Help! I Need Some Breastfeeding Advice!

Picture it. It’s 2am, the baby is crying, you’re a few weeks (or months) postpartum and you’re sleep deprived. You’ve tried to latch your baby on and nothing seems to be working. You search online for answers. All of a sudden, you are bombarded with pages and pages of information. And opinions. And that’s not even taking into consideration the “related searches” results. Which website do you visit first? The first one? Some of the forums? You decide on a website and start reading. You can relate to some of what’s written and you continue reading. All of a sudden you think “the first thing they mentioned seems like me, and the third, and the fourth, and the fifth… ” Before you know it, you’re worrying about tongue ties, nipple shields, low milk supply and oversupply!

Don’t get me wrong. There are some very good online resources, you just have to know where to find them. I have listed some of my favourite websites and books below. I will also tell you about some reputable professionals in your community.

So where should you turn to for help?

Dr. Jack Newman is a Canadian pediatrician and has been involved in breastfeeding research for other 30 years. His website has great videos and written resources.

The Motherisk Program is run by the Hospital for Sick Children. They are a great resource on the interactions of medications, medical therapies and substance abuse for breastfeeding and pregnant mothers. Telephone support is also available.

Best Start has many resource sheets on breastfeeding and your baby’s development.

La Leche League is a volunteer-run organization that began in 1956. Their website includes information sheets and a FAQ section. You can also find your local group online. More on that later!

Kelly Mom is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and her website has fantastic research-based articles for breastfeeding and parenting.

The Milk Meg is an IBCLC from Australia. Her often humorous blogs cover breastfeeding, weaning and attachment parenting.

If you’re looking to add to your book collection, here are some of my favourites:

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International
Sweet Sleep by La Leche League International
The Breastfeeding Book by Martha and William Sears

No matter where you are in the world, there are numerous ways to get face-to-face help. While books and online resources can be very helpful, sometimes it’s not enough. There are times where you need a professional seeing how your baby breastfeeds, how you are holding the baby, etc.

Postpartum doulas: While they are not health-care providers, many doulas are knowledgeable about breastfeeding and can guide you through some of the challenges.

Lactation professionals usually fall into three categories: lactation counselor, lactation consultant (LC or CLC) and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Although similar, the differences lie in their training and scope of practices. Stay tuned for next month’s blog post for more information on this profession!

As I mentioned previously, La Leche League is a support group for breastfeeding mothers that is run by volunteers. Most groups will meet once or twice a month and the group leaders are also available by phone, email or social media. It can be very helpful to meet like-minded mothers in a breastfeeding friendly environment.

Finding reliable, research-based information in 2019 can be a chore. Stick with the resources that I have mentioned and if you still have questions, I am only a phone call or email away! Take a deep breath mama – you are doing great! Just be careful what you Google…

Creating Your Post-Birth Plan

You are a new mother – whether it’s your first child or your fifth!

Most mothers put a lot of thought into their birth plan, but very few think about a post-birth plan. Why have a post-birth plan? In our fast-paced, independent lives, we have forgotten the importance of caring for the new mother. Your body needs time to rest and heal from the 9+ months of pregnancy and from giving birth. You and your new family also need time to bond and rediscover each other.

The idea of a “lying-in” period comes from traditional cultures such as Chinese, Indian and Latin American. The American pioneers even had their own version! This is a time when family and friends come together to help the new mother rest, heal and bond with her new child. A healthy mother equals a healthy baby and a healthy family.

Traditional lying-in periods can last anywhere from 7 to 40 days. While they have their nuances, what they have in common is this:

  • The mother’s only job is to breastfeed and get to know her baby.
  • Warm, nourishing foods are given to the mother such as soups and stews.
  • Raw fruits and vegetables are avoided as well as cold drinks.
  • Family and friends share the task of caring for the new mother and the household chores.

Research (here and here) has proven that supporting the mother in the postpartum period can greatly reduce her chances of postpartum mood disorders. Is it any wonder that the cultures that have a lying-in period show some of the lowest rates of postpartum depression?

While staying in your home for 40 days may seem unconventional, here are some things that you can do for a simplified post-birth plan.

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. If you have a partner, will they be taking time off from work? If so, for how long?
  2. Will your mother, or another family member, be staying with you after the birth? If so, for how long?
  3. How much time will you be taking off from work?
  4. What would your ideal stay-cation with your baby look like? Do you like having people around? Or do you prefer quiet and calm?

Things to do:

  1. Write down who in your circle of family and friends is available to help you.
  2. Make a list of everything that will need to get done once the baby is home, including your day to day things: paying the bills, walking the dog, changing diapers, cooking, shoveling the driveway, etc.
  3. Compare both lists and match up people to a chore.
  4. Ask family and friends for help and set clear expectations. Having a list on the fridge door makes it easily accessible to everyone!
    • Which room in the house must be cleaned and organized? The bedroom, the kitchen, the bathroom?
    • Where are the cleaning supplies?
    • How often should the dog be walked? Where is the kitty litter? Where is the mailbox key? Etc.
  5. Organize a meal train! There are many free apps to choose from such as: Meal Train, Take Them a Meal and Meal Baby. For tips on meal trains, I recommend Little Miss Kate’s blog article.
  6. Who can drive you to your appointments? If you have a caesarean section, you may not be able to drive for six weeks.
  7. Make a list of professionals you can contact if you need help: La Leche League group, physiotherapist, pediatrician.

Remember that in the first few weeks, you may want to minimize visitors. This is an important time for you to recover physically and emotionally, to establish your milk supply and to get to know your baby. Having just one person a day in the house may be all you need in the early weeks. If you’re interested in hiring a postpartum doula but the cost is an issue, how about adding a postpartum doula fund to your baby shower registry? Other services that you may want to have on your registry include: lactation consultant or mobile massage therapist.

Why can’t I just depend on my partner? Your partner is also finding their way in becoming a parent. This is a precious time for both parents to bond with the new family unit. Your partner can certainly help with some things, but it really does take a village. If you don’t have family nearby, how about hiring a postpartum doula?

Photo by Oleg Sergeichik on Unsplash

Halloween Chocolate Cookies

Normally I like to write about topics that have to do with parenting, whether that’s before or after your baby is born. But in the spirit of leftover Halloween chocolate, I decided to post a delicious cookie recipe that I found online. You can find the original recipe from The Kitchen Magpie here.

My children each wound up with a (giant) grocery bag of Halloween candy. That is one giant grocery bag of junk food per child. That is a lot of sugar. After three days of binging (the kids, not me!), I hid both bags in the trunk of my car. Anyways, I had all this chocolate in the house and I haven’t made dessert in a while. It all adds up to a Sunday afternoon of baking. I put some aside for Little Miss’s school minivan companions and for our neighbours. There’s quite a bit left that I have safely hidden away from cats and children.

I only changed two things in this recipe. First, The Kitchen Magpie says not to add the teaspoon of salt if you are using salted butter. Well, I used salted butter and added the teaspoon of salt and they turned out great! Second, instead of using two cups of chocolate chips, I used one cup of diced Halloween chocolate and 2/3 of a cup of chocolate chips. Again, the results were delicious!

Please forgive my amateurish pictures. Just be glad that I remembered to take them at all while I was baking!

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Ingredients

2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tsp of baking soda
1/2 cup of butter
1 tsp of salt, see above note
1 cup of packed brown sugar
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp of vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup of diced Halloween chocolate
2/3 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Instructions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F. Get out your baking sheets and line with parchment paper.
  2. Cream together butter and sugars until it’s light and fluffy. Add in the eggs and vanilla, mixing thoroughly.
  3. Whisk together the dry ingredients, then beat them into the butter mixture until combined completely.
  4. Fold in the Halloween chocolate and chocolate chips.
  5. Drop dough by teaspoonful (or by hand) onto the baking sheets.
  6. Bake at 350F for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown and slightly underdone. Cool on the sheets completely. Store in air-tight containers.

Well, that’s it for today folks. I’m off to fold some laundry. And possibly sneak some more cookies while sipping some Early Grey tea.

 

Reflections on an Eighth Birthday

We celebrated Little Miss’s 8th birthday this past Sunday. As I am laying in bed with her, I can’t help but be amazed at how much she has grown. Was she ever really so small that she fit in my belly? She holds my hand tightly as she falls asleep and I remember how tiny and wrinkled her newborn hands had been. I remember her birth like it was yesterday.

Early Labour

The morning of October 21st 2010, I went to the midwifery office for a stretch and sweep. I’ll skip the details of that appointment but needless to say on my 10-minute drive home, I was starting to feel some contractions. It’s a wonder I ever made it home! I spent the rest of the day at home, walking around a bit, trying to relax. I can still picture myself snuggling with the cat on the couch. She was laying on my stomach and it was hilarious seeing her rise with my belly every time a contraction began. I had called my husband at work and, after picking up some spicy rotis, he came home in the early afternoon. I didn’t have much of an appetite. I was too busy keeping methodical track of my contractions. Maybe a bit too methodical in hindsight! In the early evening, I called my midwife Mrs. K, and she assessed me over the phone. She told me to call her back once the contractions were closer together. I had my TENS machine strapped on and my husband and I tried to pass the time by watching one of our favourite movies The Love Guru. It was probably around 7 or 8 o’clock when the midwife arrived at our home. After conducting her exam, she informed me that I was fully dilated. Fully dilated?!? That came as a surprise to me! The contractions were nowhere near the pain that I had thought I would experience. And my water hadn’t broken! The midwife gave me two choices: have the baby at home, or get an ambulance to drive us to the hospital. This was our first baby and we had not done any research on home births. We decided to go to the hospital. At some point before the midwife came, I started getting an urge to push. Our childbirth educator M had given us a trick if I was ever in a situation where I felt the urge to push but needed to wait. Say the word “house”. It sounds strange but it works! Kudos to M otherwise I would’ve had my daughter in the ambulance! Once the ambulance had arrived, my husband and Mrs. K helped me into my winter coat and we slowly made our way to the vehicle. I don’t remember much of the drive to the hospital other than Mrs. K holding my hand and me frantically chanting “house, house, house!”.

At the Hospital

The other midwife, Mrs. R, met us at the hospital and we were quickly settled into a room. The hospital bed was tilted up and I was labouring on my hands and knees. But I had no idea what to do – it was my first time birthing a baby. One of the midwives suggested that I start pushing whenever I felt the urge. I pushed tentatively at first, but soon got into a better rhythm. The midwives were lovely, helping me change positions, offering me sips of water. They must have helped in other ways, but the whole event has always been a bit blurry for me. I remember laying on my left side, facing Mrs. R and my husband. Mrs. K was by the foot of the bed. The baby was crowning and Mrs. K held up a mirror so that I could see the baby’s hair. She also encouraged me to touch the baby’s head. I was a bit hesitant, but followed her guidance. And boy, was I ever glad I did! It gave my body the extra energy I needed. My waters still hadn’t broken and Mrs. K had cut the amniotic sac so that Little Miss could take her first breath. I will always remember the moment that her head was birthed. My vision went black, except for a tiny pinprick of light  in the middle. The next moment, I was looking at Mrs. R who told me that the baby’s head was out and I only needed two small pushes to get the shoulders out. Once the shoulders were out, the intensity and the pain ceased immediately. A wave of maternal love came out just as Little Miss was slipping out of my body. I have never felt an emotion so intensely like that before, and I doubt I ever will again. I was holding her on my chest, kissing her head and completely in love with this tiny person. Even eight years later, I can easily slip into that beautiful memory. Little Miss’s skin was so dark, it looked like she had been tanning in there! She had dark eyes and dark hair, but both would lighten up in the following weeks.

The Golden Hour

The midwives helped me latch her on, Little Miss nursed on and off for a while, she pooped on me, I laughed, still on a birthing high. What a magnificent way to start a life! I was brought a peanut butter sandwich, which I devoured! The routine exams were eventually done with the baby. About three hours after the birth, the midwives said that they were going home and we could too! Our parents were shocked as they were used to the mother and the baby staying in the hospital for at least a day or two. The midwives assured everyone that Little Miss and I were healthy and free to go if we wished. I was glad to be able to go home. I knew we wouldn’t get much sleep, but I’d rather get no sleep at home than in a hospital. Little Miss was so tiny in her infant car seat. I sat in the back with her while my husband drove us home. He was so nervous that I think he drove 20km under the speed limit.

The Next 8 Years

As I lay next to Little Miss, eight years after that night, I am filled with love and awe at how much change can occur in such a short amount of time. In another eight years, she will be 16! I hope our relationship can keep strengthening so that we can share quiet nights together, watching the moon rise out of her bedroom window.