So, here’s the deal. You just had a baby! After nine long months of preparing for this very moment, you find yourself swept into a whirlwind of excitement, fear, exhaustion, and joy. No matter how many parenting books you read or hours you spent typing questions into the Google search bar, you may still feel an overwhelming sense of, “What do I do now?”
The postpartum stage of pregnancy is often neglected in the intense journey towards your due date, but it is one of the most physically and emotionally challenging periods for a new parent. Much of your focus will be dedicated to your brand new baby as you become acquainted and try to decipher every cry. It’s easy to forget that you just completed a nine-month marathon where your body, mind, and soul were stretched to their absolute limits. Take a moment, breathe, and congratulate yourself! In order to be the best parent you can be, you must first take care of yourself.
Here are 7 essential tips to help new parents power through the postpartum period:
- Get more sleep. Many new parents struggle to get any semblance of rest as they shoulder new responsibilities and cope with their baby’s erratic sleep schedule. It’s best to sleep when your baby sleeps, but getting your baby acquainted with day and night needs to be a priority. Small things like leaving the curtains open during daytime naps and keeping the nursery dark and quiet during nighttime dozes can encourage a regular circadian rhythm. And a rested baby is a rested mother.
- Keep taking your prenatal vitamins. Although it might seem logical to stop taking prenatal vitamins when you are no longer pregnant, these crucial doses of nutrition may be important for both breastfeeding and your body’s recovery. Make sure you are eating regularly, and talk to your OB/GYN about continuing your supplement regime.
- Be patient with breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is a completely new experience for both you and your baby, so try not to panic if you encounter a few obstacles. In general, make sure you are staying hydrated, keeping calm, and caring for your breasts. If you are having difficulty or need answers to your questions, ask for help – there are lactation consultants for a reason!
- Make a funny file. How long has it been since you laughed out loud? With all of the emotions and exhaustion weighing you down, you truly need a dose of laughter to keep yourself afloat. Start making a folder of silly memes, YouTube videos of animals making weird sounds, or clips from your favorite stand-up comedian. We promise that these will come in handy later!
- Join a group. If you are struggling to get out of the house in the weeks or months following delivery, you may begin to feel alone. The stress of parenthood can be isolating in itself, as you may find it difficult to keep up with your old social circle. Find other parnets in your area through MeetUp, Mothers Offering Mothers Support (MOMS), or Mocha Moms. Connecting with others who are experiencing the same crazy life changes as you may help you make the journey a little less scary.
- Treat yourself. Find 20 minutes each day to dedicate totally to yourself. Make a cup of green tea and read a book. Light some scented candles and take a bubble bath. Pop on a pair of headphones and listen to your favorite podcast. A little bit of self-care will go a long way!
- Ask for help. Throughout all the craziness, it’s crucial to remember that you are not alone. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with watching your new baby, cleaning around the house, buying groceries, or folding the laundry. Every Superparent needs a couple sidekicks to get through the day.
Today our expert owner Dr. Kathleen F. McCue is sharing her thoughts on low milk supply and some of the underlying reasons.
It’s fair to say that I make a living regulating milk supply. The number one complaint is, “I don’t have enough milk!” Sometimes I’m in agreement and other times, expectations are totally unrealistic. There are so many things that come into play; storage capacity of the breasts (meaning amount of glandular tissue and milk-making alveoli within the breast itself); adequate nipple stimulation to help produce prolactin (a hormone that promotes milk production); suckling ability of the baby (big strong baby or jaundiced baby with a low birth weight); frequency of stimulation by either baby or breastpump.
Here are some of the issues I look for, and as always, a consultation with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant will help determine what’s happening and how to assist:
- Do you have adequate breast tissue, in other words, do you have very small or conical shaped (meaning tubular-shaped) breasts? Did your breasts increase with size during pregnancy? You should have gone up approximately one cup size.
- Are you bleeding for a prolonged period or passing clots in addition to not making enough breast milk? These are signs of retained placenta.
- Are you using a personal use pump to express milk more than 3-5 times a week? The pumps from insurance companies are rarely adequate to pump when separated from babies for extended periods. This means if you’re back at work, leaving the house at 8 and returning at 6, you’re going to most likely need a hospital grade pump. Insurance pumps that you own are sometimes called “hospital grade” but in the world of lactation consultants, we mean the kind that you rent from your lactation consultant or hospital. My favorite is the Medela Symphony because it’s only seven pounds and has a soft stimulation phase that helps moms produce prolactin.
- Are your flanges the correct size? The flanges are the funnels that cover your breasts and nipples. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve seen JUMBO flanges that are totally unnecessary. You want some stimulation for the nipples. You can size your flanges properly by looking at the nipple when you pump. There should be clearance enough around the entire perimeter of the nipple (mid base to tip) and you should not have a large part of the breast itself being sucked in. You also don’t want them too small or you could cause damage (read: soreness) from pumping. This can be tricky, so again, find a local lactation consultant to help you.
- I always recommend double pumping (both breasts at once) for 20-30 minutes when back at work or when pumping to substitute for direct breastfeeding. Fifteen minutes rarely cuts it unless you have an oversupply but again, if that’s your problem you’re not my reader! Yes, I know the milk stops coming but if you can hang in there a few minutes longer and dry pump, you’ll get another letdown, meaning the milk will start to squirt out again. It’s great to have at least two or three letdowns.
- Have you had a low supply since baby’s birth? Maybe you’re dealing with a tongue tie or lip tie or both. Is baby a good feeder, meaning is he/she gaining at least an ounce a day?
- Is your baby sleeping through the night? If they are in bed by 7 or 8pm, you should pump before going to bed at 10 or 11pm. If you go to bed when baby does, you should optimally not go longer than 6 hours without stimulation to the breasts.
- Do you have thyroid problems, low iron or insulin resistance? These can all cause low milk supply.
- Are you on ANY type of hormonal contraception? OBs and midwives sometimes aren’t aware that even progesterone only (mini-pill) or IUDs like the Mirena can really impact milk supply negatively.
- Are you drinking more than what you’re thirsty for? More water than you need actually works against you and you’ll end up peeing more and making less milk.
If you’ve ticked through this entire list and are still unable to increase your milk supply, visit your local IBCLC or contact us!
Tis the season of holiday gatherings and events, and we know how stressful the season can be for parents with a newborn. This season is full of love and family togetherness, but it can come at a price for newborns. With the weather getting colder and families spending most of the days inside, colds and flu are a cause for concern for many parents of newborns. Because of this, it’s important for new parents to set boundaries with family and friends during holiday get-togethers. A general rule we believe is important is the ‘No touching’ rule. It seems simple enough, but we all know that there will be at least one person that wants to believe they are the exception to the rule.
The grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc., will want to cuddle and kiss on their new addition to the family, and you might be a little more hesitant to tell them ‘no.’ We get it – they’re family! But the little bundle of joy you brought into the world needs you to be the one to protect them from possible exposure to the cold and flu. If you are having trouble thinking of how to lay down the law, here are some helpful tips:
- Be Upfront and Confident – Don’t beat around the bush! Tell anyone that will be around your baby what you expect from them. They should respect your rules, as it’s for your baby!
- Be Calm – If someone is challenging/questioning your rules, try and stay calm and don’t give in. People get frustrated when they can’t kiss a cute baby, but that frustration will pass (and if it doesn’t, then it is not on you to compromise).
- Be Patient – There might be times where you might want to bend your rules but be patient and hold onto them. For example, you may have a little niece or nephew that wants to cuddle with your newborn, and as cute as that maybe you should be cautious of who is exposed to your newborn. Your baby will be grateful that you were!
Sick and Breastfeeding
If you or your breastfed baby do become sick, the best thing you could do is continue breastfeeding. The amazing thing about breastmilk is that its composition will change to help baby’s needs. For example, your body will know if you or your baby is sick and will increase the antibodies produced in the breastmilk. So, if the breastfeeding parent stopped breastfeeding they will not only hurt their supply, but they’ll also prevent the baby from obtaining those needed antibodies.
The holidays can be a tad stressful, but don’t let that stop you or your family from enjoying it! Set your ground rules, be sure everyone fully understands, and go have a little fun. If you have any holiday stories about your baby, we’d love to hear about it on our Facebook!
It’s getting colder and messier outside, and it’s time to start prepping for winter! If you just gave birth or are expecting to give birth in the midst of the cold months, there are some important things to keep in mind as it gets colder. There’s so many different resources outlining important facts, so we decided to compile them into one list. Be sure to check out the links for more detailed information! Let’s begin!
Staying Around the House
- Preventative cold and flu care- Do any and everything you can to prevent your family from being exposed to the cold or flu virus
- Flu shots for everyone in the household over 6 months old
- Clean hands
- Disinfectant wipes
- Set rules for when others visit
- Don’t overdo the heating and blankets- this could cause baby to overheat!
When Going Out
- Avoid crowded areas, like grocery stores, when you can- get your groceries delivered!
- Careful not to over dress baby- Stick to easily removable layers. Watch out for overheating and over bundling baby, especially when buckled in car seat
- Make sure you are bundled yourself – We don’t want you catching a cold out there!
- Be mindful during checkups- other children may be sick in the office.
- Carry around disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer
If you or your baby gets sick
- Keep breastfeeding! –
- If you are sick, you are still able to breastfeed. It is actually recommended to continue breastfeeding because your child would already have been exposed to the disease before you began experiencing symptoms.
- If your baby becomes sick, your breastmilk composition changes to meet their needs. This means more antibodies in your breastmilk that can help the baby fight off
We hope that this little guide was helpful! If you suspect yourself or your baby have the cold or flu, please schedule an appointment with your pediatrician as soon as possible. If you feel as though your breastmilk supply is affected by the cold or flu, please schedule with an IBCLC as soon and possible to adjust your routine.
To all the partners and supporters of a nursing parent: thank you! Thank you for looking into how you can help your partner in their breastfeeding journey. It is a lot of hard work to breastfeed, but having a strong support system can help to build a solid foundation for the entire family. The fact that you took the time to read this – and probably other resources – proves that you are already doing an amazing job as a supporting team player. Did you know that the number one predictor of breastfeeding success is partner support?
Let’s start with some basics. It’s important that you begin to try and understand the process your breastfeeding partner is going through. To begin, it isn’t easy – it’s natural, but not easy. Even for those with an adequate milk supply, feeding a child or multiple children from one’s body can be taxing. It can be even harder for those with supply, latching, and/or painful feeding problems. Luckily, there are resources available for your family (like us here at Metropolitan Breastfeeding!). Be sure to be by your breastfeeding partner’s side and absorb all the knowledge you can!
How to Help
Next, lets discuss more specific ways that you can help your partner in their journey:
- Know and fully understand their breastfeeding goals and why they chose those goals.
- Accompany them on their lactation informational visits.
- Assist with chores that they normally do. If they cook dinners, then take over that responsibility for them.
- Give them the gift of a doula or nanny to help when others are not able.
- Surprise them! Who doesn’t love a date night? Or some beautiful flowers?
- Get them all of their pumping and lactation supplies. The last thing on their mind will be running around to find out how to get a hospital-grade pump or insurance pump. Stop by Metropolitan Breastfeeding and we’ll set you up with everything you need to get started!
Signs to Look for
Your partner will probably only have their baby’s needs in mind and this could affect them in negative ways if they lose track of their own needs. Be sure to remind them when they aren’t eating with dinner already made or let them know they needs their rest by letting them sleep while you go settle the crying baby. Some things to look out for:
- Insomnia – Serious lack of sleep could be dangerous for both the nursing parent and baby, as it’s difficult to properly complete tasks.
- Overwhelmed/Panicked/Overly Anxious – This one is a bit trickier to point out. New parents are normally on high alert and on edge, but if you notice that your breastfeeding partner is overwhelmed to the point of shutting down, it is important that you reach out for professional help and advice.
- Over-sleeping/Lack of motivation- You guys are going to be tired and deserve every second of rest you can get. That being said, look out for if your partner not wanting to leave the bed and has a lack of motivation to get things done.
When mentioning any concerns, please be mindful of your partners stress and sensitivity levels. Do not place any blame onto them and be sure to vocalize that your concerns are based from love and supporting their goals. Ask a medical professional the best ways to help if you are still feeling uneasy or unsure on how to bring it up. There are plenty of family-based resources online and in person that are available. If you need assistance getting started, reach out to us for help!