I was just talking to a dear colleague for whom I am grateful to be friends with, the wonderful Amber McCann & Nourish Breastfeeding Support. We were discussing the upcoming ILCA conference and the business of breastfeeding, both locally and nationally. Part of our discussion was on the business of education and helping mamas grow their confidence and wisdom before baby arrives. The model for education can be both face to face; through class time and instruction, or online via email and social media. Knowledge is power, as the expression goes. So how do we, as educators, grow that knowledge base for expectant mothers, and how can we expand our reach so that your transition to new motherhood is a smooth one?
As both an IBCLC and a childbirth educator & doula, I know all too well though how few families seek out empowering childbirth & breastfeeding education.
I live in the metro area of NYC. I love teaching with Birth Day Presence. I love their model of normal, Lamaze based childbirth education and hands on fun while learning. I am grateful that they are a strong conduit of knowledge in the NYC area and that their classes are consistently full with families eager to learn.
But are enough women turning to independent education? I don’t think so. What I do know, and see repeatedly, is that those women who do not seek good prenatal education have a greater likelihood of feeling overwhelmed and isolated. I know this because they call me desperate for help and support.
A solid network of education, support and resources should be cultivated prior to baby’s arrival. This will help mom navigate those first weeks of baby blues and part partum healing. Not all mothers, mind you, have a difficult transition. One of the many benefits to consider however is not just the knowledge base mom will take into birthing and breastfeeding, but also the relationship she has now established! Wise Woman to New Mother! She has her tribe, someone she can now turn to post partum to seek answers and support. As Amber says, “a friend in her pocket”!
Social media and online support can be a wonderful conduit for support and wisdom. Sixteen years ago, when I was pregnant with my first, I researched something on the then pretty new internet. I brought it to the attention of my OB, who I left for midwives. You know why? He scoffed and said, “are you going to trust some quack you find off the internet?” and immediately dismissed my researching things outside his care. (That quack was Ina May Gaskin). Well, I did trust what I had read. Those were my instincts kicking in, my learning to trust myself, my bullshit radar (which is a whole other blog piece for another day!).
Seek out advice online from reputable IBCLC businesses and online communities! There are many wonderful resources with excellent professionals happy to help you find your way. As a La Leche League leader, the concept of “mother to mother” support is still, in my opinion, one of the best conduits of post partum sisterhood out there! And now that “mother to mother” care can be found online, on many a Facebook page, blog, Twitter or Listserv. It’s not always easy getting out as a new mother. Making a monthly meeting can be a challenge, though I highly recommend my weekly support group, The Breastfeeding Cafe (we’re on a brief break for summer, email for schedules).
It all comes back to education and support! Whether it’s private or group prenatal classes (each has its advantages), a private lactation consult in the comfort of your home, an online consult via email or even a Twitter chat (#bfchat #bfcafe) — all are great ways to stay connected to a professional who only wants the best for you — normal, healthy birthing which leads to normal, healthy breastfeeding!
If you’re in the NYC and Hudson Valley area and need resources for birthing and breastfeeding, give us a shout and check out our Breastfeeding Arts Facebook page. And I am sure Amber would love to be a resource for you if you’re in the Maryland, DC area, so check her out too, Nourish Breastfeeding. Nothing beats hands on, face to face, sisterhood & support. But if that can’t be your first line of defense, Amber and I both would love to talk with you online. So reach out and get the support your need.
Love & Blessings,
Lenora and I frequently work with moms having to return to work. Their concerns are universal — “how do I build a supply” “is this the right pump” “does it fit properly” “how do I store milk” ”what if my workplace is not supportive“.
The working mom transition can be incredibly stressful. My very first tip is to not wait until just a week or two prior to your return date to start thinking about it. Start early and plan ahead! The best way to plan ahead is to get help early on with establishing a strong and abundant milk supply! A strong milk supply is your golden ticket to sustaining a strong pumping routine and storing lots of milk! And the best way to establish a strong supply is nurse often, frequently and with a great latch — let baby be your “best” pump and do the work of building a strong supply! This way, when you start to pump – after your supply is well established — you can ease into the pumping routine with confidence.
If you have the ability, negotiate with your employer to return to work well after your milk supply has been established. I do recommend waiting 4 – 6 weeks before you even start thinking about pumping & storing milk for a return to work. That may seem obvious, but many women are in the difficult position of having to return to work so very soon, after only a few weeks post partum. Negotiating maternity leave in our country is way too complicated a conversation to have here and now, but hopefully your employer is able to work with you to make your return as easy as it can be. Part of that negotiation should be returning mid-week! Don’t start on a Monday – pick a Wednesday or a Thursday, so you have a short work week that first week back. Even better, see if you can negotiate working from home or part time for the first few weeks.
Consider that when you do return to work you’ll likely have to pump at least twice while you’re at work, and possibly three or four times during the day to keep up your supply. A good rule of thumb is that the number of times you need to express milk will probably be equal to the number of feedings your baby will need while you are away. If breastfeeding is well established, these pumping times should fall into place quite logically during the day. You will begin to see a pattern with how and when you feel full and need to pump. Consider way ahead of time what your schedule will be at work, what break times you may take and where you will be pumping. A great resource for researching law and policy on breastfeeding, workplace & pumping issues is breastfeedinglaw.com.
One thing to keep in mind is that getting into a rhythm with pumping is easier said than done when you’re still home with baby! After all, if baby appears hungry you’re going to offer your breast, so when and how are you going to squeeze in extra pumping during your regular day? Rest assured, any pumping or hand expressing you do now will only help to get your body ready for the regular pattern of pumping you’ll be doing once you return to work. I do recommend you invest in a good, high quality pump. With pumping, you get what you pay for. Quality pumps are expensive, but 100% worth it when it comes to building and maintaining a supply — when pumping day in and day out for a year or more you want a great machine!
One of the benefits many women find of pumping and bottle feeding during the day is the joy and connection that breastfeeding provides when you return home! You *can* have the best of both worlds. You may even find your night time nursing increases, as baby is thrilled to have you home and there to snuggle with all night long. This is normal and a real blessing. So embrace it! Interesting bit of hormonal info — prolactin (the hormone that encourages milk production) levels are higher during night feedings, so if you snuggle with your baby and are readily available to nurse and cuddle at night, it will only help in maintaining your milk supply! Night nursing is excellent, especially if you can get into a groove with sleeping and resting so you don’t feel exhausted by the night time feedings.
Similarly, weekends are for breastfeeding only if you can! Feed “on demand”. This way you are protecting your milk supply and nurturing the time at the breast. Weekends can “re-set” your milk supply too if a long, exhausting week has left you feeling as if your supply has taken a dip. Look at the weekend as a way to just nurse around the clock, and boost that supply.
This has been bothering me for a while now. This is Enfamil brand Vit D drops, considered “#1 Brand Recommended by Pediatricians” in the country. A free sample is handed out in many peds office across the country. Did I mention free?
You know what that means? That means formula reps are in these offices providing free samples to hand out to breastfeeding mothers …. with the Enfamil brand boldly highlighted on the product. You think maybe it being free is how they can claim #1 brand status?
Now look at this screen shot below. This is Enfamil’s website. Hypothetically, baby is now 2 months old and you’ve run out of the free sample and need to buy more. You’ll likely have to buy more every month, at 10 – 15 bucks a pop, so that’s at least 100 bucks worth of D-Vi-Sol a year (I’ll come back to the economics of this in a minute). You know where these guys are shelved in many stores? Yup, right next to the formula. Meanwhile, look what’s smack in the middle of their webpage. Remember, you’re a breastfeeding mom trying find out where you can buy more Vit D in your area. What’s that? Why yes it is! A nice “buy Enfamil now” button ….
And what of the ingredients? Here they are, in order of how they appear on the box:
artificial caramel color.
Ok, now, I am NOT (really!) trying to sell you on anything. I promise. For around 20 bucks (depending on where you live and mark up) you can get Carlson for Kids drops where a single bottle lasts a year.
The advantages to buying these guys …
1. No formula cross marketing (yay).
2. You only need one drop (not dropper full) to babies tongue or your nipple or in a bottle of expressed milk a day. Therefor, a single bottle will last upwards of a year.
3. I promised I’d get back to those economics. $20 a year for Carlson versus $100 a year for Enfamil. Kind of a no-brainer right?
4. Ingredients: Vit D3 and coconut oil. That’s it. Just two ingredients.
The pediatrician where I work is a distributor of Carlson. As an IBCLC I take pride in working in an office where the MD is practicing responsibly and ethically. He buys Carlson drops and sells them to our mother/baby pairs (at the company recommended modest mark up). He’s not making a ton of money on these. But he is keeping mother/baby pairs in Vit D (for info on the importance of Vit D click here). And he’s doing so with a reputable brand without selling out to formula companies, handing out free samples or opening up questions on practice ethics. Bonus: it is a very clear message in support of breastfeeding.
I don’t see why more pediatric offices can’t say no to free samples. You don’t have to distribute Carlson brand. You don’t have to sell anything. Let’s just start with ending the free handouts from formula companies. An office could easily provide families with local information on brands, so individuals can make their own choices on what to buy and where to shop. If it’s a question of making sure they in fact go out and get Vit D, then do sell them yourself in the office. But handing out free samples sends the wrong ethical message. It takes very little effort to set up an account and become a distributor of a better brand like Carlson (and there are others out there).
Let’s keep Vit D supplementation cheap, with simple ingredients and free from formula Booby Traps. I like that idea, don’t you?
Since I am often asked: short, sweet, and to the point – my own top 5 ….
1. Resources - before you have your baby, know what your local resources are! Consider taking a private prenatal breastfeeding class. Lenora and I are happy to come to your home while you are pregnant and help you understand what changes lay ahead for you and what the first weeks may be like. Have info on hand for your local La Leche League group, new mother’s group and of course know the hospital or birth center breastfeeding support & policies where ever you are giving birth.
2. Understanding Latch - babies instinctively know how to open up wide to latch. But looks can be deceiving and before you know it, in those first few days you may have cracked and painful nipples. If you suspect at all that your baby is having difficulty latching, reach out for help. I like this video that shows simple latch technique …
3. Nurse Frequently - lather, rinse, repeat. A newborn should feed every 2 -3 hours. This is normal! Even before milk comes in, when the magic of colostrum is all baby is getting – baby still needs to be at the breast frequently, or “on demand”. This will best stimulate milk production in order to ensure an healthy and abundant milk supply. Remember, “the economics of supply & demand” – the more baby empties the breast, the more milk you’ll produce!
4. Comfort - too often I’ll pay a visit to a mom in her home for a lactation consult and I’ll see her sitting on her couch looking like Quasimodo! She’ll be kind of hugging her baby, knee up in the air, unsupported, back hunched, shoulders up to her ears, neck tight. Positioning is important, but so is comfort! Set up your nursing station with everything you need at hand (water, phone, ipad, tv remote, book, glasses, snack, etc.). Remember to let baby come to YOU, rather than you hunching over to come to baby. Try laid back breastfeeding (BE the Diva laying on the couch) and let baby find the breast while you relax in a more reclined position. And drop those shoulders, roll your neck a few times and remember to breathe.
5. Trust and belief - the first weeks can be so overwhelming. You’re flooded with joy, elation, doubt, panic, calm, exhaustion, pure love! Remember to trust those instincts. If you feel something isn’t working right, trust that – get help, find support. If all is going great, trust that too! You will get into a rhythm and stride as a new mom. It gets better, easier, more familiar! Hang in there and believe.
Sometimes I get asked the same question about motherhood multiple times in a single day — it’s like Groundhog’s Day for Lactation Consultants … “what a coincidence, another mom is dealing with this same issue, and I just typed out an email to her filled with details.”
I actually love when it happens because I often have a neatly typed & thorough email ready to go, or I have just recited some good research and it’s fresh in my mind. Makes for quick, easy answers for new moms!
That is what spawned this post … multiple moms in a single day asking “when to introduce cow’s milk”.
Here is my response to this question, an honest opinion on the subject, complete with bullet points. As usual, your mileage may vary, so check with your personal guru or doctor if you think something here doesn’t feel right for you.
About giving cow milk to a still nursing 12 month old …. NOOOOOOO (cue sound of wheels grinding to a halt, or a record needle scratching to a stop on a turn table). One year old babies do not need to start cow milk. Here are my thoughts on why …
1. The notion of introducing cow milk comes from the idea of weaning babies off of infant *formula* and putting them on a cheaper, but still somewhat nutritious cow’s milk for their second year of life. Why milk? Ask the dairy council — in truth though, it’s an easy way to get a good chunk of the daily nutrients required into non-nursing babies who are beyond the needs of an infant formula.
2. As long as your child is nursing between 3 – 5 times in a 24 period, he doesn’t need ANY supplemental milk! If he’s only down to once or twice a day, you can give him the extra fat & protein breastmilk provides via food sources. It doesn’t have to be milk (although the dairy council would say otherwise, lol).
On that same note, one might assume though that if your child were down to only nursing 2x a day by 12 months, they might already be supplemented with formula or expressed milk in a bottle. What to do then, for a child accustomed to a bottle? For that I’d say, see the next point 3.
3. If you’d like to offer him some additional calories via sippy cup/bottle – or during meals in a cup, cow milk is not my favorite. There’s really no need for it nutritionally over any other “milk” that is wholesome and commercially marketed out there (except rice milk – I think rice milk is basically like juice nutritionally). Point is: you can give him all the extra protein, fat and calcium he needs if he’s eating diverse wholesome foods (picky eaters might be another story, I would talk to a nutritionist or your pediatrician).
4. In my opinion, offer him water in the sippy cup if you’re eager to have a cup for him (stay away from juice). You can skip weaning to a bottle all together! Straw cups are my favorite to start with. And if you’re really keen on exploring other milks, try almond or hemp.
5. Political soap box: human milk for human babies, cow milk for cow babies. “Species specific” as they say.
6. All that said, whole cow milk is not evil, and sometimes it really is an easy way to get extra calories in say a kid who needs it (like my Angus who is a lean, 6 year old bean pole who I nursed for 3 years. I do offer him milk at dinner because any extra organic whole milk or high fat good foods I can get into him I will – cheese, avocado, nuts, bananas, whole milk, homemade pudding, butter, whole milk yogurt with the yummy cream on the top, etc.). Again, point is: organic, grass-fed, as chemical free as possible … go for the good stuff!
7. Can I just dwell again on the idea of …is COW milk really better than BREAST milk? REALLY? Come again? When these blogs, articles and essays talk about weaning from formula & breastmilk to cow milk … I’m just agog!!! Cow milk (giant bovine indigestible casein & protein molecules that offset & irritate intestinal balance) vs. perfect food for baby in every way? I mean, come on … gimme a break!
8. Breastmilk by the way has a higher fat content than cow milk if that’s your worry, so there’s that.
And with that … I think I’ve supplied a nice list of points to ruminate on next time some one or some article confuses you about if and when you should give your breastfed 12 month old cow milk. The answer is: relax, enjoy solid food exploration and don’t stress the cow milk! And if you liked this piece, come join our Facebook Page for these and other exciting conversations about motherhood and breastfeeding!
Breastfeeding Blessings To All ~
There are things we learn as we grow wiser as mothers. My first lesson was on what not to wear breastfeeding in public the first time. I chose an old pair of baggy denim overalls (think Dexy’s Midnight Runners). Negotiating straps, denim bibs, tank top underneath … it was stress provoking to say the least.
Most new mothers get anxious the first few times they have to nurse their baby in public. We all second guess ourselves, can I do this, am I in a place I feel safe, who might be looking at me, who might bother me, will any one care, am I wearing something conducive to easy breastfeeding, do I feel protected, comfortable … normal?
I am certain I didn’t give an ounce of thought to what I was wearing that day when I stepped out. And there I was, donned in overalls, sitting smack in the middle of a busy diner.
Planning in advance can make all the difference in your confidence and comfort level!
Back to the diner, my girlfriend and I had ordered our food and as we waited my sweet baby girl started to stir. I remember breaking into a cold sweat and looking around the restaurant for safe haven, hoping somewhere a Wise Crone would appear to usher me to some sacred, private nursing mother’s Red Tent. No such luck.
So, nervously I put my baby to my breast, latched her on and look around thinking surely half the diner guests must be staring at me disapprovingly.
To my wonderful surprise no one is paying me any attention, not even my girlfriend. Sure, she noticed it was time for my baby to eat, but that’s what we were all there for … lunch! Conversations kept going, the din of a busy diner continued, life was moving on as normal.
I felt triumphant, baby girl relaxing, nourished in my arms. Adrenaline lowering. Oxygen and prolactin flowing. Sweat diminishing … breathe, breathe, breathe. Yes!
My advice to all expectant and new mothers is know you may have a moment (or several) of fear and anxiety. It is normal to feel this way. Not everyone does, but for those who do, you are not alone!
Try sitting down in front of a full length mirror at home and practicing latch on. Look to see how your arm crosses & protects your chest from view. Try different positions to see if one brings you a greater sense of confidence.
Investing in a nursing wardrobe can cost a fortune. If you can, buy a few choice, key pieces like a tank top or two at least, that you can wear under other layers. Layers are great. Wearing (or carrying in your diaper bag) a button down shirt as a second layer will help protect any side/back skin that may be revealed when you raise a shirt to nurse.
Make your first few ventures out to places where you know you’ll be welcomed nursing in public. I recommend a first outing be to a local breastfeeding support group like La Leche League. Meeting other new breastfeeding mother’s brings wonderful solidarity and comfort to any new moms still getting her sea legs.
Know your routes – because if you get caught while travelling from point A to point B and baby needs to feed, know where breastfeeding moms are welcomed without question; a local coffee shop, children’s store, library, book store, baby store, yoga studio, etc.
Finally, with a lot of chatter in the media about breastfeeding activism, nursing in public and women being asked to stop feeding their baby (lest it offend, ugh!), a recent piece in Mother Magazine online by the wonderful Jake Aryeh Marcus (Sustainable Mothering) helps clear up the law … . Lactation and the Law.
So, how was your first time? I’d love to hear about it!
Breastfeeding Blessings to all ~