This entry is meant to be a general overview of breastfeeding & some things people may immediately think of with the topic. I’ll most likely forget a lot of things but I felt just addressing was a step in the right direction 🙂
How have I not made an entry about breastfeeding yet!? Every time I’m asked if I plan to breastfeed, I respond with “if I’m able to, yes” because it’s honestly not a promised thing to occur with every birth. You can only plan for so much but it’s not something guaranteed. Thankfully, I’ve started to develop a couple signs of lactation (little crusts on my nipple, tenderness & actual leakage when stimulated) & I was super excited to finally receive my breast pump!
Because the women I work with are all Momma’s & love to share their knowledge, they informed me of Le Leche League. LLL have meet-ups around the world so you’re more than likely able to find one close to you. The meetups I attend are once a month, every 1st Wednesday of the month. I’m not going to lie, I was EXTREMELY skeptical about going to yet another ‘meeting’ that brought a very specific kind of female together. As a Navy wife, I’ve attended the FRG meet-ups & they just aren’t for me. I hoped LLL wasn’t the same & I was thankfully surprised that it was not! I’ve only been to 2 meet-ups & both times, I’ve left feeling extremely helped, welcomed & a little more confident than when I walked in. I feel the knowledge shared amongst all the Momma’s is SO vital. & I think my favorite part of the entire concept is there is no right or wrong way to breastfeed!! You take whatever information works for you & leave the rest! Nothing is pushed on anyone, there’s no ‘these things HAVE to be done in order to have a successful nursing experience’ & NO JUDGEMENT! Sure, some things may seem unorthodox to some (I wasn’t prepared to see children older than 2 nursing but after hearing the reasons why & the world wide weaning age being 4-7, I remembered their story is not my own) but it’s not my place to say it’s wrong! If I found that nursing J upside down was the only way we worked it out, these ladies would congratulate me!! I’d say about half of the information I know about breastfeeding, I’ve learned through my 2 LLL meetings & the other half from the ladies I work with (because I ask ALL the questions). If you’re a Momma-to-be like me or a current Momma with any questions about breastfeeding, the LLL meetings in Poulsbo every 1st Wednesday of the month are the ones I attend – Olympic Evangelical First Church at 10am!
So my first LLL meeting just happen to be a 4 part series of the importance of breastfeeding (Can you say perfect!?) They opened with a question: what do you find is the biggest benefit of breastfeeding is to you? As a Momma to be who hasn’t experienced it yet, I went with what I could fathom given my current lifestyle & said “The cost. It’s totally free! Formula is expensive!” I mean, duh! But here are a list of others if you’re looking for more:
- Protects baby from future illnesses & developing allergies, obesity, asthma & type 2 diabetes
- May lower risk of SIDS
- Boosts child’s intelligence
- Cheaper than formula
- Reduces Momma’s stress level & risk for postpartum
- Reduces Momma’s chances of breast cancer
- Better healing (oxytocin is released & helps uterus contract)
- Delays return of menstruation (could be great post birth control)
- Great way to learn baby cues (not relying on bottle amount to know how much was fed)
- Skin to skin contact
- Quicker maternal weight loss
Obviously there’s a reason breastmilk is called Liquid Gold & PLENTY of people cry over spilled milk – it’s definitely a thing.
ENGORGEMENT & MASTITIS
Scary words, right!? ENGORGEMENT is when your breast fills with milk, however they aren’t being relieved as often as needed for whatever reason (difficulty in nursing baby, extended separation from baby, not being able to pump, etc). When breast fullness isn’t relieved, fluid builds & swelling occurs. As a result, you feel a sense of heaviness, tightness & fullness in your chest – pretty painful! Your breasts become extremely tender & you may even begin to run a low fever. Because the breast could become so full & swollen, the nipple may flatten making it even more difficult to nurse or relieve. Should this continue, mastitis could form.
MASTITIS, or breast infection, is when your body is continuing to produce milk however your glands are already full from the engorgement & with nowhere to go, an infection grows. A plugged / clogged duct normally occurs in one breast at a time & is accompanied by flu-like symptoms (achiness, nausea, fatigue & headache). This is also most likely to happen in women with an overabundance supply & could occur more frequently during the early weeks of nursing, especially during the winter months.
SUGGESTIONS FOR PREVENTING / HANDLING ENGORGEMENT
- Nurse more frequently (try to nurse 10-12 times in 24 hours if able – 1.5 hours during the day with no more than a 3 hour stretch at night)
- Nurse baby with only diaper on (skin to skin contact will stimulate suckling!)
- Change up the nursing positions (to not only make it comfortable for baby but promote draining)
- Wear supportive bras (why do you even still own an underwire? Don’t bind your girls down!)
- Lie flat on back between feedings (fight gravity as naturally as possible)
- Nipple butter (have on hand for the first month – nipples will be raw & sensitive until thicker layer of skin grows. Also apply if nipple becomes dry or cracked)
- Self-massage (cupping-pulling motion armpit to nipple similar to the motion of giving your hubby a ‘helping hand.’ I’ve asked ladies & a majority have stated this description! You know what I mean!)
- Apply cold compresses (15-20 min off & on for an hour between feedings. Helps with the swelling)
- Apply heat immediately before nursing (warm shower, leaning over a bowl of warm water or apply heating pad through clothes however best results through moist [HATE THAT WORD] heat. Can initiate letdown)
A LETDOWN is the immediate release of milk from your breast. It’s a reflex that happens when you’re either physically stimulated (nursing baby or sexy time) or even just hearing any baby cry (psychological stuff). It signals the release of oxytocin & can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes.
The purpose of a letdown is to ensure your baby is getting enough milk so they aren’t getting gulps of air in the milk stream, preventing gassiness & fussiness. Momma’s have described it as a tingly sensation in their chest which is actually the milk making its way through the ducts to your nipples!
NURSING IN PUBLIC
So this is either going to be a hit or miss topic – whatever is most comfortable with you. Personally, I’m all for open nursing! If your baby needs to be feed or comforted, by all means, do what you need to do! Now I’m not saying it’s fine to whip out your full breast mid conversation in the grocery checkout line & not expect people to stare.. But if you’ve mastered the nursing & carry technique, girl I commend you! As adorable as nursing covers are (I already have a couple to build up my confidence), I look forward to the day where I’m comfortable enough to nurse with no cover.
Think about it for a second – there are SO many techniques & clothing items that support ‘no covers’. So why is it still frowned or looked down upon? FIRST OF ALL, if done properly & effectively, no one sees more than what’s shown in a bathing suit. SECOND, at that point, the woman’s body should no longer be looked at as a sexual being but rather an essential vessel of nutrients. Nursing tank tops allow the top to unclip & fall while still covering Momma’s chest & there’s also the double shirt technique (pull first layer up & second layer down to expose a SLIVER of breast & nipple for nugget). So why all the fuss still? People just aren’t comfortable with it – either seeing it or doing it. It’s taboo but I feel like the more Momma’s do it, the more normal it’ll become. I mean, we all have boobs, we’ve all seen them. CALM YOUR TITS.
This was an important topic at the last LLL meeting due to nursing around family members for the Holidays. Whether it be them not agreeing with the age of your baby or your decision to open nurse, someone most likely won’t agree with you. IT HAPPENS!
The conclusion we came to for those dealing: disarm their comments with knowledge.
In general, many reject the unfamiliar or anything unlike their own traditions. It helps TREMENDOUSLY to inform people of all benefits & you expressing how this is how YOU are taking care of YOUR child. They may have done things differently in their day or with their own but that is not the case here LOL. Rather than getting defensive, inform them this is your parenting style 🙂
Note: obviously the information I’ve gathered & discussed here I haven’t personally experienced however I do have access to the Internet & the women I see on a daily basis are all Mommas. I’ve done my research & asked probably more than my fair share of questions but your girl is curious!! Had I not, I would have gone breastpump shopping as the most naive person on the planet & not thought about real-life usage. I’m SO entirely grateful for every conversation I’ve had with Machell, KristiAnn & Jess for putting up with my random outbursts of questions & in return, being as kander with me as possible. Seriously, ya’ll rock!