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.

http://www.lamaze.org/blog/breastfeeding-supplies—-what-do-i-really-need

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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.

http://www.postpartumprogress.com/keeping-your-relationship-on-track-during-postpartum-depression

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: http://d-mer.org/Home_Page.html.

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.

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/08/04/breast-fed-babies-may-have-longer-telomeres-tied-to-longevity/?_r=0

https://www.tasciences.com/what-is-a-telomere/

The 5 Worst States for Breastfeeding Moms – And the 5 Best

More moms in the U.S. are breastfeeding than ever before, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). More than 4 out of 5 kids were breastfed at birth in 2013, around 81.1 percent, up from 79 percent in 2011. And almost one-third of children born in 2013, 30.7 percent, were still nursing at 12 months, compared to just 27 percent in 2011.

These improvements of several percentage points (representing hundreds of thousands of benefitting babies) show that a greater number of moms want to nurse and have the resources to keep it up. But unfortunately, doing so is easier in certain parts of the country than others. Some 50 percent of new moms stop nursing by the 6 month-mark and two-thirds by 12 months. It happens most often due to a lack of support from employers, healthcare providers and family.

The CDC pulled together a list of states where breastfeeding for the recommended 12 months is the hardest, based on how well the state’s hospitals integrate breastfeeding practices into maternity care; the number of births in “baby-friendly” hospitals; the number of infants receiving formula within 2 days of life; the number of La Leche league leaders and lactation consultants; and whether childcare facilities support onsite breastfeeding.

(It doesn’t take into account public nursing laws or workplace policies – but know that every state except for Idaho has laws explicitly allowing you to nurse wherever you want, and the Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide nursing employees with a private space to pump that’s not a bathroom.)

These are the worst states to be a nursing mom:

  • Mississippi
  • Arkansas
  • Nebraska
  • Alabama
  • Tennessee

These are the best states to be a nursing mom:

  • Rhode Island
  • New Hampshire
  • Delaware
  • Vermont
  • Massachusetts

Even if you’re living in a state with fewer breastfeeding resources, a dearth of baby-friendly hospitals doesn’t have to keep you from nursing for as long as you want. A recent survey found that asking your care provider about breastfeeding before you give birth, ideally in the third trimester, is a strong indicator of success. And once your newborn has arrived, you get another source of support in your child’s pediatrician.

You can also work with an international lactation consultant in your area. With fewer choices, you’ll be less likely to find one by word of mouth, but a quick search on the International Lactation Consultant Association website should help turn up someone close enough for you to meet with at least once.

And last, talking to moms who’ve been through it before has endless benefits. You might uncover a tip your male OB had never heard, and you’ll be reminded your struggle is totally normal.

U.S. breastfeeding rates are steadily approaching global children’s health goals, but we still need to focus on getting every mom the support she needs to feed her baby exactly the way she wants.

Source: http://www.whattoexpect.com/wom/baby/worst-states-for-breastfeeding-moms-2016
Image Source: Jamie Grill/Getty

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.

http://kellymom.com/ages/older-infant/distractible-baby/

Breastfeeding. At what cost?

I admit, the title of the following article intrigued me enough to spend a few minutes reading it. Of course, my first thought was “breastfeeding is FREE, why wouldn’t someone be able to afford it?” As I read on, I had a better understanding of what the writer was telling me.

Our society can make it difficult for some to adapt to life with a new baby. Let’s face it, becoming a parent is hard. It’s hard without the added stress of work and day care and just trying to get by. I get it. I’ve been there, more times and for longer than I care to remember. The writer of this article had to return to work at a ridiculously early time and then try to balance working and pumping and, well, life. At 4 weeks post partum, a new mother is not even healed from the trauma that birth can trigger, not only physically, but emotionally as well. Babies aren’t sleeping longer than a couple of hours at a time and they rarely want to be put down. Breastfeeding on demand is still every couple of hours. Mothers (and their partners) are tired. Returning to work at this stage of the parenting game should be reserved for use as a type of torture method.

I live in New York, where breastfeeding laws are pretty generous. Unfortunately it is not like that in all parts of the country (and even in NY, many women still have to fight for this benefit). If your job isn’t supportive of your pumping efforts, a new mother will really struggle. Not only because she wants to be able to leave the milk for her baby, but also because her body will continue to make the milk and if there is no way out, it will be very uncomfortable. Anyone who has not been a nursing mother may not understand that at all.

This article made me sad. Sad for the mom who felt that she was forced to wean her baby earlier than she wanted because of her need to return to work. This is all too common. It made me sad that she wasn’t able to access the support she needed to find a way to make it work. I have been a Lactation Consultant for almost 10 years, and I have seen breastfeeding come a long way in that time. Laws have changed, support has increased, education has become more abundant, and breastfeeding rates have increased. It’s still not enough. In a society where mothers have to leave their baby at 6 weeks (for this mother it was 4) or go without a paycheck, we are not going to make the strides we need to make.

I give this mother all the credit in the world for going back to breastfeeding with her next baby, and the next. I imagine that she is a great source of support for other mothers she knows, just because of her struggle.

You can read the article here: http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/1126378/breastfeeding-expensive