How to Fully Embrace the Breastfeeding Lifestyle

Breastfeeding is a totally natural part of motherhood, but that does not mean it comes easy for many moms. Any good breastfeeding class will teach mothers about how to latch their baby well and how to feed-on-demand to support a healthy milk supply. While these are two vitally important aspects of breastfeeding success, preparing for the lifestyle of breastfeeding is just as critical. Furthermore, when a women learns to fully embrace these lifestyle changes, she may find that nursing her baby comes with so many unexpected rewards as well. So if you’re expecting a baby or you’re new to the breastfeeding gig, here’s a few things to mentally prepare for.

Prepare to Ask For Help From Many Different Professionals

The first thing to prepare for as a new breastfeeding mother is that you will likely have to ask for help. While many babies latch well immediately after birth, this is not always the case. Fortunately, there are a plethora of nurses, lactation consultants, doulas, and even pediatric dentists who are filled with expertise on getting a baby to latch well.

However, you often have to take the initiative to go to them.

Especially in the first few weeks of breastfeeding, plan on making a couple appointments with professionals who can assist you. Many hospitals offer free support which is wonderful but you might also decide to set aside some money to pay an independent lactation consultant who can come to your home.

Furthermore, if your baby has a tongue or lip tie, you may need to have a dentist revise it.

While all of these appointments can create a bit of chaos in the first few weeks after baby’s arrival, doing so will set you up for painless nursing and a healthy supply going forward. Plus you will end up with a team of professionals in your corner who are rooting for you all the way.

Prepare for Second Night Syndrome

Your hospital or birth center may or may not warn you about “second night syndrome” a name given to describe the extremely common rough second night after a baby’s arrival. During this night, your baby suddenly discovers he is no longer in the comfort of the womb and is instead in a big, new world. He will also realize his greatest comfort is at the breast and will likely want to stay there all night long. If you take the breast away and try to put him down to sleep, he will likely start screaming.

This is totally normal. Take a deep breath and know that you will get through it.

Plan to nurse your baby as often as he wants as you wait for your milk to come in. He will learn to latch and suck properly and your body will know to start producing more milk.

Make sure someone is available to help you through the first few nights. If you have other children, it may be best that they stay with a grandparent for a night or two while you transition. And as cliche as it sounds, plan on napping whenever the baby naps for the next few days. You will need as much sleep as you can get!

Colostrum is your body’s first milk and it’s so rich in nutrients and calories. Additionally, your baby’s stomach is the size of a grape at birth. So, a couple drops of colostrum at each feeding is more than sufficient to sustain your baby while you wait for your milk to come in.

Prepare to have patience, endure a rough night or two, breastfeed as often as the baby wants and when your milk comes in it will be in healthy supply.

Prepare to Make New Friends

In order to breastfeed successfully, it is vital that you have an army of people around you who are supportive of nursing. It is especially helpful if they are currently breastfeeding their own babies. Women need other women who are understanding, caring, and encouraging and it’s no different when trying to adjust to a brand new lifestyle of motherhood and breastfeeding.

If these friends don’t already exist in your life, plan to join a breastfeeding support group where you can make new friends. They will be your biggest cheerleaders, you will know you’re not alone, and you might find these friendships stick with you well past your breastfeeding days.

How to Embrace the Breastfeeding Lifestyle

Prepare to Trust Your Body

Because we never know exactly how much our babies are consuming during breastfeeding, many women are concerned they do not make enough milk. In the United States, claims of low supply are rampant, causing many mothers to fear that they, too, will struggle.

But be encouraged, the vast majority of women are able to produce enough milk for their babies once baby has developed a good latch. (Thyroid disease, PCOS, postpartum depression etc. may cause an issue with supply BUT this is not always the case and many women with these conditions can still breastfeed partially or exclusively.)

Nurse on demand, whenever your baby is soothed by it, and most likely your body will know just what to do. Trust the process, mama. You’ve got this.

Prepare to Trust Your Baby

Feeding on demand can be a little overwhelming, especially because in our culture, we rely heavily on schedules. But the truth is, babies do not understand that they are supposed to eat every 3 hours and they can’t tell time even if they did get that memo.

However, babies were biologically designed to cry out for exactly what they need exactly when they need it. So it’s helpful to trust your baby and nurse her whenever she is soothed by it because nursing by the clock is one of the biggest hindrances to milk supply.

So mama, embrace the freedom that your baby gives you as you learn to trust him and follow his lead. You will be a wonderful mom regardless if your days are scheduled or not.

Prepare to Breastfeed… A lot

Many mothers find that their baby wants to nurse more often than the recommended “2-3 hour” time slots. During some parts of the day a baby may nurse every hour. This is called cluster feeding. It is normal and does not indicate a low supply.

It’s important to remember that breastfeeding satisfies so many of your baby’s needs beyond simple calories. If she is thirsty, if she needs help pooping, if she is in pain, if she is battling illness, if she is scared, if she needs to sleep, or if she needs basic comfort, she will find help at the breast. Nursing was designed so amazingly well!

So stock up on movies to watch and books to read to keep you entertained as you nurse. Mentally prepare to breastfeed your child often, both day and night. This is the best way to build supply and often the simplest way to keep your baby happy. Embrace this gift, mama.

Prepare to Eat

It takes about 300-500 extra calories a day and a couple extra cups of water to make enough milk for a baby. This means that for the average woman, eating less than 1800 calories a day may cause trouble with milk supply. There’s a few reasons many women have trouble reaching this caloric goal: 1) They forget to eat while hustling all day to take care of their baby, 2) They are trying to lose weight too quickly, and 3) Postpartum Depression has significantly reduced their appetite.

In regard to the first situation, be prepared to have high quality snacks in your fridge and pantry at all times. Make extras at dinner so that there will be leftovers for lunch. And prep fruit and vegetables ahead of time so you can quickly grab them when needed. Remember, you have to take care of yourself in order to take care of your baby so don’t feel bad about making time to eat.

In the second situation, remember that healthy weight loss takes time. Focus more on responding to your body’s hunger cues with whole, healthy choices rather than denial. It may be helpful to count calories, but it’s important to treat breastfeeding like a cardio workout. You must make up those extra calories so that your net caloric intake is at a healthy level. So if you need to net 1500 calories a day in order to lose one pound a week at your current weight, you actually need to eat 1800-2000 calories a day to make up for breastfeeding. As your baby continues to nurse in their first year and beyond you are likely to find that maintaining a healthy weight is easier than it ever was before, but it’s important to have patience and prioritize your overall health above the number on the scale.

And lastly, postpartum depression is a battle all its own, and to any mama struggling with it, remember that your mental health is incredibly important. Focus first on getting the support and resources you need and then later you can focus on breastmilk supply. You’re a wonderful mom and your supply does not change that ♥️

Prepare to Feed in Public

Whether you use a cover or not is completely up to you, but getting comfortable with breastfeeding in public allows many new moms a sense of freedom that they desperately need. When women feel they cannot nurse in public, they end up staying home all day or they leave parties when they need to feed. This can often make a woman feel isolated which can be a catalyst for postpartum depression. This fact alone has been one of the biggest reasons why I choose to breastfeed in public.

Some women find that practicing breastfeeding in front of a mirror gives them confidence that they can modestly nurse in public. It may also be helpful to practice nursing in different positions so that you and your baby feel more comfortable feeding in whatever situation you find yourself in.

Whether it’s in a ring sling at the store, in the middle of a restaurant or in one of the many new breastfeeding rooms being offered in public places, prepare your mind now to feed your baby outside of the home.

Breastfeeding is a unique lifestyle but it never has to completely interfere with any of your other lifestyle choices. So take heart mama, you don’t have to give up doing what you love!

How to embrace the breastfeeding lifestyle

Prepare to Consider Bedsharing

While sleeping arrangements are definitely a personal decision and not one that I want to interfere with, I do feel it’s important that breastfeeding moms feel the freedom to bedshare if they desire. Cosleeping may not be the norm in the modern day United States but it is the norm in the rest of the world and for most of history.

The truth is, most breastfeeding infants need to be fed often throughout the night and if a women has to get out of bed to feed her baby in the nursery she will likely wind up exhausted.

But bedsharing allows her to feed and comfort her baby while laying down next to him. She doesn’t even have to fully wake up, let alone sit up in bed. Her baby is soothed all throughout the night and as a result, bedsharing, breastfeeding moms generally get the most sleep.

So as you prepare to breastfeed, consider looking up safe cosleeping requirements and opening up your bed. Again, this is completely your decision but with this option you may find that motherhood doesn’t have to be as tiring as society makes you believe.

Prepare for Breastfeeding to Be Difficult But Then to Get So Much Easier

The truth is, breastfeeding often starts off hard. There is so much to learn while also recovering from birth, regulating hormones, and losing sleep. It can feel down right overwhelming. But the good news is, breastfeeding usually gets easier every week and often in the 6-12 week range it begins to feel like second nature.

While bottle feeding may feel easier at the beginning, many women find that breastfeeding is easier long term because there is no need to buy formula, pack formula, make bottles, warm bottles, and wash bottles.

Of course different women will have different experiences but if you can prepare to endure through the first couple months, you may find breastfeeding your baby to be a quick and smooth way to nurture him.

In conclusion, breastfeeding is a unique lifestyle that comes with a brand new set of challenges. As we’ve seen, it can affect who we talk to, who we hang out with, what we eat, and how we sleep. But when the breastfeeding lifestyle is fully embraced, it can be an incredibly rewarding process for many women.

What would you add to the list?

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How to Give a Breastfed Baby a Bottle in 7 Easy Steps

Giving a baby a bottle may seem like a straightforward process. You simply fill the bottle, put it in the baby’s mouth and hold it there until it’s gone. Easy right?

Actually, nature’s design for feeding infants is more beautifully complex than that. A breastfed baby receives his milk slowly and a little at a time. He is fully in control of when he latches and unlatches and he can change his sucking pattern so that he can comfort nurse without receiving any milk.

Because of this slow and controlled eating pattern, the breastfeed baby perfectly masters portion control at a young age. He becomes very familiar with feelings of hunger versus satiation and he has time to recognize when he is full in order to stop the feeding before he eats too much.

How to give a breastfed baby a bottle in 7 easy steps

On the other hand, when a baby is bottle fed, he has less control over when the nipple is put in his mouth and he cannot control the flow of milk. If he sucks, whether for food or comfort, he will be fed and he may continue to eat past satiation for as long as milk comes out.

This may be part of why a breastfed baby is less likely to be obese in adulthood than a bottle fed baby.

It is also why a baby who is breastfeeding may gulp down a bottle immediately after nursing. This is NOT a sign that the mother has low milk supply but instead a good indicator that baby needs a bit more comfort at the breast. (AND if baby is going through a growth spurt and wanting more milk, the fastest way to boost supply is to continue nursing until baby is satisfied.)

Likewise, the inability to control portion size from a bottle is part of why a breastfed baby may drink much more milk from a bottle than his mother is able to pump for him while she is at work. Unfortunately, if this continues, she may not be able to keep up and will find herself needing to supplement if she wishes to continue working which can further hinder supply.

Therefore, it’s important to try to mimic the breastfeeding process when feeding a breastfed baby a bottle. Not only is this beneficial for the baby because he develops healthy eating habits, it is also vital to the breastfeeding relationship because it protects the mother’s supply and avoids any nipple confusion or preference.

So if you are given the privilege of feeding a breastfed baby a bottle, follow these 7 steps to bottle feeding and you will greatly benefit both the baby and his mama.

How to give a breastfed baby a bottle in 7 easy steps

Step 1: Choose a bottle with a slow flow nipple.

When breastfeeding, a baby has to work to get the milk to flow. The letdown doesn’t happen immediately and milk doesn’t always flow at the same speed. But in a bottle, the flow is regulated by the hole in the nipple. Therefore, choosing the slowest flow will keep him from gulping down the bottle so quickly that he doesn’t have time to recognize feelings of satiation.

Step 2: Put an appropriate amount of milk in the bottle.

The average baby eats about 25-30 ounces a day and feeds between 8-12 times. That means the average baby eats anywhere from 2-3.75 ounces per feeding. Therefore, this is an appropriate amount of milk to put in a breastfed baby’s bottle. Putting more than that in at one time may lead to overfeeding.

Step 3: Hold the baby upright.

It’s important to hold the baby in an upright position rather than holding him flat on his back. This way, he has more control of how much milk goes into his mouth because he has to work against gravity to get it there.

Is breastfeeding an effective form of birth control??? The answer is YES, IF you follow these 7 principles. Click the image to learn more

Step 4: Let the baby draw the nipple into his mouth.

Hold the nipple to the baby’s lips but then let him open his mouth and draw the nipple in. Do not push the nipple into the baby’s mouth uninvited. This gives the baby a say as to whether he is ready for a feed or not.

Step 5: Hold the bottle horizontally.

Much like holding the baby upright, it is also important to hold the bottle horizontally rather than vertically. This slows the flow of milk and gives the baby greater control.

Step 6: Pause the feeding every minute or two.

After baby has taken a couple sucks and swallows, lower the bottle a bit so he can take a break from eating. In doing this, the baby consumes the appropriate amount of milk (2-4 ounces) in the same amount of time that a breastfeeding session typically lasts (10-15 minutes). Once again, this gives the baby a chance to recognize feelings of satiation and stop the feeding before he gets overfull.

Step 7: Let the baby decide when he’s done.

Finally, it’s so important to let the baby be in charge of when to stop eating. If he falls asleep and stops sucking or let’s the nipple fall out of his mouth, let him be finished. While it may be so tempting to encourage him to eat the last ounce in the bottle, remember that he is practicing portion control which will have lifelong benefits for him.

So whether you’re a dad, a grandparent, a family member, a daycare worker, or just someone lucky enough to hang out with a baby, be encouraged that in feeding him this way you are allowing him to eat in a healthy manner that not only benefits him but also protects his breastfeeding relationship with his mother. That is truly something to strive for and celebrate.

Click the image to learn more.

Why I Breastfeed in Public

Here’s the thing: I value modesty. You won’t catch me in a super low cut shirt because I prefer not to show cleavage to the whole world and it’s important to me to dress in a way that is respectful of those around me.

But I also value breastfeeding. It’s the number one tool in my motherhood toolbox. My babies nurse around the clock whenever they’re hungry, thirsty, overwhelmed, tired, in pain, sick or scared and that’s totally cool with me.

When I had my first child, I had no idea how to reconcile these two values when I was in public. On the one hand, I wasn’t comfortable with the thought of being at all exposed and on the other hand, I felt helpless as a mom because my go-to trick was unavailable. It was the middle of the summer and the thought of using a cover was unbearable for both me and my sweaty baby so I mostly spent my time frantically searching for private rooms or bathrooms to feed her in.

Fortunately, by the time I got pregnant with my second daughter, I had learned how to discreetly nurse in public using the “two shirt method” and a full repertoire of nursing friendly clothing.

Secondly, I had invested in a couple great nursing covers for those situations where I just felt better fully covered.

And finally, I had also become a doula and I learned so much about the many struggles new moms face with postpartum and breastfeeding. It is always my goal to do my part in making this transition easier for women.

So even though I still try to be as modest as possible, I feel strongly that I should be breastfeeding in public. Here’s 4 reasons why.

1. Because Seeing Someone Breastfeed is the Best Way to Learn How

Our culture struggles with breastfeeding. At this point, most women attempt to breastfeed but many do not continue past the first few weeks or months. A good latch is hard for us and countless women worry about their supply.

Part of the reason for this difficulty is that most girls grow up without ever having seen someone nurse a baby. In general, we don’t know what a good latch or a comfortable position or modest breastfeeding looks like because we’ve never seen it. And we’ve certainly never seen a woman nurse while cooking or putting on makeup or playing mini golf or whatever else her day may bring.

Consequently, breastfeeding remains a mystery and it feels too hard to master.

This is the first reason I feel it’s important to nurse my baby in front of other women and girls. I want them to know that breastfeeding can be comfortable, it can be enjoyable, and it is possible to live life while doing it. When they can see that this is true with their own eyes, they’re more likely to have confidence when it’s their turn to nurse a baby.

Breastfeeding in a minivan is all too common because breastfeeding in public is difficult, inconvenient, or shamed upon.
Breastfeeding in a minivan is all too common. Also notice how I can nurse without actually exposing anything. It is totally possible to nurse modestly in public. 🙌🏾

2. Because Something So Good Should be Normalized and Easily Accessible

Breastfeeding has tons of benefits. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to be obese, breastfeeding mothers are less likely to develop breast cancer and the immunity factors in breast milk change depending on what germs are around so it’s always the perfect medicine for the baby. I could go on and on about all of that but the point is, breastfeeding is so good and healthy for all involved.

Why then do we have to make it so hard for women to nurse their babies?

We need to make a change. We need to welcome and encourage the breastfeeding mother. We need to accept the fact that breasts were created for nurturing babies and allow them to fulfill that purpose.

When I breastfeed in public, I am helping the world around me to get comfortable with something that always has been and always will be a beneficial aspect of raising the next generation.

3. Because Feeding in a Bathroom is Gross

It’s true, sitting on a toilet in a public bathroom while nursing a tiny child isn’t sanitary, comfortable, or necessary.

Can we all just stop pretending that this is a good option for breastfeeding moms?

I did this with my first baby but honestly, this is where I draw the line this time around.

Is breastfeeding an effective form of birth control?? The answer is YES, IF you follow these rules.Is breastfeeding an effective form of birth control? The answer is YES, IF you follow these 7 principles. Click the image to find out more.

4. To Empower the Isolated Mom

This last reason is probably the most important and what really drives the need to breastfeed in public home for me. There are too many new moms out there who don’t want to leave their houses because finding a private place to nurse their baby is too difficult (and a public restroom is too gross).

As a result, they end up feeling trapped and alone in their home.

Or there may be moms who do go to social gatherings but they wind up breastfeeding alone in someone else’s bedroom and their heart aches because they are missing out on conversation and festivities with their loved ones.

Both of these situations leave new moms feeling isolated which is extremely important to note because isolation and Postpartum Depression go hand in hand.

As a society, we must make it easier for women and babies to get out of the house and this starts by getting comfortable with breastfeeding.

So I’ve resolved that I have to do my part. If just one woman sees me nursing my baby in public and this helps her feel more confident in leaving her home, getting fresh air, and feeding her baby then it’s worth it to me.

The bottom line is this: both breastfeeding and the entire postpartum period are down right hard. But for so many reasons, not being able to feed a baby in public just makes it harder.

So as a doula, a breastfeeding advocate, and a woman, I know now that it is my responsibility to nurse in public in support of my fellow moms and I hope that others will do the same ❤️

4 Reasons Why I Breastfeed in Public

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Navigating the World of Prenatal Vitamins

It’s no secret that women who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding should be taking a prenatal vitamin but with so many different options out there, women are often left wondering if they are taking the right one. I frequently get asked in my Fertility Awareness classes what vitamin I recommend and to be honest, I’m usually like a deer in a headlight when I get that question. I currently have three different bottles of prenatal vitamins in my own home and I used to just take whichever one I felt like that day. So I decided to do a little research to find the number one, ultimate, best, top of the line, comprehensive, but also affordable Vitamin out there. I thought it probably wouldn’t be that hard but after two full work days of searching the Internet, I was ready to give up.

Here’s the thing. I searched the American College of Gynecology (ACOG) website and found the recommended daily values for the Big Four in the world of Prenatal Vitamins: Folic Acid, Calcium, Iron, and Vitamin D. And then I searched the FDA’s website and found this chart and this chart of recommended values for pregnant women BUT even they weren’t exactly the same and neither lined up perfectly with ACOG’s page. I thought maybe one of them was more up-to-date than the other but then when I looked at current labels of vitamins, some of them seemed to line up with one chart, and some lined up with the other. I was confused and stressed and wishing I would have majored in Nutrition in college because there must be something I’m not understanding about all of this.

So, after taking a break from my search, I took a deep breathe and decided that it’s ok to not get this perfectly on the dot. There is no ultimate vitamin out there. Nevertheless, there are plenty of really good vitamins. So how do you decide what’s best for you? Here’s a few questions to ask yourself.

1) How much can you pay for your Vitamins? Many Prenatal Vitamins will cost around 30-40 dollars a month but that number varies widely depending on where you shop. On the other hand, with a prescription from your care provider, many Prenatal Vitamins are free. Remember that any vitamin is better than no vitamin so if you don’t want to pay a whole lot, take the one your care provider prescribes!

2) Can you stomach it? If you’re struggling with nausea or vomiting throughout your pregnancy, swallowing pills can be really difficult. Some prenatal vitamins require you to take just one pill a day while others can be as many five or six. Furthermore, some vitamins may make you nauseous while others don’t seem to be a problem. So if this is an issue for you, the best prenatal vitamin is the one you can keep down.

3) What sources do you want your vitamin to be made from? Is it important to you that your vitamin is completely plant based? Do you want to make sure there are no artificial additives in your vitamin? There are plenty of options out there if you answered “yes” to any of these options but you may have to find them at a health food store or online.

4) Does your care provider approve of it? It’s never a bad idea to take your vitamin to your next prenatal appointment and see what your care provider thinks of it. They can tell you if it has enough of certain vitamins and minerals and not too much of anything else. You may also wish to talk thoroughly about some of the vitamins/minerals covered in the next question.

5) Does it have everything you want in it? This is where things can get a little confusing again but remember, you don’t have to get it perfectly right. Here’s a few things to think about.

Folate or Folic Acid? Almost all prenatal vitamins will have enough folate/Folic Acid but it’s usually one or the other. Folate is a natural substance found in food but Folic Acid is the synthetic form of it. For more information about the difference between the two check out this article.

Calcium — The recommended daily amount of calcium is atleast 1000 mg but most prenatal vitamins only have 200-300 mg included. Do you get enough calcium in your diet (dairy products, leafy greens, salmon, almonds etc) to make up the extra or will you need an additional supplement?

Iron — Many Prenatal Vitamins have the full recommended amount of Iron but if yours does not, you may need to supplement. If you do, look for ferrous gluconate rather than ferrous sulfate because it’s generally easier to digest.

Vitamin D — Vitamin D is important because it helps your body use Calcium to build strong bones and teeth. Be sure you’re getting enough in your vitamin if you’re not regularly exposed to sunlight.

B Vitamins — Thiamine, Riboflacin, Niacin, B6 and B12 are all important and helpful in pregnancy, especially if you are dealing with fatigue and morning sickness. Most prenatal vitamins have some B Vitamins in them but if need extra energy and relief from nausea, talk to your care provider about taking more.

Magnesium — Magnesium is an important mineral that almost everyone is deficient in. In pregnancy, it’s especially important for managing stress, sleeping well, lowering high blood pressure and preventing preeclampsia. Pregnant women are supposed to get around 400 mg of magnesium but there often is not nearly that much in prenatal vitamins. Ask your care provider for guidance regarding this mineral.

DHA — DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that is vital in building your baby’s brain. It’s found in fish, but it can be really difficult to get enough of it, especially since pregnant women are limited on fish intake. Many Prenatal Vitamins are starting to include DHA but most still do not so consider supplementing if you don’t have one that does.

Probiotics — Finally, probiotics are important for your and your baby’s gut health. Most vitamins don’t have probiotics but there are probiotics specific to pregnancy so consider taking one of those as well.

Remember that most vitamins won’t check off every box so eating a balanced diet ensures that you and baby can grow healthy and strong and you don’t have to stress too much about the exact vitamin you take. While there is no one right answer for everyone when it comes to choosing prenatal vitamins, I hope this helps you decide which one might be best for you! May you have a safe, healthy, and enjoyable pregnancy ❤️