What to Expect as a New Mom Breastfeeding Baby
“Oh my goodness”, is the newest vocabulary I have picked up with the arrival of our angel. Our baby girl, born on March 31st, 6:40 am at 7.4lbs, is in good health, and has the cutest Mongolian spots. With our daughter reaching 5 weeks and feeding well, I can now reflect on the many ups and downs of my new full-time job, breastfeeding. It is so complex that, according to the CDC, about 38% of infants globally are exclusively breastfed during their first six months of life. At 6 months only 25% remained exclusively breastfed in the United States. Breastfeeding is a unique journey, so no matter what you think or how you feel you’re doing a good job mama and you should be so proud of yourself, I am!
Doing things right?
As a first-time mom, I thought the most difficult part was going to be the birth, but for me, it turns out that it was the adjustment. I had a few complications postpartum (see par. Mastitis) that required me to take extra bed rest and medication. Breastfeeding was not graceful as I had imagined and I felt extremely underprepared. I had done my research and had such complex advice from my obstetrician-gynecologist, the hospital nurses, night nurses, doula, and lactation consultants which took me ample time to apply to find a medical and holistic balance.
Mastitis, clogged ducts, and constant engorgement. Ouch. While I understand that many mothers do not produce enough milk and it can be stressful for them, my experience with over-production is equally as frustrating. For milk production, it’s not the size of the breast that matters. Large breasted women do not have more milk ducts but rather more fatty tissue; however, “the grass is always greener on the other side”. There were definitely times with feverish chills that I wanted to quit, but having a support team and a loving husband around helped me through those difficult days and nights along with this list of 10 key ingredients.
My breast friends
- As newborns have little to no muscle control a good breastfeeding pillow is key to feeding relaxed, shoulders down, and not straining in the wrists (carpal tunnel anyone?). While there are many famously branded pillows out there, for me, they all ended up as back pillows. The only one I used because of its firmness and back support is My Brest Friend. Now that she is big enough and latching well I have passed on the pillow to a friend to use.
- Breast shields really work to teach the baby to latch. If the latch is correct breastfeeding should not hurt or bruise the nipple. I thought we had it in the first few weeks while using nipple cream for tenderness. Still, once latched not always latched, confusion can happen. Babies need reminders from time to time of how to latch correctly especially if offering a pacifier, bottle and are starting to find their fists.
- A recliner for laid-back breastfeeding is key for someone whose milk gushes out. To feed I use the Babyletto Kiwi Glider which is made with eco-performance fabric from recycled plastic bottles, is stain resistant, and water repellent.
- A breastfeeding stool may sound strange, but your feet do need a good angle and height to prop up the baby without straining or tippy-toeing. Poufs are much more decorative but at the end of the day, cute does not mean effective.
- Boobs out! Many women opt for a nursing bra when breastfeeding, but I recommend going braless and air drying your breasts after feeding as much as possible. If wearing a bra I prefer a wireless ribbed bra that won’t shape the breast. Both Storq or Bonds are super comfy with nursing pads. When held in tightly the milk tends to fill in unnaturally and clog up, so try not to wear the baby in a carrier during the first few months as well and leave that up to the daddy.
- Do get your breast pump before delivery, so you don’t have to stress when you need it. At first, I rented the Medela Symphony, but, even with a hands-free bustier, being tethered to a pump in the same sitting position 6 times a day made me achy and want my freedom. I switched to the Willow wearable breast pump and have been super happy since! Here is a review of the Willow pump I found helpful in making my decision.
- Sunflower Lecithin is known as a holistic way to reduce the viscosity of breast milk without thinning or reducing the quality of the breast milk itself. This ingredient is widely known to defer fats from clumping together; however, it’s important to know that these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. I can attest that it works and am taking it twice a day for maintenance.
- Forget foremilk and hindmilk. It’s a myth or a broad explanation at best. Yes, fats are heavier and sit in the duct so when engorged your milk will be more watery and will leak out. You can put the Nature Bond on the available breast to collect the leaking milk and draw the higher fat milk forward. My friend Janet Hsieh gifted this to me for this purpose, but I ended up using it to clear clogged ducts with an Epsom salt hack. Simply fill it with warm water to the lip with a spoon of Epsom salt and attach it to the affected breast so it can draw out the blockage. Some say it works, others don’t. In the case of natural remedies, the best case is just to try it and see. If they don’t, it’s no harm.
- Oils are applied abundantly during pregnancy and should be continued postpartum. For firming I stick to the traditional Clarins Tonic Body Treatment Oil, but for prefeed stimulation or breast massage (see par. Massage), I use pure Jojoba oil which absorbs easily and is not greasy or sticky. Stretch marks on the breast can still appear, so do continue to stay hydrated, moisturize and massage.
- Finally, for those mama’s who can never seem to drink enough water try getting a cute half-gallon (easier to carry than a full gallon) water jug – or a chug glug as I like to call it. As breastmilk is 90% water I make a point to drink 1-2 of these daily.
For moms who have mastitis, clogged ducts, or feel pain when breastfeeding, do consult with your doctor or a lactation consultant first for treatment. Along with antibiotics, my breast recovery kit consists of a hot compress, Lavie massager with oil (9), sunflower lecithin (7), Epsom salt (8), pumping to drain the boob (6), lots of skin to skin, and breastfeeding in different positions, so the baby’s chin will help to massage a clogged area. When I took antibiotics thought that I should pump and dump; however, on a call with a lactation consultant, she explained that the milk is not tainted as the acid in our gut breaks everything down and wouldn’t be able to pass through the bodies filtration system.
You’ll want to include a breast massage in your self-care and maintenance routine. I use my hands prior to pumping or during feeding to encourage the milk to head towards the nipple and avoid blocked ducts. It’s important to maintain good circulation and lymphatic drainage.
- Before massaging your breast, rub your palms together to warm up the oil or jade tool.
- Do not be harsh on your breasts. They are delicate organs, and they should be massaged gently.
- Watch one of the video links above for instructions on how to massage breasts kindly.
- Massage your breasts regularly prior and during to feeding or pumping.
- Don’t stress! Breastfeeding is hormonal and emotional so be kind to yourself and your breasts.
Getting a good night’s sleep seems almost impossible postpartum; however, rest is key to recovery and feeling good enough to feed your baby. Birth is a traumatic somatic experience because the body has gone through major anatomical and hormonal shifts. Whether you lean towards getting a masseuse or specialist I would recommend seeking therapy, bodywork, and incorporating extra self-care techniques to help you cope with the changes and get the needed rest.
- If you are having difficulty adjusting to your baby’s feeding schedule, a great ingredient to unwind is Natural Vitality Calm Sleep. The magnesium & melatonin helped me to repeatedly fall asleep after waking up to feed & pump.
- Insight Timer is a mediation app I have recommended before. Not wanting to rely on medication for too long I turned to “True Trust” by Amanda Penalver to assist me in repeatedly falling asleep throughout the night.
- As we heal movement becomes key to managing the stress we take on. Exercise is not recommended for the first 6 weeks, so I sought out a friend and chiropractor Dr. Brian for regular treatment. His adjustments helped me to deal with the added pressure on my body from breastfeeding to rebalance, realign, and release stress.
- Finally, I would highly recommend encapsulating your placenta for balancing your hormones, mood, and overall wellbeing. A few of my girlfriends swore by the benefits and a quick search led me to the decision to ask Andrey, my doula, to encapsulate it for me. A nationwide resource for anyone in the USA is Lancaster Placenta, a company that helps mothers make their placenta into gummies, tinctures, balms, and much more.
It’s time to go public
Breastfeeding outdoors is a milestone I haven’t achieved myself, but I’ve prepared this stylish poncho and scarf cover-up from House of Gravity for when I get the guts. Of course, the material is sustainable, cool, and breathable.
Good job mama!
Don’t be discouraged! Your breasts are intelligent and your baby is perfect. It takes time to get in sync, but it is worth it, and you can do it. I love nursing her and I am grateful for those times in our day that we get to have those intimate moments. If you are having difficulty breastfeeding, feel free to reach out to me, your friends, family, or doctors anytime you need advice. We, mothers, are warriors – our medals being healthy happy babies.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! 💐
*This article is written personally by Liv. If you find it insightful, please copy the link & share it with friends. Sharing is caring 💞