Mindful Milk

Happy breastfeeding mother and baby

Your breastfeeding relationship is precious and short. Mindful nursing means connecting with the experience in the moment, bringing your attention back to the milk.

Simple Mindfulness Practice

Mindfulness as a basic meditation practice brings us to a non-judgmental awareness and focus on the moment. That practice can be formal, as we might learn in yoga or in Buddhist meditation, and that practice can be a loose, much less formal yet powerful consciousness in our lives.

A very basic structure for the practice can be:

  • sit with your back straight,
  • notice your breath, and
  • bring your mind back to the breath when it wanders—and it will wander.

You can spend 5 minutes on this practice, 30-minutes, or all day.

Yes, it can be that simple—to start.

Science of Happiness

The science of happiness has begun to tell us that this simple practice of mindfulness or meditation can help us savor the moments and let go of the judgments we let block us.

Our brains reorganize based on our experience. This is called brain plasticity or neuroplasticity. By being present in our moment with kindness and compassion toward ourselves and others, we change our brains. We create pathways ready for peace and happiness.

Just spending those few minutes of breastfeeding in awareness can have a big impact on your life and on your parenting—and through your parenting on your child’s life.

Meditative Breastfeeding

The length of time and the kind of time you spend breastfeeding is a perfect place for mindfulness practice. In most meditation, you bring your attention back to the breath, which you can do while your are nursing a baby, certainly, but there is much in the moment to recognize with breastfeeding. As your mind wanders, you could bring it back to your baby’s breath, to the sound of the suck, to your feeling of letdown, or more generally to the milk. Rather than bringing your mind back to the breath, you can practice bringing your awareness back to the milk.

Practice bringing your awareness back to the milk.

Mindfulness doesn’t push or pull, it recognizes what is as it is. Mindfulness is a practice of compassion, compassion for yourself as you are. At no time in my life have I needed more compassion for myself than in my parenting. Perhaps it is that way for you, too.

Using this breastfeeding time to cultivate a natural awareness will bring you back to yourself as parent, to your baby as a wiggly, giggly new person, and to your relationship with your baby as your milk flows.

Remove Barriers When You Choose

Breastfeeding in a baby carrier or under a cover can leave us disconnected from the experience, from the moment in the experience. It can, but it doesn’t have to if you don’t let these become barriers to your awareness or barriers to your relationship with your baby.

Practice Mindful Milk

However or wherever you are giving your baby milk, be mindful. Bring your awareness back to the physical and the more-than-physical experience.

Whether you breastfeed for months or years, this part of your relationship can feel altogether too short. Being present in the moment, each moment, can help you to welcome the experience as it is and let it change as it must.

As you sit with your baby, let the experience itself bring you back to the moment. Maybe your baby pinches you, bringing you back to the moment. Maybe you gaze into one another’s eyes, bringing you back to the love. Maybe you feel your milk flowing, bringing you back to the milk.

Practice bringing your awareness back to the milk.

For the next month, we are focusing on slowing down, unplugging, and being mindful—of our parenting, of our communities, and of our presence in nature.

Resource

Mindful Parenting. Nancy Bardacke, a midwife who has developed a program for new parents and for those who work with new parents on Mindful-based Childbirth and Parenting. As part of her short talk to other professionals working on Mindful-based Stress Reduction, she shows a video of parents who talk about (and demonstrate) how mindfulness has influenced their parenting.

Photo Breastfeeding – © Cherrymerry | Dreamstime.com

Milk Matters

Baby breastfeeding because milk matters.

World Breastfeeding Week

Milk matters for babies, for mothers, for families, and for global health and sustainability. World Breastfeeding Week is our chance to re-commit to wellness.

This campaign is a project of the World Alliance for Breastfeeding, which is “a global network of individuals & organisations concerned with the protection, promotion & support of breastfeeding worldwide.” Local advocates plan their own events then pledging funds from their local events to support breastfeeding worldwide.

Overall, World Breastfeeding Week goals are:

  1. To provide information about Millennium Development Goals and how they relate to breastfeeding.
  2. To showcase progress so far.
  3. To call attention to stepping up actions after 2015 (the goal date for Millennium Development Goals).
  4. To stimulate interest among young women and men in the relevance of breastfeeding in today’s world.

World Breastfeeding Week Goals

(Goals are listed on WorldBreastfeedingWeek.org.)

See the pledges made so far, including 6 from Canada and 96 from the U.S. (as of this writing). Most of the North American pledges are from The Big Latch On events that took place today.

Milk Matters

At bynature.ca, we are pleased to support breastfeeding mothers in our own community with a monthly support group: Milk Matters.

Register online.
Registration is not required, and there is no cost associated with this group.

Moms need all the help and support they can get. If you’re a breastfeeding mother looking for a like-minded support system, we’re thrilled to announce a new weekly Breastfeeding Café being hosted in the Parenting By Nature Wellness Lounge (above our storefront in Orillia, Ontario). Join other nursing moms in our community for a morning of conversation and support.

Pregnant women welcome and encouraged!

Whether you’re pregnant and just thinking about breastfeeding, currently nurturing an early breastfeeding relationship with a newborn, a pumping mom, or looking for a supporting group that understands the joys and challenges of nursing a toddler, this is the group for you.

  • DATE & TIME: Begins September 2014. A monthly support group meeting Wednesday mornings from 10:00am -11:00am
  • REGISTRATION: This is a complimentary program hosted by Parenting By Nature. Registration is not required.
  • TOPIC: Each week we will be discussing a different topic, depending on the needs of the group.
  • NOTE: In order to ensure moms are comfortable, this is a women-only support group. Men are welcome to wait in the lounge within the storefront. Thanks for your understanding!

Milk Matters is a local support group for breastfeeding women. The Café is facilitated by a trained Lactation Educator, Doula, or La Leche League Leader.

We provide mom-to-mom group support during these sessions. If your experience requires more individualized or clinical support, referrals will be provided.

Photo Breastfeeding BW – © Alexhg1 | Dreamstime.com

Baby on a Budget: Breastfeeding Supplies

Mother nursing baby

When money is tight, you need to think clearly about every baby prep purchase. The essential shopping list for breastfeeding support is short.

Let’s start with a super short version of this post: you don’t need to buy anything to breastfeed. All you need is a baby and a breast.

On the other hand, you might find a few things useful, so I will share my experience to help you decide how to meet your needs on a budget.

Breastfeeding Supplies

The Essentials

Just you and your baby. Breastfeeding is a natural process. It requires no stuff.

Nice to Have

There are a few items that support breastfeeding that are predictably common. You will probably use them, so you could buy before your baby is born or wait until you feel the need. Once the baby arrives, though, there will be a lot of other things to think about. Items on this list would make a nice gift for a pregnant woman will plans to breastfeed.

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. You will have questions about breastfeeding. You can ask in a La Leche League meeting, but sometimes it is nice to do background reading so you know what questions to ask. The Womanly Art is the classic breastfeeding book. If you talk to our staff in the store, we’ll help you decide whether this, Dr Sears’ Breastfeeding Book, or another book will be best for you as a basic how-to guide.

Nursing bra. If you are large breasted, you will probably want support, and it’s a lot easier to work around a nursing bra than a regular one. If you are small breasted, you might not need a nursing bra, but you might also be surprised when you become large breasted. For some, a breastfeeding tank can serve a similar purpose—giving a little support while making it quick and easy to unsnap and feed baby. You might want to buy your nursing bra in-store so experienced staff can help you get a bra that fits well and will work for the way you live.

Breast pads. Your breasts will probably leak. You might want to have 1-2 sets of absorbent breast pads on hand before you start breastfeeding. They are easy to wash with clothes. On the other hand, if you aren’t going out and don’t care how it looks, you’ll probably be fine using cloths or some other absorbent material you have around the house.

Lanolin. Most women experience some nipple dryness with breastfeeding. To soothe your skin without harming your baby, you need to choose your nipple soothing cream carefully. A lot of women use lanolin (from sheep), which is safe for babies when refined. There are other choices for soothing as well. This isn’t necessary until you do have dryness, but it’s a safe bet.

Tea & Cookies. Traditional herbal galactagogues (lactation promoters) can help build up your milk. Most women use the herbs by drinking tea, but cookies have been popular for the same purpose. Nice to have, but you don’t necessarily need herbal support. What you really need is a healthy diet of whole foods that nourishes both you and your baby.

Breastfeeding Station. This isn’t really a thing you buy but more a space you create. When you are going to be spending hours sitting, you might want to create a space where you have what you need: water, a book, a blanket, and a comfortable spot to put your feet up.

Depends on Your Needs

Despite being a natural process, there is a learning curve to breastfeeding. Most mothers need guidance—and sometimes stuff—to help the process go more smoothly.

You won’t know what you need until you need it, though. For this list, it’s best to wait.

More breast pads. If you find that you get a lot of leaking, you might want more washable breast pads. They come in a lot of different materials. Or, you might want to try silicone breast pads, which prevent the leaking in the first place.

Nursing clothes. If you want something more convenient than lifting your shirt, you might want to buy a few nursing shirts. Whether you need more clothes with hidden opening for nursing depends on your needs. I lived in my nursing nightgown, but I really hated the frumpy nursing tops I bought. If you buy, make sure that you can still be you while wearing the clothes. For many, a nursing tank will be enough to stretch an existing wardrobe.

Breast Pump, freezer trays, and bottles. You will probably leave your baby sometime while you are still breastfeeding. In that case, you will probably pump milk and leave it for another caregiver to feed your baby. How simple your system needs to be for saving milk depends on your lifestyle. If you will be working while continuing to breastfeed full time, you will need a powerful pump as well as a cooler to store your milk until you get home. Hold off buying these accessories until you know what you will need.

Nursing Pillow. A lot of women love their nursing pillows. I had one; I could probably have done without, though it was useful for a few months as a prop for my baby. It does help to have some support when you are exhausted, but you might want to wait to see if you can make do with what you have before you buy a pillow specifically for nursing.

Rocking Chair. It is nice to hold a baby and rock, but you can certainly breastfeed without. Another lifestyle choice.

Don’t Bother

Breastfeeding Cover. These baffle me. I do understand not wanting to bare one’s breasts to the world. It seems to me that a giant tent over a nursing baby draws quite a bit of attention, though. There are more discrete ways to cover up, such as a nursing shirt or the baby’s blanket. Still, a lot of people seem to love them. (A colleague has pointed out to me that this can help if you need to pump in a shared office. In that case, it could move up to the “Depends on Your Needs” list.)

More Baby on a Budget

Image ©  | Dreamstime.com

Breastfeeding While Pregnant

Toddler with pregnant mother

Whether planned or not, a lot of us who practice extended breastfeeding find ourselves breastfeeding while pregnant. This is normal and common in many cultures.

Once you address a few potential concerns, you just need to be sure that you get enough nutrition, water, and rest as your body is nourishing three.

My first child was 24 months old and still breastfeeding frequently when I got pregnant with my second child. I had some of the common issues, like nipple sensitivity and lower milk production, but we maintained the breastfeeding relationship. Even the Braxton-Hicks contractions weren’t too much to bear until the day my son was born. That day, the bedtime feeding brought on such strong contractions that we skipped a feeding, for the first time in nearly three years. My son was born a few hours later.

Once my baby was born, I nursed both children for another two years. If I hadn’t seen a photo of one of my online friends showing how she stacked her tiny baby on top of her toddler, it might never have occurred to me that it was possible to breastfeed two children at once. Sitting with a baby and a toddler on my lap breastfeeding or holding my two children in my arms as we all fell asleep as they nursed, these are some of my sweetest memories of their young lives.

I was and am so grateful for women who share their experience so others can expand their own possibilities. That is how I expanded my own possibilities. If breastfeeding while pregnant then tandem nursing hadn’t occurred to you, I hope this opens a door for you.

“In a study of 179 mothers who had breastfed for at least six months, 61% had also breastfed during a subsequent pregnancy.1 Of these, 38% went on to nurse both newborn and toddler postpartum, an arrangement known as ‘tandem nursing.’”
Hilary Dervin Flower, “A New Look at the Safety of Breastfeeding During Pregnancy,” August 1, 2011, KellyMom.com.

Nutrition Concerns

To a great extent, you control your nutrition by what you take in. If you are pregnant AND breastfeeding an infant (not a busy toddler who checks in less often), you will probably need more calories.

Health Canada estimates energy requirements for a pregnant woman increase by 340 over the mother’s basic needs during the second trimester and by 452 calories during the third trimester. For breastfeeding, the energy requirements go up by 330 calories for a child 0-6 months and by 400 calories for a child 7-12 months. At the point when a child is no longer exclusively breastfeeding, the mother does not necessarily need to boost caloric intake over her basic needs. Not adding calories can help a mother lose some of the pregnancy weight if it is still lingering.

If you have a 4-month old exclusively breastfeeding and you are one month pregnant, you will need extra calories for the breastfeeding but not for the first trimester of the pregnancy, and you might find that your milk supply decreases too much for your newborn. You should watch your baby’s weight gain closely. If you have a 9-month old exclusively breastfeeding when you discover that you are one month pregnant, you will probably need to be aware of adding calories for both your breastfeeding baby and your pregnancy by the second trimester. That will mean about 740 extra calories a day. Your lactation consultant, midwife, or doctor can make specific recommendations.

Contraction Concerns

One of the most common worries I see associated with breastfeeding while pregnant is the possibility of miscarriage or early labor. Oxytocin released during breastfeeding does cause contractions, but these contractions are so mild that most women don’t notice them. (KellyMom)

Unless there is a specific medical reason to expect pre-term labor or miscarriage, very mild contractions during breastfeeding are not necessarily a reason to wean your child during pregnancy.

Comfort Concerns

If you experience nausea or fatigue during pregnancy, breastfeeding could potentially increase either. You will need great nutrition and plenty of rest. Fortunately, focused breastfeeding time could give you regular rest time. Keep snacks near your favorite nursing area. Eating a few crackers and having a drink while breastfeeding can take the edge off of nausea.

Many women experience nipple sensitivity during pregnancy. This is caused by hormone levels and can be mild or extreme. Breastfeeding while your nipples are very sensitive can be excruciating. Toddlers can get lazy with their latch, so be sure your child has taken a full mouthful and isn’t pulling from your nipple. You can also just ask your toddler to be quite gentle with you. Some women use this time to practice pain management techniques they learn for the birthing process.

You Are the One Who Knows

You are the one who knows whether or not you should continue breastfeeding your baby through pregnancy then continue tandem nursing both children. Watching those babies reach out and touch one another, bonding while they sit on your lap nursing, can be one of the most moving experiences of a chaotic life with young children. But, you need to ensure everyone’s nutrition, safety, and comfort before you get to that point.

Resources for Breastfeeding While Pregnant

If you plan to breastfeed while pregnant, you will probably find it helpful to talk to a La Leche League Leader who has done the same. It can be very reassuring to share the experience with someone who has been there.

For more evidence and experience, I recommend the following articles.

Image © Marina Dyakonova | Dreamstime.com

Breastfeeding Challenges: Latching Tips

Breastfeeding baby

Latch is a skill that both mother and baby need to learn when beginning breastfeeding in order to be sure that the baby gets enough milk and the mother is comfortable.

This is the end of World Breastfeeding Week, which seeks to create support systems families need for successful breastfeeding. Last weekend was The Big Latch On, a fun world record event that builds community support and brings positive attention to breastfeeding. Globally, we see support not just from peers and dedicated breastfeeding organizations but from healthcare providers, employers, and governments. Benefits of breastfeeding for baby and mother are clear, so more institutions are providing services and support. That means most mothers can identify help when they need it.

Occasionally we ask our followers on Facebook about their breastfeeding challenges. Yesterday, a lot of you responded. I wrote about mastitis a couple of weeks ago, because that was the one big issue I had breastfeeding, but I wanted to back up and address an issue that has to be taken care of early on in order to start the breastfeeding relationship right. If your baby isn’t latching correctly, your baby won’t get needed nutrition and you will have pain.

Breastfeeding is a skill for both mother and baby. Yes, it’s natural, but we still have to learn how to do it well. Latching is one of those subtle skills that a mother needs to watch and adjust when it doesn’t work.

Latch refers to how the baby holds the breast in the mouth. A baby has to open very wide in order to get enough of the breast to pump the breast and pull the milk. If you have tickled or touched your baby’s chin, you know that this triggers the reflex to open wide. If your baby is sipping at the nipple alone, you will feel the pain and your baby won’t get enough milk. If you can’t see nipple and you can’t see the bottom of the areola because your baby’s turnout bottom lip is covering it, you’re doing well. That’s the latch on.

  1. Make sure you position the baby to allow enough access to your breast.
  2. Tickle or tap your baby’s chin to get a big, wide open mouth.
  3. Squeeze your breast, flattening it a bit at that start, so it fits better the wide open shape of your baby’s mouth.
  4. If your breasts are so large that the nipples aim down, hold it up toward your baby. You might find propping your breasts on a rolled up baby blanket helps you get comfortable.
  5. When you see that wide open mouth, pull the baby in close to you.
  6. If you feel discomfort as your baby is sucking, stick a finger in to break the suck and start over. Your baby probably won’t like that, but it’s worth getting the latch right.

Are there many ways to latch correctly? Absolutely. If your baby is getting milk and growing well, and if you are comfortable, you probably don’t have any latching problems.

More Breastfeeding Latch Resources

Image © Caesarone | Dreamstime.com