Skin Crawling and Nipple Fiddling

A breastfeeding relationship involves two people. In order for the relationship to remain a happy one it is important to address any underlying resentments or negative feelings that you might have. For me, negative feelings arise whenever my son decides that he has to twiddle, play with, pat, or otherwise touch my other nipple while he is nursing.

I can’t explain why this particular behavior bothers me so much, but it does. After hearing from others it seems that I am not alone. I will admit that this is something that has bothered me since almost the beginning of our nursing relationship, and it is something that I have always tried to head off. After two years(even after always being redirected when he reaches for my other nipple) he still tries almost every time he is nursing! After researching and speaking with other moms about this common behavior, I have compiled this list of suggestions for the mom who deals with this as well. Try one or a few of these options to see if it works with your child:

  • Redirect their hand to your belly or arm(or somewhere you don’t mind being touched or fiddled with) every single time they reach for your nipple.
  • Nurse from the opposite side during the night. In other words, offer your child the furthest breast so that you are lying on your other nipple. DO NOT do this if you are prone to plugged ducts or mastitis!
  • Limit access through clothing. This works for some but my son just finds his way(and even if he didn’t it seems to still bother me over top of clothing as well).
  • Provide a stuffed animal to play with and fiddle instead.
  • Holding or play with little hands while nursing.
  • Explain calmly and gently that it bothers you. Ex “I don’t like being touched there, you can rub my arm(hold this stuffed animal, hold my hand, etc..) instead”. Repeat, Repeat, Repeat….

So, I offer to you these suggestions to try as they seem to work for many moms. So…what gets under your skin?

Baby Acne

During pregnancy and labor, a baby receives a surge of hormones that are transferred to her from her mama via the placenta. One of the side affects of this hormone kick is baby acne. If your baby develops small pimples on her face, back, or other areas of her body that look remarkably similar to the acne that a teenager would develop, it is usually nothing to worry about. Baby acne can start any time after birth and it is completely normal for it to stick around for a few months; it is also normal for the acne to peak around 3 or 4 weeks of age.  So what can you do to care for your baby’s skin in the mean time?

  • Creams or lotions are not usually necessary, and could irritate the skin; you can simply rinse your baby’s face with water during bath time.
  • Keep your little one dressed appropriately for the weather, sweat can make baby acne worse. A good rule of thumb during the early months is for baby to be wearing one light layer more than what you are wearing.
  • Breastmilk works wonders for soothing irritated skin and it is unlikely it will make anything worse! Rub a bit on the skin whenever you remember.

Be sure to keep an eye on the rash and get some professional advice if it starts to look like eczema or a rash related to food allergies. I know it is hard to see your baby’s beautiful face covered in patches of acne, but baby acne does go away! More likely than not you will barely remember that it was ever even a concern.

Infant Sleep – What’s Normal?

“Is the baby sleeping through the night yet?” is likely one question you will hear more times that you can imagine during the first year of your baby’s life. For the mother who’s baby continues to wake frequently, hearing this can be very discouraging and make someone question their nighttime parenting techniques. What needs to be known is that a baby waking frequently at night is completely normal! The child who sleeps through most of the night at a young age is actually in the minority. It is also completely normal for a child to need to be parented to sleep(and back to sleep) throughout their first years of life and beyond. So what is within the range of normal infant sleep?

  • Baby’s sleep cycles last around one hour(compared to an adult sleep cycle which lasts around an hour and a half). This means that every single hour of the night your baby goes through a “light sleep” period where she will either be able to settle herself back to sleep fairly effortlessly or she may need a little help getting through the light sleep phase back into deep sleep. Babies often have an easier time moving through light sleep by themselves during the first hours of the night and need more help as the morning approaches.
  • It takes about 20 minutes after your baby’s eyes close for him to enter “deep sleep”. Although the end of the day is a time when most parents are really itching to have some alone time, it helps to approach bedtime knowing that it might take up to an hour and rarely takes less than 30 minutes.
  • In the early months, babies need to nurse frequently throughout the night. Breast milk takes approximately 1-3 hours to be digested. Waking up frequently is a survival technique. Although breastfed babies do wake more frequently, they are often easier to get back to sleep.
  • A sleep study done in 1994 that involved 640 babies revealed that only 17% of babies are sleeping through the night at 6 months old. Another 1994 sleep study, involving over 3,000 participants, determined that it is not until at least 24 months old that regular night waking decreases naturally.
  • Due to developmental leaps, it is common for night-waking to increase between 6 and 12 months.

I hope that some of this information eases some of the common worries regarding, and provides a clearer picture of, normal infant sleep patterns.

Morning Sickness

If you are in your early months of pregnancy chances are you are experiencing some degree of morning sickness. Despite it’s confusing name, morning sickness can strike any time of the day (or linger all day as was the case with my pregnancy). Take comfort in knowing that morning sickness is actually a sign that you have a healthy and well-implanted embryo. Nausea should subside by about the third month of pregnancy. Until then, try some of the following tips to make it through your day:

  • Recognize your triggers: Try to pinpoint what triggers your nausea and avoid these things as much as possible. Common culprits are perfumes, coffee, cooked meat, and body odors.
  • Avoid an empty stomach– Most women feel worse when they are running on an empty stomach. Keep some snacks by your bedside table to nibble on before you get out of bed.
  • Stick to the foods that agree with you– It can be hard to eat enough when nausea is involved. If the thought of cooking food makes you want to curl up into a ball (as was the case with me), consider sticking to a raw foods diet for the first few months.  Cold foods are sometimes more tolerable that hot. Smoothies are a great way to pack nutrients into an easy to eat and digest treat.
  • Avoid large meals – eat several smaller meals throughout the day instead of three large meals. Try to always have easy-to-grab snacks on hand.
  • Acupressure – I don’t know how i would have made it through my first pregnancy without the use of acupressure sea bands.These wrist bands provide continuous pressure to an anti-nausea pressure point.
  • Add anti-nausea foods to your diet – Foods that naturally calm the stomach include fennel, ginger, and peppermint. Tea is a great way to enjoy!
  • Get Plenty of Sleep – Being tired can make symptoms worse so be sure to get enough sleep at night and make time for naps!
  • Drink Water – Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
  • Snack before bed – Enjoy a protein dense snack before going to bed for the night.

I hope some of these tips help you get through the first trimester as comfortably as possible. If there is anything else that has helped you during pregnancy please share!

Breastfeeding a Toddler

As my sons second birthday quickly approaches I can’t help but wonder how long our nursing relationship might continue. Two was always the end point that I had in my mind. After all, two seems so old when you are holding a brand new baby.  But now that we are here, it makes my heart ache to consider weaning him at this point. And so, we will keep going until one of us doesn’t want to anymore.

Nursing a toddler is a whole different ball game than nursing an infant; a game which I am really enjoying.  A few of my favorite things about nursing a toddler:

  • Flexibility – Unlike his nurse on demand counterpart that existed only one year ago, my toddler nursling is a little more flexible. If I am not feeling like breastfeeding at any particular moment, he is usually happy with a snack or a distraction. Phrases such as “when we get home” or “in a little bit” are starting to be understood.
  • A Chance to Reconnect – The world is an amazing place for a toddler, with endless avenues to explore. There are some days where I feel that I am constantly playing defense so that he has the opportunity to learn and grow in a safe environment. Breastfeeding provides us with little breaks in the day to stop, relax, and reconnect with each other.
  • Bedtime Cuddles – Nothing soothes a child into a deep sleep quite like breastfeeding. If I were to wean my son, it would simply be one less tool that I would be able to use to help my son fall asleep and unwind after a long day of exploring.
  • Healing Powers – Learning to run, jump, and climb brings with it a lot of falls, bumps, and bruises. I have found nothing that works as quickly or as effortlessly, to dry those tears, as breastfeeding.
  • Fighting Sickness – Breastfeeding continues to boost my child’s immune system for as long as it is continued. If I come down with a cold, my son will receive antibodies via my breastmilk. Breastfeeding also helps prevent dehydration in a sick child, for many children who will not drink water will still nurse.

What are your favorite things about nursing a toddler?

Making More Milk

It is so disheartening and crushing to feel that you might not be making enough milk to nourish your baby. Take comfort in knowing that the majority of healthy mothers are able to increase their milk supply and make enough milk to feed their little ones. The first step is to determine whether or not you have a low milk supply to begin with. Many mothers are concerned that they do not have enough milk, when in fact they are producing the perfect amount for their child. A few things to realize when you are evaluating your milk supply:

  • It is perfectly normal for newborns to breastfeed frequently. Just because your baby wants to nurse 30 minutes after you fed her does not mean that she is not receiving enough milk.
  • Milk production is a system of supply and demand. When your baby is able to nurse whenever she needs to, most often this will let your body know exactly how much milk to produce(don’t worry, you are not going to spoil your baby).
  • Breastfeeding should not be painful. If it is painful to nurse your child then please check her latch, and if it is still painful then consider visiting a Lactation Consultant. A poor latch will effect how much milk your baby is receiving as well as the supply and demand process taking place between your child and your body.
  • After mature milk comes in, a few days after childbirth, your breasts will probably feel very full. As your milk supply regulates and your breasts feel less full, it may seem that you are not making enough milk. More than likely you are now making the perfect amount of milk!
  • Your baby is much better at removing milk then a pump; so how much milk you can pump is not necessarily indicative of how much milk you are producing(and your baby is receiving).

So how are you supposed to know if your baby is getting enough milk? Well…what comes in must come out!

  • A baby between the ages of 4 days and 6 weeks will usually have about 4 wet diapers and 3 stools during a 24 hour period.
  • It can be difficult to determine when a disposable diaper is wet with a young baby. Compare the small weight difference between a wet diaper and a dry diaper side by side so you know what to look for.
  • It is typical for a baby to lose some weight during the few days after birth. After the first few days most babies gain at least one ounce a day – be sure that you are using the same scale every time you weigh your baby.

If you still do not feel like you are producing enough milk, there are a few things that you can try(please also make contact with a La Leche League Leader or an IBCLC).

  • Nurse Nurse Nurse! Nurse your baby as often as possible. Consider crawling into bed with your baby for a day or two of skin-to-skin contact, cuddling, and nursing.
  • When your baby starts to nod off or when sucking slows down during a feeding, switch to the other side. You can do this multiple times if your baby is happily nursing.
  • Rent a hospital grade breast pump. If you are feeling like you are not removing enough milk, or if baby is not wanting to nurse frequently, then try pumping between nursing sessions.
  • Avoid pacifiers, if your baby wants to suck on something it might as well be your breasts so that your body is signaled to make more milk!
  • If supplementing  becomes necessary, consider using a device that allows baby to nurse at the breast while receiving extra milk via a tube running next to the nipple. Finger feeding(with a tube attached to your finger) is also a great option; early bottles can lead to nipple confusion which may make the situation worse.
  • Take care of yourself by resting, eating a balanced diet, and drinking enough fluids.
  • An herb called Fenugreek is helpful to many mothers who are trying to increase their milk supply. More information on the herb, and suggested dosage can be found here.

Remember to call a La Leche League Leader or an IBCLC if you are still concerned about your milk supply, as early intervention is a key component of successful breastfeeding. If you have had something specific that has worked for you please leave a comment!

Visiting the New Mom

As a Postpartum Doula I have spent countless hours in the homes of new mothers. In those homes I often see family and friends come and go; some of these visitors are extremely helpful and some….not so much. It is hard to know what to do to help a new mother, especially if you do not have children yourself(or maybe it has been awhile). The following is a guide for visiting the new mother:

  • Let Her Know You are Coming – Do not drop by unexpected! Imagine sleeping no more than an hour at a time for a week straight, finally you have an opportunity to lay your head down on a nice comfy pillow to get some rest, then someone knocks at your door(waking not only you but your sleeping baby as well).
  • Ask What You Can Bring- For a new mom, a chance to run to the grocery store is a rare occurrence. When you are calling to ask when to visit, also ask what you can bring. Rest assured, there is most likely something that she needs. Use open ended phrasing that invites an honest response (example: “I am headed to the store on my way, what can I bring you?” instead of “do you need anything from the store?”.
  • Feed Her a Home Cooked Meal– If you are visiting during a meal time, do not expect her to feed you! If at all possible, bring a home cooked meal to share with her and her family. Even if you are not visiting during a meal time, a covered casserole that they can heat up later is sure to be appreciated.
  • Wash Your Hands– Wash your hands when you walk in the house, especially if you are wanting to hold the baby. It will be much appreciated.
  • Clean – If you share a meal together, please clean up afterwards. If you notice a sink full of dishes, wash them. If you see that there is laundry piled on the couch, sit and fold it while you talk. She may not ask you to help out but I am guessing she wont stop you, and she will be grateful.
  • Be Breastfeeding Friendly– New moms need to feed their babies very frequently. A new mother may feel uncomfortable nursing around other people, as it is a new learning process for her and her child. A simple statement such as “don’t hesitate to let me know when you need to nurse and I can step out of the room if it will make you more comfortable” goes a long way at relieving tension. Now she will not feel awkward when her baby needs to breastfeed and she doesn’t know how to ask you to leave. She might even invite you to stay while she nurses.
  • Play With Older Children – If mom has another child(or more), be sure to give them a lot of attention. It is hard for siblings to see many people come and go, gushing over a new baby while they receive no more than a pat on the head. Bring a toy or a project for siblings and engage with them. Mom will get some alone time with the baby and she will be so grateful that her older child/children are receiving some focused attention.
  • Pay Attention to Body Language – If you are wanting to hold the baby then pay attention to moms body language when you are doing so. You may notice that she appears a little tense and does not take her eyes off of you when you are holding her baby; this may be a sign to give the baby a quick cuddle and hand her back over. On the other hand, you may notice that her whole body relaxes as she embraces the break and grabs some food to enjoy with both of her hands or runs off to use the bathroom by herself; guess you get to enjoy holding baby for a bit longer!
  • Make it a Short Visit – Being a new mom is exhausting and as much as she is probably happy to see you, a short visit is almost always better. Enjoy the new family, help out a bit, but plan on leaving before she has to ask you to.

Breastfeeding During Pregnancy

If you have a nursing toddler and you are pregnant, or are trying to become pregnant, you may be wondering what you should do now. I have known many mothers who continued to breastfeed during pregnancy and went on to tandem nurse their toddler and the newest addition to their family.  Whatever decision you make about breastfeeding during pregnancy will depend on your unique situation and what you feel is best for you and your family. Below are a few questions that you might like to consider:

 

  • How long would you have liked to nurse your older child if you were not pregnant(or planning to become pregnant)?
  • Is your child showing signs of weaning already?
  • How old is your child?
  • If you are already pregnant, is nursing painful and/or is your milk supply decreasing?
  • How often is your toddler breastfeeding?
  • Are you open to tandem nursing?

 

The answer to these questions might begin to help you to get an idea of the direction you are wanting to go. What does your gut tell you? Does the thought of weaning your child bring tears to your eyes, or is it the thought of nursing through morning sickness? If you are planning a pregnancy, you might like to wait until your child is at an age where you would be comfortable with them self-weaning(if your milk supply does decrease during pregnancy). If you do decide to continue nursing throughout your pregnancy, hopefully some of the following information will help you prepare:

  • Many children will wean during pregnancy – some show renewed interest in breastfeeding once the baby comes and go back to nursing, others have interest but forget how to latch correctly, and others have lost interest.
  • Breastfeeding during a healthy pregnancy is typically safe for you, your toddler, and your unborn baby.
  • You may find that breastfeeding is less enjoyable during pregnancy(due to nausea, fatigue, or sore nipples) or you may find that you don’t experience these symptoms.
  • Breastfeeding during pregnancy may help you get more rest as you can take breaks to lay down and nurse your toddler.

If you have had nursed a child during a pregnancy, please share your experiences!

Check out Plugged ducts!

Plugged Ducts

There is no easy way to say it, plugged ducts are a royal pain in the you know what. Hopefully you have stumbled upon this page because you are experiencing your first and last plugged duct. A plugged duct can be recognized as a hardened lump in a portion of your breast. If you have a fever or other symptoms you may have mastitis. For a few of us unlucky ones, plugged ducts can be an annoying, uncomfortable, and reoccurring problem.

If you are suffering from plugged ducts fairly often, the first thing you should do is check your babys latch to make sure that he is removing milk effectively. A few other precautions that you can take include:

  • Don’t wear tight bras or clothing that applies consistent pressure to any spot on your breast.
  • Nurse your baby on demand.
  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach or in any position that applies pressure to your breasts.
  • When wearing a purse, drape it over your shoulder instead of across your chest.

Okay now for what to do when you have a plugged duct:

  • Nurse, nurse, nurse, nurse, nurse!
  • Massage the breast over the plug and toward the nipple while nursing.
  • Soak your breast in warm water or take a hot bath and lie on your side.
  • Vary your nursing position so that your baby has their nose or chin is pointing toward the plug.
  • Try to relax, the plug will usually come out with time.
  • Check for any hardened milk on your nipple that may be the cause of a plug. Try removing the milk with a wash cloth.

Many moms, myself included, have found taking supplements of Lecithin to be a huge help. Lecithin can be taken as a precautionary measure or after a plug is present. More information about lecithin can be found here:

If you are concerned about reoccurring plugged ducts or your baby’s latch, please contact an IBCLC or a La Leche League Leader. I would love to hear what tricks have worked for other mamas out there!

Seasonal Allergies While Breastfeeding

The sun is finally out in Oregon and my allergies are attacking with full force this year. As a breastfeeding mama I often have to do a little digging to find suitable remedies for my different ailments. Although many medications are fine while breastfeeding(it’s still a good idea to try to find a natural remedy if possible), antihistamines have been shown to lower a mothers milk supply. So I thought I would present a few alternatives for those of us that just need a little help getting through the beginning of the season:

  • Nettle Tea– Many people swear by Nettle Tea for seasonal allergy relief. Drink 3-4 cups a day. Tea can be made using loose leafs or, if you are like me and have never gotten in the swing of making loose leaf tea, you can try an already bagged brand such as Alvita or Traditional Medicinals.
    • Local Honey – If your allergy is to pollen, ingesting honey that is made from local bees can be quite effective at combating allergies. Try to find honey that was made as close to your home as possible. Honey is often available this time of year at a local farmers market.
    • Netti-Pot – Oh the sinus pressure! Netti-pots are small containers shaped like a tea kettle with a longer stem.To use the netti-pot you fill it up with warm water with a bit of salt, stand over a sink, pour the water in one nostril and let it drain out of the other. Although it is not the most pleasant experience, it really works to help clear out sinuses.
  • Spicy food – I’m sure many of you have noticed that when you eat food that is spicy, your nose starts to run. Eating spicy food every so often will help to keep your sinuses from getting too backed up; just make sure to have some tissues handy!

It is not the most comprehensive list but I only wanted to speak to the remedies that I have tried. I would love to hear what has worked for you; perhaps together we can offer several natural and safe allergy remedies for breastfeeding mamas to try!