August is National Breastfeeding Awareness month! It’s also world breastfeeding week and in honor of all that I wanted to write a post documenting my #battletobreastfeed my son by including what worked for us and some things I needed to make it all the way to 13 months of breastfeeding! Woo Hoo (that was a HUGE accomplishment for us)
I am in the process of writing out my postpartum journey as it was not an easy one and I know that will resonate with a lot of other mamas. Many of our initial challenges during those first few months all looped back to breastfeeding, aside from our major complication of…”colic” (also saving this for the postpartum post).
Breastfeeding for us was a difficult challenge from night one. So instead of writing a whole long post describing every detail I will write out some problems we faced (both minor and major) and solutions I tried that worked!
Problem: My son had a very poor latch and weak suck. To the eye (2 Lactation Consultants, 2 pediatricians) it looked normal, but it never felt normal. In fact I was still in discomfort weeks after those first few tough, painful days. He was eating around the clock all of the time, always felt really gassy, sounded strange at the breast, made clicking sounds, always seemed unsettled and like he was struggling to eat, etc.
Solution: Get your baby’s tongue and lip ties checked ASAP. While you are in the hospital, if you can. If a few of the staff members tell you they don’t see one, get it checked further by a professional who deals with ties specifically. After researching and knowing in my gut that my son’s issues were tied (no pun intended) to him having ties. I jumped in the Facebook group NY & NJ Tongue Tie Group and began to read up on the top-notch doctors they were discussing. At 6 weeks postpartum we went to see Dr. Scott Siegel, who is ahead of the field in terms of knowledge, equipment and expertise. We were and still are very pleased. My son did not get better instantly, but his suck slowly began to improve and he became SO much more of an efficient eater. It was truly amazing.
While you are waiting to have this done, you could use something like this nipple shield to protect yourself from extra pain. I know a lot of lactation consultants are going to tell you NOT to use it, but it was a saving grace for us. Without it I probably would have stopped BF early on. Do what you have to do!
Problem: You have an overactive letdown. Your milk gushes out before baby can get to you and they get squirted in the face or they get too much too soon.
Solution: You may have to squeeze out a little into a milk bag or a receiving blanket/towel/rag. This alleviates that forceful flow so baby can latch on more easily without “choking”. Something I would suggest using to help accumulate the foremilk and start easily building a freezer stash would be the Haakaa. This genius little gadget can collect your breastmilk from the one breast while baby is feeding on the other and it suctions so you can utilize it like you would a breast pump.
Problem: You have oversupply and your baby gets most of the sugary foremilk, causing upset tummy, even more gas problems and slimy, stringy mucus poop (TMI? Sorry moms love to talk about poop)
Solution: Block feeding! This was SO beneficial for us when I did go through a bout of battling oversupply. It’s hard to know exactly what caused the oversupply for me, but I knew my son was experiencing all of the symptoms of oversupply so I tested out block feeding and it brought us back to that yellow-mustard, sweet-smelling, seedy baby poop. I had to feed him on one side within a 3+ hour period, then switch to the other side. This guaranteed that he was draining each side fully and not just getting the foremilk (which is proven to be sugary and less filling than the hind milk that comes after). This whole process sends the signal to the body to slow down milk production so you do need to be careful when utilizing this. As soon as you see your babies poop return to normal or become less gassy switch back to the regular feedings (both breasts during a session or one breast at one session while you pump the other side, etc.) You will get into a groove and figure out what works best for you and baby! To track everything you could just write it down in a notepad like our moms did or you can use an app like Feed Baby, which was very beneficial for me in the beginning to keep track of everything (this is a google app). Especially since everyone has their phones around them at all times anyway. For Apple, check out this app.
Problem: You have a painful clogged duct. Not fun!
Solution: Allow baby to feed to help suck it out. Massage the area and run hot water from the shower on it. If your clogged duct leads to mastitis (I hope it doesn’t) please go see a doctor for that. Otherwise, keep massaging the area. You can even use a heating pad to help aid in the pain and discomfort. The heat will also get the blood flowing to make massaging it more easy and once the spot is warm you can use coconut oil to aid in the massage. You can also nurse with baby underneath you (gently planking over them) so that gravity helps move things along further.
Problem: Your baby has colic (whatever that is) and is very gassy, has tummy troubles and maybe even sour/bloody/abnormal diapers.
Solution: Clear up your diet first. GAPS diet, elimination diet and avoiding ALL soy and dairy are three popular choices that moms will do when breastfeeding an unhappy baby who is displaying negative symptoms. I joined a few great FB groups to gain knowledge, wisdom, seek advice and learn from other moms going through similar things. Fortunately my son was not experiencing the rashes that some of these other mom’s babies were, but he still was not comfortable and had strange diapers most of the time (they smelled and look abnormal). I originally took out soy and dairy (ALL OF IT) from my diet. That seemed to help a little, but nothing drastic. I continued to avoid it anyway and moved onto keeping a food diary (very helpful). I monitored what I ate, what was in what I ate, how my son reacted and what his poop/skin looked like. To be honest I truly believe sugar is another big culprit. When my son finally started eating real foods, IF we allowed him to have something with processed sugar (which was not very often) he would break out with a pimple or two the very next day. His skin would also get red and itchy looking. Interesting right? If you have further questions about how to avoid dairy and soy get in touch with me. I became a pro at reading ingredients and labels (still utilize my learned skills) and will gladly help you navigate the dairy/soy free world.
One thing that we gave my son that seemed to calm him and coat his stomach was Tummy Calm and Colic Calm. They are homeopathic, filled with normal ingredients that naturally calm and are safe for babies (no added fillers, chemicals or sugars!). Another thing we did that I truly believe helped my son was get him on a good probiotic (key here being GOOD). A store bought, unrefrigerated brand unfortunately has a lot of preservatives and fillers in it. We used Klaire Lab probiotics with my son! You can do further research and buy an even more advanced one.
Problem: Sore, cracked nipples. Ouch!
Solution: Lansinoh cream or something like it such as Earth Mama, Angel Baby Nipple Butter. This worked great for me back in the beginning when I was in pain. It’s thick and creamy so it coats really well and will stay where you put it.
Problem: Low breastmilk supply.
Solution: Eat foods high in healthy fats such as avocados. You can also try oatmeal every morning and Mother’s Milk Tea in the evening. The cookies that helped me the most in the beginning were Milkmaker’s Lactation Cookies that really boosted my supply and were very yummy. Amazon has other popular brands that are also certified organic and contain brewer’s yeast and flax meal. I also ate oatmeal every morning for breakfast and drank a TON of water. You are naturally thirsty when you breastfeed, but don’t quench your thirst with anything that will deplete you further (coffee, salty drinks, etc.) You can also check out a site like Kellymom.com as it is a wonderful resource for a new mom struggling through some of these issues. I started there plenty of times and knew she did her research to support moms.
Problem: Pumping Woes
Solution: Set up a nice area (because you will be there a lot), have books, magazines, a game like Sudoku, water, snacks and make it cozy. Make sure you check through your insurance to receive your free pump and upgrade it if you want to (this brand worked well for us)! If you are going to be using it daily and on the go invest in a bag and extra accessories. Check to see that your flanges fit correctly. And if you’re going to be doing other things while pumping, invest in a good hands free pumping bra like one from Medela. I’m also interested in trying something like this, for all us multi-tasking mamas!
Problem: Nursing in public (although it shouldn’t be a problem and I think we are slowly moving past this stigma)
Solution: Just do it and don’t feel bad about it. If you are uncomfortable, then bring a good cover with you. One that is airy, but also stays up well on it’s own. I personally like the ones that do multiple things like become a carseat cover and can be worn as a cute scarf when not in use! Milk Snob is a good brand (they have a really cute disney line too).
Problem: My husband wants to help give a bottle and be involved.
Solution: Great! Once you begin pumping (probably around week 2) start pumping when you are fullest (usually early in the morning right after that first morning feed). Or just use the Haakaa to accumulate some milk. Start stashing some away in the freezer for your husband to take a shift. While he’s feeding the baby you can go out, take a nap or pump to relieve yourself and save for another “Daddy feeding”. Maybe he can feed the baby the bottle right before bed to fill them up for the first few hours before wake-ups. Use Lansinoh bags to store your milk (lay them flat so the milk settles nicely). You can store your bags in any container that fits in your freezer!
Problem: How do I introduce a bottle? I tried but my baby won’t take it.
Solution: Unfortunately you may have to try a few different ones. But if you want to bypass all the drama, the Minbie was a good one for us because it closely resembles a breast. Once my son’s latch was corrected he had no problem taking a bottle so we moved onto Dr. Brown’s because we liked that they help relieve gas.
Problem: I need to be dressed more comfortably while I nurse and I don’t want to feel like I have to take my shirt completely down to breastfeed.
Solution: Nursing tanks were my go-to! It helps to also layer two shirts so if you forget a cover-up and just want a little more privacy you can use your top shirt as a cover. This two-shirt technique worked wonders for me when I was out and about and just had to stop to nurse my son. I always wore a black nursing tank underneath and layered a flowy, looser shirt on top.
Problem: I need to sit more comfortably while I nurse. My back always hurts because I’m hunched over.
Solution: I tried a few pillows while I was breastfeeding and was very uncomfortable with a lot of them, especially at night. I liked the Boppy when my son was “tiny” but he got so big so quick he didn’t fit on that pillow for long so I ended up using it behind me to prop me up more. [You can purchase cute covers for the Boppy] I also tried the Brest Friend pillow that is more structured and can snap around you. It was good for a while, but then became more of a nuisance over time as I had to prop my knees or hands under it because, like I said, my son was BIG. A pillow that my mom purchased for us that I loved and used up until he was around 9 months was the Shuga Bebe Couture Pillow. It’s pricy, but I ordered one that was on sale at the time. This pillow claimed to help with reflux because baby is always angled down instead of laying flat across. I really liked it and thought it worked great. One thing I did have to do on my own was stuff it further to help it keep a more rigid shape. It was an easy fix, I just took some filling from an old pillow and inserted it.
Edit: If you’re worried that your baby isn’t getting enough to eat, for peace of mind you can purchase a top-rated baby scale. Place baby on the scale before they eat and then right after and it will help gauge how much they’re eating!
Thanks so much for sticking around and reading this entire post. My son and I battled all of these issues while breastfeeding and were able to conquer them with dedication, resources, knowledge and help! Seek out a breastfeeding group in your area (one that you feel comfortable in), join a group online for questions and solidarity, and make sure you are keeping your mental health in check. Don’t forget to take care of yourself too, mama. You are so important!