Hi there, and thanks for joining me again on the blog. August 25th-31st is Black Breastfeeding week, and in honor of normalizing, educating, and spreading awareness around breastfeeding in the Black community I wanted to share a little bit about my journey.
Disclaimer: Mamas & mamas to be please keep in mind that I am a therapist & coach NOT a lactation consultant, Doula, or breastfeeding specialist. All of the information shared is based on my personal experience. Also, there are several factors that go into how we feed our little ones. How your baby(ies) receive(d) nourishment does not determine your success as a mother.
Should I nurse…pump…or use formula? Throughout my pregnancy I was asked how I planned to feed my son once he was born. And guess what? My initial plan changed.
Initially, I planned to pump exclusively as a way to save money and make the transition to bottle feeding easier once I returned to my 9-5. And… okay, you got me… I wanted to share the load of nighttime feedings with my husband.
Do you blame me? I didn’t want to be the only one waking up throughout the night to feed a hungry baby.
Even though I planned to pump I decided to educate myself on breastfeeding by reading articles, talking to friends, and taking a breastfeeding class.
After conducting my research I still wanted to pump, but became open to the idea of nursing. When I shared this information with my medical team they recommended that I nurse exclusively for 6 weeks before incorporating pumping into our routine.
Welp, here we are 18 months later and I’ve nursed my son the entire time. Unfortunately, my plan to share nighttime feedings stayed just that… a plan.
During the course of our 18 month breastfeeding journey I’ve overcome the breastfeeding learning curve (it did not come naturally ya’ll), sore & scabbed nipples, engorgement, cluster feedings, nursing in public, snooty comments, A LOT of wasted milk as my son refused a bottle the majority of the time, and of course late night feedings. Let me say that again… late night feedings.
Whether you breastfed for 1 day or 1 year that deserves to be celebrated because it is not always a picture perfect experience. There is a lot of learning, frustration, physical & emotional pain, and exhaustion that can be caused by breastfeeding (pumping included).
If you are currently breastfeeding, exploring your feeding options, or just want to learn some tips to support a mother in your life I have a few for you to consider along the way.
Educate yourself: Breastfeeding does not always come naturally; therefore, it can be helpful to learn about the process before you start. Ask your friends about their experiences, read articles, contact your insurance company for a list of covered benefits (some cover a free breast pump & free visits with a lactation consultant), or take a breastfeeding class. If you are searching for a class in your area it may be helpful to check into the following: consult your medical provider, local hospitals (especially your delivering hospital), county health department/women infant & children (WIC) as some departments offer free classes even if you don’t qualify for WIC, birthing centers, and for my military spouses check with your readiness centers.
Seek professional help: If you are having a difficult time breastfeeding I would encourage you to seek professional help ASAP. Prior to giving birth contact your insurance company to see if they cover any visits with a lactation consultant (military spouses Tricare covers 6 free visits with a lactation consultant & free pump), contact your local health department, and add the contact information to at least 2 lactation consultants/organizations that offer breastfeeding support to your phone prior to delivery. When you are in the hospital ask to meet with a lactation consultant to ask questions and learn various holding positions before you are discharged.
Supplies: Plan, prepare, and prep by having some breastfeeding supplies before your baby arrives. The following are a few of my go to items: coconut oil & nipple cream (apply after every feeding), breast pads, haaka (attach to opposite breast while baby is nursing to gather leaking milk), boppy pillow, nursing bras, nursing tanks, and pumping bra.
Diet & Nutrition: Breastfeeding burns A LOT of calories. My medical team encouraged me to drink a lot of water. Most hospitals provide new mothers with a large cup… this cup will become your best friend and can help you stay hydrated. While nursing try to drink as much water as you can. Also, having easy access to snacks can be helpful. I’m not much of a “snacker” so my go to snacks were granola bars & fruit.
Use your milk: Breastmilk can you used for almost anything. I would encourage you to save any “leftover” milk from your haaka or milk you plan to “pump & dump”. My son suffered from eczema and cradle cap so I would add breastmilk to his baths. Also, I know some mamas who used their milk to make soap, clear up ear infections, cuts, and etc.
As we celebrate Black breastfeeding week I would encourage you to reflect on your experience and how you chose to feed your baby as I am sure it was the best decision for you and your family. Our initial plan behind feeding our little one(s) may not end up how we originally envisioned. And mama, that is okay.
Let’s celebrate having happy and healthy babies and mamas.
What’s one recommendation you have for a mama who is considering breastfeeding? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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