Nipple piercings and breastfeeding

NIPPLE PIERCINGS

Will nipple piercings impact breastfeeding? Every body is different in how it reacts to taking out the jewelry out prior to breastfeeding. Just like with pierced ears, some of us will have the hole scar closed, the scar may partially close, or it could stay open for years and never have a problem sticking jewelry in and out at whim. Often the longer the time since the piercings were initially placed the better the outcome as the nipple has had time to properly heal. Common concerns may include nerve damage that impacts milk let down or scarring that prevents the milk from leaving the nipple. On the other hand, the extra holes created by the piercings could lead to a faster milk flow! (which some infants struggle to manage while others do just fine with). If the nipple pores have scarred shut, the breast may be able to make milk but it may not be able to exit from the nipple. This can lead to plugged ducts and mastitis. If the nerves have been damaged, the breast may make milk in the early days or weeks after delivery, but without the nerve impulse the breast will make less and less milk with time, even with all the herbs and quality pumping and efficient baby. Because our bodies are not perfectly symmetrical, some may have a problem on one side and not both. Some have no problem at all. We don’t know what your body is going to do and it cannot be predicted prior to birth. If your

Breastfeeding with the nipple jewelry in place is never recommended as it can make it difficult for the infant to latch-on correctly, increases the risk of choking on loose or dislodged jewelry, and can damage the inside of the baby’s mouth. If you are going to take your jewelry in and out every feeding, make sure you are being extremely careful with hand washing and jewelry sanitizing to reduce the risk of infection. Best practice says take the piercings out for the entirety of your breastfeeding journey. Many go on to successfully with pierced nipples, but if you’re having any problems or concerns, see a lactation consultant such as myself. For more of my thoughts on nipple piercings and breastfeeding, click here to check out my YouTube video

Setting breastfeeding boundaries with a toddler

TODDLER BOUNDARIES

Breastfeeding has unique challenges at every age. You’d think after a combined total of 46 months of breastfeeding between my two girls I would have no stress, concerns or issues. Nope. Every child is an individual with their own virtues and vices. Every stage of breastfeeding has its own challenges and rewards.

In the toddler stage, I never worry about milk supply or if she’s getting enough milk. I know there’s milk. And at 19 months, Peach’s nutrition is coming from the family foods provided at meals and snacks. She’s getting a well balanced diet with multiple foods in each food group. Breast milk for her fills in nutritional gaps and provides immune boosting protection. I don’t worry about pumping. I retired my trusty pump almost 4 months ago. Shes (finally)(mostly) sleeping through the night and were both enjoying the rest. The biggest concern in the toddler phase is boundaries. How long and often can/should she have access to the breast? What to do when she asks for the breast and for whatever reason it’s not appropriate to feed at the moment?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question. It comes down to what is best and what works for your family. Some will continue to nurse on demand and others will limit to certain times of day. Both of which are good choices. Both also mean continued breastfeeding and neither option necessarily means you’re ready to wean. But it can be difficult to process through how to manage these boundaries and navigate your next stage of development. Especially as toddlers are learning to ask for things and control their environment. And then tantrum or act out of frustration when they don’t get their way. If you’re struggling with this stage, I have phone consultations available to help find what works for your family.

My baby’s weight gain is slowing

WEIGHT GAIN

While your young baby is supposed to gain on average an ounce a day (30gm), weight gain slows as baby ages. From 4-6 months babies should only gain 3-4 ounces per week (90-120gm) and from 6-12 months babies should only gain 1-2 ounces per week (30-60gm). If you have been tracking baby’s weight gain and see the scale slowing down, don’t be alarmed if your baby is older. Continue to watch for lots of wet diapers and consistent pooping. Trust your baby and trust your body.

Where has my breast milk gone?

Some times we can sabotage our own milk supply from little things that we don’t understand will make a difference. Here are the top ways to accidentally drop your milk supply:

😳Putting baby on a feeding schedule in the first 3-4 months

😳Watching the clock instead of feeding baby on demand

😳Sleep training in the first 3-4 months after birth

😳Waiting for your breasts/chest to feel full to pump or feed

😳Not pumping when baby is getting a bottle

😳Letting partner feed a bottle in the middle of the night to get more sleep (and not getting up to pump)

😳”Topping off baby” after feeding, especially during the witching hour phase. (I’m not talking about when supplementing is necessary or if you’re on a triple feeding plan because of true low supply or baby weight gain. Supplementing after breastfeeding can be needed, but you would also be pumping at that time)

😳 Not pumping enough when returning to work

😳Using the wrong size pump flanges

😳Using a poor quality pump (insurance companies have to provide you with one, but that doesn’t mean they’ll give you one of quality)

😳Going back on hormonal birth control at your 6 week postpartum checkup

😳Taking nasal decongestants or allergy medications

While these seem like normal recommendations from many parent groups or even your health care providers, these subtle things can sabotage milk supply. Your body works on a demand and supply basis. The more you empty or demand from the breast/chest, the more milk it will make. Want to increase supply? Increase the number of milk removals, give young infants free access to feed on demand, and watch out for medications, hormones, of pumping traps that can sabotage your success.

Vitamin D supplements and breast milk

VITAMIN D

Were you told by your pediatrician to give your baby vitamin D drops? Vitamin D is absolutely critical strong bones, because it helps the body use calcium from the diet. Traditionally, vitamin D deficiency has been associated with rickets, a disease where the bone tissue doesn’t mineralize properly, leading to soft bones and skeletal deformities. Recent research also tells us that vitamin D is key in maintaining our immune systems for regulating both infection and inflammatory pathways. If you shun the sun, have a milk allergy, or follow a strict vegan diet, you may be at risk for vitamin D deficiency. Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is produced by the body in response to skin being exposed to sunlight. It is also occurs naturally in a few foods like certain fish, fish liver oils, egg yolks, and fortified dairy and grain products.

Our bodies are designed to make very large amounts of vitamin D through exposure to the sun (10,000—20,000 IU in 24 hours, after 15—20 minutes of summer-sun exposure in a bathing suit/45—60 minutes of exposure for those with darker skin tones). However, in an effort to decrease our risk of skin cancer from over exposure to the sun, we’ve limited our ability to keep our vitamin D status at a normal level from absorbing it directly from the best source. That said, those living where clouds often cover the sky or in cities with polluted air quality will have a hard time getting sun exposure for natural vitamin D. People with darker skin tones are more likely to have low levels of vitamin D, as well, due to the increased pigment in their skin. They require nearly four times the length of sun exposure in order to penetrate the skin to manufacture vitamin D.

Vitamin D is essential for babies. Your pediatrician cannot tell you to put your baby in the sun, even though that is the best source of vitamin D, because of the risks of skin cancer. So they should have advised you to give your baby 400 IU of vitamin D each day, usually given by drops in the mouth.

All formulas sold in the United States have at least 400 IU/L of vitamin D; so if your baby is drinking 32 ounces of formula, vitamin D supplementation is not needed.

But what about from breast milk? Human milk is a very poor source of vitamin D, usually containing less than 50 IU per quart. This is why the AAP recommends all breastfed infants be supplemented. This does not mean there is anything wrong with the milk, but an issue in the recommended amount of vitamin D the lactating parent should be taking. This goes back to the sunlight recommendation. If you were getting 15-45 minutes of sunlight (depending on how dark your skin tone is) 3-4 times per week, your body would have plenty of natural vitamin D to pass through your milk to your baby. Many who live in the US either don’t live in a location where that’s possible year round (hi, Chicago in January) or maybe can’t get out in the sun because of needing to work. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (a global organisation) recommends that “The breastfeeding infant should receive vitamin D supplementation for a year, beginning shortly after birth in doses of 10–20 lg/day (400–800 IU/day) (LOE IB). This supplement should be cholecalciferol, vitamin D3, because of superior absorption unless a vegetable source such as ergocaliferol vitamin D2, is desired. … Vitamin D also may be delivered adequately through human milk.” Research has shown that as long as you as the lactating parent is taking 6,400 IU of vitamin D daily, there is no need to supplement the baby as your milk will have adequate amounts.

COVID-19 Vaccine and Breastfeeding

Absolutely everything you put on or in your body had a risk/benefit. Some things have more research and information and somethings are newer and were still discovering them. Nitrates, for instance, which are found in processed meats are known to cause colon cancer. Yet many people routinely consume them without a second thought. Starbucks had a sign at every store saying they know some of their products are known to cause cancer and to be aware of the risks. Fenugreek is not supposed to be taken during breastfeeding if you’re on thyroid medications, but many are unaware of the risk because they haven’t researched it and still drink teas and eat products containing it. We’re still researching and learning about marijuana and CBD in the breastfeeding population and haven’t figured out long term recommendations. Still, some chose to weigh the benefits to their unique story and still consume it while breastfeeding

Did you know the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine have completely opposite, yet compatible, protocols for safe sleep? AAP discourages bed-sharing while ABM supports it. My role is to educate you on both recommendations and help support whichever decision you make, while also taking your unique situation in mind. If you have a formula and breastfeeding preemie, I’m going to tell you to follow the AAP guidelines as the risk of SIDS is too great in your circumstance. If you have an exclusively breastfed, full term, healthy newborn, you can absolutely bed share when done safely and correctly and I will teach you how to do that.

My role as a lactation consultant is to educate you in what we do know and the most current information and support you in whatever decision you decide to make. The same goes for the COVID-19 vaccine. Yes, there is limited research and information, but from what experts do know, they are considering it safe while breastfeeding but to still make an informed choice for you and your family. Whether you chose to be vaccinated or not is a personal choice between you, your family and your health care team. As with anything you put in your body, it is a risk/benefit decision based on your medical and family history and risk of exposure. I completely understand if in your community you have limited risk and exposure to people potentially infected with COVID and you’re choosing to wait and see. I fully support your decision to seek more information and see evidence and research. I also fully support you if you chose to be vaccinated and continue breastfeeding. When we have more information I will continue to update what I present and how I educate.

Weight loss and breastfeeding

Breastfeeding fact: breastfeeding helps you burn calories because it takes calories to make calories. We need on average an extra 300-500 calories per day in our diet because our bodies need approximately 20 calories to make an ounce of breast milk. Not everyone will lose weight while breastfeeding. It depends on and how many calories they take in and how their body uses those calories related to their individual milk production. Food choices, hydration, activity levels, and genetics also all play a role on weight loss while breastfeeding

Weight loss and breastfeeding

Breastfeeding fact: breastfeeding helps you burn calories because it takes calories to make calories. We need on average an extra 300-500 calories per day in our diet because our bodies need approximately 20 calories to make an ounce of breast milk. Not everyone will lose weight while breastfeeding. It depends on and how many calories they take in and how their body uses those calories related to their individual milk production. Food choices, hydration, activity levels, and genetics also all play a role on weight loss while breastfeeding

Do I need to drink milk to make breast milk?

Humans by design are predisposed to be lactose intolerant. The only reasons Westerners (mostly) lost this intolerance was due to centuries of eating cheese and having their bodies evolve to adapt to consuming it. Lactose is the number one sugar in breast milk. It’s broken down by an enzyme called lactase which is supposed to disappear in early childhood, right around the time we would naturally wean. Asian cultures are predominantly lactose intolerant because their cultures have had cuisine sans cheese and cow’s milk for millennia (think traditional Japanese, Chinese, and Korean dishes. No cheese. No cow’s milk.) Yet in Western cultures it’s occasionally encouraged to drink milk to make milk. There is no scientific evidence to back this up. You do not need to drink cow’s milk or eat dairy in large quantities to make breast milk. You do need to stay hydrated, eat quality foods, and routinely empty the breast.

Whats that smell?

SWEATY AND STICKY

Do you feel hot, sticky, sweaty, sopping wet and a little stinky? Welcome to motherhood. It does get better. There is an actual biological point to leaking from every pore and that weird stench that accompanies it.

Not all of our senses are developed at birth. It would overwhelm our littles too much to go from a dark, wet environment to such a bright, crazy world to actually have every sense developed like ours. Their vision isn’t great and they have no depth perception. But they have a fully developed sense of smell. They have been getting to know your odors since their womb days. Your amniotic fluid was constantly changing in its scent based on what you ate and drank and your unique hormone combination. All that leaking you’re doing postpartum has a similar scent which serves to orient your baby back to you. Your body odors are familiar to your baby and it makes them feel safe and secure that they are with their birth person and not someone else. Your leaking smells also stimulate their hunger, which is why baby may constantly root when on your body even if they aren’t hungry. Did you know that the breast secretes an oil from those little bumps on your areolas that smells just like amniotic fluid? This helps baby locate dinner when they are ready to eat. Showering is normal, but avoiding the use of scented products can actually be very helpful and calming for your baby. While you may find your body odor unbecoming, know that to your baby it makes you feel like home.