The bond between mother and child begins the moment your pregnancy is confirmed. For the next 40 or so weeks, as your baby grows, that bond becomes deeper and deeper every day. Breastfeeding is a continuation of that deep bond outside of the womb. It is truly amazing how a woman’s body is able to create and grow a new life, and provide him or her all of the nutrients and food they need to survive their entire first year of life! (Because Food before 1 is just for fun!)
Breast milk is magical! Some of my favorite benefits of breastfeeding include a healthier baby both short and long term, weight loss for mommy (burns up to 500 calories a day!), the bond, delays menstruation (not so much in my case unfortunately, but in most), and it’s free. Some of the lesser known uses of breast milk include getting rid of diaper rash, clear up baby (and adult) acne and eczema, cradle cap, poison ivy and bug bites (you know, just in case!), heal sore/ cracked nipples, various cold symptoms, cuts and burns, and dozens more applications. Breast milk is truly Liquid Gold!
Speaking of burns, about a week and a half after my love was born, my boyfriend was making dinner. Spaghetti and homemade meat balls! Yum! Meanwhile, I was in the living room nursing our child. 5 min in, my boyfriend screams out. He had grabbed the hot pan of meatballs without the oven mitt and burned his entire palm. With child on boob, I walked over to the kitchen, got some breast milk out the fridge and poured it on his palm. He screamed out harder. In hindsight, it was extremely funny, but in the moment, I felt like a super mom saving the world with my breast milk!
But isn’t breastfeeding painful? Honestly, from the moment my baby first latched, I never really felt much pain. No more than really rough sex kinda pain… No?…50 shades…?? (Not to put myself out there or anything!) If your baby is properly latched it really shouldn’t hurt, its a little uncomfortable at first, but it shouldn’t be painful. Breastfeeding is also hard! It is a daily, time-consuming commitment one makes to their child. Every 2 hours or so, I will stop everything I am doing to be a human bottle. (Coconut oil and breast milk are awesome for sore or chapped nipples) Surviving the first few weeks of breastfeeding was made way easier by joining a Breastfeeding Support Group for Black Mothers. It is great to have a community of mothers who are or have had some of the same experiences as you are. Not to mention when you’re up at 1, 2, 3, or 4 AM feeding your child, there’s someone else up you can talk to that’s doing the same! They become your friends!
And boy do you need friends! Especially during growth spurts! OMG! Your little one does so much growing in the first few weeks and months of life. All that growing requires…. food! Cluster feeding can be super frustrating. My son went from eating every 2 hours, and sleeping in between, to eating, dozing off for 20 min and wanting to eat again…over and over again. I was so frustrated! My nipples were sore, I was tired, and he was so fussy. I had PTSD style flash backs of our first night home! Luckily, cluster feedings only last a day or two. Your child cluster feeds to signal your body to produce more milk. He’s getting bigger and his food supply must grow too! Breast milk not only regulates it’s supply as your child grows, it also changes. At birth you produce Colostrum which provides immunities, at 6 weeks your milk has the highest concentrate of antibodies, at 3 months it’s full of calories to help baby grow! It continues to change to fit your child’s needs. If he or she is sick, your body will go back to producing colostrum to help fight the cold. (Isn’t that cool?)
When your milk first comes in, it is super uncomfortable. I imagine it is what implants feel like at first. Your boobs are hard and heavy. Nursing is the best way to get rid of the pain, but if you are unable to, a hot compress and pumping or hand expressing will help as well. (I still haven’t gotten the hang of that honestly!) As you get used to your new and improved boobs, that aren’t as sexy as you thought they’d be because they belong to your child now, your body will start giving you signs that your child is ready to eat (sometimes right before they even wake up!) When your milk ducts fill up and begin to release milk, it’s called a let down. Unfortunately, I deal with leaking. I am incredibly jealous of women who don’t, but I can’t go anywhere without bra pads. When I feel a let down, (which feels like pins and needles going through your boobs) I almost always leak seconds later. I also leak from the other side when he’s nursing. Ugh! It’s really just annoying.
I have learned that supply and demand is the best way to increase and maintain supply. I nurse on demand at home, meaning whenever he says he’s hungry, he eats. He has always eaten on a recommended every 2 hour schedule, so waking him up to eat has never been a thing. Milk Boosters such as teas, pills, cookies, ect. can cause your baby to be gassy and uncomfortable. Many factors can contribute to a drop in milk supply, like stress and your eating habits. You don’t need to eat specific things per say,you just have to eat! (of course it’s always best to eat healthy you are passing on nutrients to your child), As I said before you are burning calories and those need to be replenished! And trust me, you will be hungry! I felt like I was pregnant all over again! Pumping isn’t necessary until closer to when you are returning to work, but can be used as a way to help stimulate more milk production if needed. Speaking of pumps, a lot of people don’t realize that you can get a breast pump for free from your insurance company!* You get plenty of options, from manual to double electric, and did I mention it’s free!? I researched each one before making my choice, and I absolutely love my pump.
Breastfeeding in public has admittedly been both nerve wrecking and empowering for me. I haven’t had any negative experiences really, but I hear about them all the time on my Facebook Support group. My first time BFing in public was at Friday’s. I was out with two of my best friends (one of which also just had a baby) It was super awkward at first, because I did not practice using a cover at home, so I fumbled with my child and the cover. Eventually my best friend helped by holding up the blanket until I got situated. I have realized having an extra set of hands as a mother would be so helpful! I do choose to cover, but fully support any mother who doesn’t! It is mad awkward, and my son is not the biggest fan. I mean really, who wants to eat under a blanket?
I never thought I would be a big breastfeeding advocate type of mom, but I am! I take pride in knowing I am able to provide my child with the best possible source of nourishment, and he adores me for it! The bond we have is unbreakable. Although at times I feel like he only wants me for booby (but that’s most men, right?) I joke with my boyfriend that he should be jealous that I go into the room with another man fully dressed, and come out disheveled with my nursing bra undone! Haha! Feeding your child is literally a full time job. We gave in to co-sleeping very early on. I sleep inbetween my son and boyfriend. Co-sleeping allowed me to feed him and still get some rest. The best way to nurse in the bed, is to lay on your side and let your baby latch in that position. So many times I’ve woken up hours later with him unlatched, cuddled up with my boob; knocked out.
Whether you choose to breastfeed or not, the overall goal is to have a fed baby. My baby is about 95% breastfed. Because of the way our journey began, he was introduced to formula early. So although he prefers mommy milk, he doesn’t mind formula unlike most breastfed babies. (But honestly, I don’t blame them! Formula smells and tastes terrible! Breast milk, on the other hand, kinda tastes like cereal milk -don’t judge me! I wanted to know what my child was eating haha!) Anytime I am home, he is on the boob. Sometimes when we are on the go we will throw formula in the bag, or if I’m out running errands and I haven’t pumped, his dad will give him some formula. My boyfriend is way less comfortable with me BFing in public, but we are working on it! We really haven’t paid for any of the formula we have; I just signed up for free samples!
*I used the website http://www.breastpumps.aeroflowinc.com to order my pump.