Breastfeeding is what your breasts were designed to do. They grow a baby. They developed a human being into a walking talking child. They are the basis of growing an adult that will make a difference in the world. They create a miraculous mixture of everything your baby needs to build a strong immune system, grow their brain, organs, reproductive system, and nervous system. Breast milk has everything your baby needs, so please do not hesitate to give your baby your breast milk.
It may feel awkward and nerve-wracking to put your baby to your breast for the first time (or many times). It may or may not all work out exactly as planned for days, weeks, or on rare occasions, even months, but we urge you to see it as a natural and important part of the process. It may feel strange at first converting to the mindset that your breasts aren't sex objects too, but rather nutritional fountains of milk! Your amazing commitment to breastfeeding your baby can also be exhausting and draining (literally and figuratively, ha!). There are days when you will feel like all you do is walk around with your boobs hanging out and a little person suckling them. But no one can prepare you for the gift of bonding with your little human being during these times that only you can provide! The gift of breastfeeding between a mom and a baby not only connects you in profound ways but through the gifts of nature, allows you to provide health for your child in a way formula supplementation just does not fully duplicate.
By breastfeeding, you are lowering your baby's risk of asthma, diabetes, and food allergies and lowering your risk of breast cancer. However, a fed baby is best!
Experts say that ideally breastfeeding for a year or two (with food) gives the baby the nutrition they need and the optimal developmental support. Your goal to breastfeed for whatever you decide, say 1 year, may end up being only 6 months because you had to go back to work and your milk supply dropped. THAT'S OKAY!!! Your baby will be fine! You may have had a breast reduction and don't have an adequate milk supply. THAT'S OKAY!! One day of breastmilk is better than no days. You are a great mom, who is doing the best you can for her baby and that is enough!
We all need a little help from friends and experts at times, and here is where we suggest you turn to:
Dr. Suzanne Humphries Neonatal Immunity (part II focuses on breastfeeding)
How to Support Parents Struggling With Breastfeeding, Formula Feeding, and Infant Nutrition (A guide published by Georgetown University)
Some tips from our moms:
- Breastpump- Get familiar with it beforehand, but do not pump your breasts for milk before the baby comes, as it can induce labor.
- If you intend to only breastfeed, include it in your birth plan bring a sign to put on the baby's bassinet "Breast-fed only" so if they have to go to the nursery or NICU, the nurses know not to feed them formula but to bring the baby to you to nurse.
- Sometimes a hot shower before breastfeeding helps to stimulate the flow.
- Our grandmother's (and we) swear by a few sips of beer to increase milk production, which is because beer contains brewer's yeast, so try Brewer's Yeast and other herbs first to avoid the alcohol. Before you try to increase milk production, see the image below. Usually, you are producing the exact right amount of milk.
- In a pinch? If you find yourself in a situation where you don't have a pump (we have all been there!), know that you can also manually express milk with your hands.
- Forgot the bottle? Again, been there! You can also cup-feed your baby, use a cup, and pour a tiny amount into the baby's mouth slowly.
- If you have breast pain from a clogged duct (it feel like a tender bump), put cold cabbage leaves directly over your entire breast in your bra until they warm up and the pain eases. Try more cold leaves if needed. Believe us, it is amazing! And pump through it! That clogged duct can lead to mastitis which is incredibly painful and can become dangerous for you quickly if not identified and treated.
- Feed yourself well, drink lots of water and get sufficient sleep.
- Decrease stress, reduce chores, and make time for at least 20 minutes of doing something that makes you smile and laugh every day.
- Breastfeed in a comfortable chair, alone if possible, with soothing music, in a setting where you feel relaxed. In a messy room with a blaring TV screaming doom and fear is not ideal.
- It's totally ok to co-sleep and breastfeed the baby to sleep if that works for you. Some like to pop baby off the nipple and rock before sleep, so your baby is less likely to use you as a human binky, but breastfeeding to sleep works for many.
- Steel cut oats is great for increasing milk supply but it can cause overproduction, so be ready with a breast pump and bags!
- You can also walk and eat with a baby breastfeeding in a sling. There are tons of wraps and slings to chose from today!
- Back to work and pumping? Bring something that smells like your baby and look at a picture of them while you're pumping. It will increase your oxytocin levels (feel good hormone that helps you bond with your baby) which increases your milk supply.
How much should my baby be eating?
Concerned that baby isn't eating enough? We were too! Then we saw images like this that showed us the size of a newborn's stomach. And we relaxed. And guess what, when you relax you make more milk! Soon it will likely be squirting across the room, and you will need to store extra for a rainy day. And if not, nothing is wrong. There are simply a few more steps for you to take. But before you formula feed out of concern that baby isn't getting enough milk, see the image below:
Before you give baby formula, consider the ingredients. Many of the ingredients are either GMO or are from an animal likely fed GMO grains sprayed with glyphosate weedkiller. Formulas have been tested and some were found to contain glyphosate. Breast milk was also tested and some, from mothers who ate some/mostly conventional (nonorganic/GMO) food, were found to contain glyphosate. The answer? Eat organic!
What's in baby formula?
Ingredients of the formula:
Ingredients that are of particular concern to us, to name a few, are corn, soy, palm, high oleic sunflower, and vegetable oils (likely GMO and glyphosate or dicamba sprayed), soy lecithin, whey (like GMO /glyphosate fed cow) protein, and Inositol. Side effects of inositol include, but are not limited to:
- Signs of an allergic reaction, like rash; hives; itching; red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin with or without fever; wheezing; tightness in the chest or throat; trouble breathing, swallowing, or talking; unusual hoarseness; or swelling of the mouth, face, lips, tongue, or throat.
- Signs of high blood sugar like confusion, feeling sleepy, more thirst, more hungry, passing urine more often, flushing, fast breathing, or breath smells like fruit.
- Signs of liver problems like dark urine, feeling tired, not hungry, upset stomach or stomach pain, light-colored stools, throwing up, or yellow skin or eyes.
As seasoned moms, we know that most doctors will tell you that the above symptoms are "NORMAL" for a baby, that they are simply adjusting to formula, and they are NOT normal and not acceptable!
Or check out European organic formula brands, which have higher standards:
Sample ingredients of Aptamil
Organic demineralized whey (from milk), Organic vegetable oils (Organic palm oil, Organic coconut oil, Organic rapeseed oil, Organic high oleic sunflower oil, organic sunflower oil), Organic lactose (from milk), Organic skimmed milk, Organic galactooligosaccharides (GOS) (from milk), Organic whey protein (from milk), Calcium phosphate, Emulsifier (Organic soy lecithin), Fish oil, Potassium citrate, Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), Oil from Mortierella Alpina, Sodium chloride, Choline chloride, Magnesium chloride, Potassium chloride, Vitamin C, Inositol, Potassium hydroxide, Ferrous sulfate, L-Carnitine, Zinc sulfate, Vitamin E, Pantothenic acid, Nicotinamide, Copper sulfate, Thiamin, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Folic acid, Potassium iodide, Sodium selenite, Manganese sulfate, Vitamin K1, Biotin, Vitamin D3, Vitamin B12.
What if you cannot breastfeed but don't want to use formula?
If you want to avoid formula ingredients, try a breast milk bank. We do not endorse a particular breast milk bank, as we have not vetted them all for standards, but we suggest looking up a local breast milk bank by doing an online search and looking at their standards yourself. We prefer someone who eats 100% (or close to it) organic, does not smoke or drink alcohol, does not take medications, lives in a low pollution area, and has not been recently vaccinated. Find out what you can and do the best you can and then enjoy your baby.
How long do you breastfeed?
Some will get pressure from in-laws or immediate family and friends to stop when the baby grows teeth, around 4-6 months or when the baby starts to crawl or walk. The fact is that studies have found that it is most healthy for the baby to breastfeed for one to two years or more. The first year or two of a baby's life is crucial for their development and the foundation of their immune system. Breastfeed for as long as you can and works for you!
Here are some tips on weaning from the LaLeche League.
Baby-led weaning is when you breastfeed for as long as the baby wants to. This can lead to extended weaning. This may or may not be for you. However you feel, we ask that we reserve judgment for those who do not choose to do baby-led weaning and for those who do. There are benefits to the baby and the maternal bond to do baby-led weaning. And some moms know that they are done with it after a certain time. Either way, we encourage you to use your intuition, cues from your baby and consider the long-term investment you make in your child's health. The longer you breastfeed, the greater health benefit to you and the baby. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer, burns calories (supports weight loss), builds the baby's immune system, supports growth and development, and improves your maternal bond!
How many calories are used for breastfeeding?
Many say breastfeeding is equivalent to a 45 minute to 1 hour run per day! Most of us will not make time for that when we have a new baby. Breastfeeding supports overall health! And getting back into your skinny jeans!
How much money does breastfeeding save?
Research shows you could spend between $1500 (for cheap GMO brands) to $2300 (for organic) per year for formula. Breastfeeding keeps that money in your family budget or savings. Imagine if you invested that $2000 just for one year- you would have $5,697 in 15 years just letting it accrue compound interest! That's a year of community college!
Whatever you decide, we are most interested in you being empowered. We know many people will feel like giving up breastfeeding within the first week or two. We want to promise you that, in most cases, it gets easier, and it is VERY MUCH worth it to continue. The more you invest in your baby (ie: time, breastfeeding, patience, attention), the closer the bond and the easier the relationship is later, down the road. In sporadic cases, something doesn't work out and you may need to go to a breast milk bank or buy formula. If so, that DOES NOT MEAN you are a bad mother, a failed mother, or anything negative that the committee in your head might be telling you. Tell them to shush. Go about your business. Do your best and be present to the miracle of your baby!