Breastfeeding Awareness Month

Thursday, August 13, 2015

August is the official National Breastfeeding Awareness Month in the U.S., so I thought I'd share some of my personal observations, tips, and tricks on the topic.

I knew pretty early on that I wanted to give nursing a try. I had the full support of T, who liked the idea not only for the many health benefits for baby (read about them here or here), but also for cost-saving reasons (baby formula is EXPENSIVE with a capital E!). In addition, my wonderful Mama J, who nursed my three younger brothers and I when we were babies, was a great source of knowledge for any questions I had, particularly when it came to keeping up milk supply, attainable expectations for how long it may be possible to nurse, and shooing people out of the hospital room those first couple of days when C needed to nurse, and I wasn't yet comfortable doing so in front of visitors. Another excellent source of information came in the form of a lactation consultant who worked in the hospital where C was born, and was available to help from the very first day. Lactation consultants can teach you about correct latch positions, how often and how long to feed, milk supply issues, how to use a breast pump, how to store expressed milk, painful nursing solutions, etc. Many hospitals, clinics, and private practice offices offer lactation consultant services. You can search for one in your area here.

Nursing Favorites

Breast Pump & Breastmilk Storage Bags // DO NOT....I REPEAT...DO NOT buy a breast pump. Most health insurance companies will 100% cover the purchase price of one breast pump during your lifetime. The catch is that many times you have to get it from a store of their choosing...usually a medical supply store, or maybe even directly from your hospital. Call your insurance company ahead of time and check to see what your policy says.

Nursing Pads & Lanolin Nipple Cream // I talked a little about these products on my new mama favorites post, and think they are worthy of another mention. To prevent any unwanted leaks, nursing pads are a great invention. I tried both Medela brand, and Lansinoh, and can say that the Lansinoh brand tends to stay in place better based on where the stickers are located on the pad. If you want something less disposable and more environmentally friendly, these washable nursing pads from Bamboobies have great reviews. Talking brand wars, I personally liked the Medela lanolin nipple cream far better than the Lansinoh brand as it was less sticky, and felt more natural overall. This cream from Motherlove is a great organic alternative, and this cream from Earth Mama Angel Baby also has great reviews, and is an all natural lanolin-free and non-GMO alternative.

Nursing Bras // There are many different options to choose from out there depending on what you are looking for. Mine mostly came from Target, and weren't the highest quality. A few other places to check out are Motherhood MaternityA Pea In The Pod, and Nordstrom. At the very least, I would recommend picking up a couple of seamless styles before baby's favorite was the Jessica Simpson seamless clip-down nursing bra available at Motherhood Maternity. I've read great things about this seamless nursing bra from Cake, and this seamless nursing bra from Bravado. Keep in mind that your cup size will likely fluctuate throughout your time spent nursing, so don't get too carried away with filling up that lingerie drawer with a single cup size.

Nursing Cover // Most of the time, C & I were by ourselves during feedings and I didn't have to worry about having a nursing cover. When we did have visitors, were traveling, or were away from home during a feeding, a nursing cover comes in very handy. Another thing I underestimated before C's arrival was how nursing-friendly my pre-baby wardrobe would be. The answer was...not very. Good options to have on hand: flyaway cardigans, full-panel maternity leggings (great coverage when you are always pulling up your shirt!), clip-down nursing tank tops, nursing PJs, and sundresses with straps that you can slip off your shoulder.

Book // The American Academy of Pediatrics New Mother's Guide to Breastfeeding has a wealth of information about all things nursing. I talked a little about it here, and stand by my word. I told T that he should start recommending it to all of his OB patients. Highly recommend!

Boppy & Burp Cloths // The essentials. Yes, you could just use a regular pillow. However, the Boppy is a definite worthwhile investment, and you will not regret the purchase. It is much firmer than a regular pillow, and offers excellent support while nursing a little one. There are about a thousand options for covers (check Etsy), which is great if you are wanting to get something that will match your nursery. Burpy bibs from Aden & Anais were, and continue to be, our far and away favorite for catching milk spills. They have a snap that turns them into a bib (multi-tasking at it's best!), are reversible, super absorbent, wash up well, and last a long time. Seriously...I'm still using the original ones from when we first brought C home. Can't recommend enough! They are available at pretty much any store with baby gear, or if you are more of an online shopper, Amazon offers a ton of options.

Milkscreen // I was not aware of this product while I was nursing, and I rarely pumped, but I've heard from friends that have used it that it helped with their peace of mind when they decided to have an occasional drink.

Nutrition // More to the point, getting enough water and food. While nursing, nutrition and staying hydrated are key. If you are worried about your milk supply, Mother's Milk organic herbal tea has great reviews and promotes lactation, or you could also try fenugreek capsules which are linked to increased milk supply. Now is not the time to implement a strict new diet - eating healthy is a good idea if you aren't already, but restricting calories is not a great plan. Nursing will help to shed some of that post-baby weight, so don't let yourself get discouraged about getting back into your skinny jeans right away! Everyone is different, for some it may only take a few weeks, while others it may take a few months. In order to make sure your body can produce a sufficient amount of milk to meet your baby's needs, taking care of your own nutrition first is very important. A tip: round up some easy slow-cooker recipes (Pesto Ranch Chicken and Hot Italian Drip Beef are a couple of our favorites) and freezer meals (Pinterest has great ideas), stock up on healthy snack food, line up some family or friends who are willing to help out with meals your first week back home, and start a collection of take-out menus for nights that a home cooked meal is just not going to happen. Best of luck!

By Maurice Asselin

 From the small amount of reading I had done on the topic prior to C's arrival, I knew that nursing doesn't work for everyone, and it may even be difficult or painful at first. I later stumbled across this book which had AMAZING information about all things nursing. It covers a plethora of topics ranging from correct latch position, how to increase supply, nursing with teeth, and even options for nursing with an adopted child! HIGHLY RECOMMEND to any first time mama's out there, or anyone who needs a refresher!

I had it in my head that if we were successful at nursing, I'd like to try to make it a year, or until C was ready to be weaned off. In reality, I ended up exclusively breastfeeding until C was about five months old and we started introducing small portions of solid foods along with breast milk. Breast milk continued to be C's main source of nutrition until he was just over eight months old and he decided he was ready to be done with nursing (my guess is that this was partly due to the fact that he was no longer getting enough milk to sustain his growth rate). At eight months, we switched over to 100% formula (in addition to solid food), and at just over one year, we introduced whole milk, and haven't looked back since. 

I should mention that C never took a bottle, and went straight from nursing to a sippy cup. If you're reading between the lines here, you'll realize that this meant never leaving him for more than a three hour time period until he was over 8 months old. This was not necessarily intentional. It really boiled down to the fact that I had zero success whatsoever with a breast pump, so I could never store up enough milk to have a full feedings worth (about 8 oz) on hand to try giving him a bottle. Based on his well-child checkups, I knew he was getting enough milk from nursing, so I didn't want to introduce formula since that would lower the rate at which my body would produce milk. This pretty much meant that C & I were best little buddies for the first eight months of his life. Since I stay home to raise him, so this wasn't really a huge deal, but I will say that it was certainly nice to be able to have a glass of wine or two without having to worry about his next meal after he switched over to formula!

On that note, it's OK to have an occasional glass of beer or wine and nurse at the same time. I won't go into too much detail here as it is a very personal decision, and there are a million resources online, but the gist of it is you can have a glass of wine or beer as long as you leave around two hours between when you have the drink and the next time you plan to nurse. Pumping and dumping is an outdated idea, and it does not help to speed the process whatsoever. There are even convenient little breastmilk test strips to test the alcohol level in breast milk making sure it's safe for baby. Chances are, you won't be out at the bars partying like it's 1999 after baby arrives, but if you do decide to have the occasional drink, these strips may be just the thing for your peace of mind. There are also alcohol free beers and wines available if that makes you feel better. Cheers to that!

Another great thing about current times? There has been a huge push lately for businesses to be more accepting of nursing mothers. Target recently came out with this policy for nursing mothers, while many malls, department stores, and events venues offer rooms dedicated to nursing mothers. While I was nursing C, we had the pleasure of using some of these spaces...Nordstrom at The Mall of America has an excellent nursing room, the Coralville Mall has a private nursing room, and even The Clay County Fair offered nursing stations for new mamas. Don't let nursing stop you from living your life and getting out of the house!

Everyone has a different story on how to feed their baby, many times based on the time period when their children arrived, if they are juggling a career along with raising a child, or other personal reasons. For me, this amazing video pretty much sums it up. No matter what our beliefs, we are parents first.

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