T Rex Family

T Rex Family

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Live and Learn Blog Event - Day 3

Practical advice for first time parents

According to the CDC, 75% of women start breastfeeding immediately following birth. However, the number of babies who are exclusively breastfed at ages 3, 6, and 12 months remain consistently low with little improvement. This low level of continued breastfeeding indicates a lack of support and education for women about the benefits of breastfeeding.

Looking at cost benefits alone, if breastfeeding levels were increased from current rates to the U.S. Surgeon General's recommendations (75% at hospital discharge and 50% at 6 months postpartum), then at minimum 3.6 billion dollars could be saved just in cost savings for treating three of the most common childhood illnesses (otitis media, gastroenteritis, and
necrotizing enterocolitis). This number does not include costs for for formula or treatment costs for maternal disease prevention (breastfeeding reduces risk of breast and ovarian cancers).

Breastfeeding may be totally natural and have been practiced for tens of thousands of years, but it does not always come naturally. In fact, I know of no one who has had a flawless experience from beginning to end. And formula companies make it so easy to throw in the towel! When I left the hospital with each of my kids, I was given no less than two bags full of formula plus other formula supplies despite my stating up front my birth plan that I would be breastfeeding exclusively. Also, each local pediatric office here in my town is are stocked from floor to ceiling with formula. The formula propaganda is incredible. Add to this, many work places are less than friendly to breastfeeding women when they return from maternity leave.

In breastfeeding there are so many other struggles that have to be met along the way. Reflux, tongue-tied, GI disturbances, latching issues, etc, etc. Most are manageable. These issues just takes time and support. I find that often when breastfeeding does fail it is the that education and support are lacking. My hope is to provide some of the educational component to preparing to breastfeed for the first time.

- Breast pads (either reusable or disposable) - both types are usually available at the local grocery store
- Breast cream - in case of sore or cracked nipples or to prevent them, too. (Lanolin which is usually the main ingredient does stain so make sure you don't get it on that favorite nursing bra.) Here is a popular brand that I've used and it's available at most local grocery stores. However, I enjoyed using Earth Mama Angel Baby nipple butter, too, but you'll likely have to find it online or at a local boutique.
- Nursing bras - two or three should get you started. Then you can figure out which style and brand you prefer. Bravada was my favorite brand but I also enjoyed using Medulla sleep bras as well. For the first several months you'll need to wear a bra 24/7 so ensure you have some conformable ones for night time, too.
- Breast pump and associated supplies (consider back up parts, too) - We purchased a Medulla Pump in Style off eBay with a 24 bottles for about $50 (new these run about $250). I replaced the tubing for $2 and it has been going strong through two kids and 33 months of breastfeeding (and still counting). A really good breast pump can make a big difference
- Nipple shields - I never used these but it is nice to have them on hand in case you do have a sore nipple and need to give it a rest. However, you cannot use these all the time because the nipple does need the stimulation from the baby's sucking in order for supply to be maintained.
- Milk storage containers - either disposable bags (Lansinoh or Gerber bags) or storage bottles
- Bottle (if you plan to pump and feed breast milk)
- Breastfeeding pillow - I borrowed a Boppy but I did not find it necessary. Some women do find these devices are really useful.

Consider taking a breastfeeding class with your partner. (I would recommend taking the class even if he will not be attending). Dad might not be feeding the baby but studies show that when the dads hear the educational component they are more supportive, can offer trouble shooting suggestions, and encouragement, and women are more likely to continue exclusive breastfeeding for longer periods of time. For example, one of the most common reasons women stop breastfeeding is because they think they don't have enough milk. When babies go through growth spurts, the supply might not be able to keep up with the demand. However, if she pushes through and feeds baby more frequently, milk supply will generally catch up in 24-36 hours. If fathers know this, they are more likely to be supportive during those low milk times and encourage moms to keep going.

Additionally, if you have friends or family with breastfeeding experience, talk to them.

Also look into your local chapter of LeLecheLeague. This can be an amazing support structure especially when you might be having some issues, concerns, or just want some support.

When I asked T Rex Dad about breastfeeding from his perspective, he said it simply makes life SO much easier - no bottles to heat in the middle of the night, none to clean, no carting bottles or formula in a diaper bag, an instant soother for baby especially at 2 am when NOTHING else will work, 6 extra IQ points (if breastfeed exclusively for 6 months), and non-stinky poopy diapers. Did I mention 6 extra IQ points?

Yes! T Rex Dad insists I mention the IQ benefits. Children can gain up to 6 extra IQ points if exclusively breastfed for 6 months (basically one for every month). Add this to 6 points that can be gained if mom took DHA during pregnancy. That's 12 points total. Do this at your own risk. "Risk", you ask? Well, we did all this with T Rex and let me tell you he is one precocious kid. I don't know how we're going to keep up. We are doing it with T Rex Princess too! Watch out world!

Once baby is born, get him/her to the breast as quickly as possible. Research all shows that if baby is at the breast within one hour of birth, breastfeeding outcomes are better than if it is delayed (this can be tough if you have a baby that goes to the NICU).

Get your nurse to help with proper latch technique and call for help as much as you need or want. I taught plenty of women how to get their babies latched on, but I still had my recovery nurse check my latching technique frequently for me with both my kids. Do this especially if you don't know what it should feel like. It's helpful to have someone else take a look. Baby's mouth needs to be around the entire areola (brown round part of the breast). I know that seems like a lot but if you knew how the baby sucked from the breast, you would understand. This is an amazing video of ultrasound imaging of a baby sucking along with a description of the mechanics. Really cool and explains so much.

Remember, the first 2-6 weeks are the toughest. If you can push through those, you will have a high probability of success. And even if you just make it to the 2, 4, or 6 week mark, you are doing you and your baby a whole lot of good. Breastfed babies have fewer illnesses, fewer GI disturbances, less spit up (less stinky spit-up, too), and a lower incidence of obesity. There are benefits for moms, too - lower incidence of breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers, decreased incidence of osteoporosis, offers some child spacing through ovulation suppression, lower incidence of postpartum depression and anxiety, speeds the process of the uterus returning to pre-pregnant state, and aids in losing that baby weight. And there is the added cost savings - American Academy of Pediatrics says it saves about $400, however, I would say the savings is significantly more than that. Check the price of formula next time you're at the store.

Something I feel that is important to mention is the effect of drugs on breastfeeding. Before you take any drugs, ensure that it is safe for baby AND for milk supply. For example, antihistamines are not harmful if passed to baby in breast milk, however, they can have a very negative effect on milk supply. Even eye drops can be absorbed and pass to baby in milk so check all drugs before using them. This is the site I use when prescribing medications for lactating women. As far as alcohol, generally only one serving per day or less is recommended. And if you do plan to partake, feed baby first, and then have that serving.

So, how did I achieve success? First, I had the best support from T Rex Dad and our wonderful pediatrician. In addition to that, when T Rex was born, I set goals - 2 weeks, 4 weeks, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 1 year, 18 months...you get the point. I found that if I started with realistic goals I could see myself reaching them. And always when I reached one of those goals I would evaluate - How is the working for me? How is this working for the baby? Is he gaining weight, growing and thriving? When the answer to one of these was "no" and there was nothing I could do about it or if it was harmful to continue, I stopped.

With T Rex, I was forced to stop due to dehydration from being pregnant with Bebe Sister. I was vomiting 3 - 5 times a day and lost 10lbs in 4 weeks. T Rex was 19 months at the time of weaning. For some, "no" might come sooner rather than later - just ensure you are at peace with your decision because once you stop, it is very likely you will not be able to get going again. Milk supply can be that sensitive.

Breastfeeding is an acquired skill. It takes time, patience, and the support of those around you. However, there is just something truly wonderful about providing the nourishment and seeing your child grow as a result of that. And the bonding experience is incredible.

Giveaway #2 - Sponsor is me, T Rex Mom. I'll make you anything you've seen posted on my blog or my Etsy shop. Comments contributing to the discussion will be entered into the giveaway and I will be randomly selecting a comment as the winner. If you leave a comment on another Live and Learn posting, let me know and I will give you an extra entry for this giveaway. Only topic related comments will be considered.

What would you like to add to this discussion? What have your experiences with breastfeeding been like? What suggestions would you offer?

Disclaimer - none of this information is intended to replace that of your health care provider acting in an official capacity and I am NOT acting in an official health care provider capacity but rather offering advice from the perspective of a lactating woman.


No Nickname said...

Butt Paste (the original not the new stuff) is the best money we've spent.

Emily said...

Good Stuff...T Rex Mom!! Breastfeeding is such a blessing! Even through bouts of thrush and mastitis...well worth it. Well worth it, indeed!!

You are doing such good work on this blog event! You amaze me!!

septembermom said...

This is awesome! So much crucial information for breastfeeding moms. I miss those breastfeeding days. However, I don't miss those little bites :) I think you covered everything on this topic beautifully. Well done!!!!!

JenniSue said...

Loved this post Jenn! It had me going back through my breast feeding days. I got pretty lucky and didn't have any major issues while I did it. I had to stop for a couple of days the first week we were home (we were one point away from having to take her to the hospital with jaundice), my pediatrician reccomended pumping for a couple of days and giving her formula to clear it up, as well as lots of sun baths. It worked like a charm, but baby didn't like going back to the breast. I was ready to throw in the towel after about 8 hours of no feeding, but my mom wouldn't let me give up, and we won out in the end.

Thanks for the advice on the breast pump too. I bought an inexpensive one, which didn't express much milk from me so I ended up only breast feeding for six months. My work was awesome and let me pump, but my pump didn't get a whole lot of milk, so I got frustrated and stopped all breast milk. I'll be checking ebay if we are blessed with another baby.

Thanks again!

Kim said...

I have had such a great experience breastfeeding but I find that it's definitely not as easy for everyone. I also see a lot of people stopping after a few months because they want to be able to leave their babies for longer periods of time. I try to keep my views to myself but I wholeheartedly agree with you that it is a wonderful, wonderful experience. Cheap, healthy and there is nothing like that closeness with your baby.

I did a post and highlighted your etsy shop.

Crunchy Beach Mama said...

BFing took me until about month 4 where I was finally like ok I can do this! I hated every single minute for a long time. I had problems like everyone else and wanted to quit everyday but persistence pays off and I believe anyone can do it no matter what the issue if you have the right attitude. I loved my LLL (and still do!) and had a leader who helped me along.

So proud of myself that I'm still going strong and like you said don't know what I'd do without it during the middle of night melt downs.

Cute story about baby P. When he's hungry, mostly in the evening when he's tired too, he grabs a pillow that I use when bfing and follows me around whining showing me it's time to eat :)

Caitlin said...

Great encouragement for new moms and moms-to-be!

As someone who has gone through thrush, mastitis, bleeding nipples, blistered nipples, etc. I can honestly say that if you stick it out through the first few weeks or months it gets so much easier and is pain free!
Worth every second of struggle!

I remember it was a shock that it doesn't always come naturally though! It is a natural thing to do, but it often takes lots of work and practice to get down!

JKMommy said...

I think lack of information and encouragement is the worst impediments to bf-ing moms. I know most people were just telling me to quit or giving me really bad advice. Fortunately I stuck with it, but to this day I'm not even sure how I did!
Also, watch out for Lanolin allergies - I think I have a slight reaction to that, so I switched to a non-lanolin nipple cream and all the itching stopped! :)

LeAnna said...

I'm so glad I came across your blog. I'm going to send some of my new Momma friends this way.
I'm a huge advocate of breast feeding. Some things I learned throughout my first and second...
You can't go into breast feeding with an "if it works for me great, if not oh well" mentality. At least for me, I had to choose to do it, or not - because it would be too easy to give up on if there was a choice! That being said, my first was 5lbs 14oz and I had no lactation consultant at our tiny hospital. He had a poor latch and we ended up using a nipple shield for 4 weeks. Thankfully I didn't listen to everyone who told me to wean him off the nipple shield asap, or not let him have a pacifier...I trusted my instincts and he was a champion nurser until he self weaned at 10 months. I cried. But, that's just the way it goes.
Second baby was so much easier! It still hurt for the first week or two, but she's been a breeze. Just gotta stick with it, breast truly is best, and barring medically diagnosed issues - there is no need for baby to have anything else!

Charis's Mum said...

Great post!! I LOVE breastfeeding the pumpkin (AKA my daughter). One suggestion I would give is listen to the discharge instructions your physician or midwife gives. A week after my daughter was born, I was nursing her and had chills, fever, aches, pains, and my left breast was sore. So, I took my temperature, and it was 99.9. Then realized, I had been drinking ice water. I took it 15-30 minutes later and it was 101.5. I looked at the discharge instructions, and it was written if I had flu-like symptoms, a temperature >101 degrees F., etc. to call the office or physician on call. Yes, I called him around 3:45 am and was called back. He told me it sounded like I had mastitis, to alternated between Ibuprofen and Tylenol, and to come into the office ASAP in the morning. I was given an antibiotic to take for 1 week and did in fact have mastitis. It cleared up and thankfully, I have not had any further problems.

Amy V said...

You're right that there isn't a single breastfeeding mom out there who hasn't struggled....and I'm thankful for that because my little guy and I sure did at first! Thanks to the support of my WONDERFUL husband, it's now 11 weeks later and we are still going strong. We're exclusively breastfeeding and I couldn't be happier w/ that decision.
Suggestions: Please, please don't give up. My nipples got really sore, esp my right one but I used Lanolin and it and cooling pads and that helped. Just knowing that there are other women who've been through it and succeeded helped me out. One of the best things I did was join a La Leche League group.

Amy V.

Amy V said...

I commented on the cloth diaper blog on live and learn!

Amy V said...

commented on pregnancy do's and dont's