Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Purposeful Parenting: Why I Believe Breast Milk is Best... and How You Can Provide This for Your Baby No Matter What!

Skin on skin care while in the hospital with Bug after a breastfeeding session
I want to first start this off by saying I don't judge. Really and truly. Whether or not you breastfeed your baby is totally up to you. You will find no judgment here.

If you've struggled with breastfeeding, if you've struggled with providing breast milk for your baby, if you don't believe breast milk is best, this post is for you. I'm not the most knowledgeable on this subject, nor do I pretend to be. For solid information on breastfeeding, please consult with a lactation consultant, a good doctor, breastfeeding books and information on the internet. Family and friends are also good resources.

So let's dive in: how can anyone provide breast milk for their baby? I would say "easy peasy," but it's not always easy, but it's always, always doable {except for in rare cases}.

First, it's work. If you thought providing milk for your baby would be easy right off the gate and gave up on the notion of providing breast milk for your baby because it was too hard, you had unrealistic expectations. That said, some mamas and babies may catch on to breastfeeding right away. Bug had good and bad moments with breastfeeding in the hospital - and let's not forget, I was learning, too!

To get yourself off on a good start, I highly recommend reading the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding while you are pregnant. The knowledge and information found there will put you one step ahead when it comes time for you to feed your baby.

Second, there's no such thing as not being able to produce enough milk to keep your baby thriving and growing. But, it.is.work. Work, work, work. I'm talking completely from experience. My milk did not come in until a full eight days post partum. Eight. Days. I was terrified. I really thought my milk would never come in. I thought I had defective breasts.

Keep in mind that God gave you the ability to make, carry and deliver babies, and you have everything you need to make milk {that said, there are a small number of people who cannot make milk for their babies, but I've talked with many mamas who thought they couldn't and I'm rather sure some of them don't really fall into this category}.

So some of you are saying: no, really, I tried and I couldn't produce enough!

Either could I, until I did the following things {I did not do all of these things, but here is everything you should try before giving up on providing your baby with breast milk}:
  • Take fenugreek, Mother's Milk or some other equally effective herbal pill to increase milk production. These are totally safe and can be found on amazon.com. Start with a small number of pills per day, say 1 or 2, and up as necessary until you see your milk come in or increase. Note: you may smell like maple syrup.
  • Feed your baby often. In the beginning, offer your breast often. Feed on demand. And feed when you just want to offer. The more your baby eats, the more milk you will produce. Make sure you're switching sides.
  • Pump. Invest in a high-quality electric double breast pump. I'm a fan of the Medela Pump N Style pump. Yes, it's expensive, but formula is more expensive over the cost of the first year. Spend the money now and thank me later. Once you have purchased the pump, pump every two hours for 20 minutes total for 10 minutes at a time. Do this until your milk comes in. And it will come in. You may start out with only pumping 1 or 2 ounces but you will be pumping anywhere from 4 to 10 ounces in a go when your milk comes in. Even if you're actually breastfeeding, pump when baby is done to fully empty your breasts, create a small fridge or freezer storage and keep your supply up.
  • Bake and eat lactation cookies. These contain ingredients that will boost milk production.
  • Speaking of eating, read up on what kinds of foods will increase your milk production. Oatmeal is one such food. I personally ate oatmeal often and found that it truly increased my milk supply.
  • Shake what your mama gave you. Shake those boobies for all they're worth! This will kick your milk production in full gear and help with a good letdown.
  • Make sure you're cuddling your baby skin on skin early and often. Bug and I did a lot of skin on skin care in the hospital. We had the odds stacked against us because she wasn't allowed to stay in the room with me, but I'm glad we could cuddle together often and early on.
  • Avoid giving bottles, pacifiers or sugar water. Your baby needs to learn to work your breast. Giving a bottle will make getting food too easy, and she won't learn the techniques she needs to get milk from your breast. Sucking on a pacifier sends a signal to baby's tummy that she or he is eating and is thus full. Because of this, she or he will want to eat much less, which will cause your breasts to make less milk because baby isn't eating enough from them. Your breasts work on supply and demand. The more you demand, the more will be supplied. The less you demand, the less will be supplied.  
I have full confidence that if you do everything above, you can provide enough milk for your baby or babies, in the instance you have multiples. If you do have multiples, you'll definitely want to check out a tandem nursing book to learn tricks and tips for breastfeeding more than one baby. I also found this story of a mama breastfeeding triplets incredibly inspiring.

So maybe you're not sure if you're interested in breastfeeding because formula has come a long way and you're not sure breast milk really is best. First, I can assure you breast is best for baby. For so many reasons.
  1. It creates a special bond between you and baby. I can promise you will bond with your baby anyway, but you have an extra special bond that you wouldn't have had before.
  2. There are so many nutrients and antibodies in breast milk that just isn't present in formula. That is an absolute fact. Try to prove me wrong. I double dog dare you.
  3. This one is my absolute favorite: when your baby's mouth connects with your breast, your baby is sending signals to your body. If your baby has been exposed to germs that could potentially make your baby ill, your body will produce milk with antibodies to help prevent your baby from getting sick. Can you imagine? Your breast milk is constantly changing to meet your baby's needs. Your milk for the feeding in the morning will be totally different than your milk at night. And as your baby grows and his or her needs change, your milk changes, too. Crazy!
  4. You will save money. Breast milk is free! If you purchase a pump, breast milk storage bags and other accessories, you will still save money overall. We purchased a pump, consulted with a private lactation consultant, purchased many breast milk storage bags and purchased bottles and liners for those bottles, and we have still saved money, even if we had purchased the cheapest formula for Bug.
At the end of the day, you know what's best for you and your baby. But I would highly encourage you to give breastfeeding a try. Try it for 2 weeks. At the end of 2 weeks, if you really, truly can't do this anymore, fine. And also just know that any amount of breast milk you can provide for your baby is truly a gift. Do the best you can, mama, and you'll be doing great.


sdr said...

I agree 100% that more people can and should breastfeed, and that there are so many resources and options for people who are having difficulties. I do disagree that it's always the *best* choice, however; my first was born with a severe dairy/soy allergy that reared its ugly head as soon as my milk came in--when your newborn is spitting up blood you pretty much do whatever they tell you to in order to get them healthy. In our case she was so severe that--after trying some options with our gastroenterologist--she needed to be on a prescription formula through about her second birthday. It wasn't what I'd planned and it was crazy expensive (was covered by insurance for our second child--who had the same issue--but not for the first) but it literally healed her (without going into details, the first 18 months or so were really rough) and is the primary reason she is 100% allergy free today.

Jess and Jason said...

Thanks for sharing your story! There are definitely rare situations, like yours, where breast milk may not work out.