Thursday, March 20, 2014

What you may not know about breastfeeding

Yes, this is another breastfeeding post. As a breastfeeding mom, I have had many wonderful opportunities to educate friends and family about breastfeeding. Much of what I know is from experience, but most of it is from hours of research. I have read books, scoured web pages, and been active in online support groups. It should come as no surprise that breastfeeding is so awesome. God knew what he was doing when he designed us to be able to feed our babies this way. And it's how all other mammals feed their babies. But there is SO much I feel like most people (previously, myself included) don't know about it. I hope this post informs you and maybe even helps you as you start your own journey into parenthood (now or in the future). Enjoy!

Passed out after eating. Sweet baby! :)

+ The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) and World Health Organization (WHO) recommend exclusive breastfeeding until at least 6 months, and continuing to nurse until 1-2 years or beyond. So, it's not weird for moms to continue nursing beyond infancy. I'm right there with you...I used to think it was super weird. I thought if babies could walk, or worse, ask for it, they were way too old for it. So, try not to judge or jump to conclusions when you see a mom just doing what is best for her child.

+ It's supply and demand. (Well, at first it's hormonal, but it soon becomes supply and demand) Meaning, any time you feed your baby with something other than your breasts, you're telling your body that it doesn't need milk for that feed. It's tempting, especially in the beginning or for night feeds, to ask your partner to just feed the baby a bottle. But unless you are going to get up and pump at that same time, it's only going to decrease your supply in the long-run. Sorry, ladies! bottles-even of breastmilk-unless you are going to pump as well. If you're like me and have to go back to work, try to pump as many times as your baby eats while you're apart. For me, that magic number is 3.

+ Breast milk has anti-viral, anti-microbial, and anti-bacterial properties. You can use it to cure almost anything! There are even some studies on using it to treat cancer...whoa! But for more day-to-day uses, you can put it on any scrape or cut, bathe in it for rashes or dry skin, put it up your or your baby's nose to treat sinus congestion and the common cold, etc...

+ Your breast milk has antibodies from the things you've been exposed to. So, you and your little one come in contact with some yucky germies. His immune system isn't strong enough to fight it off yet, but yours is. Your body creates antibodies to fight it off. Those antibodies end up in your milk and are then transferred to the baby when he eats! That, in turn, builds up HIS immune system. Amazing! (Scott and I joke about me sneaking into Grayson's daycare to lick the books and toys. ha! Really gross, but would definitely help him not get as sick from the other kids. And no, I'm not that crazy!)

+ Breast milk changes as your baby ages. It has nutrients appropriate for the developmental age of your baby, and it increases in fat content. This is why breastfed babies don't need to increase the amount of milk they get per feeding. You may see formula babies getting 8 or 9 oz bottles. Grayson gets 3-oz bottles at daycare. And he's plenty healthy! Almost 18 pounds at 5 1/2 months!

+You DO NOT need to supplement while waiting for your milk to come in! Before your milk comes in, your body makes colostrum, which is dense in nutrients. Baby doesn't get much liquid, but it's plenty to fulfill his needs until your milk comes in. If you are concerned he's not getting enough and try to supplement with formula in the meantime, that means baby is spending less time at the breast, so your body doesn't know it needs more milk. Meaning, your milk may never come in to its fullest potential.

+ Newborns eat constantly. This is normal. They have tiny tummies and can only hold a small amount so they must eat frequently. It also is establishing your supply. Again, do not be tempted to supplement out of exhaustion or fear that your baby is starving. If you do that you may never make enough to satisfy your little one. (As a point of reference, Grayson ate every 1-2 hours for the first month or two. Now, he eats closer to every 3 hours.)

+ Eating gas-inducing foods does not give your baby gas. So, don't fear beans, onions, etc. Most moms do not need to change their diet at all. What CAN happen, though, is food sensitivity in the baby. The most common culprit is dairy. This is NOT lactose intolerance, but rather a sensitivity to the casein protein in cow milk. It's also possible that other foods, such as nuts, garlic, acidic foods, etc, can cause problems for your baby. But it's pretty rare. Most babies just go through a fussy period when their digestive systems are developing. People are quick to blame breastmilk or mom's diet. Don't go on a crazy elimination diet or switching to formula right away. Give it some time. Or cut back on one thing at a time to see if it helps. Or you can even have your baby tested if you can get a stool sample to your Pediatrician.

+Speaking of diet, you CAN drink alcohol. Can I get an AMEN from the wine-lovers like me? haha! Of course, only in moderation. Naturally, you don't want to be drunk when you may need to care for a baby anyway. You may have heard to pump and dump. Turns out this does nothing to speed the metabolism of the alcohol. So, don't do it unless you just need to pump for comfort or to keep up your supply. They say as a general rule of thumb, if you are safe to drive, you are safe to nurse. I basically only drink a glass of wine or beer after Grayson has gone down for the night. At that point I know I typically have at least 6 hours before I'll be feeding him again. Of course, alcohol consumption should be done based your own comfort level and you can always ask your doctor if you are unsure. I would never make a blanket statement that drinking is okay.

+ You may hear about foremilk and hindmilk. Foremilk is the first milk that comes out during a feeding or while pumping, and the hindmilk is the latter milk. It's not really two different types of milk. It's just that the milk changes in composition as the feeding goes on. Fat globules stick to your milk ducts and release slowly during a feeding. The first milk that comes out is higher in water content, so it helps quench the baby's thirst. Then, as the fat dispenses, it becomes more filling and helps satisfy hunger. You'll notice if you pump and leave a bottle in the fridge, the milk will separate with the creamier part rising to the top. Cow milk does this too, but it goes through a homogenizing process before being sold so that it won't do this while setting in your fridge.

+ They say to gently swirl but do not shake breast milk when preparing bottles to mix the creamy part back in. Apparently shaking it may damage some of the protein chains or something. Research is still indefinite about this, but I abide by this rule just in case. Because, why not?

+ Breastfed babies usually don't poop as often as formula fed babies. Babies will actually absorb the majority of the nutrients in breastmilk. So, they have less to excrete through bowel movements. Grayson usually only poops once or twice a week. Once he went almost 2 full weeks without pooping. Babies are only considered constipated if they are passing hard, pebble-like poop. As long as their poop isn't hard, they aren't constipated.

+ Speaking of, breastfed babies have very loose bowels. They are on a 100% liquid diet. So, their poop is runnier than formula fed babies, or babies who have started rice cereal or solids. It does not mean they have diarrhea. Grayson had a blowout at church last week and the girls in the nursery thought for sure he was sick. Nope, he just has runny poop. And blowouts every time he poops. This isn't the case for every breastfed baby. I'm just not one of the lucky ones when it comes to blowouts!

+And in case you didn't know, breastfeeding is a great bonding experience, is the most convenient way to feed your baby, and also burns calories! I'm slimmer now than I was before I got pregnant. Whoop! I wouldn't want to feed Grayson any other way!

I hope this answers some questions you may have had (or didn't know you had!). I would love to answer any more if you have any. Just let me know!

*I have provided just one link per fact. There are tons more out there. If you would like more sources, just let me know!*

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