Hey there! You’ve probably heard that this is World Breastfeeding Week! Truth be told, it often sneaks up on me–hence the reason this post is at the end of Breastfeeding Week instead of at the beginning. But this way I missed the rush of posts about breastfeeding that came out on August 1st…at least that’s what I tell myself.
I breastfed both my boys. With my first, it was very difficult, with the other it was a breeze. I write all the gory details in my book Eating Expectantly. As a result I’m a huge breastfeeding supporter, but I also probably have more empathy that most breastfeeding advocates, because I came THIS CLOSE to quitting. Since then, I often write about how to overcome the main barriers to breastfeeding, which in my opinion are people and perception (either yours or other’s that you don’t have enough milk.) Here is my take on getting around both:
Unfortunately the ones you are closest to may also be your worst backers when it comes to breastfeeding. One reason is because they see you struggling and want to make it easier for you. Others may be thinking of themselves because breastfeeding means it may take more time and that could mean you have less time for them or that they won’t be able to share in the feeding process. Older friends and family members may not understand how breastfeeding works at all, or the benefits so they recommend what they did. Here are some tips for overcoming the people barriers.
- Find cheerleaders. Find a friend, colleague or a La Leche League leader who has your back. Or find a friendly Facebook group. Sometimes support comes from surprising places! You can text them when you’re frustrated or have them come over to lend a hand with positioning or just to give a listening ear.
- Get your people (and yourself) some education! Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to nursing. As a result, some people may encourage you to throw in the towel, simply because they don’t know better! Give them a book, an article, attend a breastfeeding class at the hospital, or sign up for an online course. Once they realize the huge health benefits of nursing, they may turn into your strongest advocates!
- Ignore the naysayers. Sometimes it’s easier to just ignore the ones who just keep being discouraging you. Some people will never be sold on nursing, so at some point you have to give up on that, but you don’t have to listen to their recommendations!
- The first few days when you only produce a few tablespoons of milk at a time can make you feel like a failure. But of course you’re not. You may know this but those around you may think otherwise and tap away at your confidence in breastfeeding. Be strong in your knowledge and don’t forget to keep your cheerleaders close by those first few days.
- Your baby is always crying and he seems hungry all the time! Is it because you’re not making enough milk? No! It’s because your baby is going through a growth spurt! This happened to me–I would have just finished a nursing session less than an hour earlier. My baby was asleep and had a full tummy. Next thing I know, he’s hungry again…what??!! Just when you thought it was safe to go take a shower. So when do growth spurts happen? The first few days of breastfeeding, then at 7-10 days, 2-3 weeks, 4-6 weeks, 3 months, 4 months and 6 months according to KellyMom.com (my go to site for breastfeeding facts.) By 6 months your baby will be starting solids so it will be less of an issue. But you can see that there are quite a few growth spurts within the first month–and guess what–these times are when mom is most likely to quit.
- Your baby nurses a lot but doesn’t seem to be getting milk. Your nipples are getting sore and there seems to be no end in sight. Time to call in reinforcements–lactation consultant to the rescue! Yes, I also had personal experience with that. My first son had “nipple confusion” (yep, I got pressured at the hospital to give in to formula) and so he couldn’t get a good latch. A simple change in position was all it took! The fixes to breastfeeding problems are often simple, so don’t quit, reach out to an expert!
Speaking of Experts, I’ve gathered a few of my Registered Dietitian Colleagues to share their insights on breastfeeding. Enjoy! And I’d love to hear about your breastfeeding experience–please leave a comment!
I love this post by Jessica Penner RD. She brings up some of the same points and issues I’ve noticed since writing and speaking about breastfeeding. My favorite bullet: “Breastfeeding is a natural experience, but it’s also a learned behavior.” You can say that again!! It’s a learning experience for both mom and baby. And honestly, after labor and childbirth, especially when it’s a rough one, learning a new skill can be a challenge. That’s why gathering all the knowledge you can while you’re pregnant is key.
Problems with Food Sensitivities
My first son had gas–a lot of it! I cut out all dairy, most fruit and vegetables and he STILL had gas. It was a good lesson that a baby’s digestive system is still developing and excessive gas is not caused by certain foods a mom may be eating. On the other hand, some babies do have real food allergies and sensitivities and what a mom eats can definitely make its way in tiny amounts to baby’s system. Here is dietitian Chrissy Carroll’s story about her son who had both a milk and soy protein intolerance (called MSPI.) Read about her strategies here.
Dairy is often blamed for gassiness, fussiness and everything in between. But how can you get enough calcium and protein if you are getting rid of dairy? Besides calcium, milk provides vitamin D, which many moms are lacking. Read dietitian Allegra Gast’s post here. Allegra is not only a registered dietitian but also a Certified Lactation Consultant, so bookmark her blog so you can go back to it! She definitely knows her stuff!
It’s tough to figure out babies sometimes, but luckily there are common symptoms to look for if your baby has a food sensitivity. Marina Lane MS, RD’s blog called Nurse and Nourish, is full of info about nutrition and breastfeeding, I especially like her chart about symptoms in her post about Food Sensitivities in Breastfed Babies.
Healthy Eating for Breastfeeding Moms
You’ll find that eating while nursing is often a “grab and go” experience. Emphasis on the “go” part. In a perfect world, the “grab” part can be nutrient-rich like a fruit, hunk of cheese or smoothie– as often happens, a handful of chips of crackers, a chocolate chip cookie or a donut. Been there, done that. And so has Lindsay RD over at The Lean Green Bean. She shares the inspiration in her blog post Make Ahead Snacks for Nursing Moms.
If you’re wondering what you should eat while breastfeeding, I’ve got you covered. There’s a lot of confusion about exactly how much you should eat when nursing and also how much weight is safe to lose. I don’t usually like to talk calories but in this post What is a Healthy Breastfeeding Diet, I do get into the numbers, and more importantly, what foods you should be eating!