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    Breastfeeding is All About Support

    I was lucky enough to be able to breastfeed both of my children. I breastfed my daughter until she was four years old. When my son was born, we tandem nursed for a year and a half until my daughter weaned, then continued to nurse my son until he was three & a half years old. My years as a breastfeeding mother were some of my most precious and tender moments with each of my children.
    Breastfeeding was empowering, comforting, and, in spite of occasional discomfort and challenges along the way, it was on the whole, a truly wonderful experience. I would love as many women as possible to be able to experience the wonder of nurturing their babies at their breasts, just as I did.
    The reason I had such a wonderful experience with breastfeeding, was that I had wonderful support - from my husband, my lactation consultant, my family. I'm not sure I would have made it as far as I did without such support. For ANY woman considering breastfeeding her baby, proper support is KEY to her success:
    Let your partner, your parents, your siblings, and your friends know you are planning on breastfeeding, and ask for their support in your intent. Don’t be afraid to tell them WHY you want to breastfeed! Specific knowledge about your intentions will help them help you if you encounter moments of wavering in your commitment. Having people to support you, to cheer you on, to remind you why you’re doing what your doing can make all the difference in the world to your success!
    If you’re birthing in a hospital, call ahead to be certain they have a lactation consultant on staff, and find out how often she’s there. If she only works days or weekends, or, if you’re planning on birthing at home, make sure you are in contact with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant who can be on call after the birth of your baby. Don’t forget to bring her phone number to the hospital with you! Here’s a listing of IBCLCs by state: http://www.lactivist.com/ibclc.html Another thing to consider is hiring a post-partum doula. Many doulas are breastfeeders themselves, and post-partum doulas are trained to help mothers establish breastfeeding, and help create the supportive environment they need to have a successful breastfeeding relationship. A doula is a wonderful person to have around - not only in labor, but afterwards!
    There are plenty of books and websites available with information about breastfeeding; but, unfortunately, not every one has accurate information. Here are a few good resources, I recommend:
    The Breastfeeding Book by Martha Sears
    The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers by Dr. Jack Newman
    Breastfeeding Made Simple by Nancy Mohrbacher
    The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Diane Wiessinger
    KellyMom.com - http://kellymom.com/
    La Leche League - http://www.llli.org/
    Breastfeeding.com - http://www.breastfeeding.com/
    Best for Babies.org - http://www.bestforbabes.org/
    Aside from your lactation consultant, partner, and reading material, it’s a good idea to have an extended network of mothers who have “been there, done that”. Before your baby is born, find a nearby La Leche Leage group and attend a meeting! Having real-life mothers to talk to, cry with, and commiserate with, is vital to breastfeeding success. Knowing that “you’re not the only one” who feels a certain way, or who has experienced a certain issue helps you know everything is a-okay and on track. To find a LLLI meeting or leader near you, check here: http://www.llli.org/webindex.html Remember that LLL leaders are volunteers who love breastfeeding and natural parenting and want you to succeed! Don’t be afraid to give one a call, just to talk.
    In the age of smart phones, online “been there, done that” breastfeeding support is close at hand. How I wish Twitter & Facebook was available to me when I first starting to breastfeed! Keep a list in Twitter of ladies who are lactation consultants, lactation counselors, la leche league leaders, or who have successfully breastfed, for instant on-the-spot help. To start, try following these folks:
    Diana @DianaIBCLC | IBCLC: http://twitter.com/#!/DianaIBCLC
    Liz @askthelc | RN, IBCLC: http://twitter.com/#!/askthelc
    Lara @MamaPearDesigns | CLEC: http://twitter.com/#!/MamaPearDesigns
    Shari @ShariCriso | Nurse-Midwife, IBCLC: http://twitter.com/#!/ShariCriso
    Jessica @TheLeakyBoob: http://twitter.com/#!/TheLeakyBoob
    Doudoubebe @mamabear_ca: http://twitter.com/#!/mamabear_ca
    Infant Risk Center @infantrisk: http://twitter.com/#!/infantrisk
    La Leche Leage Canada @LLLCanada: http://twitter.com/#!/LLLCanada
    Message boards can also be a good resource for more in-depth discussion, though be cautious of any information you receive online; make sure you cross-check your info w/a book or in-person support! Mothering.com has an active board with a lot of caring, experienced mothers: http://mothering.com/breastfeeding
    Having properly fitting nursing bras, washable nursing pads (or disposable, if you don’t have someone who can do your laundry for you right away!), comfortable clothes (don’t need to be special nursing-specific clothes, just easy to access for nursing wherever – try to wear layered shirts with buttons down the front, or in cross-over chest style – nothing that is binding in the breast area or requires removing completely before you can start breastfeeding), and baby-safe nipple cream might seem like unnecessary items, but having them available before baby arrives, can really help with your post-partum, early breastfeeding comfort. And the more comfortable mama is, the easier and more smoothly breastfeeding will go! Make sure you have nutritious ready-made food frozen ahead of time, or have someone who will be helping you cook right after baby arrives, so healthy meals are easy and quick. Keep a travel thermos of water with you all the time (even in bed!) – nursing mothers need lots of water to stay healthy and hydrated. Continue to take your prenatal vitamins after baby is born – they are usually rich in iron and vitamin D, and will help your body continue to heal, while you nourish your new baby. And finally, get as much sleep as you can so your body has time to heal, and make milk! I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but as much as possible: Sleep When The Baby Sleeps! Learn how to nurse in the side-lying position, so that you can lie down with your baby and rest for naptime.
    Above all, take it easy on yourself. Be forgiving of yourself, be patient with yourself & your baby (you are both learning a new skill!), and don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can DO it; your body was made to breastfeed your baby, and your baby was made to drink your breastmilk.
    If you’re a breastfeeding mama, I’d love to hear YOUR stories of support! If you haven’t had your baby yet, but are planning on breastfeeding when she’s born, what are you doing to make sure you are supported in your breastfeeding goals?
    Posted: Aug 06 2011, 18:03 by kelly | Comments (2) RSS comment feed |
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    Why Should You Breastfeed Your Baby?

    If you are pregnant, you may be considering breastfeeding your baby once she arrives. Breastfeeding is natural, normal, and healthy – for your baby and for you! You may not know yet if it’s the choice you want to make, but, please consider these reasons why breastfeeding – even if you aren’t sure it’s the right choice for you – is likely the right choice for your baby:


    Breastmilk helps fight infection!
    When you breastfeed, your antibodies are passed from your body to your baby. What this means is that your baby will get sick less often [50% reduced risk of ear infections, 64% reduced risk of GI infections, 72% reduced risk of hospitalization from pneumonia | Source: http://www.breastfeedingtaskforla.org/resources/ABMRisks.htm
    ] and when she does get sick, it will likely be less severe, and the duration will be shorter. The antibacterial properties of breastmilk don’t stop IN your baby. You can use breastmilk topically too – to clear & moisturize tiny noses, treat pink eye, and soothe rashes, small scrapes, and other infections.

    [Source: WomensHealth.org]

    Breastfeeding your baby reduces the risk of SIDS!
    SIDS risk is diminished by about 50% in breastfed babies according to a study done in Germany
    . But WHY does breastfeeding help keep your little one safer? There are several reasons! [Eight of which are discussed in detail on Dr. Sears’ website]. The infection-reducing properties of human milk keep baby healthier while sleeping – reducing the risk of RSV which can lead to SIDS. Breastmilk contains vital nutrients and fats to help baby’s brain and nervous system develop more completely. Breast milk is natural – so if aspirated, is less likely than formula to cause irritation or lead to apnea. Breastmilk reduces the severity of GER in infants. Breastfeeding calms and organizes baby so she does not fall into unnaturally deep and potentially dangerous sleep. Breastfeeding helps mom connect more deeply with her baby – and become more sensitive to baby, even while asleep (I have felt this distinctly myself). Finally, breastfeeding is more of a challenge for baby than bottle feeding, so baby develops better sucking, breathing, and swallowing coordination and facial muscle tone – all of which help baby breathe better while sleeping.


    Breastfeeding is natural and normal; formula is not!

    Human milk is perfect for human babies! What comes from your body is designed specifically for your baby. If you can’t breastfeed, another human’s breastmilk is still far closer to what your baby needs than formula made from another species' breastmilk or from a plant. Breastmilk is living: it changes with your baby, according to her needs, and is always just the right temperature. Formula is made in a factory, and is mixed with water and served in a bottle. As such, it can be subject to contamination. The ingredients (water and bottle included) can be tainted with pesticides, fertilizers, hormones, antibiotics, cleaning chemicals, dangerous bacteria like salmonella, foreign material, high levels of metals like aluminum (particularly in soy-based formulas), and the list of potentially toxic or dangerous possibilities goes on. While breastmilk isn’t always contaminant-free, you can control most of what is in your breastmilk through your diet. And, even if what you eat or drink isn’t perfect, breastfeeding is still the healthiest choice for your baby. If you’re concerned that what you eat might not be compatible with breastfeeding, check this page out first – you might be surprised! There is very little that a mother can't ingest that would negatively affect baby. 


    “…research tells us that the quality of a mother’s diet has little influence on her milk. Nature is very forgiving – mother’s milk is designed to provide for and protect baby even in times of hardship and famine. A poor diet is more likely to affect the mother than her breastfed baby…” [Source: How does a mother’s diet affect her milk?]


    The truth is, our bodies do an excellent job of filtering out what isn’t good for baby, and giving baby exactly what she needs, even if we don’t do the best job of eating ourselves. Trust your body to do right by your baby!

    [Source: WomensHealth.gov] 

    Breastfeeding is free!

    This may seem like a simple concept, and as such, it is often overlooked – particularly if you’ve been given tons of free samples in the hospital (and from friends, or in the mail). But the fact is, when the free samples run out, you have to buy formula – and it is expensive; particularly if your baby needs a special formulation due to formula intolerance, or you choose premixed liquid, instead of powder. And as baby gets older, he’ll need MORE formula, as it is always the same and doesn’t change in composition like breastmilk. Going rates are anywhere from $100 - $300/mo. or more just in formula costs – and that doesn’t include bottles, bottle brush, drying rack, etc! Now, if you add in to the equation that breastfed babies are typically sick less often (thus reducing doctor and presccription bills), breastfeeding really is the most economical choice. For an interesting comparison of the cost of formula with the typical costs of breastfeeding, check out this calculator.


    With all these benefits in mind, why not give breastfeeding a try? Even if you only nurse your baby for a few days you will have given your baby the natural gift of your milk. I really believe the choice to breastfeed your baby is a choice you won’t regret. I know I never have; it's one of my most amazing parenting experiences so far!

    Weaning and the Changing Role of Mothering

    My baby has weaned. He’s three an a half years old. A big boy, yes. But my baby – my last baby.

    I still vividly remember nursing him . . . my little snorting, grunting, squeaker. Snuggled up to me, tiny feet against my belly, filling his own. When he was full, he’d pull his head away with an audible POP!, purse his lips to the ceiling, then settle his tiny head on my breast and sleep, fulfilled, satisfied. My little one. So long ago, but I can still easily bring to mind the feel of the top of his head pressed against my upper arm, and my breathing in the warm, sweet, milky smell of his baby fine hair as we’d drift off to sleep. Breastfeeding mama-and-baby bliss.

    His weaning marks the close of one of the most amazing parts of my life, so far: breastfeeding my children. The six years I have spent nursing were some times when I felt most needed, most helpful, most challenged, most useful, most utterly female.

    To think of the years I spent nursing my two children and that I will likely never nurse another baby again nearly brings tears to my eyes. It’s not all sadness, those tears, not really . . . it’s a strange feeling. A bit of loss, wistfulness, pride, remembrance, transition. The transition was easier for me with my first, because when my daughter weaned herself at nearly four years old, my son was still nursing. But now that they are both done, now that I am no longer nourishing and healing and comforting my children with my breasts, my mothering role is changing.

    Certainly, what it means for me to be a mother has been in continual flux for years – changing ever since my first baby was born – you really do grow along with your children. And the role of breastfeeding itself changes too – from the constant need for physical nourishment of an exclusively breastfed infant to much less frequent emotional comfort needs of a nursing toddler. Thankfully, Mother Nature makes those changes gradual: when babies and children self-wean, they do so in a way that lets you, your body, and your mind (and that of your children) more gracefully accept and adapt to the changes. But still, it’s not easy. Even though its been months since I’ve nursed, the real thought that I’m no longer a nursing mother – that I’ll no longer be able to use that valuable mothering tool of breastfeeding – for soothing, comforting, feeding, nourishing, healing – feels a bit uprooting.

    (My two littles... nursing their "babies")

    But breastfeeding was, and always has been, primarily about what my children needed. They no longer need my milk; they’ve both transitioned out of their baby stage. And thus, I’ve been transitioning myself out of my baby-nurturing stage.

    I’ve been putting out some new mothering roots, trying out new tools, and am feeling excited to continue venturing into this next stage of independence with both of my children. I will always treasure – and be eternally grateful for – those years of breastfeeding that I was blessed and lucky to be able to share with my children.

    I watch them now – nursing their own “babies” – and I hope that their current belief and understanding of breastfeeding as normal, natural, nurturing, and wonderful stays with them through their lives; that they will have the privilege and good fortune to breastfeed (or support their partner in breastfeeding) their own children in the future.

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    This was cross-posted at Natural Parents Network - please take a moment to visit!

    Posted: Jan 06 2011, 08:46 by kelly | Comments (4) RSS comment feed |
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