Thanks for come back to my series for Breastfeeding Awareness Month. If you have missed any other posts check them out here, here, and here! Or click on the button below (click anywhere outside of the Pinterest circle.)
Today's post is some what of a continuation from my tips, tricks, and tools post, except I am doing it in the form of a Do's and Don'ts list. This is Part I: Do's. So without further ado:
1. DO research. The internet is a great place to start. It contains an infinite amount of breastfeeding information. As always with the internet though, make sure what you read is creditable. You don't have to go crazy and spend all your days learning about breastfeeding (although I'm sure there is enough information out there to do so), just learn enough to feel comfortable in the overall process. The possibility of some sort of issue is pretty much guaranteed, so having that background knowledge will help you have an idea about any problems that arise. Besides books and the internet, I believe the greatest source of knowledge comes from fellow breastfeeders. Nobody knows more about breastfeeding than the women who do it everyday. Speak with moms that already breastfeed; ask them about their experiences, if they have any advise or tips, and look to them for encouragement. Ask, ask, ask away: get as much information out of them as possible. Most breastfeeders want everyone to breastfeed :) so they are more than willing to help in any way possible.
2. DO go and check out KellyMom! It is an amazing resource for everything breastfeeding related. You can find information about breastmilk handling and storage, pumping, weaning, breastfeeding into toddler-hood, and they even have a support group page on Facebook. It is my go to website when I want to find out about a breastfeeding topic. When it comes to breastfeeding resources, Kelly has got it going on!
3. DO create a breastfeeding network. This should include fellow breastfeeders, support groups, community resources (lactation consultants at WIC or neighborhood hospital), online research, independent groups such as Le Leche League, and family. See "Build a Support Network" in this post for more information. Support groups are really helpful for any problem, big or small. Many offer weigh-ins so that you can see how much your baby is eating during a nursing session by weighing them before and after. It's a great way to know if they are getting enough milk, if you don't ever bottle feed. Also, most likely a lactation consultant will be there to answer any questions and help with latching, positions, etc. And of course, it is always encouraging to see other moms breastfeed. A lot of times I have felt alone in certain struggles I have encountered during breastfeeding, so being in a room full of moms that are experiencing the same things as me makes me feel a sense of relief and optimism.
4. DO ask for help. I will tell you this from learning the hard way, you need to let people help you. Breastfeeding can be very overwhelming, especially in the first few weeks and even months. It is a lot of work and you might feel like you're doing all the work... and well really you are. As far as feeding goes, it's all on you. If you decide to give your baby bottles, then eventually someone else can feed them, but even then it is recommended to wait about a month to introduce a bottle. If you're like me, you stop giving your baby a bottle for a couple of weeks because pumping is too much work, to only be taught a real lesson in "hard work" when your child decides he will never take a bottle again. Being the sole provider of nourishment to my child is equally the best and hardest role I have as a mother. In the newborn stage, feedings happen every two or so hours (sometimes less) and can last up to an hour+ each session. So clearly you don't get much time away from the baby. Of course, this is the all part of why breastfeeding is so good for mommy and baby; lots of bonding time. The problem is, especially for a FTM, this can be very overwhelming. Your life completely changes in a matter of seconds as your baby is born and for me (and I think most others), it was a huge adjustment. Add to that sleep deprivation and crazy hormones and you got a recipe for complete and total breakdowns. Although all of this is probably unavoidable, there are things that can help ease that transition and keep the breakdowns to slightly below straight-jacket status. Now of course the super control freak that I am, I didn't allow for help so I am speaking out of my lesson learned. Anything that someone else can do, LET THEM DO IT! You just performed that greatest feat in the whole world and you're doing so much by just feeding your baby! If someone offers to change diapers, hold the baby, clean your house, make you dinner, pick up groceries, run your errands, bathe the baby, bring him to you to get, etc., say YES. I promise it is not worth being too proud or too much of a control freak to refuse help. If you try to do everything yourself, you are only stressing yourself out and in turn ruining the special newborn bonding time with your baby.
5. DO give it time. Don't quit early on because it seems too difficult or too overwhelming. The first few weeks are the hardest for sure, so just keep with it and it will get better. If you really want to breastfeed, it can be done! Staying positive goes a long way when breastfeeding, so believe in yourself and know that you are doing something so incredibly great for you and your child. I have had my fair share of ups and downs over the past year of breastfeeding, but I never gave up (although I didn't really have the option since Myles wouldn't take a bottle lol). Even each day has its ups and down, but overall it has been an extremely rewarding experience so far. There were many times I wanted to quit, especially around months 4-6, but I stuck it out and now I couldn't imagine not being able to breastfeed my little guy everyday. Point being, before you throw in the towel, really REALLY make sure you're making the right decision. If the issues are isolated, find a solution and give it time. Don't make a rash decision based on emotions or temporary situations.
6. Because the first few weeks can be extremely tough, if you really want to stick with breastfeeding, DO make sure you are 100% mentally and psychologically committed. In the hormonal postpartum state, things can feel way worse than they really are. It is easy to get overwhelmed and want to give up, especially if something seems wrong with the baby, e.g. not gaining weight, colicky, not enough wet/dirty diapers, extensive crying, not sleeping, etc. There are easy solutions to most problems (see #7 for example), so it's not the end of the world if things are shaky at first or even months into breastfeeding (I didn't have any issues until Myles was 3 months old). The thing is our culture makes formula feeding out to be so much easier, so if you're having a hard time breastfeeding, just switch to formula and everything will be better...right?... Not so much... Formula feeding isn't necessary the cure for troubled breastfeeding, but you have to know this going in; know that it might be tough and a huge adjustment; know there may be issues that arise; but know that all of these things can be worked through and if you stay committed it is totally worth it.
7. DO pay close attention to their poop. Baby poop is a huge indicator of their nutritional intake. The hospital nurses and your pediatrician will probably tell you to track the number of poopy diapers they have a day. Of course that it important, but equally important is to pay close attention to the texture and color of the poop. Breastfeed babies should have poop that is the yellow, seedy, and runny; a good comparison is mustard. In breastfed babies always be on the look out for green poop. This is a huge indication of a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance. This can happen if the baby is getting more foremilk (the thinner, less fatty milk) than hindmilk (the richer, fattier milk). Because foremilk is released first, this imbalance can happen if you don't let the baby eat long enough on one side or if you have a strong letdown and they get full before they get any hindmilk. This happened with Myles once and so I started block feeding him. This is when you feed from one breast several times before you switch the next. I would usually do 12 hours on one side, then 12 hours on the other. I don't know how common this is, but it is something to be aware of.
8. Only DO what you are comfortable doing. I know that I stress having a good support network and getting advise from fellow breastfeeders, LCs, etc., but when it comes down to it, it is your body, your decision. Don't let culture, "societal norms," family, doctors, or anything else pressure you into doing something you don't want to do. There are so many "rules" to parenting it's ridiculous and it feels like we are all made to feel bad if we don't follow what most people are comfortable with. I say too bad! Listen to people's advise and opinion, but take it as a grain of salt. At the end of the day you are the parent and (for most women) you know what's best for your family. Whether you want to stop before a year, wean at 3 years, NIP, not use a cover, nurse to sleep, give a bottle, not put them on an eating schedule; those things are all your decisions and you need to be comfortable above all else. Your child feeds off of your feelings and emotions and if you're stressed or uncomfortable, they will be too. And from personal experience, that situation is no fun.
9. DO take breastfeeding one day at a time. Just as with parenting in general, we all have those days... You know the ones where you want to find the nearest cave, crawl in, and stay for about a week. When these days happen, there is nothing wrong with needing a break. If it's possible take a time out before you make any rash decisions. I know I've had many a days that found me crying out that I wanted to quit. But I always knew that it was just my frustration talking; I didn't want to be done breastfeeding forever, just at that moment I needed a time out. When you have one of those days, give yourself a chance to renew; do whatever helps you refresh (whether a goodnight's rest, a relaxing spa day, an exhilarating workout, quiet reading time, etc.) and start over again the next day. Don't get caught up in worrying about the future; only make the decisions you need to make at that moment and take it one day at a time.
10. DO embrace breastfeeding; embrace the bonding, embrace the quality time, embrace the power your body has to sustain your baby, embrace all that breastfeeding has to offer. In those frustrating moments, those tough days, those rough patches, remember that your breastfeeding relationship will only last for so long. I know that in the future I will miss that special closeness we share during breastfeeding. I know one day he will no longer want to breastfeed, one day he will be a big kid, a teenager, an adult, and I will look back and wonder how it went by so fast. There will come a day when Myles is done (and I will be very sad); there will come a time when he will no longer need me in that way. That special bond won't last forever, so embrace while you still can :)
What are some of your breastfeeding Do's?
Come back to check out Part II: the Don'ts