August is World Breastfeeding Month. The team at Crouse Health’s Kienzle Family Maternity Center recognizes a woman’s right to choose whether to breastfeed or not. During this month, in particular, we celebrate mothers who have are attempting to feed their babies human milk.
What follows are some insights that may make the breastfeeding experience more satisfying for you and your baby.
Right vs. Left
Seventy-five percent of all mothers will produce more on the right side than the left. Not all breasts are created equal. If you experience leakage from one breast and not the other in the beginning, stay calm Mama, because this is normal and your “lazy left” will start to produce.
Contractions After Birth
If you breastfeed, you may experience cramp-like contractions after birth for a bit. Don’t worry, this is a good thing. These waves of pressure in your uterus mean your baby is increasing your oxytocin levels, causing your uterus to go back to its original size, bleeding to subside, and your milk to come in. Hold tight, because your body is working very hard to feed your baby and recover after birth.
Have Fresh Diapers at the Ready!
A specific hormone in breastmilk has one singular purpose: to keep things moving through the bowels. This is a good indication your baby is transferring milk at the breast. Get ready mama, and don’t be afraid to ask for assistance — after all, you are nourishing a human life.
Babies Know When to Stop Eating.
Leptin and ghrelin are two hormones responsible for hunger and fullness. That’s right, your milk is so powerful there are hormones that tell your baby when hanger will strike.
You do not have to breastfeed to give your baby your milk. Times are changing and there are other options available. Exclusive pumping has become an alternative to breastfeeding for mothers of all walks of life. No matter what, or how much you give, every drop is just as important and you are amazing. If pumping is your path, we encourage you to seek consult from a board-certified lactation consultant who can assist you in technique and finding that perfect breast pump.
The Bewitching Hour
Your baby may want to cluster feed (go to breast frequently, more than every hour typically) in the evening. Why does this happen? Your prolactin levels vary during the day — typically, they will be high in morning and lowest in afternoon/evening. Prolactin is the hormone responsible for telling your body to produce breastmilk. When at its lowest, your baby will feed frequently prior to sleep. This milk is particularly important: The more your baby empties your breast, the more your breastmilk increases in weight-gaining fats and helps your supply.
When you become overwhelmed, especially in those early, I-am-lucky-I-get-to-brush-my-teeth days, accept help. Throw some hand sanitizer at your partner or a family member and let them get some baby snuggles so you get a minute to breathe and reboot.
On social media today, we see and hear about the happy times — the snuggling, loving, cooing baby in mother’s arms. It’s not often discussed that you may feel guilty for wanting and needing “self-care,” such as taking a shower, eating, sleeping, getting dressed or painting your nails.
Your bond with your baby and your hormones are on overdrive to keep your baby safe. However, we no longer live in caves where an animal will snatch your baby if you take a bathroom break. Take heart, take a deep breath and remind yourself these things are necessary to keep you healthy, so you can give that little one much love and care.
From all of us at Crouse Health, thank you for trusting us with your breastfeeding goals. We look forward to making your delivery and transition to home a “family friendly” experience.
Erin Christopher is a Registered Nurse and Board Certified Lactation Consultant with experience in special needs infants/neonates, as well as private practice service. She can be contacted at 315-470-7179.