Breastfeeding Grief

Many times things don’t go as expected during labor and delivery and/or with breastfeeding. The loss of our expectation of what we thought would happen become the root of our grief and depression. It’s so easy to blame ourselves when things go wrong, even though our society is not set up to support postpartum families in any capacity, especially related to breastfeeding. This happens more than you think and I see it every day in my practice helping families in their breastfeeding journeys.

Grief is a spectrum that is different for everyone. You may not have even realized that the emotions you’re experiencing related to your breastfeeding journey not going as expected are in fact grief. Rage, anger, sadness, depression, anxiety, shame and guilt could all actually be stemmed from grief.

Different people need different ways to approach and process their grief. How do you start the grieving process? Recognition that you’re grieving the loss of an expectation is the first step. Realizing that you’re not the only one who is grieving their birth or breastfeeding story at this very moment can also normalize what you’re feeling. Give yourself permission and time to grieve. You may have a healthy, thriving baby. You may have really supportive family. You may have every resource available to you. That doesn’t negate your experience or the emotions you’re feeling.

Other steps to working through your postpartum and breastfeeding grief:
⭐️Avoid self blame
⭐️Surround yourself with people who will support you or who have gone through a similar experience
⭐️Talk to someone safe about what you’re experiencing. This may need to be a trained therapist
⭐️Find an IBCLC to help you reach your feeding goals. Schedule your consultation with me at www.lalactation.com
⭐️Hire a postpartum doula to help with baby and self care
⭐️Honor your story and the journey you’re on
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📷 @dionnachambers
🖊 @lalactation

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.

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.

Best Parenting Advice

Put them in water or take them outside. This is the best parenting advice I’ve ever been given. When breastfeeding has been established (baby is making good wet and dirty diapers, generally pain free latch, and gaining weight), there will be times when baby will be super fussy and refuse the boob. Many misinterpret this as having low milk supply or something wrong with the breast. Don’t be so quick to blame yourself or to supplement with a bottle. I guarantee you there will be times when you have no idea what to do to stop your baby from crying. The boob won’t work. Changing the diaper won’t work. Burping and rocking and shushing won’t work. I guarantee you there will be times when you will cry right along with your baby and feel helpless to soothe them (or yourself).

When the breast doesn’t work: put them in water or take them outside. It works. When your baby is falling to pieces for no apparent reason and the usual tricks don’t work, go outside or get in water. It works on adults, too!!

Depression with weaning

Weaning blues. If postpartum depression weren’t enough, it’s also possible to have depression and mood shifts from weaning from breastfeeding. During breastfeeding, oxytocin, the cuddle or love hormone, is released every time milk lets down. This feel good hormone helps reduce the risk of post partum depression and aids in bonding with baby. Prolactin, the hormone that actually makes the milk, also brings a feeling of well-being, calmness and relaxation. There is very little research on the subject, but it’s hypothesized that when you wean, the decrease in prolactin and oxytocin can make some feel moodiness, sadness or even anger. The faster the weaning process the more abrupt the shift in hormone levels, and the more likely that you will experience feelings such as being tearful, sad or mildly depressed. Some also experience irritability, anxiety, or mood swings. These feelings are usually short-term and often go away in a few weeks. Dropping no more than one feeding per week is a gentle way to wean and adjust to shifting hormones. People who are forced to wean before they are ready (or for reasons beyond their control) and those with a history of depression are also more likely to experience depression after weaning. Even for those who are ready to wean and doing so gradually, there may still be a sense of loss and sadness. Your breastfeeding relationship has been a major part of your parenting journey and it is understandable that you’ll feel a wide range of emotions.

What is that stench?!?

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.

Photo credit Lauren Archer
@loveofalittleone