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Breastfeeding 101

breastfeeding 101

photo by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

Breastfeeding 101

Did you know that August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month?

The decision to breastfeed or not is an incredibly personal journey, and one that is your journey alone.

If you do choose to breastfeed, please continue reading my tips ‘n tricks to help you thrive in your breastfeeding journey.

And if you choose to not breastfeed, or simply cannot, there’s no judgement. You may find this post triggering, and there’s no hard feelings if you close this tab and move right along.

The human body is pretty incredible. You grew a human. FROM CELLS. And you birthed a human, whether it was vaginal or cesarean, a human being came out of your body and that deserves a round of applause! But even more incredible —

You make food with your body.

You not only keep your baby alive — you make the most perfect formulation of liquid that allows your child to grow and thrive, mama. It’s amazing.

… except for when it’s not.

Because, let’s be honest, at times, breastfeeding can be difficult, painful, isolating, emotional, triggering, and for some, downright impossible.

It’s a journey — one that’s different for each mom and baby.

But, guess what?

Knowledge is power, mama.

I’ve put together my top tips ‘n tricks to help you not only survive your breastfeeding journey, but THRIVE in it!

nutrition

Here’s the thing — you’re going to be exhausted after the marathon of pregnancy, birth, and sustaining this beautiful new babe that is now earth-side.
Even though you’re probably constantly hungry, feeding yourself may be the last thing on your priority list. But, the reality is, it’s one of, if not the most, important thing for new mamas to focus on. Food is what’s going to keep you (AND baby) going, providing you with sustainable energy.

New breastfeeding mamas need, on average, an additional 500 calories per day. Those additional calories should come from clean, nutrient-dense foods.

Here are some tips and tricks to help you get the nourishment you need:

always choose organic

If you eat animal products, always buy organic! Breast milk contains quality fats that nourish your baby’s growing brain. Remember that fats attract and store fat-soluble chemicals, so the more you avoid hormones, chemicals and toxins, the less ends up in your breast milk.

eat wild fish

Aim to eat wild fish several times per week. Fish is the best place to get fully-formed EPA and DHA, both of which are critical for brain development, so make sure you’re consuming it at least 3 times per week.

choose healthy fats and high quality protein

Including healthy fats and high quality protein at every meal and snack will help to stabilize blood sugar levels, alleviating unnecessary stress on mama’s body, allowing for more energy to be diverted to making milk for baby.

eat extra coconut products

Consume lots of full fat coconut milk, coconut oil, and coconut butter. Coconut is the richest food source of lauric acid, which helps build your baby’s immune system.

eat foods rich in choline

Foods like egg yolks and grass-fed liver contain choline, which is critical for brain development and is the precursor to acetylcholine, important for memory and learning.

make time to eat

Eat meals and snacks at regular intervals throughout the day. Don’t skip meals. No exceptions!

eat to satisfaction

Eat at least one large, satisfying, nourishing meal every day to produce necessary oxytocin.

eat warming foods

Cooked, warm foods should form the basis of your postpartum diet.

hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Drink at least half of your body weight in ounces of clean, filtered water every single day. You’re going to want a large bottle of water on every surface in your house because breastfeeding makes you so dang thirsty!

lifestyle

Obviously your lifestyle is going to change a bit with a newborn, but there are a few tweaks that can make your breastfeeding journey a bit more enjoyable:

limit caffeine and alcohol

If you choose to consume them, make sure to choose the highest quality of both.

rest

Get as much RESTORATIVE sleep as you can. Yeah, I know that’s easier said than done with a newborn, but make the sleep that you do get, count. Remember that your body is healing after a traumatic (and beautiful) event, and sleeping is when your body does it’s best healing.

decrease toxin exposure

Clean up your environment: always choose organic, replace toxic body care products and cleaning supplies, filter your water, and avoid unnecessary chemicals in plastics, non-stick cookware, and other toxic household items.

move your body

Try to get outside for a walk with your baby in the carrier or stroller as many days as possible. Even if it’s just for 15 or 30 minutes. It all counts!

see the sun

Get a minimum of 15-20 minutes of direct sun exposure each day without sunscreen (to optimize vitamin D levels).

play

Find time to let go, disconnect, unwind, and have fun each day.

de-stress

Breathe deep into your belly, meditate, and quiet your mind.

breastmilk supply and demand

Understanding how milk production works can help a mama ensure that her baby is getting enough milk at the breast. For example, sometimes mothers feel that their baby has completely emptied their breast and that there is no more milk available, even though the baby wants to nurse. Knowing that new milk is constantly being produced will give a new mama the confidence she needs to put her baby to the breast, even when it feels “empty.”

Emptying the breasts is what keeps milk production going. A baby’s sucking sends messages to the brain, which then releases the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin causes the muscle cells around the alveoli to contract, pushing milk down through the ducts to the nipple. This movement of milk down the ducts is called the milk-ejection reflex. Mamas may experience it as a tingling feeling or a sense of release in the breast, which is why it is also called the “let-down.” The let-down empties the alveoli and makes the milk available to the baby at the nipple. When the alveoli are empty, they respond by making more milk.

To ensure that you are properly “emptying” your breasts and promoting further milk production:

  • make sure baby is nursing efficiently – if you’re not sure, see a lactation consultant
  • use breast massage and compression
  • offer both sides at each nursing session – wait until baby is finished with the first side before offering the second
  • pump after nursing if baby does not adequately soften both breasts *

* If baby empties the breasts well, then pumping is more useful if done between nursing sessions (in light of our goal to keep the breasts as empty as possible).

low milk supply

Low milk supply can be a huge concern for breastfeeding mamas, but there are plenty of herbs, supplements, and healthy foods that can ensure your supply is solid.

If you feel like your milk supply has taken a hit and is starting to dip:

include galactagogue foods at every meal (foods that promote or increase the flow of a mother’s milk) like oatmeal, leafy greens (chard, kale, spinach, broccoli), garlic, chickpeas, nuts and seeds (especially almonds), ginger, and papaya.

drink organic teas containing herbs like fennel, anise, coriander (cilantro), fenugreek, blessed thistle, goat’s rue, milk thistle, caraway seed, nettle, and red raspberry leaf.

take Vitamin D to support your baby’s healthy teeth and bone development.

take Vitamin B6, B12 and zinc to bolster your immune system and nervous system.

the bottom line

1. If you choose to breastfeed, it can be a bumpy road! But with a few simple diet and lifestyle tweaks, you can thrive through your breastfeeding journey.

2. Feeding on demand and making sure babe empties the breast with each feed will ensure your supply and demand is sustainable.

3. Enjoy the process. Give yourself grace. YOU JUST BIRTHED A HUMAN, and you’re basically a superhero now. Slow down, take in every little detail, and try to just move with the ebbs and flows of new mamahood.

You’ve got this, mama!

let’s connect

Are you ready to uplevel your breastfeeding journey? Let’s hop on a call and see how I can help you achieve your dream of mamahood!

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