Thanks for come back to my series for Breastfeeding Awareness. 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 Part II of my Top Ten Breastfeeding Do's and Don'ts list. If you missed Part I: the Do's check it out here.
*Number one being most important*
1. DON'T ever assume your supply is low. Whenever I read a story about why someone couldn't or quit breastfeeding, 90% of the time their reason is low supply. If I had not been fully committed to breastfeeding, I most likely would have quit given this reason as well. Like most women, I too, questioned my supply throughout the first couple of months. Because I had little to no background on most breastfeeding issues, I just assumed Myles was not getting enough milk when he wouldn't stop crying, wanted to nurse for hours, and wouldn't sleep through the night. I questioned my supply again later on when I tried pumping after a couple week break and only got a couple DROPS! I couldn't understand how he was getting any milk when I couldn't even pump an ounce. The only reason I didn't quit after seeing that was because Myles refused to take a bottle. I was very upset at the time because I thought he wasn't getting enough milk and his health was in danger. However after multiple healthy check ups and continual weight gain, I realized that somehow he was getting enough milk. It may not make sense (and I am no doctor so always consult a professional if you are concerned), but they are getting more than you think! My son and I are living proof that you should never assume your supply is low. Even now my breasts never feel full and can't produce even half an ounce from a pump, but my one year old son is still thriving on a diet mainly consisting of breastmilk straight from his momma. Below is a great list of things that DO NOT indicate that you have a low supply:
This page on KellyMom is also a great resource. It gives explanations as to why the list above is true.
Before you decide to supplement with formula, talk with a professional (LC or doctor), do some research (read link above), and give your baby time to adjust. Giving formula only hurts your supply even more and is best to stay away from for at least the first couple of months until your supply is well established. 95% of the time your supply is just fine!
2. DON'T worry.... HAHA... who am I kidding, you're a mom now... your non-worrying days are over! As a breastfeeding mom, especially a first time one, the worries are endless: are they eating enough, am I eating good enough, are they gaining weight, are they sick, do they feel safe, am I bonding enough, and on and on. For the first two or so months of his life, Myles cried A LOT, and he also didn't sleep. I didn't understand what I was doing wrong and I was beyond stressed. And here's the unfortunate thing about stress: it kills your supply. So being stressed about a low supply only makes your issues worse. I know at times it feels impossible (trust me I know), but like I said in my Do's List, just take it one day at a time! It's all you can really do during those rough times. Your baby and breastmilk supply will love you for it!
3. DON'T feel self conscious about breastfeeding your child. This is one that I am always struggling with. For a long time, I felt embarrassed to tell people that I breastfeed. How sad, right?!? I feel like people give me a look of "why?" every time I say I still breastfeed. This all dawned on me a couple of weeks ago; feeling ashamed and embarrassed to say I breastfeed is ridiculous. I have since really made an effort to show people that I am proud and happy to STILL be breastfeeding my one year old. The only way the taboo is going to be lifted is if it becomes normal, and it will only become normal by exposing people to it. If nursing in public is hard for you, you are not alone. From about 2-9 months, I never nursed in public. I became very self conscious and felt awkward making people watch me nurse. THEN I had a revelation: If using my breasts for their INTENDED purpose makes people feel uncomfortable, then that's not my problem. Weird how women flaunting their breasts around with massive amounts of cleavage is totally okay, but feeding my child is just wrong. Breastfeeding isn't looked upon as gross or wrong in most other countries...hmm.. maybe because their cultures haven't turned breasts into a sexual obsession. I shouldn't have to stay in my house all day long because my child needs to eat. Thankfully the law is in our favor; now if we could just get the general public on board :)
But I digress; point being, be proud of the fact that you breastfeed; it is a huge accomplishment. And if you don't want to nurse in public, totally understandable, but if you do, don't let close-minded people get in your way.
4. DON'T stop bottle feeding for any extended period of time if you don't want your baby to stop taking a bottle. Another one I learned the hard way. Don't start them on a bottle until you know their latch is good and they are gaining weight (as per most breastfeeding guidelines). I think it's good to wait at least a couple of weeks. For most women, a return to work is necessary, so at some point the bottle needs to be introduced. If you're lucky enough to be able to stay at home, then you may not ever need to introduce a bottle. It all depends on your preferences and lifestyle. If you ever want or need your child to go with a sitter for an extended period of time, then a bottle is really essential. Myles took a bottle great for about the first 3 months. I then gave it about a 3 week break and after that it was as if he had never seen or used a bottle in his life. I tried for MONTHS to get him to take one again. (At the time, I was still battling severe postpartum depression and desperately needed to have a break from him.) I bought several different bottles, nipples, sippy cups, etc., but he would not drink from any of them. I eventually gave up around 7 months, when it became apparent that my efforts were futile. I had to just accept the fact that he was never going to take a bottle again and it was something I was just going to have to learn to deal with. I spoke with a lactation consultant about my problem at the time and she said the same thing happened to her. So it may not be the case for everyone, but I would recommend not taking that chance. Keep the bottle consistent, even if it is just once a day, a couple days a week.
5. DON'T be worried if your baby isn't following the exact normal standards of breastfed babies according to what you have read. (Obviously, if something feels off or not right to you, you should consult your pediatrician.) I am speaking about all the little details you shouldn't get caught up on. Everything I read told me my newborn should be nursing for 30 minutes on each side for every nursing session. I don't think that ever once happened with Myles. I would be lucky if I got 15 minutes out of him. This was one of my biggest worries for a long time. But every time we took him to get weighed, he was gaining. I guess he was just very efficient at getting the milk out. When he started teething, he would only eat for mere minutes at a time, but somehow he still kept gaining. So as long as they are healthy and gaining weight, don't get caught up in the details.
6. DON'T let yourself create habits you don't like, even if it's out of desperation or convenience. Also learned this one the hard way (sense a theme here?). From the moment Myles came barreling out of me, he did not sleep well (that's a story for another day). He had to be held to nap (the second he was put down, he would wake up) and didn't sleep through the night until about 9 months. After three months of about 1-2 hours of sleep a night, I got desperate. I thought I found an awesome solution: nursing to sleep! I was finally able to get him to take naps (30 minutes at a time) by nursing him to sleep. What I didn't realize was that I was creating a very addicting habit that is pretty impossible to break. Although it got him to take naps during the day, it seemed to make night time worse. From what I read, by nursing him to sleep, I made him become dependent on it for all sleep. However a baby goes to sleep is how they need to get back asleep if they wake up in the middle of the night. I have learned that to be completely true. For months Myles would wake up 10-12 times a night, only sleeping in stretches ranging from 30 minutes-2 hours (3 if I was really lucky). It was tortuous hell and all my fault. I started trying to fix this issue when Myles was 4 1/2 months (I took it slowly) and he finally got to 8 hours at 9 months. In my situation the temporary fix of nursing to sleep only made it harder for myself when I tried to sleep train. *Side note: I'm not saying there is anything wrong with nursing to sleep. It's only a bad idea if it is not something you want to turn into a habit. I still nurse Myles to sleep for most naps and bedtime. I really enjoy it now, but made it a lot harder to get him to sleep through the night. So just be conscious of creating habits.
7. DON'T forget about yourself. This is another one that I struggled and still struggle with. Yes, your whole life has changed and yes, a little tiny human depends on you for everything, but you can't give the best care to your baby if you aren't taking care of yourself. Breastfeeding can be physically, emotionally, and mentally draining. For the first few months, I was beyond exhausted EVERYDAY. It also didn't help that there were many times, especially in the beginning, I did not want to eat. However I always made myself and it really made a big difference in how I felt. Your baby is living because of what your body is giving it; it really is a miraculous thing. Pay attention to what you're eating and make everything you put it your body work to give you energy and provide your baby with the proper nutrients. Also drink lots and lots of water... It makes you feel so much better! Lastly, rest...it's awesome that you burn calories just by feeding your baby, but that also means your body is doing a lot of work even when you don't realize it. I know it's not really possible to be well rested with a newborn, but try to get as much as you can. Remember #4 on my Do List: ask for help; trust me it's the difference between merely surviving and thriving.
8. DON'T leave the hospital until you feel comfortable in the basics of breastfeeding and assured that your baby is latching/eating well. In my experience, at the hospital I had a wonderful lactation consultant. Like I have mentioned before, I really had no clue about breastfeeding and naively thought it would be easy. I didn't think I needed to learn anything because it would just come naturally. Luckily, it did work well for Myles and I and he learned to latch on strong pretty quickly. At the 24 hour postpartum mark I was ready to get out of there, but the LC said she wanted to see Myles eat before I left. When I showed her, she was very satisfied with our breastfeeding and she said she felt confident in us to give the okay to leave. I don't know if that is common experience, but I believe it should be. If the hospital doesn't offer a LC, ask for one. Before you leave the hospital, get them to come see you when your breastfeeding, get all the information out of them as you can, and have them make sure everything seems to be working well (latch, feeding, your comfort, positions, eating enough, etc).
9. DON'T feel bad if you don't love breastfeeding. Not everyone is going to be in love and extra passionate about breastfeeding. I know I am in the minority of extreme breastfeeding advocate (haha), but I am realistic in knowing that most people aren't going to be as crazed about it as me. Even now, I still have days that I am over it; days that I need a break from a little being constantly attached to my breast. We all know the feeling, so don't feel bad or ashamed if it's not something you love or even like. The point is, you're doing it; you're making sacrifices to give your child the best. And that is the definition of a wonderful mother!
10. DON'T compare yourself and child to others. I'm pretty sure we are all guilty of this one. I know I am... I think it is just human nature, unfortunately. EVERY child is different in so many ways, it makes no sense to compare. All babies grow at different rates, achieve physical milestones at different rates, learn at different rates, etc. That is what is so awesome about watching your child grow; you never know when they will learn something new, try something new, etc. Be proud of your child's accomplishments and let them grow on their own schedule. It's not a competition; it's a journey we are all in together. When it comes to advocating breastfeeding we need all the help we can get!
Now after all this advise, I have one more don't: DON'T let yourself be peer pressured. At the end of the day, you need to follow your own instincts. Get advise and do research, but always follow that little mommy instinct that was placed inside of you.
Come back for #5: My Journey and Bucket List... and lots of fun pictures :)