Breastfeeding. I can’t believe that the most natural thing a woman can do can also be SO incredibly challenging! Don’t get me wrong, I am such a huge proponent of breastfeeding, there is zero argument that it is the absolute best thing for both mom and babe for so many reasons. The feeling that you get knowing that you’re nourishing your little baby is the most incredible experience, I can’t even describe it.
As a Registered Dietitian, for some twisted reason I thought that I would be exempt from this so-called challenge that other moms faced. I mean, I had STUDIED it after-all, so that should make it easy, yes? Um, no. I remember walking (or more accurately, shuffling) down the hall in the hospital after having my first baby Charlie, crying my already puffy eyes out as I had no clue how to breastfeed and was desperate for help. Turns out that my textbooks in university didn’t really help me much.
Fast-forward to my second-born, and though it’s easier, it’s still not a walk-in-the-park at the beginning. Sore cracked nipples, hard bumpy boobs and a low milk supply were a few of the issues I faced. All that I can say is thank the stars for the amazing public health nurses we have in Kelowna, those ladies are absolutely incredible! And I’ll be honest with you, in the end I still had problems with my supply (even though a lot of things helped), and I ended up supplementing with some formula as a top up since Max wasn’t gaining sufficient weight. I say this because there is so much mommy guilt surrounding infant feeding. Sometimes things don’t go exactly according to your plan (my intention was to exclusively breastfeed). I’ll also say that my situation wasn’t the norm, and that most women can breastfeed exclusively without the same supply issues!
Since I KNOW that I’m not the only one who has had challenges breastfeeding, I thought I would share my personal thoughts on some of the nutrition tips and gadgets that helped me!
It’s important for me to emphasize the importance of getting personal, professional help if you’re experiencing issues with breastfeeding. There are so many potential reasons for breastfeeding challenges: this article isn’t intended as a replacement for the great advice that you will receive by reaching out to your support network (i.e.: lactation consultant, physician or public health nurse).
However, I love the idea of having a few tools at my fingertips that may help, and nutrition is certainly one of them! In addition to choosing better foods, I also took Fenugreek (390mg per capsule) and Blessed Thistle (610mg per capsule) at the advice of the nurses to help increase my supply (3 capsules of each per day). Your physician may also prescribe Domperidone which works very well with few side effects. If you want a healthy treat that contains some of the foods that may help increase your supply, check out my ‘Boobie Cookie’ recipe post.
Here are my top 10 foods to eat that may help increase breast milk production (also called galactagogues, which sounds like something off of Star Trek quite frankly) and fuel your body:
- Oats: fibre, B-vitamins and potassium
- Dates: fibre and potassium
- Fatty Fish: protein and omega-3 fat for baby’s nervous system and may boost mom’s mood
- Water: essential for breastfeeding, aim for 10 cups per day (I was parched as soon as Max latched every time, so crazy!)
- Almonds: calcium, fibre and protein
- Flax Seeds: fibre and omega-3 fats
- Brewers Yeast: B-vitamins
- Beans: fibre, potassium, protein
- Spinach (or other leafy greens): potassium, fibre and vitamin C
- Greek Yogurt: protein and calcium
BREASTFEEDING TIPS & GADGETS
- Breastfeeding pillow. I used an Aden & Anais one, I loved it and it comes with such gorgeous soft covers! I can’t believe that people used to breastfeed without these! Experts say to breastfeed until your breasts are completely empty, which means a lot of time at the boob: you will want to be comfortable!
- A good breastfeeding pump (and use it, especially at night). My milk supply was lowest in the evening like most moms, so the nurses suggested that I pump in between morning feeds so that I had extra milk to give my baby at night when my supply was lower. The more you feed, the more you make (good ol’ supply and demand). Try double pumping for 5-10 minutes after you nurse your baby to completely empty your breasts. Genius! The Medela Double Breastfeeding Pump made it so easy to pump, I highly recommend it!
- Videos. A picture is worth a thousand words, and videos have to be worth… let’s go with a lot! I love that there are breastfeeding videos that help take the guess work out of it all! Medela has some great videos for pumping here, and companies such as Lactation Link have some awesome online classes and support for breastfeeding moms (watch them before having your baby if you can, it really helps you prepare!)
- Strapless breastfeeding pump ‘bustier‘. I always joke that in my next life I’m going to come back as someone who likes to chill. Until then, I’ll be using gadgets like this bustier that lets me pump and get $#*@ done at the same time. Let me tell you, hands-free pumping is where it’s at!
- Breastfeeding cover. Some people are completely cool with openly breastfeeding in public. I’m not one of those people. A good breastfeeding cover was worth its weight in gold for me, I love how you can see down to the baby easily and don’t have to worry about a regular cloth falling down while you’re feeding.
- Burping cloths (LOTS of them). I used the muslin swaddling cloths mostly, they are super versatile and large enough to handle the endless rounds of spit up that comes my way. My favourite (pictured above) is this Pehr Striped Swaddling Cloth, I’ll be wearing this one out!
- Nipple cream (or lanolin). Ouch, those first weeks are especially tough on the nipples, lanolin was a huge help for me! I used it as prevention when my nipples started to get a bit sore: no sense in waiting until they were destroyed to use it as far as I was concerned! Oh yes, if nobody warned you, breastfeeding can really hurt at the beginning. Like, the take-your-breath-away kind of hurt, even when I had a proper latch. It went away for me after a couple of weeks and was worth pushing through.
- Rocking or Glider Chair. You’re going to spend a lot of time breastfeeding, these chairs are so nice to have if you can afford one.
- Nursing Pads. Springing a leak in public is something you want to avoid, trust me.
- Nursing Bras. A good nursing bra is completely priceless. Breastfeeding is hard enough, you don’t need to be wrestling with a lousy bra on top of it. I found the Boob brand of bras to be an awesome fit: I had both a regular bra and a sports bra (I bought a size up in this one) along with a couple of nursing camisoles to make breastfeeding easier.
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Thank you Sharla Pike Photography for the glowing pictures of me and Max! xo