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Let's Talk Babies!

Breastfeeding

Babies have sensitive, still maturing, digestive systems during their first months of life. Their sensitive digestive systems can pose a bit of a challenge for the breastfeeding mother. The things a mom takes into her body can cause tummy upset, gas and spitting up in their baby. These symptoms can lead to sleeplessness for baby and for mom, extra crying and fussiness and gas pain. We parents hate to see our little ones suffering and we often feel extra guilty if we know that what we ate for dinner caused the gas pain that is keeping our baby up and crying in pain.

Luckily, most of the food we eat doesn’t cause trouble for our little one’s tummies, and some babies are never affected by anything their mamas eat. However, some foods can cause tummy troubles for your little one. Some of the more common foods babies can be sensitive to include:

  • Dairy
  • Gassy vegetables
  • Spicy food
  • Soy
  • Beans
  • Chocolate
  • Caffeine
Some babies will not show any sensitives to specific foods you eat and you’ll be able to eat freely while breastfeeding. For other babies you may find that some foods you consume, like those listed above, may cause tummy upset, gassiness, fussiness and spitting up in your baby.
What can you do if your baby seems to be sensitive to the things you eat? If your baby appears to be suffering from a food sensitivity to something you ate eliminate that food from your diet to see if that helps resolve the tummy troubles. If the tummy troubles resolve you’ll need to avoid that (or those) particular foods while you breastfeed. If it doesn’t help your baby’s tummy trouble talk to your baby’s pediatrician to see what else may be going on.
Some babies grow out of the sensitivities they had as newborns. Sometimes you can reintroduce the foods back into your diet once your baby’s digestive system has matured. If you do reintroduce foods do so slowly and one at a time so you will know if something causes trouble or not.
Always talk to your child’s doctor about their reactions and ask them for suggestions on food to avoid or eliminate from your diet.

As the mom of a very lazy nurser I’m still amazed by the efficiency with which Anna eats. Maya was such a slow eater, like crazy slow. I had to spend half the time keeping her awake or waking her up so she would keep nursing. In the first months of her life our nursing sessions were definitely of the marathon variety. A quick middle of the night nursing session would be no less than an hour. She did eventually get a little more efficient but she was never what I would call an efficient eater. So, when Anna decided she preferred the fast food variety of breastmilk I was dumbfounded and didn’t really know what to do.

Seriously, this girl knows how to get it done. A long nursing session with Anna is 20 minutes. Usually she is done in 5-10 minutes. She just chugs it down until she is full. She never stops sucking until she is full and ready to be done. Even if she starts to fall asleep at the breast she is still efficiently sucking away. Not once has she tried to use me as a pacifier. If she is full she is done and will pull off and display her lovely milk drunk face. She is not about wasting time eating, she apparently has more important things to do with her time :)

It has taken me a while to get used to this new found breastfeeding efficiency. At first I was constantly worried that she hadn’t eaten enough, especially at night when she was ready to be laid back down in bed just a mere 10 minutes after she woke up to nurse. I’ve tried to offer her my breast again only to be screamed at because, “seriously, mom, I’m done.”  But, now that I’ve adjusted my thinking from that of a mom with a lazy nurser to that of a mom with an efficient nurser we are in a groove. I seriously love how easy it is to nurse her and how I can quickly sit down to feed her and be ready to head out the door 15 minutes later, it makes life so much easier. But, secretly I kind of miss the lengthy alone time so I find myself holding her on my shoulder just a few minutes longer so I can get my fill of cuddle time 😉

Of course, having an efficient nurser isn’t without its challenges. I’m sure her chugging down her meals in 5 minutes flat is a big contributing factor to the amount of spitting up she does. I always know when half her meal is going to come back up based on how loud and unsettled her chugging is. I’ve discovered that it is really best to feed her before she gets too hungry and too worked up because she will keep things a little slower and won’t go too crazy with her chugging, thus, less spit up. Even with the extra spit up and less nursing session snuggle time I’d pick the efficient nurser over the lazy nurser any day.

When it comes to breastfeeding there are a lot of challenges a mom can face along the way. We hear a lot about women who cannot produce enough milk for their babies but we don’t often hear about the reverse problem, those who produce too much milk or who have a letdown that is so forceful it causes problems for both mom and baby.  You would think having too much milk, or milk that comes out too fast wouldn’t be much a problem, but for those of us who suffer from overactive letdown or oversupply we know just how much of a challenge it can be.

Overactive letdown, also referred to as forceful letdown, is when the milk forcefully sprays out of the breast during letdown. It can occur only with the first letdown per feeding, or multiple times per feeding.  Often the mother will have pain, or at the very least discomfort, in her breasts during the letdown. A baby nursing from a mother overactive letdown often has difficulty managing the flow and will choke, gag, and pull away from the breast. As a result these babies often end up with a lot of extra air in their tummies causing them to be gassy and fussy.  Since so much milk is coming out so quickly babies often fill up on the lighter, sugary foremilk and doesn’t get enough of the rich hindmilk. This lactose imbalance can result in gassiness, green, runny stools, discomfort and a lot of spitting up.

Moms with overactive letdown often end up being told their babies are lactose intolerant or that the baby is reacting to something in the mother’s diet, or that their babies are just coliky. This often results in the end of the breastfeeding relationship.

Although you can’t control your letdown there are a few things you can do to help make the flow a little more manageable for baby. These include:

  • Nurse the baby in a position so that the baby is “uphill”, modified cradle hold so that baby is tummy is lower than her head, football hold, or laying down so the baby’s head of above the breast.
  • Remove the baby from the breast during the letdown and let the milk spray into a clean cloth placing the baby back on the breast when the flow has slowed down.
  • Pump through the first letdown and then begin breastfeeding when the flow slows down.
  • Remove the baby from the breast often during breastfeeding to burp him or her to help prevent too much air build up.
  • Nurse the baby on one breast only per feeding. This will allow the baby to get the richer hindmilk.
  • If the baby wants to nurse again within 2 hours return to the same breast.
  • If you flow is incredibly forceful and you have too much supply nurse the baby on the same breast for a 2-4 hour block, switching only after that time frame is up.
  • Some women find it helpful to pump to empty first thing in the morning as it can help keep the flow slower during the day.
  • Nurse the baby when he or she is drowsy as their sucking with be less intense and will help keep the flow of milk a little slower.

It may take a while but eventually your baby should see some relief from the discomfort of the overactive letdown. Some babies, when faced with overactive letdown continuously, will begin to refuse the breast, or get angry when nursing. Try to work through it by following some of the helpful tips above, eventually the baby should return to nursing.

I’ve suffered from overactive letdown with both of my daughters. Thanks to the 19 months of breastfeeding experience I had under my belt I recognized what was going on immediately this go around. Anna and I are still trying to work through this challenge. I’ve been nursing her on one breast per feeding for several weeks and have started letting my initial letdown spray into a cloth. Slowly, I am beginning to see some improvement in her tummy troubles.

It can be frustrating dealing with a problem that others don’t necessarily see as a problem. Be sure to seek support from a lactation consultant or your local La Leche League if you are suffering from oversupply or overactive letdown. Having support to work through the challenge and to help come up with ways to manage the related issues will make it so much easier to continue your breastfeeding relationship with your baby.

The early days of my breastfeeding experience with Maya were challenging. I didn’t know what I was doing, she was having trouble latching and was frustrated. Between nipple confusion because of supplement feedings we had to do due to her jaundice, my milk taking 4 days to come in and marathon nursing sessions that had us both crying, it definitely took a lot of determination to make it through the first two weeks. But, even with the learning curve of being a new mom I wouldn’t trade any of it. What started out as a challenge ended with a beautiful 19 month breastfeeding experience and a well fed, happy, content baby. My breastfeeding experience with Maya is something I will always treasure.

This time around I had 19 months of breastfeeding experience under my belt and knew what to expect heading out of the gate. I was prepared for the challenging early days. I was prepared for sleepless nights, a frustrated baby waiting on my milk to come in, I was prepared for it all and ready to handle it all like the breastfeeding pro I now am.

Immediately I realized things were going to be very different from my first go around. Anna latched perfectly and ate beautifully the first time and every time since then. My milk came in earlier this time and I wasn’t as worried about things. Anna was eating, she was peeing, and she was pooping, so I knew everything was fine. At 11 days old, Anna, is breastfeeding like a pro and we are both happy and stress free.

Those 19 months I spent nursing Maya was not only wonderful for her and I, but it turns out it is benefiting Anna too. The lack of stress and not feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing has made so much difference. When I talked with the lactation consultant at the hospital it was so different than my first go around when I felt like I didn’t know anything and felt like I was under so much pressure. We just chatted about things, and it was very easy going. I wasn’t stressed or worried about anything and I had a baby who was content and doing all the right things. We chatted like equals, like old friends.

I’ve also noticed a huge difference in how and where I breastfeed. If Anna is hungry and I’m sitting down to eat dinner I nurse her at the table. With Maya have gone to her room and fed her and waited to eat until she was done. I feel more comfortable holding her on my lap without a boppy pillow in place. In fact, I rarely use my boppy because Anna doesn’t nurse well laying on her side, so I usually sit her on my lap so she is more upright. I haven’t nursed her in public yet, but only because we haven’t really been out yet. But, I’m confident in my ability to tackle public nursing this go around in a way I wasn’t with Maya. Really I’m proud of myself for making such strides since last time and I’m thankful to Maya for teaching me things that I can now use in my breastfeeding of Anna.

I foresee another great, lengthy breastfeeding experience, because, this…this is awesome.

I know that it is early and we are likely to run into some challenges along the way. But, the thing is, I’m not worried about it. I know that no matter what little challenges might pop up we’ll handle it.

My friend Heather over at The Spohrs Are Multiplying, wrote what was for me, a very thought provoking piece today.  As you all know I am a big advocate of breastfeeding and I think every mom who can should give it a try.  I write a lot about the benefits and the challenges.  I’ve shared my own successful breastfeeding story.  Breastfeeding is a big deal to me.

After reading Heather’s post and learning about her fear to admit that she had given up breastfeeding it made me question my advocacy a little bit.  I still wholehearted believe that every mom, if she can, should try to breastfeed.  Advocacy is important because it provides education, information and support.  However, does advocacy make those who try but decide to give it up feel more guilty than they should?

I know breastfeeding isn’t for everyone.  Sometimes the challenges of early breastfeeding are too much for some.  Sometimes the baby just never figures out the latch and pumping and feeding just are practical.  Sometimes, like in Heather’s situation, a mom has to give up breastfeeding so she can take care of herself and be the best mom to her baby.  I don’t want my advocacy to make those women feel guilty.  I don’t want them to be afraid to admit that they have chosen not to breastfeed.  There is no shame or defeat in saying you gave breastfeeding your best shot and it just didn’t work out, no matter the reason.

My mom suffered, and still does suffer, guilt over not being able to breastfeed my youngest brother. He was born 8 weeks premature and at the time of his birth, 19 years ago, they didn’t have women pump and feed their premature babies in the NICU.  Plus, due to major complications after my brother’s birth my mom was on some heavy duty meds.  So, as my brother grew stronger and gained the weight necessary to come home, as my mom attempted to recover from a very difficult birth, her milk dried up.  She had breastfed 4 previous children and not being able to breastfeed her baby made her feel incredible guilt.   She still to this day wonders, worries and feels guilty about not breastfeeding him.  She shouldn’t have to feel that guilt.

To all the moms out there who give breastfeeding a try and it just doesn’t work out.  To all the moms out there who have to give up breastfeeding.  To all the moms out there, like my own mom, who can’t breastfeed for some reason.  There is no shame in formula feeding a baby.  We are all good moms, breastfeeding moms and formula feeding moms.