanics, but did you know there’s a handful of different ways to hold a baby during nursing sessions? Some may work better than others for you and baby! And a proper latch is critical to not only minimize your discomfort, but to encourage milk flow and not create frustration in your little one. Additionally, there are things that may hinder this latch. Some babies are born with lip and/or tongue ties that inhibit their ability to make a full, proper latch. I hadn’t heard of either of these things until I started looking around online for breastfeeding advice. You know that little sliver of tissue that connects your tongue to the bottom of your mouth? And the one that is between your upper lip and upper gums? Well, in some babies, those pieces of tissue are too close to the edge of the tongue and bottom of the gums to allow proper movement, resulting in difficulty for nursing. It can easily be surgically addressed, and not a big concern, but certainly something to be mindful of should you encounter challenges when you begin nursing.
Knowing these things can help empower you to make adjustments or judgement and give you the confidence to successfully breastfeed!
Honor the Sacred/Golden Hour
When your baby comes into this world, it’s a jarring experience! Both for you and your little one. Your body has just gone through a major trauma, essentially. And your little tyke has been forcefully evicted from the only home it has ever known! You’re both exhausted. And trust me, this hour will fly by! Mine felt like maybe 10 minutes.
These first 60 minutes of life, known as the Sacred Hour, are so beneficial to you and your baby, starting the bond only we mothers truly know. The sacred hour, when your baby is placed skin to skin on your chest, helps regulate their heartbeat and body temperature. You are familiar. Your smell, your heartbeat, your temperature. So while munchkin may have just had an abrupt and traumatic experience, they can now calmly and safely rest, assured knowing momma is here.
It’s also within this first hour of life outside the womb that your baby will have the instinct to nurse. That’s right- an instinct! They will slowly find their way to your breast and latch on all on their own. And they may not nurse for very long – a mere teaspoon, maybe! But it’s this initial attachment that has been proven to benefit and support breastfeeding success down the line!
I know mom and dad and your best friend are so incredibly happy for you and cannot wait to see you and your new bundle! Mine sat in a waiting room at the hospital for over 6 hours! But you will never be able to relive this first hour. So cherish it. And cherish the peace that it provides before the rush and constant parade of people!
Give Yourself Proper Nutrition
There are many foods that we mommas can eat to help promote milk production, but the single most important thing is WATER! Over three quarters of breast milk’s composition is water, so you must give your body the key ingredient if you want your production to be on par. Check on my post here on increasing milk supply, but know that any of these items will help sustain your production.
Don’t be afraid to speak your needs. Your child is relying on you to support them and provide for them. You can’t give them you’re all if you’re running on fumes. You can and should lean on your partner, your friend, your family. If someone offers to help – take them up on it! Even if its just holding the sleeping child so you can take a shower with peace of mind knowing you won’t have to run out if baby wakes up. Or if you need to throw that cup of coffee int he microwave because it’s cooled off so much it could be considered ‘iced’ coffee. You’ve gotta do you, momma!
Also, remember to stay relaxed and enjoy this experience! I can’t tell you the incredible, emotional high and peace you get when nursing your little one. And so much of this is tied to our mental state. Studies have shown that breast feeding reduces the chances of post partum depression and anxiety. So get comfortable, invest in a nice rocking chair and a Boppy pillow and soak up this one on one time with your new baby!
A Few of My Favorites
Let’s face it – there are SO MANY gadgets and gizmos out there for all things related to baby, and breastfeeding is no exception! In the giant sea of options, I’ve listed some of my favorites below to help you out. Grab some of these items below and gain a little more ‘I Got This’ confidence when you embark on this wonderful, rewarding journey with your little one…
Best Nursing Bras
I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on things I’d only be using for a short time, but also wanted to be comfortable and have support!
Truly, I don’t know what I’d do without Target. They were obviously my first stop and I tried a few different kinds. I like the feel of the racer back/sports bra kind that they have, but found the plastic hardware in the back squeaks a LOT when wearing! These bras are the ones that I have absolutely fallen in love with and wear daily!
Around the house and overnight, when you’re groggily making due in the pitch black for midnight feedings, I swear by these great, comfortable & inexpensive bras off of Amazon. Seriously – they are around $10 each (check the different color options available) and I will probably wear them to bed even after I’m done nursing. They just pull off to the side, so you aren’t fumbling with a plastic snap closure in the dark. And they give just enough support so you don’t feel constricted while you sleep, but have enough support for these new attributes you’ve suddenly gained overnight!
Best Nursing Pillow
I AM a Boppy fan. I’ve seen posts about a mom’s breast friend nursing pillow & I’ve also seen a lot of Instagram on the Itzy Ritzy Milk Boss nursing pillow. But what I particularly like about the Boppy is that the removable covers are machine washable. Baby is going to spit up on that pillow, it’s bound to happen, so I like the ease of unzipping the cover and putting a spare on, and throwing it in the wash.
Also, out of the three pillows noted above, Boppy is the only one whose shape allows for body support of your baby while nursing. The other two’s designs seem to focus on mother’s arm support while cradling baby which, yes! is very important, but the Boppy is really nice because baby can rest on it. Or, if you want to snuggle and give your arms a break, I was guilty of throwing on Netflix and resting baby on Boppy up against me to nap, while hands free to have a snack and drink some water!
Best Nursing Covers
I’m really not fond of nursing in public, to be honest. You don’t have the support of your Boppy, and a 6 month old is HEAVY after a while. Nursing covers are hot. And you’re constantly peeking through the neck hole to check on your little one.
The nursing cover I used is great because it’s multipurpose. The Mom Boss 4-In-1 Cover by Itzy Ritzy is so versatile! It’s a nursing cover that can also be worn as an infinity scarf, freeing up space in the diaper bag! It also slides over the carrier when you want to protect little one from wind or sunshine and, when they’re old enough, can be used as a cart seat or high chair cover! It wasn’t difficult for me to spend less than $25 on something that can be used a number of different ways and has totally been helpful! It has a soft, stretchy fabric that is also lightweight. To me, this is an easy must-have!
Best Body Care
Like I’ve noted above – it’s important to remember to take some time for you and make yourself a priority, especially during the first few weeks with your new baby! It is SO easy to get distracted, forget to drink plenty of water, put off taking a shower, etc. But find those few 15 to 20 mins while baby is napping or content with someone else to steal away and just have some peace.
Make sure you have some great nipple balm! While lanolin is probably the most common/widely recommended (and it DOES work!), it’s also a derivative of sheep’s fat which kind of leaves me…eh? With so many wonderful plant based oils out there and readily available, I wouldn’t opt for lanolin. Instead, I use this awesome nipple butter by Earth Mama. It’s plant based, smells amazing and is so soothing when applied!
Also, you can’t forget the rest of your skin! As we’re nearing the cold and dry winter months, moisturizing the rest of your skin is always important. I love Aveeno Daily Moisturizer as it goes on thin & absorbs quickly! Burt’s Bees Lip Balm is always wonderful and you can’t beat the easy of Vaseline Spray & Go! Ladies – you don’t even have to rub it in!
A Few Tips I’ve Learned Along The Way
Breast milk is incredible. There are a lot of surprising uses for it. My first realization came when P was only a few days old. We noticed she was getting a little bit of build up (goop, if you will) in her eye. I called the pediatrician’s office and the nurse prefaced what she was about to say with ‘Now, this is going to sound a little weird, but…’ and proceeded to tell me to apply a few drops of milk to her eye. It was a clogged tear duct & the milk would help clear it out! Sure enough, it did!
Breast milk has also been used to treat diaper rash, ear & eye infections, eczema! So while I can, I went ahead and purchased these tiny syringes from Amazon. I’m filling them with milk & will freeze them for future use when we come across any of these infections in the near future. It’s been easy so far, since I’m nursing and have milk readily available but when my supply dries up in what I’m presuming will be the next couple of months, I’m thankful I have a little stock in the freezer for topical purposes.
Also, breast milk can last up to 6 months in a freezer that is attached to a refrigerator and up to 12 months in a stand alone freezer. To keep P’s milk storage more current, I started a routine that is constantly rotating her stash. I pump while at work during the week. On Fridays, I freeze whatever I pumped that day. And on Sunday evening, I defrost the oldest bags from the freezer to send with her to school on Monday. That way, we don’t have months & months old milk sitting in the freezer. The oldest is used first, being replaced with fresh milk at the back of the line. Your ‘stash’ is staying consistent, you’re just keeping it fresh!