Successful Breastfeeding Blog
Evidence based advice, support, and education for modern families.
Have you ever felt like an outright failure when it comes to feeding your new baby? You're not alone. There's nothing easy about learning to nurse a new baby, and those early weeks and months can take a toll on our sanity.
You might have found yourself thinking....
"Am I making enough milk?"
"Am I latching them right?"
"I feel guilty because I don't love this like everyone else."
"Am I enough for this baby?"
I've had every one of these thoughts, and more. BUT there's something I really really want you to know. You ARE enough. And more than that... your worth is not measured in how much milk you make. Nobody knows this better than my friend Sarah Farrell Johnson, who's literally written the book on this concept. And she's right. But rather than hear it from me, I invite you to hear it from her.
This post is about self love, and compassion when things aren't going how you might have wanted them to on your journey. Please enjoy this guest post from Sarah, and I hope that after you're feeling more confident in your journey, however that may look.... because after all... Supported is Best (#SupportedIsBest)! And as far as this post is concerned, that means supporting and loving yourself.
I hear the argument made frequently that breast/chestfed babies are at a disadvantage because there's so little iron in human milk compared to formula. This is often the rationale behind the recommendation to start babies on iron fortified cereal, sometimes as early as four months.
While, yes, it's true that human milk has less iron than formula, there's something important you MUST understand:
Babies can absorb 50-70% of the iron they consume in your milk. This is a great example of human milk's bioavailability powers. (Which just means your baby is really great at absorbing the nutrients in your milk!) On the flip side, babies who are given cow's milk based formula only absorb about 3-12% of the iron that is added to it. (And only 1-7% of iron is absorbed from soy based formulas!) Furthermore, iron fortified cereals only offer a rate of 4-10% of iron absorption. This is partly what I mean when I say that these cereals aren't much more than filler foods. (Which is something I say frequently.)
Today I'm talking about your menstraul cycle!! Yayy!!!! (Or not.) I asked The Successful Breastfeeding Community on FB what questions they had about lactation and their periods... and whoa did they come through!
You may have heard that if you nurse your baby, you won’t get your menstrual cycle. You might have even heard that you can’t get pregnant while breastfeeding. Well, today I’m breaking that down, busting these myths, and sharing the truth about what to expect.
The truth is, there is no black and white answer to almost any lactation related question. So, I thought it would probably just be easier to break it down on The Successful Breastfeeding Podcast.
So here you have it... your complete breakdown of your period when you're breastfeeding/chestfeeding.
FIRST TIME MAMAS FOCUS ON ALL THE WRONG THINGS. There. I said it. And I'm not sorry. And also I'm guilty AF of this too. And I say this, and everything else in this post from a place of love, and a strong desire to see you met your breastfeeding goals. I'm exhausted from seeing so many first time parents needlessly struggle.
With my first baby, I think I went a little nuts. With alllll the things. Once nesting kicked in, I was in hyper focused baby preparation mode.
And I wish I could go back and SHAKE MYSELF and say, "Kelly... you're focusing on all the wrong things! It's not going to matter what the nursery looks like, and all that baby gear you registered for is an expensive waste of resources... you won't use most of it, and definetly not for long!"
The truth is, that nesting mode is real, and towards the end of our pregnancies we. can. not. help. ourselves. We want everything to be perfect, the house to be in order, the nursery to be ready, the gear set up and ready to go, and we spend those last anxious months doing whatever we can to fill the time until we meet our little one.
BUT if you want to breastfeed like most first time moms say they want to do... I ask you... how much time are you spending on preparing to breastfeed??? Statistics show that most first time moms don't do much of anything to prepare..... and sadly... statistics also show us that most don't meet their breastfeeding goals. (Do you see the correlation here?)
I have a solution for you though... so if you're still with me... read on!
Picture the following scenarios...
Scenario One: You’re meeting someone you love for dinner. You’re having such a good time with them you’ve barely touched your food or sipped your drink. The server comes by after 15 minutes to take away your salad and water and puts down your steak and potatoes. Another 15 minutes goes by, laughing and catching up. The server returns, takes your barely touched food, and leaves the check. You’re still hungry! What’s going on here! You were just enjoying a leisurely meal with a loved one!
Scenario Two: You just woke up and you’re STARVING. You sit down to a breakfast buffet. There’s plenty of food and you can eat all you want. You go to town and after a few minutes, you notice you’re feeling pretty full. You nibble on a few more things, then get up to leave the table. The server comes by and informs you that you have to keep eating for another 20 minutes. You explain you’ve had all you want and you’re full! He tells you it doesn’t matter, and keeps poking you, even putting an ice cube on your bare skin to “wake you up” to eat more food. You’re mad. This isn’t a nice meal.
Scenario Three: You’re one of those people who prefers six small meals a day to three large ones. If you go for large meals, you feel bloated, or maybe your acid reflux flares up. You feel better and have more energy if you eat less food more often. But that server is back, telling you that you have to finish a large meal. You explain to him that you prefer small frequent meals. He tells you this is the way it is, as you struggle to clean your plate. Later that day your stomach feels bloated and your acid reflux is terrible, with painful burning in your stomach and throat.
“Crap.” I could tell I had a problem the minute I rolled over in bed. It felt like I had a ping pong ball sized breast implant made of fire on one side. I looked at the clock. Ten more minutes until the baby usually wakes up. I could just nurse him and clear the clog. Nope. It took me a full 24hrs to clear it using ALL my IBCLC tricks. I was scared of mastitis during a pandemic. It was the last thing I wanted to be dealing with. Mastitis and clogs are most common during the first few weeks postpartum and during weaning. Where did this one come from? Why did I get a clog 14 months into nursing when we’d made NO changes and I’m not prone to them at all? Why was it so hard to clear?
On today’s episode, we hear the wisdom and words from Autumnn Gaines, who is the subject of an iconic and powerful photo taken during a recent peaceful protest following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers.
A clogged duct is one of the most annoying parts about breastfeeding. Even when things are going well, you might find baby slept through the night for the first time and you woke up engorged with a clogged duct. Or you accidentally wore the wrong kind of bra that caused some weird pressure, leaving you with a hard rock like spot (or multiple) in your breast.
If there is one problem plaguing breastfeeding women I would have to say oversupply is a top contender. We talk a lot about oversupply for good reason. Actually, our top blog post of all time covers this topic in depth... and it's popular for a reason.
What is oversupply? I'm glad you asked! Oversupply is a breastfeeding condition where the lactating individual is producing more milk than their baby can actually drink, usually in excessive amounts. I'm not talking being able to pump a reasonable amount like 3-4 extra ounces in 24 hours, I'm talking about people who are expressing several ounces (or more) multiple times every day. Having too much milk may seem like a good thing, right? In reality though it can make your body uncomfortable, and can cause symptoms of lactose overload in your baby- which leads to a very sad baby. (And also early weaning... I'll get to that in a minute... first I need to touch on something else important.)
While I sit here watching my two littles play dinosaurs together, I have more than five girlfriends that are all giving birth to their first baby very, very soon. And there are so many things I want them to know, but most of all I want them to remember, I've got your back mama, and however I can support you, I will.
I'm Kelly Maher Carvell, Successful Breastfeeding LLC's founder, and lactation expert. I've made it my personal mission to reach as many parents as possible (like you!) to prepare you for your Successful Breastfeeding Journey. Thank you for allowing me and my team to support you. Before you leave the blog grab one of my FREEBIES like my Prenatal Success Kit or the Pump More Milk for Your Stash Guide. You've got this and I'm here to help!
Kelly Maher, CLC, CLE
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