After my last article, and having written about breastfeeding previously, I was accused of being too in favour of breastfeeding and wasn’t being balanced enough. My friend, in a good natured way, pointed out I don’t talk about alternatives or the downsides of breastfeeding.

I wasn’t sure how t respond. I mean, firstly this is a private bog and not some professional or official source of information like a newspaper or a government agency. There is no requirement for me to be anything at all – as a private citizen I can be as biased as I like.  If I want to root for Donald Trump and advocate  for a 100 foot high, electrified, border crossing proof fence along the Rio Grande I can (but I won’t because that would be silly).

Secondly I did try and point out I’m not all out in favour of breastfeeding as much as I advocate it. I don’t want to be one of those people who will implicitly or explicitly  criticise the choice of other mothers who don’t breastfeed or do whatever it is they believe in.

So What Do I Think?

So here’s a balanced perspective, in a nutshell.

Firstly, I like breastfeeding and I like writing and talking about it. Now I don’t do it anymore I miss it.

Breastfeeding has well researched and documented advantages over other forms of feeding a baby. Breastmilk is perfectly suited for your baby and their digestive system and needs. Nothing else is as good for your baby.

I'm trying to balance here....!

I’m trying to balance here….!

That said, there are plenty of reasons why breastfeeding is impossible or hard and it shouldn’t be looked down upon as a failure when a mother does not breastfeed. It can hurt, your baby might never get the hang of it, a mother might not be able to make enough milk and it can drain your energy and make you really tired – on that I can speak from some experience.

In the end it is a choice for each and every mother to make specific to their circumstances. Sometimes that “choice” is dictated by those circumstances so the choice isn’t a choice at all.

The Bottom Line

So while I enjoy and encourage breastfeeding I think that as long as a mom makes the decision that ensures the best outcome for her and her child then scaremongers and everyone else should butt out. The important elements in any “formula” (pardon the pun) is making sure the baby gets what they need from mom without affecting mom’s health and wellbeing.

So there, I hope that adds a bit of balance and perspective to this blog and – if anyone ever reads this – the wider perennial debate.

Oh, and it seems like post-weaning depression is a thing after all. For anyone who was interested.

Hi everyone. I wanted to be more active on my blog this year. I really do enjoy writing when I get the chance to sit down and type out my thoughts or what’s been happening. Last year I never seemed to have the time although now my kids, especially my youngest, is now that bit older I’m hoping to improve. Not that I’ve done so well so far this year.

I’m a big advocate of breastfeeding and have spoken a lot about it before on my blog. Its something that I enjoy and advocate. It isn’t for everyone – I don’t like to be one of those people who are so strongly pro-breastfeeding that I’ll criticise anyone  who doesn’t breastfeed. It’s an individual thing.

Bu t that’s not what I am writing about today. I wrote in my last post about how well feeding solids was going. That was some time ago and in the passing weeks and months things are only going better.

What The End of Breastfeeding Means

So it means that my youngest has petty much stopped drinking milk, or at least my milk. My breastfeeding days  are pretty much over.

This isn’t a bad thing but I am surprised how sad it makes me feel when I stop and reflect on the fact I don’t need to breastfeed any more. It’s like a little bit of the bond between me and my daughter has gone. It’s silly I know but that’s how I feel.

I thought maybe it wasn’t just me – and it isn’t – but I’m not sure if post breastfeeding termination sadness is a thing or not. Some research on the internet and the library hasn’t turned anything up, but if it is a real thing (or rather something somebody’s researched) then I’m not surprised.

child-waving-goodbye

Breastfeeding is a special act involving mother and child, making you close as you can be (physically anyway) and helping forge the loving bonds that are so important. I wasn’t ready for it to end, even though the end was clearly coming (and has to come) so now the end is here I have been surprised by the depths of feeling I have. It’s almost a nostalgia.

I miss the special time of sitting on the couch with my “baby” and having it feel it  like we were the only two in the world. If only for that small slice of time. And maybe, to be honest, I miss having that special bond. Now I’m no longer my baby’s food source. Anyone can feed her!

Not every mom will go through this. In fact many moms are more than happy for breastfeeding to end as it means an end to the many aspects of it that are not nice or enjoyable (breastfeeding isn’t all roses, I know). And that’s okay.

One person who is happier is my husband! He is now able to take a greater role in feeding and loves his “special time” of having all his little girl’s attention and goofballing around, making planes fly or boats sail into her mouth.

Given my last two posts there has been a lot of feedback from people about what might be wrong. Lots of people suggested there might be an underlying health problem, like a thyroid issue. I didn’t think so, but went to see a doctor anyway. After some visits, some tests and a couple of bills it seems there is nothing out of the ordinary. I was relieved there was no serious medical issue as the cause.

The other major suggestion was that I should stop breastfeeding, as this was a likely contributor to my fatigue. It was a suggestion that was hard to take. I’ve written before about how I love to breastfeed my child – it is something that makes me feel closer to her, and I am sure makes her feel loved and closer to me. However, after some thought I noticed that part of my “energy recovery” was coinciding with a reduction in how much breastfeeding I was doing.

With my youngest daughter becoming old enough to ween there has been a reduction in the amount of breast feeding that has been needed. In fact it is actually zero, now I think about it – I express a little but that is about it.

So maybe there is something to the idea that my tiredness is linked to breastfeeding. I had to do some research.

sleepybaby

Breastfeeding = Sharing Your Calories

It seems obvious now, but a simple web search reveals the answer. You only get so much energy from the food you eat. If you use that energy to produce milk and then give that milk to your baby then that means less for you! Like a chocolate bar, you’re dividing up your nutrients between two people. As a result you get less, which in turn makes you feel less energetic.

That does not mean you should simply eat more, but you should try and eat better. Even if that does mean increasing the amount of food you eat, eating better foods like foods with a low glycemic index. Snacks of the right type of foods is okay, too.

Feeling Drowsy Right After Feeding

One of the more interesting things I discovered as I was doing my research was that breast feeding itself makes you sleepy. According to this page there is an gastrointestinal hormone called cholecystokinine (CCK) that increases in both mother and baby during breast feeding. The effect that CCK has is to induce a state of relaxation and sleepiness as well as feelings of satisfaction.

There is a second hormone, prolactin, sometimes known as the mothering hormone, that is released as a result of breast feeding. Like CCK, prolactin helps make a mother feel relaxed as she feeds.

Between the CCK and the prolactin hormones, breast feeding moms can feel very sleepy as the feed. CCK will make babies feel sleepy and full once they have had enough milk. Roughly 30 minutes after feeding the CCK in an infant peaks and it is an ideal time to get them to to go sleep.

Should I Stop Breastfeeding?

No, feeling tired alone is not a good reason to stop – not if you wouldn’t stop otherwise. As previously discussed, tiredness can be addressed in other ways. If you feel that breast feeding is making you so tired you are unable to function then it is fine to consider stopping but all other possible causes ruled out and any other courses of action should be  considered first.

You can also read what I have to say about saying goodbye to breastfeeding here.

breast pump

In my work as a breastfeeding counsellor, I am often asked about breast pumps. Here are my thoughts!

A breast pump can be a nursing mother’s best friend in her breastfeeding journey. It allows moms to continue breastfeeding even if they are away from their baby and helps mothers with premature infants initiate and sustain a healthy milk supply to provide their little ones with their life-saving milk. Whether you choose a manual breast pump or an electric model, there are a few basics to properly using and making the most out of your breast pump.

breast pump

Credit: Mike Prince

1. Assess Your Needs.

It is important to assess your needs when it comes to choosing a pump. Will you be using it daily? Bringing it to work? Will you be pumping occasionally for a night out? Knowing your personal needs and unique circumstances will help you choose the best pump for you. If you would only be pumping on rare occasions then you may be better off buying a good quality manual pump rather than investing in expensive hospital grade units. Likewise if you would be exclusively pumping, then it would make sense to invest in a top of the line pump.

2. Choose Wisely.

There is a dizzying array of breast pumps in the market today. After assessing your needs, read up and do your research on product reviews to help you make a decision. There are sellers who offer the use of trial pumps, check your local listing if this service is available in your area. Look into available parts and accessories in case you need them. Whatever pump you choose, ask if there are different sized flanges available. Using the wrong sized flange for your nipple size may injure your breasts and make pumping uncomfortable.

3. Read The Product Instructions.

After purchasing your pump, please do read the product instructions first before using. Especially for electric pumps and battery operated pumps, there may be a few preparatory steps to do, like initial charging, before you can start using them. The milk collection kits would also need a good and thorough washing and boiling to disinfect them before first use.

4. Find Your Spot.

After reading your product instruction manual and familiarizing yourself with how to operate your pump, find a comfortable spot where you can set up your pumping station. Choose a place where you can relax and keep distractions to a minimum. A stress free environment helps you achieve let down faster and helps increase the amount of breast milk you are able to express.

5. Relax and Pump Away.

The best tip for successful pumping is to relax and trust that your body is able to provide for baby’s needs. It helps to listen to music, read a book, catch up on social media or put your feet up and rest from your chores. Many pumping mothers, especially those at work or away from home find that looking at a picture of their baby or watching their videos or smelling one of baby’s used shirts triggers faster let down and increases the amount of milk they are able to pump.

6. Clean Up and Store.

After you pump, make sure you clean up your pump parts and flanges and to store your expressed milk appropriately especially if you will be traveling home from work with the milk. It is important to keep your pump clean to avoid contamination of your milk and also to ensure it stays in good working condition.

 

Knowing how to use your breast pump properly will go a long way towards keeping a healthy milk supply and helping you sustain extended breastfeeding.

Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of being a first time parent, is having to listen to enduring myths and ingrained beliefs of well-meaning friends, family and loved ones. Our in-laws, our mother, our grandmother, our best friend’s mom, our elderly neighbor, all have their two cents worth on what they believe we should be doing in our parenting journey. Breastfeeding could top the list of having the most number of misconceptions and beliefs that often derail a first time mom’s commitment to exclusively breastfeed.

After the popularity of my last post, about everything you wanted to know about breastfeeding but were too scared to ask, I thought I’d like to share some myths on breastfeeding that really need to be corrected.

Credit: Jason Carter

Credit: Jason Carter

Stress turns breast milk sour

My grandmother, bless her heart, always kept reminding me, always be in a good mood, don’t stress, relax, otherwise you can’t breastfeed, makes your milk turn sour. As much as I love my grandma, breast milk DOES NOT turn sour no matter how stressed you are. Breastfeeding actually relaxes a mother by releasing the hormone prolactin, also known as the “mothering” hormone, instantly and naturally inducing a feeling of calm and relaxation in a mother. And one other thing, breast milk doesn’t spoil in your breasts. You may feel engorged and get rock hard bossoms but no, your milk won’t turn sour.

You can’t breastfeed if you’re sick

Many mothers worry that breastfeeding their little one while they are sick would also make baby sick. Not true. If mom is sick, then all the more they should breastfeed. Breast milk actually protects our baby from illness by providing much need antibodies specific to your illness. Not breastfeeding baby while sick actually makes baby more prone to catching your bug. While it is not an absolute guarantee that bay won’t get sick, continuing to breastfeed during a bout with the flu actually provides baby with the much needed protection from your illness. He may feel down and unwell for a day or two, but compare that to not breastfeeding at all and having to endure baby’s restlessness for a week.

Breastfeeding is only for the rich (or the poor)

Breastfeeding is the great equalizer. You only need one boob and one baby to provide the perfect food genetically and perfectly designed to provide for your infant’s unique needs. No matter what your social or financial status in life may be, breast milk is the only need all mothers are able to provide with no prejudice to how much they can afford financially. It’s free, for heaven’s sakes, IT’S FREE!

Breastfeeding is painful, deal with it

Many people think breastfeeding is a sacrifice one makes for the sake of the little one, that it is painful and difficult. Breastfeeding is a physiologically designed gift that should not hurt at all. If breastfeeding hurts then you are doing it wrong. Breastfeeding may be uncomfortable at first but by no means should it cause you pain. If it hurts then something is wrong. Get help from a breastfeeding peer counselor or a lactation consultant.

No matter how much we love our well meaning parents, in-laws and friends, breastfeeding is a gift that we can successfully enjoy when armed with the right information. Think of it this way, whenever you hear a derogatory remark that makes you feel you’re doing it all wrong, there’s always Google and Facebook and blogs to remind you that you’re on the right track.

Here are even more myths about breastfeeding!

Even after doing all your research, reading all those parenting and breastfeeding blogs, reading all the latest lactation studies, there will always be those lingering questions in every new mom’s head about breastfeeding — especially those questions that can be embarrassing to ask or seem too absurd, selfish or vain to be a valid question. For this post, I’d like to share some of the questions and the answers I’ve learned about breastfeeding (through personal experience and / or obsessive research and blog-trolling), that you may be too ashamed or afraid to ask:

breastfeeding

1. I’d really like to get my hair colored / highlighted / permed /rebonded / treated, etc. but I’m breastfeeding! Is that ok?

Yes it is okay to get your hair done even while breastfeeding. While many discourage chemical hair treatments or applications for breastfeeding mothers, studies have shown that even if these chemicals gets passed on to your baby through your breast milk, they are in quantities too negligible to have any effect on your little one. Go ahead and get that perm. Just make sure of course you aren’t actually breastfeeding while you get your hair done.

2. I really want to enjoy a glass of wine (or bottle of beer) at my friend’s party, but I’m breastfeeding, is that ok?

Go ahead and unwind with that glass of wine (or bottle of beer, or shot of vodka for that matter). The point is to unwind and relax (but not get drunk) and it is okay to take alcohol in moderation even when breastfeeding. Studies have shown that the trace amount of alcohol that gets passed on to baby are also in negligible quantities. To be on the extra safe side, nurse baby before you go out to have a drink (or have pre-expressed milk in the fridge for him), or wait for 2-3 hours after your drink before latching again. Again, moderation is key.

3. Breastfeeding will cause my breasts to sag! Is that true?

No, breastfeeding does NOT cause your breasts to sag. Stretching which happens during pregnancy may contribute to sagging breasts post partum, whether you breastfeed or not. Other factors like smoking, aging and genetics also play a role in sagging breasts. So unless you have really good genes and wear really good bras all the time, you’re breasts will sag eventually, WHETHER YOU BREASTFEED OR NOT. Such is the law of gravity.

4. My nipples are inverted, can I breastfeed?

Yes you can breastfeed with flat or even inverted nipples. A baby’s latch is enough to pull-out inverted nipples. In the first days though, while you and baby are still learning how to nurse, it could help to use nipple shells or even a big cut-off syringe to “pull-out” the nipple in preparation for latch. But based on experience, flat or inverted nipples usually pop out on their own as you and baby both get your breastfeeding rhythm and routine down pat.

Here are some other myths of breastfeeding.

As absurd or as vain as some of these questions may seem, they are valid questions that deserve informed and reliable answers. After all, the less doubts and insecurities a new mother has, the more she is able to be for her new baby.

Read why I love breastfeeding.

So we all know that breast milk is best for babies. What many don’t know is that breastfeeding is also best for mommies. So this time I’m sharing the 10 reasons why I love breastfeeding from a mother’s point of view.

1. It’s a no-brainer. If you’re a “lazy” mom like I am, who hates having to wash all those bottles and trying to read mixing instructions and trying to figure out what a scoop of formula exactly is, then breastfeeding is a sanity saver. All you need is one boob and one baby and you’re good to go!

2. Instant quiet time. I have to confess there are times I’m too exhausted to get up in the wee hours of the morning to change a nappy. I buy myself instant quiet time by simply popping out a boob, giving me a few precious minutes to snap out from dreamland before I have to get up and be able to change the nappy. This works for almost any screaming situation and most meltdowns too. Latch baby on for a few minutes, chances are he will instantly calm down enough to allow you to figure out exactly what he needs.

3. No need to break a sweat. Breastfeeding burns an average of 500 calories a day. That’s like swimming or running for an hour. So even without getting on a treadmill, you still lose a lot of your post-partum weight. Consider breastfeeding your sweat-free workout.

4. Breast milk is an all-in-one balm. I’ve used breast milk on insect bites, rashes and even minor scrapes and scratches, and not just on baby, but on everyone in my household, hubby’s zits included. It also works as an all natural moisturizer. I once had a cup of expressed milk my toddler didn’t want to drink, I used it for a DIY foot soak. Did wonders for my cracked heel.

5. Free anti-oxidant. Breastfeeding cuts a mother and female infant’s risks of breast and ovarian cancer. Breastfed babies also have lower risks for leukemia and lymphoma. We have a strong history of cancer in my family. For this reason alone, I’d like to breastfeed forever.

6. More freedom to go wherever. Since I’m one of those moms who really don’t care what you think when you see me breastfeeding, I have the freedom to go wherever. Like I’ve said, all you need is one boob and one baby and you’re good to go. No need for bottles and formula and water, you get to up and go at a moment’s notice.

7. It’s FREE. Only about 1% of women are physiologically unable to breastfeed. So I really don’t get why many don’t take advantage of the huge savings you get from breastfeeding. The money you save from having to buy formula and bottles and teats could very well go to your baby’s college fund, or if you’ve got that covered, then go buy yourself a pretty dress or new makeup with the extra cash.

8. Less stress about baby’s health. Let’s admit that as parents, our baby’s health is an ever present concern. Breastfeeding however, cuts the risks of your baby getting sick. Studies have proven that breastfed babies don’t get sick as much as their formula fed counterparts. I’ve once rushed my feverish baby to the emergency room only to have the doctors send me home with a prescription that said “continue breastfeeding on demand”.

9. Stress buster. Breastfeeding releases the hormone prolactin, also called the “mothering hormone” because it physiologically induces a mother’s instinct to “mother” her child. Prolactin naturally puts a nursing mother in a state of relaxation and calm while breastfeeding. I have to say, despite a long exhausting day at work, I always look forward to nursing my little one, if only for the tension-releasing effect it has on me.

10. Emotional bonding and development. Breastfeeding is a life-affirming act of love. It is your baby’s source of nourishment and comfort. It is what I believe to be the first most powerful act of affirmation of a mother’s love that your baby understands.

If you want some more reasons – here are 101!

Breastfeeding is a mother’s privilege. It is a woman’s exclusive gift. There is only a short window of time when we are able to do this. I say let us embrace this gift, and revel in every moment we are privileged enough to do it.