Tummy time and breastfeeding

Tummy Time is one of baby’s first exercises! It is a crucial exercise for baby’s motor, visual, and sensory development. We’re encouraging baby to use their core strength and rotate their head from side to side. It also helps with digestion and frequent tummy time helps baby poop. It is not only an important way to prevent flat spots on baby’s head, it is also an important part of baby’s normal growth and development. The womb is an incredibly tight place, especially if baby made it to term or you have a short torso and there wasn’t much space for stretching. Long vaginal labors with extended pushing phases can leave baby with lots of tension in the head, neck and shoulders. Getting baby into different positions really should start from birth to help relieve this tension. Too much tension can impact breastfeeding, which often looks like baby arching at the breast or having a side preference because it’s uncomfortable to feed in certain positions from tension on the neck. Laying baby flat on their back too often will impact the shape of their head, which in turn influences brain growth. Baby can begin tummy time as a newborn and increase time as they age and develop.

Tummy time doesn’t mean you need to plunk your baby down on a mat and engage them with black and white drawings with a timer set. It can look like wearing your baby in a ring sling or structured carrier, napping with your baby laying on your chest, or even like this, with baby across your lap. This is a great position for you if you’re needing to pump but baby wants to be on your body. You can still sway or move and give baby some gentle pats to help calm them or transition them to sleep. This is a safe place and position for them to nap if you stay awake, as you can monitor the baby for the duration of their sleep. 

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For more information on tummy time, check out @tummytimemethod

Drinking and Breastfeeding

Milk is made from your blood, so what you drink can impact your milk supply. 

💦 How much water should you be drinking? There are some ridiculous answers out there. If your breast milk production has decreased, helpful people may suggest that you chug tons of water. Your lack of water intake may contribute to but is not completely responsible for your supply drop. Drinking too much water can inadvertently harm your milk supply

💦 When you drink too much water, your body tries to restore the electrolyte balance in your body by dumping the excess water into your urine. This results in water being diverted away from your breasts, which in turn decreases your milk supply. Water dense foods can also be just as hydrating as plain water from the tap. 

💦 You will lose up to 30oz of water through your breast milk to your baby; so do try to drink 8-12 glasses of water a day

☕️ Coffee is safe to drink: 300-500mg of caffeine per day max

☕️ Younger babies (< 6 months), preterm and medically fragile babies process caffeine slower and they may be sensitive to it. 

☕️ If you consistently drank coffee during pregnancy you baby is already used to caffeine

☕️ It takes 15-20 minutes for coffee to hit your bloodstream and is usually completely gone by 4-7 hours. So if you’re concerned or having it for the first time after birth, either breastfeed baby first and then have your coffee or have it while breastfeeding

🍷 According to the CDC, moderate alcohol (up to 1 standard drink per day) is not known to be harmful to baby

🥂 Less than 2% of alcohol reaches breastmilk and typically peaks within 1/2-1 hour after consumption *however* factors such as food, weight & body fat need to be considered

🥂 Alcohol does not accumulate but leaves breastmilk as it leaves the bloodstream. There is no need to pump and dump when consuming limited amounts of alcohol

🥂 If you are feeling like you NEED to consume large amounts of alcohol regularly, speaking to a qualified professional is admirable and a very good option

ALCOHOL AND BREASTFEEDING

Is it ok to have alcohol and breastfeed? The short answer is yes, in moderation. No, you don’t need to pump and dump for 1 standard drink. Yes, those alcohol testing milk strips are kinda dumb. 

Alcohol passes freely into breast milk and peaks around 30-60 minutes after consumption (60-90 minutes if you drink with food) so what you would breathalyze you would “breastalyze”. This does not mean your milk has an much alcohol as you consumed or as a straight up alcoholic beverage. It means you milk has the same amount of alcohol as your blood. For instance, if your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is 0.10 (or 0.10%, 1/10 of 1 percent) from drinking, you breast milk has 0.10% alcohol in it. In comparison, a typical beer has 4.5% alcohol, a glass of wine has 15% alcohol, and a shot of vodka has 40% alcohol. 

Let’s interpret that: if you breastfeed while you’re having your first drink, your baby will most likely be finished feeding before the alcohol hits your system. There’s no need to pump and dump your milk. Only time clears the alcohol from your system. If you’re breastfeeding a newborn, premature or medically compromised infant, you’ll want to be more cautious of the alcohol you consume and may want to consider waiting longer to breastfeed than an older baby. Such a small portion of alcohol gets into your milk, if you have an older baby and have only had one drink there’s really no need to wait to pump or feed. 

If you want to have an occasional drink, I will never judge you!!! Go for it!! If you need alcohol, large quantities or alcohol or are struggling with alcohol, please find a qualified counselor to work with ❤️ 🍻

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

If you’re still breastfeeding and become pregnant, your mature breastmilk will transition back to colostrum around the end of the first trimester in preparation for whenever the new baby is born. By 4 months gestation, the placenta is large enough to suppress most milk production. Your body will prioritize your fetus over your nursling in terms of milk and produce the appropriate milk for the more vulnerable child. Colostrum is a high protein, laxative milk to help newborns poop out meconium. It is saltier in taste and thicker in consistency. Many older babies don’t care if it tastes different, but some will and may wean themselves. The supply is not likely to be able to support an infant 10 months old and younger. But if the older infant (11+ months) or toddler is eating solids and drinking other liquids, those babies may not care if they are getting milk or “dry nursing” until the next baby comes. Some choose to supplement younger babies with donor milk or may transition to formula until the new baby arrives and then continue to tandem feed with their own breastmilk again. 

Pregnancy hormones can make breasts and nipples more sensitive and uncomfortable. And these sensations often will make one want to wean or experience a nursing aversion. Toddlers may still aggressively want to nurse and it’s ok to put boundaries on your nursing. 

The typical things recommended to increase supply (additional feeding/pumping, herbs and supplements, etc.) are not appropriate and are ineffective since the placenta will continue to increase in size. Hormones supported by the placenta are what impact milk production and there’s not much you can do to combat the hormone shift as it’s needed to support the pregnancy. 

Slacker boob

Did you know? Around 70% of women produce more milk in the right breast. Which means 30% make more in the left. It is VERY common for one side to produce more than the other. Some times double on one side. We don’t know why. This is not a reason to neglect one side. You want to make sure you rotate which breast you offer first. Babies may prefer one side over the other for various reasons:

👶🏽They like to lay with their head in a certain direction or their body is uncomfortable in the opposite position

👶🏿They prefer the flow (one side may flow faster or slower than the other)

👶🏼They may prefer the flavor (YES!! Milk can taste different form each breast during the same feeding!!)

If you want to help balance out a slacker boob:

🔆Offer the slacker first more often. 

🔆End on the slacker can also help, especially if baby just wants to use you like a pacifier. 

🔆Pump the slacker side during or after feedings can also help stimulate more milk production

🔆Make sure you have the correct sized pump flange on the slacker side. Our nipples can often be different sizes and using the wrong sized flange can drop supply on that side

🔆Hand expression on that side at random times of the day even for a few minutes will jump start increased production. 

🔆If it’s positional from your baby (they only want to lay cross cradle to the right and not the left, experiment with other positions like football or side lying to help baby compensate for their body. If your baby prefers one side of the other from a positional perspective, consider taking your baby for some infant bodywork like chiropractic or craniosacral therapy.

Breastfeeding weaning

There is no right or wrong age, it is completely up to you. Breast milk does not lose nutritional value (ever), so you get to decide how long you want to breastfeed. You also get to decide when you stop and all reasons for wanting to stop are valid. It is OK to wean for your emotional or mental well being and you do not have to justify your choices of how you feed your baby to anyone.

The age of your baby and how quickly you want to wean can play a role in how you wean.

Be prepared that some may experience mood changes and feelings of depression when weaning as your oxytocin and other hormones are dropping to stop milk production. If you need a specific plan to help you quickly wean, schedule a consultation with me to develop a plan that works for you.

Tips for gentle weaning:

✏️Start when your baby has already naturally started to wean, ex. only a quick snack before nap or waking up at 2am to pacify to sleep

✏️If transitioning from breast milk to formula, you can add formula to your breast milk bottles in slowly increasing amounts to make the transition easier on baby’s tummy (ex mix 2oz of breast milk with 1oz of prepared formula for several days, then mix 1.5oz each if breast milk and formula for a few days, then 2oz of formula with 1oz of breast milk)

✏️Don’t offer, don’t refuse

✏️Wear clothing that makes accessing the breast/chest more difficult.

✏️Distract child with favorite activities or offer alternatives like a favorite snack

✏️Change your routine

✏️Postpone: “After we play”

✏️Shortening the length of feeding or space feedings out

✏️Talk to your toddler about weaning. Older children (2 years and up) can be part of the process by talking to them about what is happening.

✏️Alternate between offering bottles and the breast

✏️Be consistent – this is a hard one but it can be even more confusing to your baby if you allow them to nurse one time and not the next.

✏️Lots of cuddles. Your breast/chest is more than just food but also a great source of comfort. Showing them you are still a source of that comfort despite not nursing is incredibly important

Ways to quickly wean:

⚓️Empty the breast only to comfort, trying not to stimulate the breast to make more milk

⚓️Breast gymnastics/“milk shakes” often to keep milk from sitting in the breast and clogging the ducts

⚓️Epsom salt soaks of the entire breast for soothing

⚓️Drinking 2-4 cups of sage or peppermint tea per day

⚓️Green cabbage leaves in the bra until they are soggy and then replacing the leaves

⚓️Cabocream (an alternative to the cabbage leaves

⚓️Cold packs on the breasts after feeding or pumping to reduce swelling

⚓️Starting on a hormone based birth control, especially The Pill (estrogen based) will drop supply

⚓️A last resort would be to take an antihistamine like Benadryl or Claritin-D as these are also notorious for dropping milk supply. This should be done with caution and under the direction of your primary care physician

True SELF-weaning by the baby before a year old is very uncommon. In fact, it is unusual for a baby to wean before 18-24 months unless something else going on (work, inefficient feeding, tongue tie, etc). A self weaning child is typically well over a year old (more commonly over 2 years) and getting most nutrition from solids, drinking well from a cup, and has been cutting back on nursing gradually.

Reasons a baby under a year may be perceived to self wean:

🔑Solids were introduced too soon

🔑Scheduled feedings/sleep training/pacifier use (all decrease time a baby would naturally want to be at the breast/chest)

🔑Lactating parent loses a lot of weight fast which can decrease milk supply

🔑Medications or hormonal birth control which will decrease supply

🔑Lactating parent is pregnant

🔑Baby taking lots of solids before one (human milk should be the primary nutrition source through one year of age)

Empty breasts make milk faster than full breasts

FULL/EMPTY BREASTS

While it seems counterintuitive, the emptier your breasts are, the faster they make milk. A full bread has no place to store or hold the milk, so milk production slows to prevent plugged ducts and breast discomfort. Cluster feeding on an emptier breast actually tells the body to make more milk at a faster rate!! Some incorrectly assume you have to wait for the breast to “fill up” before feeding your baby or for pumping while at work. This will eventually lead to less milk, as a fuller breast tells your body baby isn’t eating very often and to slow milk production. The more frequent you empty the breast, the higher the fat content in that milk and the faster milk is made. The longer often you wait and the fuller the breast, the higher the water content in that milk and the slower your body will make milk overall.

W atch the baby, not the clock. Breasts may feel really full between feedings in the first few weeks after birth, but they’re also not supposed to stay engorged. There will come a time when they stay soft and don’t feel full between feedings or pumping, so waiting for that as a cue to feed will also sabotage your supply. Don’t be alarmed when your breasts no longer feel full between feeding. You’re entering a new stage where you’ll still make plenty of milk for your baby as long as you’re routinely emptying that milk. Trust your body. Trust your baby.

Nursing aversions and breastfeeding strikes

NURSING AVERSION

My baby won’t take the breast and is completely refusing to eat. What do I do? I see cases like these occasionally and I feel like they’re some of my most challenging (and most rewarding) cases. If your infant under 6 months is displaying aversion to feeding, we need to figure out why. Aversion to feeding means screaming or crying when even offered the breast, taking very little from the breast, refusing to eat, or needing to be fed while moving or while drowsy/asleep. This is not a temporary nursing strike where baby refuses the breast/bottle for a few days because of periods returning, mom going back to work, teething, or illness, etc. A nursing strike that isn’t managed well can turn into a feeding aversion, though. The behaviors seen in baby are much more extreme for a true aversion. Here is my list of the most common culprits to a true breast aversion in order of most common cause in my experience.

👅Tongue tie/oral motor: Is there a visible tongue or lip tie? One of my biggest red flags for tongue tie is reflux and shutting down during breastfeeding (sleepy baby on the breast, popping on and off, refusing the breast and preferring the bottle but then shutting down on the bottle). Some babies with tongue or lip tie do fine for the first few months as they’re compensating from a full milk supply. The aversion comes around 3-4 months when moms supply regulates and is dictated by the efficiency and responsibility of baby removing milk from the breast. If there is no tie, what’s the baby’s sucking pattern like? Do they have an immature or disorganized suck? How is their latch? Are they possibly taking in too much air with poor latch causing discomfort? Would a different bottle nipple shape or pacing be more appropriate? Do they struggle at the breast but take a bottle occasionally? Address the ties and do oral motor exercises to strengthen and coordinate the system and the refusal goes away.

🥛Intolerances/Allergy: This can look similar to reflux, but there is often a component of bowel issues involved as well (constipation with uncomfortable bowel movements, diarrhea, or mucousy/foamy poops). Look for patterns with formula changes- sometimes parents will say one formula works better than another, and if we look at the formula ingredients we might understand which ingredients baby is sensitive to. Babies who’s digestive tracts are uncomfortable don’t want to eat. They learn really quickly to associate feeding with pain, so they shut down on feeding. Finding the allergens clears the gut and makes feeding pleasant again.

🤮Reflux: Easiest culprit to blame and mask with medication. To be honest, putting baby on reflux meds rarely makes a difference. The medication may mask the pain but won’t actually take the reflux away. Don’t get me wrong, for some babies it can make a big difference, but let’s get to the root of the reflux. And medications should always be a last resort. Is the baby spitting up (doesn’t always happen with reflux)? Is there pain associated with the spit up? Is it projectile and frequent? Does the refusal stop once the bottle is removed or are there signs of discomfort even after the bottle is removed? Wanting small, frequent feedings is my classic tell tale of reflux. Continually swallowing helps keep acid in the stomach and reduces the pain. True reflux is usually caused by food allergy/intolerance, gut issues, or tongue tie. Address the issue, resolve the reflux.

🥵Aspiration: Milk going into the lungs instead of to the stomach. Is the baby stressed during feeding? Do their nostrils flare and their body get stiff or arch? Do the cough and choke throughout the feeding and not just during let down? Do they have noising breathing or feeding? Do you need to be super careful with position change/flow rate changes? Do they have a respiratory history (not just pneumonia- does the baby take long periods to get over any illness)? Further assessment by a speech pathologist is always needed.

🤯Behavioral: I’m not sure if “behavioral” is the correct word, but it’s the best way to describe it. The number one concern of parents is feeding the baby. When feeding isn’t going well, it causes extreme stress, which can cause us as parents to do extreme things to try to fix the problem. It’s easy to spiral out when you’ve tried everything and it’s not working out of stress and desperation (or not being able to figure out the why in the first place). Occasionally the reason for the refusal is not longer there, but it was so stressful in the moment, the panic that it could happen again sets in and perpetuates the problem unnecessarily. Some times the root issue is still there, but you’ve compensated and it’s causing a behavioral manifestation in both you and the baby. Are you just trying to push past baby’s stress signs due to your own stress with trying to get baby fed? Are you just trying a bunch of different things to see what works? Are you trying to feed based off of old information? You are just trying to do your best and are scared for baby, but sometimes the compensatory things we do can cause more problems or cause it to persist. Having an outside observer come in to help see what’s going on can help bring everyone back to baseline.

When trying to figure out which of these culprits is the cause of the aversion, know that you don’t have to figure it out alone. Finding a trained lactation consultant (🙋🏽‍♀️) can help ask the right questions to get to the root of the issue and get feeding back on track.

Maternal vaccines and breastfeeding

Did you know babies routinely get antibodies to anything you’ve been vaccinate against? Babies get temporary disease protection from you in this way. When you are vaccinated, your body has an immune response that makes antibodies to what you were vaccinated against. Antibodies are then secreted in breast milk to your baby. The type and quantity of these antibodies, and whether they provide any protection for baby after they are swallowed, are dependent on the vaccine received and maternal factors that influence immune system function such as genes, age and health.

Antibodies in breast milk have not been shown to reduce baby’s response to their own immunizations. However, some studies suggest that breast milk may improve baby’s immune response to some of the vaccines they receive.

If you do decide to be vaccinated while breastfeeding, there is no need to pump and dump your milk. Or to stop breastfeeding for any amount of time. When considering the vaccine, or any medication, most want to know whether a dangerous amount of a substance will be filtered into our milk and cause harm to our baby. For most drugs, so little gets to the baby that there’s really very little theoretical risk. Even if a drug or vaccine does end up in breastmilk, anything that goes through breastmilk also then has to go through baby’s gut before reaching baby’s bloodstream. The mRNA molecules in the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, if they made it into your milk, would have to survive baby’s stomach acid first.

While breastfeeding, it is highly unlikely that an intact lipid from the vaccine would enter your blood stream and be passed directly into your milk. If it does, it is even less likely that either the intact nanoparticle or mRNA could be transferred into your milk. In the unlikely event that mRNA is present in your milk, it would first go through baby’s digestive system and would be unlikely to have any biological effects. The vaccine is supposed to trigger an immune response in your body. It helps your body recognize the virus when you’re exposed and fights the virus early, reducing the severity and length of illness. Once your immune system recognizes the SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, antibodies are made to protect you and those antibodies may pass into the breastmilk. Researchers have already found Covid antibodies in the breastmilk of previously infected women, though they don’t know yet how much protection these antibodies give babies.

Choosing to be vaccinated is a personal risk/benefit decision to be made between you and your health care providers. If you do chose to be vaccinated with the COVID vaccines, there is no need to pump and dump for concerns of your milk harming your baby.

The Second Night

Second Night Syndrome : What absolutely every parent should be warned about in pregnancy.

Second night syndrome. I hate the word syndrome. It implies something is wrong. For nine months your baby has been in your belly. Heard your voice. Felt your body move. Listened to the rush of your blood flow past and heard the gurgle of food digesting. Their existence controlled by the cycles of your body. Then the intensity of labor and delivery propels them into a new world that sounds, smells, and moves differently. The sheer exertion of being born often makes babies as tired as their mothers. It is typical for babies to have a deep recovery sleep about 2 hours after birth (after their 1st breastfeed).

On the second night, however, most babies will want to frequently nurse. This helps with two transitions: meconium to soft, seedy yellow poops and colostrum to mature milk. This cluster feeding catches many parents by surprise and leaves them wondering if baby is starving. Unless baby is not latched well or efficiently feeding, this is normal and the cluster feeding will help transition your milk.

Many babies, though, don’t want to be put down during this process. Each time you put them on the breast they nurses for a little bit, go back to sleep and then cry when placed in the crib. A lot of moms are convinced it is because their milk isn’t “in” yet, and baby is starving. It isn’t that, baby’s awareness that the most comforting place is at the breast. It’s the closest to “home”. This is pretty universal among babies. When baby drifts off to sleep at the breast after a good feed, break the suction and take your nipple gently out of their mouth.

This is also protective of SIDS. You’re exhausted from labor and delivery and just want to sleep. But night time is when newborns are most vulnerable to respiratory complications and SIDS. By waking you frequently at night, you are waking frequently to check on the well being of your baby when they’re at their greatest risk of infant death. Waking regularly at night for the first few months to feed also helps babies from getting into too deep of a sleep state which can cause them to stop breathing. Instead of seeing the loss of sleep as a negative for you, consider the positive reason it has for baby.

Don’t try to burp baby, just snuggle baby until they fall into a deep sleep where they won’t be disturbed by being moved. Babies go into a light sleep state (REM) first, and then cycle in and out of REM and deep sleep about every ½ hour or so. If they start to root and act as though they want to go back to breast, that’s fine… this is their way of comforting. During deep sleep, baby’s breathing is very quiet and regular, and there is no movement beneath the eyelids. That is the time to put them down.

Second night syndrome. As described above, when all is going well it is normal for baby’s to cluster feed on the second night to help milk transition and poop out meconium. Some babies do not efficiently feed, though, and intervention may be necessary.

🩺Medical interventions and pain relief during labor and delivery, maternal health complications like PCOS, uncontrolled diabetes or hypothyroidism, or large blood loss during delivery may delay the transition of your milk.

🧸If your baby not latched well, has a tongue tie, or hasn’t figured out how to coordinate sucking to actually transfer milk from the breast, intervention may also be necessary.

🖐🏽The first line of defense is hand expressing your milk frequently. Hands are better at expressing colostrum than a pump, although a pump is a great way to stimulate milk to be made.

🥄Dripping your milk into baby’s mouth from a spoon or small syringe can help jump start the feeding process.

❓If you have any doubt about either your milk supply or your baby’s ability to breastfeed well, reach out to a qualified IBCLC ASAP to get to the root issue and get you back on track.

♥️There is no shame in supplementing your baby if needed during this time of learning. Remember, you can always use your milk first by using your hands or a pump if baby hasn’t figured it out yet.

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.