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 and Returning to Work

It seems like the end of summer is the time when I see so many mothers preparing to head back to work.  Whether it is teachers who took an extended leave, or families who meticulously planned to have their babies arrive in the late spring so that summer would be maternity leave, late August tends to be that fateful time.   Here in upstate New York, most people value summer.  Even if you are someone who truly enjoys the winter weather – cozy nights in, white Christmas, skiing, snowboarding or hockey – winter with a newborn offers its own set of unique challenges.   We can talk about that more in November.

Returning to work after having a baby is difficult.  Overwhelming in many ways.  Mentally you are responsible for doing your job, whatever that may be, when your mind seems to stay with the little bundle of joy that was left behind for the day.  Physically you are still in a state of recovery (unless you are going back a year after the baby was born, but many in our society do not have that benefit) you are feeling sleep deprived and your breasts will fill with milk every few hours.  Getting milk stains out of your work clothes might be a new skill you never realized you’d need.  Not to take away from spouses who most definitely hold down the fort while mom is on maternity leave, being a working mother is a whole different routine.  Babies miss having that bonding time, and some mothers find that babies will spend the duration of the evening wanting to nurse.  Babies that were sleeping longer stretches at night might wake more frequently again, trying to make up for lost time during the quiet hours of the night.

Yet as mothers, we do this.  We stay dedicated to both employer and family.  We are able to multi-task in new, imaginative ways (raise your hand if you have ever pumped milk while driving).  I am beyond proud of the women I meet who are returning to work.  The challenges of figuring out how and when to pump milk, worrying about milk supply.  Afraid to upset the delicate balance of work life and family life, concerned that colleagues won’t understand the distraction.

The other day I met with several women who were preparing for this transition.  One had already returned to work, but had concerns about supply and needed to talk openly about the negativity she is experiencing from coworkers.  Others are concerned how they will make this work – the logistics of it all.   I know that they will all find a way to make this work.  They are fantastic mothers with amazing resiliency.  I just can’t help but wish that we didn’t live in a society where so many women are in a position where we have to make it work.  Having the choice would be ideal.  Unfortunately, the United States is resting at the bottom of the list when it comes to maternity leave.   I hope this improves by the time my daughter has children of her own.  Until then, let’s support each other, lift each other up, and remind each other daily of how remarkable we really are.

Some good resources for the mother who is returning to work.

Trauma and Breastfeeding

I was recently asked to write a guest blog for Motherlove, on the topic of childhood sexual abuse and breastfeeding.  I was honored to be asked, and more than happy to comply.

When I was completing my bachelors degree, I chose the topic of Trauma and Breastfeeding as the focus of my capstone project.  In my project, various forms of trauma were discussed, including sexual abuse and how breastfeeding can be impacted by previous abuse.

Motherhood published my blog a couple of weeks ago, and I am sharing it here with all of you.

If you are interested in learning more, check out my book which was inspired by my capstone.




Can someone direct me to Post Partum Support please?

It all begins the moment you find out you’re pregnant.  Whether planned or a blessed surprise, things change.  You begin to eat differently, look at baby clothes, talk to other pregnant women, read blogs, buy baby books, and look into taking your first child birth class.

And doctor appointments. Ahh yes.  Whether you choose midwife or OB, it seems like you will never see a medical professional as much as you do when you are pregnant.  Questions, exams, blood work, tests, ultrasounds…

So what happens after the baby is born?  You’re breastfeeding, you’ve been discharged from the hospital.  You have questions.  Who should you call?  Your OB or midwife was amazing when it came to delivering your baby; your pediatrician is really focused on the baby.  Who takes care of the breasts?  It always troubled me that prenatal care and attention is abundant.  Once the baby comes, support is limited, and you are on your own to find that support.  More recently, I’ve noticed more support groups popping up, but how do you find them?  New moms don’t always have time for Google. 

If you are a pregnant mom, find post partum resources before the baby comes.  Even if you aren’t sure if you will need it, having it at your fingertips should you need it will be helpful.  Consider breastfeeding help, mother support groups where breastfeeding is encouraged, look for websites with evidence based information.  If you are a new mom who found this information all on your own, pass it along to an expecting mom.  This information is so valuable.  Let’s try to increase postpartum support by empowering women with information they can use sooner rather than later.