Friday, November 29, 2013

Do Faulty Breasts = Breastfeeding Failure?

As soon as my husband and I started trying to get pregnant, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. Okay, I always knew I wanted to, but that was when I made a serious commitment to it. I'm extremely stubborn, so when I set my mind to something, it's pretty much a done deal. 

All the research shows that breast is best, not only for the baby, but for the mother as well. I wanted all those benefits for my baby and myself! Lower chance of food allergies and reduced risk of disease? Yes please! Lower risk of breast cancer (for mother and baby!)? Yes please! Let's also not forget that breastmilk is always evolving and changing based on your baby's needs. How cool is that?? 

Another big reason breastfeeding was so important to me was because of ingredients in formula that I personally find questionable. We eat a very specific way in my household, and formula just wouldn't do the trick for my babe. Besides that, I knew I would feel like a failure as a mother if I couldn't provide natural nourishment for my child. I know not everyone feels that extreme about breastfeeding, but I do.

I learned everything I possibly could about breastfeeding. I was like a sponge, soaking it all up. There are loads of books, websites, and videos to teach you the ins and outs. It can get overwhelming! Some of these resources were downright scary. Would it be excruciating? Would I be able to push through the inevitable pain? Would I have enough milk? 

But the questions that plagued me the most were about my own breasts, which I felt were going to be lemons.

"Would my flat nipples cooperate?"

"Would my breast augmentation (implants) ruin my chance to BF?" 

I've had flat nipples my whole life (I'm starting to think I always will). If the nipple is so important in breastfeeding, how would that affect my experience? I became more hopeful once I read about nipple shields and nipple shells. I knew there were at least options for working with my flat nipples. One hurdle down, one to go.

I was still unsure about how my breast augmentation, which now seemed vain and superficial, would affect my breastfeeding relationship. I searched and searched for information about breastfeeding after an augmentation, but I couldn't find much. Basically, I might be able to make it work, but I might not. Would breast implants be what stood between me and giving my daughter the best? I was genuinely worried about this, but I was determined (aka stubborn).

After the beautiful birth of my baby girl (which you can read about here), I was anxious to try our first latch. We enjoyed skin to skin immediately, and while I basked in the glory of knowing I had just given life to a human being, I waited for her to begin rooting and crawling toward the breast. When she finally seemed interested, one of the nurses was kind enough to come over and help me get Nora latched. We got her on a few times, and I could feel her suckling. But it wasn't going great and she kept popping off. Her tiny little mouth just wouldn't fit on my pancake nipple. It also felt pretty excruciating. 

I was on such a natural birth high and didn't want to come down with the devastation of breastfeeding not working. But sweet Jen (the nurse) wasn't about to let that happen! She quickly left to go grab a nipple shield and the problem was solved. 

Photo Courtesy of Lori Diane Photography
I think the look of sheer joy on my face says it all. I was breastfeeding my baby! It was such an amazing and wonderful gift. I was overjoyed and relieved that the nurses and lactation consultant seemed impressed with the amount of colostrum that was free flowing. And so the birth high continued as I was able to provide that sweet, liquid gold for my precious nursling. 

We just celebrated 9 months of exclusive breastfeeding this past week, and I am extremely proud! We've had ups and downs (which I'll definitely share at a later time) but the ups have definitely exceeded the minor setbacks that we experienced.

What were you most scared about before breastfeeding? Were your fears realized or did you worry for no reason?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

From Boobs: Making Your Wardrobe Transition

There is always a ton of talk about all the things you buy for your baby that you probably do not need.  On the opposite end of that, there were a bunch of things we did not have that we definitely needed.  One of the biggest was clothes that made it easy to breastfeed.  No one really mentioned to me to invest in a wardrobe that was nursing friendly.  When I came home from the birth center, my nursing arsenal consisted of two sleep bras and two nursing tanks...that was it.  I remember wanting to go out of the house and all I had was this flimsy sleep bra and huge porn star boobs, I then proceeded to do what any hormonal new mom would...cry because I needed more bras.  Along with bras, I needed to figured out how I was going to dress my ever changing postpartum bod to facilitate feeding my little nugget.

The first couple of weeks:

When you bring your new baby home, you will be in maternity clothes still. If you are like me, you will be 9 months postpartum and your husband is folding a pair of super elastic preggo pants telling you how you look so sexy in them.  You will still be wearing your maternity shirts, too.  In fact, you will look about 6 months pregnant and will probably be asked as such if you do not have a newborn strapped to you.  There was always this whole line of maternity clothes that doubled as nursing wear and I never understood how so many women could be pregnant and nursing at the same time.  That isn't the case.  It is that so many women look like they are pregnant while they are nursing their newborn.

So what does a woman wear?  First, I suggest black.  You supply hasn't yet regulated so when your baby unlatches your tatas will still be spraying milk.  If you don't have on dark colors and your shirt does end up soaking wet, no one will look twice because they will assume your life is in a disarray with a newborn. You probably have a black v-neck tee laying around, my favorite were my American Apparel tees from my college days.  They were stretched out and soft.  I wore them under everything.  This would allow me to pull up my maternity shirt and pull down the v neck.  V-necks are your friend.  You will soon be shopping for only v-necks.  By having two shirts, you will also be covering up much of your tatas, this is nice in the beginning when you are pretty unsure of yourself and still trying to position your baby while not flashing innocent bystanders.

You made it a month:

So you are finally getting into the groove of things.  Breastfeeding is probably easier and you may have been able to successfully complete the big NIP (nursing in public).  Buy yourself a new scarf!  What random advice, right?  You have probably bought the most random items for your baby during your late night nursing sessions ($30 baby nail file...definitely need that), now is time to treat your self to something... that is actually still for the baby.  I like to add a scarf with my outfit because 1. They are fun and add color and 2. You are able to cover your top boob while nursing and they act as a deterrent for when your little octopus starts nipple lashing you.  My favorites are my American Apparel circle scarves...yep, I love American Apparel.  A circle scarf can easily be turned into nursing cover and who doesn't love a multi-purpose item.

Nursing tanks are super expensive so I found the stretchiest tank I had and just pull it down over my boobs.  It covers my stomach and it was free because I already had it!  Another favorite piece of clothing for this time frame is cardigans. They hide the side boob and act as a shield while out.  It gives you the option to layer without bulk as well.

You are heading back to work:

So, you cuddled, you napped and you recovered.  Maternity leave is over and you are heading back to work.  Think this means that you will be able to wear your fancy schmancy wardrobe again?  Not a chance.  I still had about 20-30 pounds making the commute with me each day so although I wasn't breastfeeding during the day, none of my clothes fit to make me look cute.

I had to go buy myself some acceptable pants that were not leggings to get me back in the office.  Add a blazer and some cute heels and you will look like new.  I find that it is easiest to stick to stretchy fabrics and minimal layers while working.  You still need to pump, which means you still need to have access to the boobs.  Make sure you phone is charged to occupy yourself during pump breaks and get a great bag to carry your pump in because pumping sucks and cute bags make it a tad bit better.

You have become a breastfeeding goddess:

The snap of your nursing bra triggers your baby to immediately latch on in Pavlov's dog fashion, your have compared NIP to a Victoria's Secret Ad, you have come to terms with your dwindling wardrobe and may have even nursed in front of your father-in-law.  You can practically do it all.

You know what clothes work for you and you may have even added some of those high-price nursing shirts to your wardrobe.  Your clothes are no longer frumpy and sloppy but fitted and fabulous and still functional for your baby.  It will only get better and easier from here and you know now to buy to those maternity/nursing shirts from the start.  Strand up some Busy Beads for your toddler and let the liquid gold flow.

The Must-Haves:
Your pre-pregnancy and maternity wardrobes are able to be altered to make breastfeeding easier, there is no questions there.  I still suggest two things that need to be added to make you comfortable: Great nursing bras and a hands free pumping bra.  A regular bra just doesn't cut it, you need to be able to snap down the cup to feed.  Your pre-pregnancy bras are probably no where close to fitting.  Get measured and stay tuned for my next post on how to choose the best nursing bra.  If you are working, or pumping exclusively, you need a hands-free bra.  If not only so you can Facebook while you pump to kill time

So tell me, did you buy a whole new wardrobe to nurse in or just figure out how to make your current one work?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Wordless Wednesday:'re doing it wrong.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Nursing Mama's Holiday Gift Guide

Got a breastfeeding mother on your holiday gift shopping list? Check out our handy gift guide, with options for every budget!

Oatmeal Cookies - $4*
$3.90 per box on Amazon, price may vary in store
Whether it's to boost supply or stave off hunger, a sweet treat is always appreciated by a nursing mum. These oatmeal and dark chocolate cookies are sure to satisfy and are easy on the wallet!

Got a mama on your list with a sense of humor? This knit beanie inspired by (AHEM) boobs will illicit a chuckle and keep her little one's head warm at the same time.

Lactation Tea - $10*
*As of posting price is $10.47 for a pack of 3. 
Making milk isn't always easy. Give a nursing mom a boost and something warm to sip on during those cool winter nights.

With its stylish design and different textures for baby to grasp, this necklace is the perfect buy for the mama with a distracted nursling.

Tis the season to stay hydrated! Breastfeeders can always use an extra water bottle and this one has its own filter! Plus, isn't it festive?

Who says lactation isn't sexy? Pretty nursing bras can be hard to find, but are in demand nonetheless. We love this lacy red one, but recommend a gift card to ensure she gets her correct size!

Our contributor Samantha of My Jordanian Nugget swears by Thirty-One's totes! Give the on-the-go pumping mom the gift of stylish storage with this one.
You can never go wrong with cozy pajamas! This pretty plaid, flannel button-down set are perfect for night feedings and cuddling.

Finally, an all-in-one set for the pumping mama! This has got everything but the kitchen sink (except the actual pump) and works with most pumps. By giving this, you're giving the gift of time and convenience!

Pulling an all-nighter with a nursling can make for one tired mom. A tablet helps mum stay connected (and up-to-date on her favorite blog!), while keeping an arm free for a sweet, snuggly baby!

Still stumped? Find  more ideas on our Pinterest board.

Pin It!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Doing It Wrong

I'm a first time mom and for me it started even before Bugs was born.  It started when I was registering for my baby shower.

Picture this:

I'm walking through the aisles of a baby store with my scanner gun, ready to get down to some serious registering business.  I easily find all the big ticket items that I've researched for hours upon hours in the middle of the night, every night, since I didn't sleep for the majority of the 3rd trimester.  And I stumble, bewildered and befuddled by diapers, swaddle blankets, and bumper pads (am I supposed to use these things or NOT?!).  I finally arrive at what my husband once called "Boob City."  A literal WALL of breast pumps, flanges, nipple shields, breast pads, creams, ointments, bottles, breastfeeding covers and the like.  So I did what any normal first time mom would do: I googled it.

"What do I need for breastfeeding?" 

Here I am thinking that all you need for breastfeeding are breasts and a baby, right?

WRONG, they say!

Correct Answer:  Every. Single. Thing.  Get one of each (at least)!  Don't forget to get the most expensive ones too, or you might as well start shooting some cases of formula with that snazzy baby registry gun while you're at it.  Oh, and wait…. once she gets here, you probably won't make enough milk.  So you better get ready for a mother's milk tea party (with lactation cookies!). 

Note to self: stock the pantry with all the ingredients!  Where do you get brewer's yeast anyway?

So I shoot stuff.  I shoot it with confidence.  I will breastfeed.  I will have all the contraptions.  I will have every cream.  I will drink all the tea and eat all the cookies.  Only the best for my baby.  Only the best for my boobs.
And then Bugs is born... 

My mom is in the room.  She knows breastfeeding is in the plan and she tells me that Bugs should try to latch on right away.  I try and succeed.  I'm so excited.  I'm feeding my baby.  I'm a mom.

We get moved up to the postpartum room and a nurse tells me verbally assaults me about 58 different kinds of holds, tongue ties, lip ties, nipple confusion, bloody stools, dairy intolerance, soy intolerance, feeding schedules, and diaper counts. Then she moves on to cracked nipples, let-down, mastitis, clogged ducts, and engorgement.  All this sounds like the horriblest.  I'm told that when these things happen, I need to contact a doctor right away in order to diagnose and treat it so that I can keep up breastfeeding as long as I can.

Got it.  This is going to be an awful experience for me.  And for my baby. 
Good thing I heard "breast is best" so many times that I was going to give it a go anyway…because, let it be known, she made it sound absolutely GLORIOUS.

We get to go home.  Two days later, my milk comes in.  They warned me about this!

My boobs are hard as rocks, but they don't hurt...why?  They're supposed to hurt.  

Am I doing it wrong?
I milk myself in the shower so I can fit into my nursing bra again.  Hooray.

I put breast pads in my bra  They don't get wet…why? They're supposed to be wet.  

Am I doing it wrong?
I keep putting them in there anyway.

My nipples are red, but they don't crack…why?  They're supposed to crack.  

Am I doing it wrong?
I put the cream on anyway.

I try 4 of the 58 holds they told me about.  She eats in any direction…why?  They said she's supposed to favor one or two.  

Am I doing it wrong?
I keep trying the Kama Sutra of Breastfeeding anyway.

I never feel a let-down.  Never.  Not once…why?   I'm supposed to feel it.  

Am I doing it wrong?
I eat the lactation cookies.

I pull Bugs off mid-feeding to check for a milk spray or something to show me that she is actually eating.  I saw no spray.  Not even a dribble…why?  

Am I doing it wrong?
I drink the tea.

HELP ME!  What is happening?!?!

Here's what was happening.  I was breastfeeding my baby.  She was eating. 
I am still breastfeeding my baby.  She is still eating.

Sometimes you're prepared for everything to go the way it's "supposed to" or even go wrong.  And when it doesn't, it can absolutely drive you crazy and be pretty scary too.  When it's all new to you, how are you supposed to know if it's right or wrong?

From what I've been told,  I'm one of the "lucky ones."  I have an arsenal of breastfeeding crap that I will never use. 

Just like I thought, all I needed were breasts and a baby.

Sometimes, everything just goes right.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

What I Wish I Knew When I Was Pregnant

Headed to the hospital!

I remember when I found out that I was expecting the decision to breastfeed seemed like a no-brainer. My mom had breastfed my brother and I until we self-weaned so that’s really all I knew.  18 months after that positive pregnancy test I’ll be the first to admit, I was pretty naive when it came to feeding a baby.

I started doing a lot of research on breastfeeding early in my second trimester.  That included a lot of reading, namely The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International and Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding by Ina May Gaskin. By my third trimester I thought I was an expert. I distinctly remember within seconds of L being born screaming that I wanted to breastfeed.  From that first latch until they wheeled me out of L&D and up to the Mother-Baby floor I probably asked 4 nurses to ‘help me feed my baby.’

My breastfeeding journey, while amazing now, definitely took a rocky turn in those first few months.  While some things couldn’t have been avoided, there are a few things I learned later on that would have been life-altering in those first few weeks.  

1. Think about how you want to handle visitors at the hospital.  Remember, your breastfeeding relationship starts in the hospital and involves a lot of feedings in the first few days. If you’re having your first child you will probably not be graceful about getting your nipple into your newborn’s mouth.  My dad and stepmom drove 10 hours to meet L when he was born and my husband also had friends come to the hospital.  It was always an awkward conversation when feeding time came.  Make a plan prior to giving birth so everyone knows what to expect when feeding time come around.

2. Set goals, but keep it realistic in those first few weeks.  At a La Leche League meeting I was at recently the leader reminded us that every time you put your baby to your breast you are choosing to breastfeed.  If you’re struggling early on setting the goal of putting your baby to the breast just one more time can be a huge milestone and the push you need to make it to the next latch.  I set the goal to let L self-wean from day one and that goal was just too lofty in the beginning.

3. Find support early.  Like, before you even have your baby!  La Leche League is a great resource for expectant mothers wanting to breastfeed.  They also have leaders available over the phone if you need help during those first few weeks.  Also, research IBCLC’s in your area early so you know who to call if you need help.  Finally, check out what resources your hospital provides. Our hospital offered a free weekly support group which greatly contributed to the successful breastfeeding relationship my son and I have today.
Nursing L in bed has made nights much easier

4.  Learn to nurse while lying in bed and while babywearing as soon as you feel up to it.  It took me a long time, too long in fact, to figure both of those out.  Even if you don’t choose to co-sleep, side-lying nursing in bed can be huge for a new momma in need of a little rest.  You don’t need to sleep, but even catching up on a book or tv show while your baby eats (and hopefully naps) can make a huge difference.  And nursing while babywearing allows you to do a few things you might not get to otherwise - like go to the bathroom - and may leave you feeling less frazzled and stressed out in the long run.

5. Just because breastfeeding is natural does NOT mean it's easy. This lesson took a while for me.  I didn't necessarily think it would be a walk in the park but I don't think I knew exactly how difficult it would be.  Or, maybe more specifically, in what ways it would be difficult.  Around the 3 month mark, and during what seemed like my 100th visit with my LC, she actually shared this list piece of advice with me and it really stuck.  A lot of books and blogs and articles go on and on (and on) about how natural breastfeeding is and sometimes it's hard to forget natural doesn't mean easy (remember pregnancy and child birth are natural too and those aren't always a Saturday stroll either).  Be prepared, but go easy on yourself in those first few months.  You don't have to be an expert from day one.

Did I miss anything?  What would you add to this list?  Share your tips for Moms-to-Be and brand new Mommas in the comments.

Friday, November 22, 2013

I Didn't Start Here

About a month ago I was participating at a local La Leche League meeting, going around with the other moms on our experiences with all things breastfeeding. As we were discussing different topics the conversation moved to nursing in public without a cover.

I could feel the woman next to me shift. She was pregnant with her first baby and had decided she wanted to try breastfeeding. Her concerns were not whether she would use a cover or not, but whether breastfeeding would even work for her. She looked at me and said "I don't know if I'll ever get there." I responded with, "I didn't start here."

I didn't start my breastfeeding journey as a lactivist.
I didn't start as pro-breastfeeding.
I didn't start as a supporter of no covers, toddler nursing or self weaning.

 So how did I get here?

Heck, I was breastfed for 2 months. I never saw my mother breastfeed, and only saw my aunts under huge blankets. In fact, before I got pregnant I had only encountered seeing breastfeeding in real life 3 times.

3 times!

During my pregnancy with my first when people asked if I was going to breastfeed my response was, "I'll try but we'll see. I'm not going to stress myself out."

So how did I get here?
My son was placed in my arms, the nurse helped him latch and I was in love. The feeling I got from not just carrying this boy for 9 months but also nourishing him beyond overwhelmed me.

My breastfeeding journey was gradual. I would move to another room or use a cover in those first months. Then as the months, my confidence and the heat grew the cover went away. As we got closer to a year I realized it didn't feel right to wean.

Somewhere along the way I found my voice and wasn't shy about the fact we were still nursing. We made it to 20 months of beautiful breastfeeding and my only regret is that I didn't take more pictures. Now with my daughter I only use the cover when she is feeling distracted, my phone is filled with breastfeeding pictures and I'm looking forward to getting to experience her continuing this relationship as long as she likes.

I sure didn't start here, but I'm happy I got here all the same.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pushing Through the What Ifs.

From the moment I found out I was pregnant I felt this constant push towards failure when it came to my desire to breastfeed.

In my head, society wanted me to fail. Friends, family, and even strangers would ask if I planned to breastfeed and my then glowingly haggard face would smile as I said, "Of course! I want the best for my little girl!" I was met with these sorts of replies:

"Oh, well, my so-and-so couldn't because her breasts were too small."

"My friend's mom's sister couldn't because her milk never came in."

"I couldn't because it hurt too much."

"That's just not what mothers did when I had my kids."

"You'll leave the room when you're around others, right?"

"Won't that be inconvenient?"

And so on.

So the idea of what was best for my Lily became a big "what if?"

Photo By Marah Grant Photography

I quickly realized the thing I needed most in my push to breastfeed was support. I had many conversations with my husband about my desire to breastfeed and he stood behind me 100%. He even took it upon himself to research and learn about breastfeeding so he could help me in any way possible. (What a man!) 

In the hospital, I found out that I would need to use a shield to help Lily latch. I had completely flat nipples and her tiny mouth had nothing to latch onto. It was definitely a bump in the road but it was worth it. I just continued to tell myself that nursing with a shield was still nursing and my daughter was still getting the best!

I used my lactation consultant (Hi Sharie!!). She was so helpful to me and even put up with my constant calls and texts the first few weeks when I was so sure I was doing everything wrong. 

I also used my friends. I was so blessed to have a few really close friends that had breastfed their children for at least a year and they were so helpful to me! 

In the almost 9 months since my daughter was born I have come up with this list of advice for new moms that want to breastfeed their babies:

* Gather support from friends and family.
* Use your lactation consultant. A LOT. 
* Be stubborn. 
* Be patient. It will get better!!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

On Setting Goals

My very first appointment at the OB/GYN when I was pregnant with my oldest involved me sitting in the nurse's office answering a bunch of questions including: 

"Are you going to breastfeed?" 

Even though I answered yes they sent me home with a "Welcome Bag" filled with formula.

I'm not sure when it was I decided I was going to breastfeed but I knew it was something that I wanted to do,  the AAP recommended breastfeeding until one year so that was what I decided I was going to do.

Whenever the conversation would come up with friends and family members I would tell them my goal.

"I'm going to breastfeed for one year" 

Some told me that it was a great goal, others told me that I needed to make smaller goals so that I didn't set myself up for failure and some just laughed at the idea.

It was those people, the people who laughed that helped me succeed in breastfeeding the most. I'm one stubborn son of a gun and I was going to make it to a year even if it was just to say "I told you so".

When I became pregnant again with my 2nd and my 3rd my goal was similar but a little different, at least one year and hopefully 2+ because that's how long I nursed Mason.

After getting pregnant with my 3rd I started a Birth Month Board and became close with those ladies. There were first time moms just like me who proclaimed loudly and proudly that they would breast feed for the first year, I saw the same types of responses that I got when I said that.

But I was able to provide them a different response than the ones I received. I told them my story, that my goal was a year and not only did I make that goal I surpassed it. 

Some people do better with short term goals. They want to get through those first 4-6 weeks, and then 3 months and then 6 months etc. And that works for them but for me, I needed the lofty goal, I needed the motivation that for me said "You're going to do this, no matter what".

And I did it.

And no matter your goal, you can too.
Image Map

Monday, November 18, 2013

Adventures in Breastfeeding!

Photo by Aria Images Photography
What happens when you put a bunch of breastfeeding women together in an online support community?  You get stories of tears, triumphs, and tatas of course!  

Recently a member of our community joked about the perfect blog name. Someone else suggested that we start a group blog.  It occurred to us that collectively we have suffered through and overcome most obstacles associated with breastfeeding.  All of that knowledge was just begging to be shared. Where else can you find women who have battled chronic mastitis, tongue ties, supply dips, food allergies, and negative attitudes from others? Where else can you learn from a group of women with diverse experiences and opinions about breastfeeding and parenting in general?  Any mama from our fold will eagerly tell you her story with a smile on her face and a baby at her breast.  Our hope is that you will find at least one perspective that resonates with you and maybe even learn something new.

What you'll find on this blog:

  • Personal stories - We're open about both our successes and our failures in breastfeeding, as well as all the struggles and victories along the way. We know that every mother has a unique story to tell!
  • Information and support - It would be great if you could just pop your newborn onto the boob and be done with it, but for most women, it's not that easy. We'll share with you the tips and encouragement that have most helped us!
  • Nursing lifestyle stuff - All about our favorite products, food, fashion, and entertainment related (or not!) to breastfeeding.

What you WON'T find on this blog:

  • Shaming - We're in the business of support and encouragement, not judgement, shaming, or bullying. Do we think breast is best? Yes, of course (that's why we're here). Do we think you're a bad mom if you disagree? No.
  • Lockstep opinion - Ask us any question, and you will probably get as many different answers as we have authors (or more, since opinions change over time). We may often passionately disagree, and we think that's healthy!
  • Deadly seriousness - They're just boobs. Lighten up!
This is a community for you, our readers.  We want to extend the encouragement we have received from each other to all of you. After all, while breastfeeding is natural, it isn’t always easy, and women need all the support they can get.  Ask questions, share your struggles or successes, and laugh at some of our stories (we promise there will be plenty to laugh about!).  This is your invitation to join us on our adventures in breastfeeding.

And so you don't miss out on any of our stories, tips and support, make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest