Amy LOVES giving parenting advice. She is passionate about cloth diapering, breastfeeding, and sleeping. One of our friends recently found out she was pregnant and asked Amy for advice. This series hopes to capture that email exchange for posterity sake! Missionary mommies, mommies on mission or anyone in general…ENJOY!
So, you’re in a foreign country and you get pregnant almost immediately. After you cry, freak out, take 4 more pregnancy tests, tell your husband and then cry some more, you try to get and handle on everything and move forward, slowly. At least that’s what happened to me.
I realized pretty quickly, well, here we go again . Then after I found out, many of my other friends found out they were pregnant too (odd coincidence for sure). Some of them for the first time; some of them for the fourth time. Many of them talked about the successes and failures of breast-feeding. So I thought I would capture all of that (and my own experiences) and try share it all as informative as possible in this forum. Hopefully, it blesses and informs those mommies out there. From this missionary mommy to you, all you ever wanted to know about breastfeeding.
Having breastfed Madeline for 10 months, Jojo for 13 months, and Elijah for 9 months currently, I have learned a lot. Those are my qualifications…take them or leave them.
First of all, there are some seriously needed supplies that a breastfeeding mother needs, yes needs, to ensure the maximum amount of success (length of breastfeeding) and comfort.
Those supplies are:
- Breast pads (I used washable ones that I threw into a mesh pouch and washed with our clothes in the washing machine)
- Breast pump (My understanding is that insurance companies need to pay for these now for breastfeeding mothers…ASK!). I used the middle of the road Medela with two pumps.
- Milk storage bags
- Nursing cover – This is expected in the States (ridiculous!). But if you’re a missionary mommy like me then breastfeeding is just an accepted part of life (Note: this gets some odd looks when we return back to the States, and I forget where I am).
The following advice is laid out in bullet points of issues that I ran into and overcame or advice that I was so blessed to have a good friend tell me and help me walk through. The following advice is for those mommies who are capable of breastfeeding. Some mommies are not physically able to breastfeed due to issues during delivery or have supply issues due to the way God made you. Don’t beat yourself up. You are a beloved daughter of our God. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Period. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Also I will say this, if you have to go back to work, I would think that nursing is A LOT more difficult and I didn’t have this challenge. I was blessed to be able to stay home once we started having kids and that along with my general stubbornness was huge asset in overcoming breastfeeding challenges. Anyway, enjoy!
- Your body is not yours – In case you didn’t figure it out while you were pregnant, your body is no longer yours. The sooner I accepted that fact and realized that I had to put myself aside and do what is best for the baby, the sooner I was more at peace with the need. I am not saying I neglected myself or sleep (naps are awesome but increasingly harder with the more kids one has). But I did accept in the evening time I might not get as much sleep as I wanted. For me it meant that if I just fed one of the kids and they are up screaming again, I probably was going to go back in there (begrudgingly at times) and feed them again. I was exhausted. Breastfeeding is exhausting but I was giving them nourishment.
- So this is what a cow feels like – This is a missionary blog so I will save some of the more colorful language that I would prefer to use. But I felt like a cow with udders….Udders that are cracked and bleeding and HURT…. A LOT. This is where lanolin comes in. I used it often. I would behoove you to do the same. Stick with the feeding, the cracking and bleeding gets better after the first few weeks. EEEEK WEEKS, you may be saying to yourself. Believe me I know. I know.
- Now I am a cow AND a doctor on call – I realized quickly that I was the one on call morning, noon, and night. I was the one that was up with the kids in the evening…scratch evening, I mean in the middle of the freaking night. I mean right after I had fallen back asleep and I was up again middle of the night. Doctor on call….remember! Anyway, I was the one that was up (especially for the first few months) 99% of the time. Just trust me and do it. It helps keep your milk supply up.
- Nipple confusion, WHAT? – So bottles are the key to date nights. And date nights are the key to a healthy and happy marriage. If you are not doing a date night with your husband weekly, stop reading this and set one up NOW!!……Waiting….ok are you back? Moving on. Bottles are gold but nipple confusion is NOT. Therefore, wait to introduce a bottle (at least 4 – 6 weeks). The way kids drink from breasts vs. bottles is different. Since I primarily breastfed I tried to give a bottle once a week (after 6 weeks) so that we could stay a night away from the kids if we wanted to!
- Division of labor – I was the one that woke up with the baby in the middle of the night. The sooner I realized this, the better it was for everyone in the house. In my experience, all three of the kids wanted to eat when they woke up in the middle of the night. So at first I sent Josh in there (I was up anyway because for some reason after we had kids, he can’t hear a FREAKING THING in the middle of the night). So anyway, Josh goes in tried to calm Madeline down. He came back to bed, and feel right back to sleep (PUNK!). And I stayed up and listened to Madeline rustle and fuss for about 20 more minutes before I went back in to feed her….every time! Just trust me it takes way less time to feed the baby with your breasts than it does to warm up a bottle and have your husband do it. Then you are up anyway to pump to keep up your supply! Talk about inefficiency! Josh and I divided labor greatly..but when it came to middle of the night feedings that was one that I had to do.
- Sustainability – I have a TERRIBLE habit of NOT drinking water. It is so unbelievably frustrating to drink water and then not drink it and blow up like a balloon. Anyway, neither here nor there. I hate fluid retention! During breastfeeding, DRINK A LOT OF WATER. Breast milk is over 80% water. You need water to give out water. It’s really just math. DRINK WATER until you want to be sick and then DRINK MORE. Just trust me. Feeling sloshy in the belly because of too much water is better than milk supply issues down the road.
- Need Extras – I would recommend pumping once per day to store up extra milk. This totally depends on when you have time. When we only had Madeline, I pumped in the morning right after the first feeding of the day. Now with three kids and getting one of them to preschool, I barely have enough time for me to eat….SO I pump before I go to bed. Extra milk is essential again to DATE NIGHTs and NIGHTS AWAY (like overnight!) from the kid(s) and it is a great additive to baby food when they start eating solids.
Milk Supply Issues
So a couple of times during feeding each of the kids, I had a nervous-nelly moment of dwindling supply when I wasn’t done feeding the kids yet (stubbornness again!). Anyway, here are some of the things I relied on to boost my supply.
- Sleep – I understand the paradox and impossibility of this statement. Bottom line, the body needs rest to replenish (even milk). Therefore, rest when possible. Small naps, long naps, just sitting around, Rest.
- Eat oatmeal – Oatmeal is a food that is known to boost milk production. Eat it daily if possible. I would mix oatmeal into yogurt in the morning to lessen the taste (or really improve the bland taste) of the oatmeal. Note: the less refined the oat meal the greater the milk-boosting benefit.
- Fenugreek – This is a supplement I have taken a couple of times and it seemed to help. This can be found, I believe, in any general supplement area of Target or Walmart.
- Pumping and/or feeding the child more – I am not sure the biology of this. Here is what I do know, extra stimulation via a child eating, sends a signal to the body to start making more milk. Therefore, try to feed the child more often to get production back up.
- Other – Other items I have heard of or read about but haven’t tried to boost milk production are mother’s milk and beer. I am sure there are some others that I can’t remember at this time.
Hard Lessons Learned:
I did learn some hard lessons, especially early on. Mostly they were born out of having NO CLUE what was going on.
- Breastfeeding doesn’t happen on it’s own – With Madeline Josh and I literally thought we just hold newborn Madeline up to a breast and she eats from milk that is there. We had no clue about milk “coming in”, latching, holding, or colostrum. Seriously, where was this information? Here are the quick hits.
- Latching – You have to work to have the baby latch (grab on to breast to eat without a lot of air between mouth and nipple to reduce gas in baby). While gas / pooting / farting / tooting / etc is funny. It is NO GOOD for a baby. Reduce air intake for the baby!
- Colostrum – Colostrum is the very small amount of thick protein / antibody milk that the baby gets in the first few feedings.
- Holding – there are different holds to hold the baby, cradle, football, etc. Find one that works for the baby and stick with it, no matter how ridiculous it may look. If the baby is happiest and healthiest drinking upside down, keg-stand style (sorry, I am redeemed from a life of reckless…that’s good), then do it!
- Is my milk in yet?– Apparently it takes a few days for the milk to fully come in. Just trust me when I say this, you WILL NOTICE.
- So we had to supplement – Yes that’s right we had to supplement with formula right when Madeline was born and she didn’t grow a 3rd eye and hell didn’t open up to swallow us. Madeline initially had issues with latching and we had NO CLUE what we were doing. I blame the incompetent hospital staff at the time because I asked for a lactation consultant and they didn’t send anyone in for 24 hours. Anyway. Madeline dropped weight and we had to syringe feed Madeline formula for the first four or five days after I fed her breast milk. If you have to supplement with formula, you are NOT a failure! Don’t let anyone tell you that!
- Stop looking at the scale – It’s next to impossible to know how much milk the baby is getting. I have friends that have exta fatty milk and their babies plump up immediately. I am talking their kids look like they could eat my kids. Anyway, I was worried about weight with every kid AND I am currently worried about Elijah’s weight. Talk to your doctor. Different practices have different opinions on this matter. Some are quick to jump to supplementing with formula; others may offer different suggestions. Some practices even have lactation consultants to can speak with. Bottom line – when shopping for a doctor, I would recommend nailing down the doctor’s opinion on this matter. More than likely, you could be back in the patient room discussing the baby’s weight.
- Support system – Like any new adventure, a support system is of paramount importance. If it wasn’t for a large support system of friends rallying behind me, encouraging me, providing advice, etc, I don’t know if I could have continued. Find your friends and family to support you unconditionally in your quest to the breastfeed. If you don’t have any friends / family to help, reach out to a mommy’s blog, this one even :). Also, I would recommend for newer mommies to take the breastfeeding class offered at hospitals as part of the Lamaze series. We didn’t take any classes (stubbornness again), but we had friends take the class and many have said it was quite beneficial.
Breastfeeding has been and is an adventure! My last piece of advice is to enjoy it. We are currently living our life based on the phrase “The days are long but the years are short.” With our kids it is so true, the time that they breastfeed is so long in the moment but really so short. Take the time during those feeding to pray for the baby. Pray God’s blessing over them. Pray for them to grow up to be described as men and women after God’s own heart and for you as the parent to have the discipline to get out of the way! Before you know it that ball of cuddles is running around naked outside (which is where 2 of our 3 kids are right now!).
The days are LONG but the years are SHORT…for sure!