Alright everyone! You have been asking for a post on feeding babies for years (seriously, years – since Asher was a baby!) and I'm finally giving it to you! We're going to start at the very beginning here from 0-6 months with the first thing a baby ever eats – MILK! I'm breaking this one into 2 parts – Breastmilk and Formula. Starting with the Breastmilk post! Look out for the formula one early next week!
We'll continue with future posts where we'll chat about first solids, feeding toddlers, the picky years, and packing lunches! All with a paleo-style perspective and what has worked and hasn't worked for us. So be sure to keep checking back here and on my social media if those subject interest you. Ok here goes! This is a long post with lots of parts, so I'll lay out a table of contents here so you can scroll to the information that most interests you.
- My Philosophy
- Paleo and Breastfeeding
- Pumping, Storing, Building a Stash
- Common Problems
- food sensitivities
- low supply
I have breastfed 3 babies, and am definitely in the camp that -if you are able – it is the absolute best route to go for the health of your baby. HOWEVER, you've heard me say this before and I'll say it again – I can't stand the pressure that social media puts on moms about breastfeeding. Yes – “Breast is best”. But FED is the most important, and if your situation, whatever it may be, makes it difficult or impossible to breastfeed – then there are formula options out there that will sustain your child and still help them thrive. More on that below! The pressure we put on ourselves is also so unnecessary, but I'm guilty of it too. I can remember many tear-filled nights, with each of my babies, because I felt like a failure and thought I wasn't producing enough milk. They were going through their cluster feeding phase and seemed to never be satiated, and I blamed myself. I can guarantee every breastfeeding mom has had at least one situation like that, and we all know it feels terrible. Thankfully with each baby- the stress for me lessened, and I learned ways to combat the feeling – like stocking up my freezer with an ounce or 2 at a time just for piece of mind. Read more about that here! Having a little stash, or even having formula on hand to top off with if necessary, lessened the weight on my shoulders and helped me ease up. Similarly – every time I would have a postpartum flare-up, my milk would either decrease from all of the weight I was losing, or I had to take a medication that was unsafe for breastfeeding – and I would beat myself up. Actually – to this day, I still feel disappointed that my disease “forced” me stop breastfeeding Asher at 7 months, and Easton at 9 months. Which is crazy – because 7 and 9 months is a huge accomplishment! Read a little more about that struggle here. With Kezia- I had to stop for a bit due to malnutrition on my end and also unsafe medication and supplements. We moved her to formula for the time being, and I pumped occasionally when I was feeling up to it but my supply pretty much diminished. Thankfully our bodies are pretty miraculous though and once I started gaining some weight back and eating bigger meals, my milk came back!.
Paleo and Breastfeeding
I'm frequently asked if it's possible to eat a Paleo diet and breastfeed successfully. I've written and talked about it quite a bit, so rather than reiterating – I will link you to a few past articles to read. Long answer short though – YES it's definitely possible and some people actually find their milk supply increases and is more nourishing. However, if you are accustomed to eating a standard American diet and want to switch over to a Paleo diet, I would suggest doing it gradually if you are breastfeeding.
Pumping, Storing, Building a Stash
I was NEVER the mom who had an abundance of milk flowing. I couldn't pump a full bottle after a feed, or barely even pump enough to fill a normal bottle if I was working. I had to work a little harder to pump while I was away, and also to build a small stash in my freezer for those times when I needed to top them off or was traveling for work.
To read about the pump I used, eco-friendly storage ideas, when to start pumping, and our favorite bottles see this post.
As a working and traveling mom – I am also often asked how to handle pumping and transporting while traveling. The most important thing I learned was to carve out time between my meeting schedule every 3-4 hours to pump. If you're busy all day running from meeting to meeting, it can be really easy to forget or keep putting your pumping sessions off. Delaying or skipping sessions can cause a supply decrease and super painful engorgement! No one else is going to tell you stop and take the break to pump – so even if it means putting calendar reminders in with alerts – do it! There were even MANY times were I pumped in the back of an uber or cab with a cover on to maximize the use of my time. Traveling with breastmilk is a pain, in all honesty. First things first- make sure your room has a refrigerator. Most hotels will deliver a small one to your room if you call and tell them you're a breastfeeding/pumping mom. When I travel, I use breastmilk bags so transportation home is easier. I bring this ice chest with me if I'm going to be gone for a short trip – 2 or 3 days. I remove the plastic liner so I can fold it and put it in my bag for my outbound flight. Be sure to also pack some ice packs like these ones. If you're staying in a hotel, you can also ask for a ziplock of ice when you're departing. I like that the ice chest can be worn on my shoulder and it fits in the overhead compartment for my return. If you're going to be gone for a longer period, are pumping for multiples, or have a larger volume of milk – I suggest looking into some breastmilk shipping companies. Some business even include it as a benefit for moms! Just be sure to leave a little extra time getting through security. I have TSA pre-check, but because it's liquid – they will still have to scan them all. I request that it is not put through the x-ray machine and checked manually. My favorite thing is getting a young, single TSA guy that has to check all of my breastmilk. They handle it like it's dirty underwear and it makes me crack up inside at how uncomfortable they look. Hey TSA teenager – It's not toxic or contagious! Quite the opposite. I have been told by TSA personnel that frozen milk does not need to be checked – but it is not recommended that frozen and thawed breastmilk be refrozen, so I always keep mine fresh/liquid and freeze when I get home.
Breastfeeding is the natural way to feed a baby, but that doesn’t always mean it’s uncomplicated.
I will be honest and say that I had a fairly easy time breastfeeding my babies. Aside from the pain in the first few weeks, they all latched really well from the start. I did learn a lot from my nurses in the hospital, and always took the offer to see a lactation specialist with each baby, even after having experience under my belt from nursing #1. It wasn't always perfect though – my nipples cracked and bled and I remember digging my heals into the ground each time Asher latched for the first few weeks. This organic lanolin-free cream by the way was a LIFESAVER for #2 and 3. I also had mastitis with Asher pretty late – around 6 months and got so sick that I was vomiting and had a super high fever. I actually think that was a culprit in sending me into the postpartum flare up I had with him. They say it should come naturally and it shouldn't hurt. But for a lot of women that is not the case. There's a ton of different reasons why breastfeeding may be difficult or not work for you, and that's totally ok. Breastmilk really is the best option for a baby though, so make sure you've ruled out and tried to overcome all of these common issues first before switching to formula.
- Latch and positioning problems (click here for latch resources)
- Tongue tie (click here for tongue tie resources)
- Thrush, mastitis, plugged ducts, engorgement (click here for remedies and resources)
- Low supply (click here for supply issues and here for maintaining supply on Paleo and see more below)
- Food sensitivities (see more below)
“Give yourself time and be gentle and positive to yourself with your thoughts. You are not failing. You are learning. Together.” – Kellymom.com
Just a couple of notes in addition to the resources I linked on 2 of the issues listed above.
#4 Low Supply
I personally think the best way to increase your supply is to eat a nutrient-dense diet and nurse frequently. If you really want to increase it, I find it beneficial to pump after each feeding to completely empty the breasts and signal to the body that you need to make more milk. Read this article for more information. This article, while lengthy and somewhat extremist, is also a great read regarding nutrition for breastfeeding mothers. I also really like the points they make about low supply and the realistic and successful alternatives when exclusive breastfeeding is not an option. If you have an autoimmune disease, or any gut issues – I have to heed warning for trying to increase supply by way of supplements and even food. You can read more about my experience here– but when Easton was little I tried oats, brewer's yeast, Mother's Milk tea, and fenugreek supplements and I believe they all contributed to the terrible flare I had about a month later. I also did a Whole30 with 2 of my babies and filled up on tons of sweet potatoes and other starchy vegetables in an effort to stay satiated and increase supply, and I have since learned that too much starch can throw my gut into a downward spiral. If you start doing anything out of the ordinary from your typical routine, just keep a close eye on any new symptoms.
#5 Food Sensitivities
Most websites and doctors will tell you that the food mom consumes does not affect the nursing baby. I think it varies by situation, but I noticed certain food intolerances in all of my babies during those first few months when their digestive system is still developing. If your baby is unusually fussy, the first step is to see someone who is experienced with helping mothers breastfeed and who observes the baby at the breast. Make sure none of common problems listed above are occurring first before looking to your diet. If it’s been determined that the baby has a good latch and is breastfeeding well, and the problem continues, it’s time to look for other culprits. In my experience, there are instances, when a nursing baby does react to something you have eaten and you may need to eliminate it. While lactose intolerance is extremely rare for babies, and typically develops after the age when, evolutionarily, human beings wean from breast milk, cow's milk can still be a problem. Babies can be sensitive to specific cow’s milk antibodies, in the form of proteins (not lactose), which pass into the mother’s milk. Read more about dairy sensitives here. Other culprits can be wheat, soy, corn, onions, garlic, chocolate, caffeine, and eggs. Grains, chocolate, dairy, and caffeine have affected all of my babies, and I noticed a significant decrease in fussiness and gas after feedings once I cut those out, as well as little to no spit up. I usually added some of those foods (minus grains because… Against all Grain…) in after 3-4 months. If you’ve ruled out everything else that may be causing your baby to be fussy or spit up, I think it's worth a try to eliminate the most common food culprits listed above for 2-3 days and reintroduce on food at a time to see if it has any effect. Keep a food journal where you can note any patterns between what you’re eating and baby's reaction. If you suspect a food, remove it from your diet completely for a few weeks. If there's no change, then you may need to look elsewhere. If you do see an improvement during the time you eliminated the food, do a little test by trying that one food group again and watching the baby symptoms closely. Just remember to only try one food at at time so you can track it easily. Just be cognizant to make up for any nutrition you may lack after cutting out a food group, especially if it previously made up a big part of your diet. For instance with dairy, look to things like almonds and green leafy vegetables like kale to ensure you’re getting enough calcium. And I always suggest checking in with your doctor or better – functional medicine practitioner – before eliminating or adding new foods.
This leads us to the next post: Formula Feeding! I suspect that is what the majority of you are interested in reading about – so stay tuned for early next week! Photo credit Jennifer Skog Photography