breastfeeding q&a

I've been wanting to post this for a long time - especially since August was National Breastfeeding Awareness month.  Like most things, it didn't happen when I wanted it to and that is a-okay!

After choosing not to breastfeed my first child, I was determined to figure it out the second time around.  Although I had one condition, which was that I had to be able to feel comfortable breastfeeding anywhere.  I knew I wouldn't be comfortable breastfeeding without a cover in public, so I had to practice a lot with a cover.  And like most things, breastfeeding takes A LOT of practice {and patience}!  Breastfeeding is something that I have grown passionate about, but like all mom's, I had a million questions - what cover is the best and easiest?  how do you find time to pump and breastfeed?  how do you build up your milk supply?  what foods should you avoid?  I'm pretty sure I had more questions about breastfeeding than anything else with a newborn and I found it most helpful to ask mom's who had recently breastfed {within the last 6 months} or who were currently breastfeeding.  Why?  Because not only could they answer my questions, but they knew the frustration that came along with all of the newborn, exhausted parent, child-chasing craziness.

My goal here is to encourage anyone who is struggling with breastfeeding.  I want you to know that I NEVER thought I could do this.  Every day for the first 3 months was hard, but with each piece of newfound knowledge, each new question answered, it became easier.

How long does it take, after your baby is born, for your milk to come in?
Approximately 3-5 days.  I found it was closer to the 5th day.

How do I know if my milk is in? 
This is tricky, because if you are a first-time breastfeeder, you probably don't know what it feels like to have your milk come in {see next question}.  The easiest thing to do is express some milk from your breast.  It'll either be yellow & thick {colostrum) or white & thin {milk}.  Colostrum doesn't usually spray out the same way milk does.

What does it feel like when my "milk comes in" or "lets down"?
Even though I had a milk supply after that first week of being home with my new baby, I had no idea what people meant when they asked if I had felt my milk "let down."  It took maybe 2 - 2 1/2 weeks to experience this, and when it happened, I knew immediately what it was.  Some people say it's painful, but I would say it's mildly uncomfortable.  The only way I can describe the sensation of a milk let down is comparing it to the burning sensation after getting a vaccine or flu shot {probably not very comforting, right?}  You know when you get a shot in your arm and it feels kind of warm and cold at the same time and burns a little?  Well, that's kind of what a milk let down feels like - sort of warm and cold and burning - except in your breasts.  Sort of weird, but not painful.  And don't forget nursing pads!  After your milk lets down, you will start leaking - which could be bad if you forget nursing pads.

What kind of nursing pads are the best?  Do you have to wear nursing pads all the time?
This is definitely a personal preference and changes over time.  

My absolute favorite are the Lansinoh Disposable Nursing Pads.  They are thick enough to last through the night, but still comfortable enough to wear all day.  These were my go-to for the first 2-3 months when my milk supply was still trying to balance out.

My baby is now 6 months old and I don't wear nursing pads anymore.  I'll still use the disposable ones every once in a while, but have enjoyed the Lansinoh Reusable Nursing Pads.  They are a little bulky to wear all day, but are great at night.  I don't recommend reusable ones for the first few months since they don't absorb as much - afterall, they are just a double-layer of cotton and you still run the chance of leaking through them.

First few months : Disposable.  Later on : Reusable.  And luckily, you don't have to wear nursing pads forever, but it will depend on how heavy your milk is.

What foods will help boost my milk supply?
Any research you do, you will find foods that are supposed to boost your milk supply.  Tricky part is that some things work for some people, while others don't.  The list is endless and overwhelming.  I think that a lot of foods are myths and cause a placebo affect.  Although there are two things that all of my breastfeeding buddies agree on : oatmeal and water.  

Just a quick note, I hate oatmeal {like the breakfast, mushy, cardboard kind}.  I opted to add dry oatmeal to everything - pancakes, cookies, bread.  My favorite recipe, that is both easy and delicious, can be found HERE.

People always say to drink A LOT of water while breastfeeding?  How much is "a lot" and how much should I be drinking?
Everyone always told me to drink lots of water, but I'm someone who has to measure my water intake, otherwise I don't drink nearly enough.  My goal was always 64 ounces {two hospital jugs full}.  Then I was imparted with wisdom - thanks to my sister-in-law.  Everyone should drink 1/2 their body weight in ounces.  If you weight 140 lbs, you should be drinking 70 oz of water each day.  Make sense?  

What foods should I avoid to keep my baby from getting fussy?
Again, the list is endless.  Ultimately it depends on the baby and you!  But, if you're like me, you hate that answer.  My babies have a really difficult time with milk, so I avoid dairy {especially straight milk}.  I also try not to eat broccoli, cabbage, beans, and lots of lettuce.  Chocolate and sugar are two others that are helpful to avoid, but I don't have the will-power.   Go figure!  

How long does it take for food to express to breast milk?
From my research, 4-6 hours.  If you are testing to see if a specific food is causing your baby problems, it should be their next feeding after you eat {depending on the last time you fed your baby}.

I want to build up a milk storage in the fridge.  What's the best way to do this?
If you are a working mom, this is easier.  While you are working, you will need to pump every 3-4 hours just as if you were feeding your baby.  

If you are a stay-at-home mom, this is more difficult.  If you are with your baby, you feed them instead of pumping so you never really build up a storage.  What you can do is pump once a day at the same time, either in the morning or at night.  You'll need to plan it one hour before your baby's next feeding.  My son always eats at 10 pm, so I would pump at about 8:45 pm.

Another option is to pump after each feeding or pump the breast your baby did not feed on.  I found this time consuming, but if your wanting a breast milk storage, it's worth it.

I want to be able to leave my baby with a babysitter, but don't have a milk storage.  What do I do?
There are a lot of mother's who want to exclusively breastfeed - aka no bottle or formula.  This is wonderful!  It's a commitment and sacrifice.  I'm not this type of mother, so take my advice with a grain of salt if needed.  I'm terrible at remembering to pump and am rarely away from my baby, so I choose to keep formula and a bottle in my diaper bag, just in case.  There are pros and cons to everything, and giving my babies formula when necessary doesn't bother me.  Just keep in mind, if you want to keep up a good milk supply, you'll need to pump ASAP if you do give your baby a bottle. If you don't, your milk supply will decrease over time.

What is the best type of bottle to use while breastfeeding?
Anything with a "natural" nipple.  Our favorite is the AVENT BPA Free Natural Bottle {instead of the AVENT BPA Free Classic Bottle}.  Another one to try would be the Tommee Tippee Bottle.

How do I avoid nipple confusion with my newborn?
Every baby is going to have a preference to whether they like breast or bottle better.  With both of my babies, we gave them a bottle about 1 week after they were born.  My daughter immediately preferred the bottle and really struggled breastfeeding after that {which is one reason I didn't breastfeed her long}.  My son preferred breastfeeding, but would only take a "natural nipple" bottle in the beginning.  Now he will take either a natural or classic nipple.  Just remember, if you want to breastfeed, don't rely on the bottle too much.  Use it every once in a while for an emotional break, but don't get to reliant on it.

How often can I give my baby a bottle without affecting my milk supply?
About once a day.  However, if you give your baby a bottle at the same time every day, it WILL affect your supply.  

We choose to give our son a bottle {with formula} each night before bed.  He's been a tough little guy to get to sleep and this helped him a lot.  It also helped us monitor his intake before bed since we have been trying to find his sleeping problems.  Again... personal opinion here.

What is your favorite nursing cover?
I have two Hooter Hider's that I use, both of which were given to me.  They work great and fold up easily.  People also like Covered Goods, but I haven't purchased one yet.  

The easiest thing to use, for me, has been a blanket.  Overrated, I know - but a good blanket can be used for just about anything with a baby.  Don't feel like you need to purchase a nursing cover, practice with a baby blanket and see how it goes.

How do I know if my baby is full?
When your baby is eating, look for a "soft body."  As their belly fills, their body relaxes.  You will notice your baby's hands open from a closed fist, their legs and feet will be still, and their tummy will be soft instead of tight and hard.  Eventually your baby will learn to unlatch once they are full.

How do I know if my baby is getting enough "hindmilk"?
First off, hindmilk is the high-fat, creamier milk that settles behind the foremilk.  It is the milk that will help your baby stay full longer and will help them gain weight. {Note: foremilk will do the same, but it's important that your baby eats long enough to drink both the foremilk and hindmilk.}  You will be able to tell if your baby is getting enough hindmilk by the color of their poop {oh, the joys of motherhood}.  If your baby's poop is yellow, then they are most likely getting enough hindmilk during their feedings.  If your baby's poop is green, then you will want to try and have them breastfeed longer during each feeding.  Keep in mind that one green poopy diaper here and there is okay.  If they have green poop for multiple weeks or months, then you will want to talk to your doctor.

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