My Milky Way Guide
From the beginning, breastfeeding has been a non-problematic topic for me. I already produced pre-milk before my baby was born. The real milk kicked in one day after the little bird’s birth. A couple of days later, the nurses said that I could provide milk for some for other mothers. That strong was my milk supply. Well, not was…it still is. I also have never experienced soar nipples so I never got to use the nipple cream that I had bought. Of course, there is also a slight counter part. I cannot spend a day without quality breast pads from Medela or Lansinoh (basic ones are just not doing the job) that I have to change at least once (well, more realistically put: twice). Milk disasters, that cover my son’s face with milk or leave enormous milk stains on my shirt, happen less compared to the first months but they still do happen. These moments could seem inconvenient but in reality they are only a little discomfort which I take with a smile (read my breastfeeding experience at a wedding for proof 😉 ). Enjoying these intimate moments that I have when nursing my baby and see him grow, is just too precious. With experiencing nursing in such a positive manner, I thought why not write down a couple of tips that helped me during my adventure on the milky way. I tried to find information on this topic before the birth of my son but felt that the info was either too scientific or too pro-breastfeeding (I like it neutral). That’s why I’ll try to make it short…well I try!
Before the milk kicks in: Stay calm and let no one put pressure on you!
After the delivery of the baby, the mother’s body is working very hard to produce breast milk. With the marathon she just ran pushing the baby out, this process is a huge effort for the body. It is natural that the moment when the milk kicks in varies from woman to woman so there is no rule such as “in 3 days the milk has to be there”! All a new mother needs in this time is her baby, sleep (whenever possible), enough fluids (still water, breastfeeding tea) and a stressless environment. Nurses or family members that put pressure on her are toxic and have already caused that mothers had no milk-supply.
When the milk kicks in: White cabbage, let’s be friends!
People are not lying when they say that breasts become huge when the milk kicks in. In general they say that they change up to 2 sizes and can feel quite tense. At the hospital, I was given plastic bags filled with cold joghurt but the result was not really soothing so I consulted my cousin and my mid-wife. “Put a white cabbage leave in your bra” was their answer and it worked amazingly well. The leaves fit well the shape of the breasts and have a cooling effect. When nurisng the baby, just take them off and leave them. They will get cold again. It does look weird to outsiders and the smell is intense but the result is very comforting!
My baby can’t latch: Be patient, think of an hamburger or contact a lactation consultant!
I thought that breastfeeding is super easy. I have milk and my baby just latches and that’s it. Nope! The whole thing also requested a lot of patience. My son really wanted to latch but somehow it did not work with the first try…neither the second…nor the fifth but maybe the seventh. I was really patient but I also talked to my midwife who looked at us and said that I have to imagine the whole think like a hamburger. The burger is round and filled with delicious ingredients but my mouth is too small to take a great bite. To eat it, I have to squeez it a bit. That’s what I did with my boop and tadaaa, from that moment it worked. If the latch problem is different, there are lactation consultants in a lot of cities that can give advice.
Strengthen the milk supply: 2-boop-approach, milk stimulating drinks, no stress!
Breasts produce milk depening on the demand. When you nurse more, more milk is produced and vice versa. If stronger milk supply is wished, make sure to put your baby on both breasts for each meal. In addition to this, you can also drink milk stimulating drinks such as nursing tea. In Germany, they also recommend to drink a little bit of white beer or sparkling wine (Prosecco, Champagne) as both drinks have stimulating effects, too ;). Again, do not stress but relax and sleep enough. Do not underestimate the strength of the body’s mind to influence the milk production!
Weaken the milk supply: 1-boop-approach, no milk stimulating drinks
This is the opposite of the previous point. If you have too much milk, use only one breast for each meal. However, do alternate them throughout the whole experience to avoid that you get two differently shaped breasts once the nursing phase is over ;). Avoid as well milk stimulating drinks!
Mastitis (breast infection): Listen to your body, stay in bed & call your midwife!
I thought that there are ways to avoid a breast infection. However, around 4 weeks after my son was born I had to experience one. It kind of hit me over night just like that. I work up feeling feverish; my whole body hurt and one side of my breast was really painful. “This sounds like a rising breast infection!” my midwife told me. But I hadn’t done anything wrong (i.e. I always kept the breast warm and did not wear bras that were too tight), so why did this happen? Well. Breast milk obviously includes bakteria. If the milk does not flow but gets stuck, the bakteria grows in the canals and can cause an infection; often accompanied with high fever. This can happen really fast. Sometimes over night, sometimes within one hour. I thought again about it and yes: that night my son slept for once three hours instead of two. This delay mixed with tiredness was the base for my illness. By the way the same happened also to a couple of other moms I know. So what did I do to not get a real breast infection?
1. Stay in bed, sleep and drink lots of water. My man managed to work from home to take care of our baby.
2. Nurse the baby as often as possible to free the breast of the milk. Some midwifes recommend to pump the milk; others speak against it (pumping is a good short term help but it also stimulates the milk production which is not really what we want here) and prefer massages.
3. Let gravity help you. It sounds weird and will make you feel like a milk cow but nursing your baby while standing quadrupely helps to let the milk flow more easily. The breast will be emptied faster.
4. Make sure that your baby latches with his/her jaw facing the side where the pain comes from. The baby drinks on that side with more force and will empty the canal that is stuck more easily.
5. Stay the day after also in bed and relax. The breast may still feel sore and your body needs recovery. The sooner you do this the better. It wil help you avoid having a real infection. However, if you feel really bad and have high fever: go and see a doctor as you may need to take antibiotics (which does not automatically mean that you will have to stop nursing!).
Getting tired? Be patient but also listen to yourself!
Breastfeeding is hard work and there can be moments when you are tired of it. However, I always felt and still feel that my persistence and patience paid off. If you feel the same: do it but if you feel really uphappy with it do not feel guilty. Nobody judges you no whatter what decision you take. If you are stressed and uncomfortable, your baby will feel it. Happy mom = happy baby!
This is surely a very personal topic and the experience varies from woman to woman. There are definitely things that I have missed or that work differently for other moms. These are points that helped me make my breastfeeding experience be a blast so I hope that some of my info is helpful for you! Happy World Breastfeeding Week 2014! Xx