Breastfeeding Supplies – What Is Necessary?

I am often asked what supplies are necessary for breastfeeding.  Usually this comes from my pregnant mothers who are trying to plan what they may need for the baby BEFORE the baby comes.  That may seem like an easy enough question, right?  Isn’t there some kind of list that I can just hand out?  Not so simple.  To be honest, not much is needed to breastfeed.   Having a baby is a huge money business and society is prepared to have you spend a ton of money on things you don’t necessarily need.  Have you been in any store recently that sells baby items?  So. Many. Choices.  Truth be told, you don’t need much of anything at all.

All mothers are different and have different needs and personalities.  I have met some mothers who are content with waiting for the baby to arrive before they decide on a pump or any other supplies.  I have also seen mothers show up at the hospital ready to have the baby, and they are toting a pump, creams, nipple shields and a breastfeeding pillow.  Neither way is the wrong way; just do what is right for you.  My point is I don’t want any new or expecting mother to think that they have to have these things.

In a world where you can order something online on a Monday and it will be at your door by Tuesday or Wednesday, I am a proponent of waiting until you need something before you invest time and money.   However, if you really want to have a stash of stuff, I found this great list to get you started.  One of the things I really like about this list is that it specifies when things are NOT NECESSARY.  Nipple cream or a breastfeeding pillow – nice to have but not necessary.  Good support system and the phone number of a local lactation consultant – absolutely necessary.   So check it out and see what you think.  Can you think of anything you would add to this list?  Is there one thing that you felt like you couldn’t live without during your breastfeeding journey?  Share it with us.—-what-do-i-really-need

Babies and Your Relationship – What (if anything) Will Change?

Having a baby can be a truly magical experience.  From pregnancy all the way through to when you hold that little baby for the first time, families feel excitement and euphoria.   Not just the parents…extended family and friends all join in on the enthusiasm.   After the baby is born, things may feel different.  This can be unexpected.  Hormonal changes can make a new mother feel depressed or helpless, causing anxiety and questioning her ability to take care of her new baby.  Partners may feel confused, unsure of what is happening, only aware that things have changed.

It is important to remember that relationships change when you add a baby to the mix.  When I say this, I do not mean that relationships have to change for the worse.  It’s just different.  A new mother might view the relationship with her own mother as changed – she may now see her mother as more of an equal.  They now have a common bond that was not there before.  Relationships with providers may feel different, more trusting and intimate.  Her relationship with her partner might feel different as well; this is no longer just a lover or best friend, they are now co parents.

It is hard to imagine what it feels like to be a parent before you actually become one.  It is even harder to know how your partner will react to this new role until it happens.  Because of this, it can be hard to prepare.  Some new families find that connecting with each other, understanding each other and nurturing one another is not as easy as it was before the baby was born.  How do you keep it going?  Some couples worry about what their sex life will be like after baby.  My concern has always been more about the relationship itself.  It is so important to find the time to connect in other ways, and these little things can get lost when you are figuring out life with a newborn.

We talk about this a lot in our Parenting Village circle group called Out of the Blue.  Admitting that your needs are different, talking openly about concerns and having empathy for your partner can go a long way.  Check out the link below for some great ideas on how to cultivate your relationship and make the adjustment a little easier on both of you.

When Breastfeeding Makes You Feel Sad…Could It Be D-MER?

When breastfeeding works well, it’s an amazing thing.   Of course, like anything else, it doesn’t always go well.  This is one of the reasons why I am still working, and not unemployed.  I have seen various things happen with breastfeeding…latch issues, pain, weight gain problems…the list goes on.  Sometimes, I have a mother and baby who are doing ok, or so it seems.  The latch is fine.  The baby is gaining great.  No pain.  The new mother doesn’t feel ok.  Breastfeeding is fine, but she doesn’t feel fine breastfeeding.  How can this be?  Everyone talks about what a beautiful experience it is, how special the bonding is, how sweet and nurturing breastfeeding is for both mom and baby.  She feels none of this.  Instead, mom feels awful; upset or sad, anxious, maybe nervous.  Sometimes she might feel as if there is a hole in the pit of her stomach – just empty…hollow.  After the baby has been feeding for a few minutes, things are ok, but those first few minutes are enough to make her give a bottle.

This is Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex or D-MER.

It’s awful.  One of the worst things about D-MER is that not many people are aware that it happens.  They mistake this for depression or just another postpartum issue and don’t look for help.  Some don’t even realize that it’s related to breastfeeding.  So what is D-MER?  It is a hormonal issue, not a psychological issue.  It is not post partum depression or baby blues. Researchers believe that it is due to an exaggerated decrease in dopamine as the milk lets down.  Once the milk lets down and baby is feeding, the feelings of sadness pass.

There are ways to cope with D-MER, weaning your baby is not the only answer.  If you feel like this is something you are experiencing, talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant.  Educate yourself about it, just in case you need to pass that education on to others.

Here is some great information about D-MER, what it is, how to manage it, and how to talk to others about it:

Breastfeeding and…Telomeres?

Breastmilk is really amazing.  You may think I am bit biased, because of course, I am a Lactation Consultant.  Certainly I think breastmilk is amazing.  However, I learn new things all the time that breastmilk is capable of.  It’s not only that I am learning new things, science is continually learning new things that breastmilk can do for the health and wellbeing of mothers and babies.

Most recently, I was reading that scientists now suspect that breastmilk is responsible for lengthening telomeres.  I had no idea what a telomere is, so I did a little research of my own.  I will try not to get overly scientific here, but I will break it down.  This is some good stuff.

First – what is a telomere?  A telomere is the name given to the protective cap at the end of the DNA strands in the body.  DNA makes up our cells.  Our cells duplicate throughout our lifetime, and as the cells duplicate, the telomere at the end becomes shorter and shorter.  When the telomere becomes too short, the cells die.  Basically, longer telomere = longer cell life.  Telomeres will shorten naturally, but lifestyle can increase the chances of them shortening faster.  Things like smoking, obesity, stress…all that stuff we know causes negative reactions in our bodies anyway.  Now new research is showing that breastfeeding can actually lengthen the life of telomeres, which means a longer cell life as well.

One question is whether it is actually the breastmilk, or the behaviors that breastmilk encourages that makes the difference.  For example, researchers are suggesting that the positive attachment, which accompanies breastfeeding, reduces stress, and therefore protects telomeres.

This is fairly new research, and more research is sure to be done on this, but it’s a pretty positive outcome so far.

Read more about this cool stuff here.

Breastfeeding a Distracted Baby

I saw one of my favorite babies the other day (who am I kidding??  I adore all my mamas and babies).  Mom reached out to me because her little one was changing up her nursing routine, acting fussier, and mom was pumping less volume.  Baby is almost 5 months old.  The first thought for this mom was that her supply had dropped and baby was not getting enough milk, which is why she was fussier at the breast.

As soon as I saw the baby nursing, I knew what was happening.  She was so distracted.  Typical of a baby her age.  She was whining and wiggling and would only nurse for a minute or two before pulling away.  Mom did her best to keep her focused, switched her from side to side and talked to her.  After only a few minutes, it was obvious that baby was done.  Mom admitted to me that when she is feeding at home, after a couple minutes of this routine she would give in and just give her a bottle.   We weighed this little girl before and after the feeding.  Mom was shocked to see that baby was 2 ounces heavier after the feed than she was before.  This changed everything.  It gave mom the confidence she needed to feel positive about her milk supply and her baby’s ability to get that milk.  It helped her realize how much her baby is developing and how she is changing.

Well what about the pumping?  Mom had returned to work about 6 weeks ago.  Her pumping output has dwindled.  It is not unusual for that to happen, but it doesn’t mean baby is getting less when they feed at the breast.  We discussed her pumping schedule and switched things up to include a few shorter sessions.  All in all, a pretty successful day.

What’s the moral to this happy ending?  Trust your baby and trust your body to provide for your baby.  Babies become very distracted around 4 months and things become very exciting for them!  Developmentally so much is happening for them.  This doesn’t mean the baby doesn’t want to breastfeed anymore, but we may need to change how things are done.  Don’t just throw in the towel mamas…call in the professionals.

Here’s more on feeding a distracted baby and what to expect when your baby hits this magical age.

What to Expect?

Being a mom is hard. How do you know if you are doing the right things? Teaching the right things, setting the right example, making the right decisions? I don’t know if it’s ever possible to feel confident in mothering. Once I started feeling confident, a new challenge snuck in from behind the scenes. Breastfeeding finally going smoothly? BAM, the baby starts teething. Finally enjoying the trials of toddlerhood? BOOM, preschool starts and you discover a new world of questionable behavior and sleepless nights. Where does it end?

If you are hoping this blog will give you the answer, your disappointment is certain. The answer to years of parenting questions and dilemmas will not be found in a few paragraphs (although we still hope that Google will give us the answer fairly quickly). What I am hoping for is to reassure you that your uncertainty is normal. I’m going to go so far as to say that it’s not only normal, its expected.

Years ago when I first started to spread my wings in the world of mothering, breastfeeding, and birth and parenting, I was told that planned pregnancies were only about 50% of all pregnancies. The rest were “surprises” or “gifts” or, as some like to call it, an “oops”.   I don’t know if that is still an accurate statistic, but I’m willing to bet that it’s true. So, that leaves one to wonder…if pregnancy were unplanned, you would expect that parenting would come as quite a culture shock. Putting it mildly.

I see new families every day, usually within the first week of the baby’s life. This is when the parents are sleep deprived and vulnerable. Mom is most likely experiencing physical pain, physiological, emotional and hormonal changes, and questioning why she wanted to be a mother in the first place. She may never say that last part out loud, but it might very well be passing through her tired brain at any point and time. Partners and family members feel lost, unsure how to help, not wanting to overstep their bounds and treading very lightly on shaky ground that is dubbed “postpartum”. One of the biggest challenges new parents face is the world of uncertainty. Inconsistent information, lack of support, unsure if they are making the right decisions. In this day and age, parents find themselves looking for solutions on the Internet at 3am, hoping for any answers as to why the baby is crying or why feedings are not going well. New mothers need support. New families need reassurance. And they need it in the form of accurate information that is consistent with their lifestyle. In order to offer this, we need to work together. This means that new families need to do their best educating themselves, and health care providers, support people and family members need to take a step back and listen to what new mothers are telling us. If you are in the position to support new families as part of a health care team, are you all giving the same information? Are you aware of the needs and wants of the family? If you are a friend or family member, are you listening to the concerns of this vulnerable new family and acknowledging their fears or are you filling the time talking about what YOU did as a new parent?

This is delicate territory. Thankfully it passes quickly, and before you know it, it’s gone. Research shows us that new mothers want support from the medical personnel that they trust and family and friends that they feel comfortable with. Parenting is not a perfect skill, and everyone approaches parenting differently. Ultimately, this is why we are so unsure if we are doing the right things or not. If there were a solid answer (think 4+4=8…solid answer) we wouldn’t spend time pondering such things as breast vs. bottle, toddler bed times, potty training and mealtime. Let’s realize that there is no “solid answer”. What we do know is that support goes a long way, and support can help the insecure feel more confident.


A Change Will Do Us Good

I spent most of last week at the Healthy Children International Conference.  This was my second year at this conference.  Last year I had the pleasure of presenting a breakout workshop and this year a poster presentation.


I love conferences.  I love learning new things about maternal child health.  I love enhancing my knowledge so I can offer better support to women and babies.


These conferences always seem to come at just the right time.  Of course, spending the week in sunny Florida instead of upstate NY during the January freeze was wonderful…but that’s not the timing I’m talking about.


Conferences rejuvenate me.  Spending 3 days with 100 other women who are as passionate as I am about this field reminds me of why I do what I do.  I think it is easy to get burned out, especially when you spend your time fixing others.  Add in kids, pets, husband, holidays; I’m exhausted.  I’m returning now with new motivation on the horizon, amazing new research to grow on, new friends to correspond with, and a renewed sense of urgency to save the world.


I’ve been a lactation consultant for several years.  During this time I’ve seen a lot of changes that we can be proud of – breastfeeding in the workplace laws, increased interest in breastfeeding, and higher rates of breastfeeding initiation just to name a few.  But change is slow and can be difficult to incorporate in today’s world.  Not only did I learn more about the most recent breastfeeding research, I also learned that in the world of maternal child health, we still have much work to do if we are going to be able to offer mothers and babies a fighting chance in this world.  The Mothers Day Report from May 2013 tells the story of women and children in dismal circumstances by offering the statistical report including maternal morbidity and premature rates around the world.  This report includes industrialized and third world countries, with the U.S. far worse than I’d like to admit.  For a country that is ranked in the top 10 for education and economics, we shouldn’t be low on the list for women’s health care. 


Is it surprising that Sweden tops the list?  Not just for maternal/baby care but for low rates of infant and maternal mortality, the best options for maternity leave and fewer preterm births as well.  Maybe the correlation is that in Sweden 45% of their Congress seats are made up of women, where in the U.S. Congress is 82% male. 


Last week the burned out me might have read that report with a deep sigh and moved on to the next thing.  This week, the rejuvenated me wants to focus on making changes happen.  Understanding that the wheels turn slowly, change might be in the form of one mother/baby dyad at a time.  But I think we can do this.