Sometimes I think it would have been nice to live before formula & epidurals were so readily available. Just cut out the easy option so we have to do it the hard way.
As a breastfeeding mom you’ve got a lot to juggle — recovery from birth, sleepless nights, oh yeah and being your baby’s only source of nutrition. And let’s not forget trying to figure out how to get that nutrition INSIDE that baby of yours.Most moms tend to focus on their pregnancy and impending delivery instead of the complexities of breastfeeding. It’s probably due to the fact that most moms (including me) assume that breastfeeding will be a breeze and with a backup like formula, what’s to worry about?
Common mistakes of a First Time Breast-feeder:
1. Getting an epidural – Hey, don’t get mad at me I’m not pointing fingers here, I had an epidural. Twice. And no matter what I think about epidurals, this scene in Baby Mama ALWAYS makes me laugh.
The problem with epidural deliveries(especially ones where the epidural is administered rather early) are that the drugs can enter your baby’s bloodstream and can make them less willing to breast-feed. They will seem tired & sluggish and have difficulty latching on. I somehow got lucky and had super speed of light deliveries (4 hours from 1st contraction to delivery) so although I had an epidural, my babies were alert and ready to nurse within minutes. I honestly wish I would have researched a natural delivery more when I had my kids. In the future, if I have any more, I’ll be sure to listen to my Mom and opt for a natural delivery:)
My advice: Consider a natural, epidural-free delivery. Hey, I’m just saying consider it. Research it. It can have a HUGE impact on your breast-feeding success.
2. Allowing your baby to be fed sugar water or formula in the first few days. – Many first timers think they aren’t really able to provide nourishment for their babies until their milk actually “comes in” a few days after birth. This couldn’t be farther from the truth! Colostrum is full of protein, carbs, vitamins & nutrients! The protein can aid in the reduction of excess bilirubin(the reason why your baby’s skin & eyes look yellow otherwise known as jaundice). Colostrum contains many antibodies including immunoglobulin A, which can protect against infections & disease. Colostrum is designed perfectly for your baby BECAUSE it is thick and sticky, it makes it easier for your baby to swallow while he/she’s still learning. It might even take 20 minutes or longer to suck out just ONE TEASPOON of colostrum. You may be shocked, but that is the perfect amount for your newborn’s tiny stomach.
My advice: Let that baby suck away. Don’t think about schedules or that your baby ate only an hour ago. Just feed your baby as much as he/she wants to and relax. Allow this time to be a time for you and your baby to learn the proper techniques of breastfeeding.
3. Not being patient enough. – Breastfeeding is hard core and definitely a practice that requires patience. Too often women think that they must be some exception to the rule because it’s too hard. And too often people blame it on the baby saying they are lazy nursers, or bad at latching on, or are having trouble digesting the milk. I’m not saying these aren’t real things, but what I am saying is that EVERYBODY struggles with breastfeeding. You may need to change your diet so your baby can better digest the breast milk, or you may need a lactation consultant to make sure your baby is properly latching on. For the sake of not divulging my entire personal life on the interwebz, let me just say I struggled BIG TIME with nursing. My babies were good at latching on but I have certain ahem –anatomy that doesn’t like to comply. I got a lactation consultant, didn’t give up, and after a 3 months I was completely successful!
My advice: Don’t expect it to be easy peasy, but do expect it to get better with time. Just keep going, keep breastfeeding and if you are having trouble, make sure you visit a lactation consultant or attend a La Leche League class.
4. Not focusing on diet enough. – If your baby is getting their SOLE nutrition from you, wouldn’t it make sense that YOUR DIET is of the highest importance? Too many women focus on cutting calories instead of taking care of themselves. I get it. You are tired of being big and fat and pregnant. But really, honestly, if you want to be successful and want your baby to be truly nourished, please don’t cut calories. A study in 1977 by the Acta Paediatrica showed that while they proteins and immoglobulins content didn’t change when eating healthier, fat content DID vary by mother’s diet.
A baby’s brain grows at it’s fastest rate in the first year, and fat (particularly DHA & ARA) are VITAL to your baby’s brain development. In fact, bad fats(vegetable oils & crisco found in processed foods) in the mother’s diet will lower the amount of vitamins and good fats in breast milk. Another study in 1997 compared 3 groups of women from China & Canada who ate different diets. This study showed not only the amount of fat each women ate, but the different content of fats. Canada was lowest in DHA & ARA, from mothers who ate low-fat, processed foods. Hong Kong mothers had high DHA — but high omega-6 fatty acids so ARA was lower. China’s rural cities group was highest in ARA & DHA. These mothers ate high amounts of eggs (sometimes 10 a day!) & pork & seafood among other seasonal foods and did not eat anything processed. Seafood does not suffer from mineral deficiency like plants do. Isn’t it interesting that our ancestors considered fish eggs & raw oysters sacred and took special care to save for pregnant & nursing mothers?
Your body will naturally find it’s correct weight if you focus on eating real food, as un-processed as possible. You don’t need to be perfect, but you do need to take care to be eating 80% healthy. In my book this means eating whole-fat dairy, meats, seafood & cheeses, as well as eating local produce and whole-grains. Thanks to the magic of real food, eating this diet will help your body naturally lose weight on it’s own.
My advice: I would really watch my processed food intake. I would avoid stuff like granola bars, packaged cereal, store bought yogurt, canned soups etc. Check out what I eat on a real food diet here.
5. Exercising too soon. – Don’t make the mistake of focusing your efforts on getting your daily cardio or hitting your weight lifting quota. Your body is healing and finding a new “normal” after the burden of carrying & then delivering that baby of yours. It’s especially important to help your body find it’s center of balance again. Find out more here.
My advice: Allow your body to find it’s way back naturally by exploring yoga, tai chi or simple daily walks. Give your body time (like 6 months or more)& it will thank you!
6. Forgetting the importance of sleep – Did you know that sleep can have just as much impact on your body weight as eating healthy? It can! Although getting enough sleep & newborn may not seem like they go together in the same sentence, you can truly get quality of rest with a newborn. What’s the trick? In my experience, the trick is to avoid taking other tasks on too soon. Especially avoid the “if I’m not productive then I’m not worth anything” thinking. You ARE productive. Heck, you are feeding your baby with your body! If that’s not productive I don’t know what is!
Try your best to slow down. Don’t compare yourself with other moms. Easier said than done, I know. But trust in your ability to provide for your child and take care of that body of yours.
Okay, those are good, but what if I still can’t breastfeed?
Well, then you must be a wimp. Just kidding people. I know that there are those who truly cannot breastfeed — whether it be because of a medical issue or the because of adoption.
I think forumla deserves it’s own blog post and it’s coming soon. In the meantime, keep breastfeeding!
To be continued my friends…
denise ward says
Very interesting blog, thank you! I wanted to breastfeed my son but I didn’t know how to do it. I realized then that I never really ever saw anyone breastfeeding and I didn’t know the first thing about it. I went to birthing classes but never thought to have to learn how to breastfeed. The problem is our society – it’s run by men and hence this is what happens. The misogyny in modern society is rampant. We women need to realize that men make nearly all the laws and never ask women to partake. That’s not representative! But men also locked women out of education so doctors and medical knowledge is all male-perceived. Tell me why do women so easily go along? One of the most sadist practices is women delivering while horizontal. This makes absolutely no sense. Native women don’t do it! Laying down doesn’t take advantage of gravity. The baby comes out so much quicker when the canal is vertical! Why are women so easily swayed by men? Men have the worse judgment – look at what armies are filled with! I love men, my child was a son (and I have a male dog complete with his jewels) Males are great but please dear ladies, start asserting your right to an easy labor!
Joy Shirk says
Thank you for this blog. Breastfeeding was a huge struggle for me too. Before my son was born I had no idea how hard it would be. I fought through it and ended up breasting feeding him every two hours for his first ten months of life. The other thing that was hard was that even though I nursed so consistently, my body never met the demand, (like so many people told me it would.) So I nursed for twenty minutes and then supplemented with formula either four ounces or eight ounces depending on how old he was. With my future children, I am planning on buying a goat and using goat milk to supplement because I want to use something natural. (Also formula caused my son to throw up a little after every feeding.) AND formula is incredibly expensive. Even just supplementing, my husband and I spent $1000 on formula in those ten months.
Also thank you for all of your valuable information on raising goats for milk. I hope to use this information when I purchase a goat later this year!
I tried to breastfeed my first son but in the NICU they gave him bottles and pacifiers so he preferred them. Tried again with my second son. Breastfed him the day he was born and he preferred it. Had no problems with my smaller side. However my bigger side was too large so I would have to hold it away so he wouldn’t detach due to suffocation. I was ridiculously happy but that ended when he died of SIDs 7 weeks later. I should have known it’s not okay for me to be that happy.
denise ward says
Of course it’s ok for you to be that happy. I’m so sorry for your loss. Mothers are really something. I read a lot about vaccines and SIDS could very well be due to vaccines. The rubbish they inject into babies is ghoulish. This tragedy happens to too many people. I hope you can be lifted by those wonderful memories.
Mallory Battista says
I’m only a few days from my due date with my first child and I plan on breastfeeding. Thank you so much for the helpful preview! I am planning on having a natural birth if I can, and I’m optimistic about breastfeeding. Here’s hoping! I’m glad I’ll have your blog to come back to if I need some reassurance! 🙂
Wakarusa Love says
I just discovered your blog and have been reading it all afternoon. I hope that isn’t creapy but I am really enjoying your blog. Breastfeeding was so hard the first month! I nursed around the clock and thought he would never be independent. But now it is so easy and natural. I’m not even sure if I fully wake up to feed him anymore. Keep up the good work!
Take a breastfeeding class before giving birth. And take your husband with you!
I would also add not being taken in by the establishment’s obsession with weight gain. My daughter was born via c-section and was a sleepy nurser. One LC convinced me to try formula (that only happened once as the nurse set me to pumping and I pumped over an ounce of colostrum! So began my journey into overproduction…). Every friend I knew who got talked into daily or every-other-day weight checks quit breastfeeding. RELAX!! If you are making milk and the baby is having wet & dirty diapers and are otherwise responsive and normal, it will work out. My daughter took 3 weeks to regain her birthweight (and that was with her diaper on!) and she is absolutely the healthiest kid I know. My son was back at birthweight in 3 days. Babies do not all fit perfectly on a chart so be willing to trust your own instincts and not get sucked in and made to feel guilty if your baby is out of the norm.
The opposite of the poster above, schedules were REALLY helpful for me, especially with my first. It helped me anticipate her eating needs and since she struggled with my hard letdown it allowed me to pump off a tiny bit prior to feeding her those first few weeks. An eat-play-sleep routine also helped her learn to put herself to sleep without being nursed (and no we didn’t CIO) and helped me to anticipate when she would need to eat so we could be in a place to accommodate her. It allowed me to organize errands and chores so that I could be available and relaxed when she needed me. Part of this may have been her personality – she dearly loves a schedule even now – but really I think it helped me be a better mom and more consistent about meeting her needs and accomplishing the other things that needed to get done.
Once I had my second child, we were on the go with the first so again a schedule helped me to organize our day so that I could feed when he needed to be fed. An ERGO carrier which he could nurse in while I moved around was also a great help.
As I said, I struggled with oversupply and I did pump every day (I had to pump off in the morning so that I could run – no way I could do several miles with 15-18oz of milk in my chest!). I was able to donate that milk, first to a milk bank and then to a friend’s cousin. Her baby was a very sick preemie and I can’t tell you how good it felt when her mom said that at her 9m check up the dr said she had caught up on weight and that you would never know she had been a preemie. So amazing to be a part of that! So pumping can be a good thing too. (Although I would never wish the pain of block feedings on anyone!)
Enjoyed this article as it has been 23 years since my youngest son weaned. I am concerned that pumping milk and using a bottle (so others can feed the baby, too) is becoming more and more popular and contributes to the ‘failure’ of breastfeeding. Everyone seems to get/want a breast pump for their babies. The mother/child bonding is not the same and the baby often prefers the nipple of a bottle since it is ‘easier’! If exclusive breastfeeding were practiced more I think mothers would have better success. Avoiding a ‘schedule’ is another way to aid in creating a successful breastfeeding relationship. Demand feedings are what nature intended…ever watch a mother animal…they certainly don’t go by a clock! Articles such as yours are important and helpful. Thank you for writing it.
Think this is a great list. With the first however I would add that ANY narcotics given during labor can have this effect. For me I was given an analgesic in my IV too LATE in labor and my daughter was born drugged. She could not latch and her suck was non existent. We had to train her how to suck. It took us three weeks but we finally got it. I would tell any pregnant woman to get a support group before her baby is born so that if/when problems arise she feels comfortable reaching out. The Leche League provided that for me in addition to lactation consultants. WIC can also provide support for low income women.