Partners, here's how you can help your breastfeeding moms

Partners that don't do the feeding can feel useless, silly, and like they're missing out on valuable bonding time. Moments of clusterfeeds feel never ending, but you can be a part of the process. In fact you are important.

Below are some tips, for romantic or non-romantic partners, on how to support your busy partner (breastfeeding is hard work) and get some bonding time of your own.

Partners, you are a vital part of the nursing process. Your support can affect positive nursing outcomes!!

Hydration

You know those Big Gulp cups from the gas station? Fill one of those up with water. Put it within reach. She will thank you. Seriously, SO PARCHING to breastfeed. (Is that a word?)

Snacks, snacks, snacks

Dehydrated string beans, Peanut M&Ms, apple slices, pizza, bagels, meatballs, the list could go on. Cravings do not subside for nursing moms. Some even claim the cravings are more intense! So break out the bag of Cheetos and pair it with some pepper slices.

Burp & change baby

This is your moment to be the burp expert and the speedy diaper changer. Your newborn might even still be alert and thus, you'll get some beautiful face time.

Skin to skin isn't just for breastfeeding

All baby needs is to be in a diaper. Non-breastfeeding partner, you can take off your shirt or open your shirt and place baby on your chest. Make sure to cover baby in a blanket so he or she is warm. Soak in all those baby smells and noises. And they will do the same for you! Skin to skin helps regulate babies warmth, calm them, and get them used to being on the outside of the womb.

Baby transport

If it is the middle of the night and mom needs to feed the baby (which is often and for a long time usually), get the baby, change the baby after feeding, and lay the baby back down. You can very much be a part of this process! Leaving your partner to do all the night wakings is lonely business.

Honor her space

Nursing is hard work. Anyone who is working hard might want accompaniment or to be left alone. Find out what your partner wants and then honor that. This is usually best discovered by talking and not trying to read minds!

Depending on how old baby is, partners can begin to feed baby from a bottle occasionally (the recommendation is around 6 weeks and to pace bottle feed). Until then, send this blog to an expecting partner and get the conversation started!

Breastfeeding Cincinnati

The New Overwhelming Anxiety of Being a Mother

Anxiety for me personally began as a whisper after Ivy was born. While she slept, I wondered “Is she breathing?” and “If she is on her back and spits up, will she choke? Will I wake up to hear her?”

I spent feverish hours online scouring message boards and WebMD. I texted friends and took videos in case I needed to show the doctor.

Then one night turned into two, three, a week, a month, many months of worries accumulating. Worries about sleeping, nutrition, cognitive development. I read books, but all of the books said things that didn't match. In fact, it seemed that expert advice varied so much that people could just find any doctor to rationalize their own choices.

It occured to me that this was a mood disorder. I had anxiety.

As a postpartum doula, I know the importance of identifying these mood disorders early and often, but not everyone hires a doula, so I want to empower you to know the signs.

Three different postpartum mood disorders

Depression

Excessive crying, overwhelming fatigue but inability to sleep, severe mood swings, hopelessness, recurring thoughts of death, intense feelings of inadequacy, and withdrawn behavior. You don't have to display all of these to be depressed.

Anxiety

Inability to relax or sleep, nausea and dizziness, feelings of dress that something bad will happen to the baby. Again, you don't have to display all of these to have anxiety.

OCD

Intrusive and repetitive thoughts or images of something happening to the baby--it’s almost like anxiety but on repeat. That is the important difference between anxiety and OCD, because the two can seem similar, the feelings of horror becoming obsessive.

Many woman (and men too!!) have experienced mood disorders, but fewer report them, so giving you a statistic wouldn't be accurate or helpful. Even fewer dads report mood disorders.

So let me specify that this is different than Baby Blues that happen pretty soon after birth. Hormones take a little while to level out and while that happens, moms experience bouts of crying for no reason, joy, sorrow-- all of the feels rapidly changing. When these feelings take root is when they become a disorder.

Overall, it is harder becoming a mother than anyone is able to tell you and sometimes the anxiety doesn't go away.

There's no way to prepare a person for the emotional transition of motherhood. The most common unsolicited advice a pregnant mother will get, is to enjoy her sleep while she can. And while that's partially true-- there's more helpful advice we can circulate.

Some things that will absolutely help after baby is born is sleep, nutrition, and support. SNS!!!

But more importantly, that fear we have for our children doesn't go away just because we take a little Zoloft and/or exercise more.

As parents we may always live with the low functioning worry that potential harm could come to our kids. For some this stays until we grow old. Why? I'm no expert, but as soon as a baby is born, death is also born.

Coming to terms with this is a very difficult thing to do, but we are all experiencing this together.

In the meantime, here’s how to manage the low level anxiety of being a mom:

Don't go down the rabbit hole of internet searches.

This has never ever made anyone feel better. Ever.

Don't act on fear. Talk through it.

With a doctor, your spouse, your parents. Whoever.

Have a good support system.

Go join my Facebook Mom group! (Search What about Mom?!?) Or join any other Facebook group that welcomes you in with judgement free support.

Just know you're not alone, really.

Postpartum

Paced Bottle Feeding

Many mothers return to work after 3 months. returning to work doesn't have to hinder the breastfeeding relationship. One of the best ways to continue breastfeeding and ensure that your baby is able to take a bottle while you're away, is to teach your infant how to pace bottle feed. This is a style of bottle feeding that mimics breastfeeding. It's actually very simple to do, and below I will put a video.

Before having bottle in hand, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Introduce a bottle at around 6 weeks.

Timing is everything.

Waiting too long to introduce a bottle sometimes results in baby being unwilling to take one.

Choose a slow-flow nipple

That is a newborn nipple, size 1, or even a preemie nipple.

Sit baby upright during feeding, instead of laying down.

With paced bottle feeding, babies are actually active participants. We have to watch them closely to see their feeding cues. Sitting them upright slows the flow of milk and encourages baby to suck harder.

Take frequent breaks to burp baby

What we know from observing babies is they don't instantly get milk. Babies suck for a good while before a let down. Additionally, milk does not flow the entire time during a feed. Our breasts empty a bit, then another let down is signaled. To mimic this, let baby suck for a few seconds before allowing the nipple to fill with milk. During the feed, allow for plenty of time to burp that air out!

Switch sides like you would on the breast

Moving baby to your other knee not only mimic breastfeeding, it also helps develope baby's neck and eye muscles, as they learn to look at you from the other side of your body.

Want to see paced bottle feeding in action? Watch below.

Nursing Baby Past One

There are so many myths and stigmas surrounding breastfeeding toddlers. Why? Well that's a complicated answer left for much more space than one blog allows. Below is one woman’s (my dear friend, actually) musings on “extended” breastfeeding (really though, why don’t we just call it breastfeeding….that’s all it is!).


As my husband, in-laws, and I moved through the furniture store looking for a glider they wanted to gift me as a new mother, I carefully balanced my newborn in my arms while trying to fix her latch under a receiving blanket. My mother-in-law casually took the blanket and said, “you don’t need this.” It was the most liberating thing she could have done. I didn’t know this at the time, but breastfeeding would become the next thirteen years of my life. The sooner I learned to worry about the comfort of myself and my baby—the better.

There is evidence to suggest that as long as a breastfeeding relationship continues, it will provide nutrition as well as immunological protection.

But you know those studies they did that said that hugging is healthy? The breastfeeding studies were like that for me, confirming what I had already been witnessing and was my own common sense. Anthropological work has already told us that when natural weaning occurs it is closer to when the first molars begin to appear. 

My best friend’s three-year-old recently had surgery. Her tonsils, and adenoids were removed, and she had an epiglottoplasty. Getting medicine into a groggy three-year-old is difficult, let alone keeping her hydrated. Since they still have nursing relationship, she is able to get food and liquid into her daughter’s body, all while feeding her antibodies and stem cells for quicker healing. Her recovery time was much shorter than it was supposed to be. Of course, this is anecdotal, but still, there it is. 

The WHO and Unicef recommends breastfeeding to two years and beyond.

When my children turned two, they still needed to nurse. When a child is nursing at three, they are nursing less frequently. And by four and five, it isn’t often. But when my four-year-old had a violent stomach virus, holding them and feeding them from the milk I made just for them, kept them hydrated and helped them to recover quicker. 


Something to consider is that extended breastfeeding (breastfeeding beyond one year) simply be called breastfeeding. When it is tagged “extended,” that eludes to there being a norm, and this falling outside of that norm.

This human-derived term creates a definitive line: once you pass day three-hundred and sixty-five, you are into the new territory and your baby’s body will be done with your milk, which will likewise become unusable. You may self-destruct. 

When we went to the library and my preschooler would touch everything (no hyperbole here, folks) and put everything into their mouths. I was relaxed, knowing I would still be feeding them immunity. When they became sick with fever I could taker refuge in knowing that I was hydrating them, comforting them, and once again feeding antibodies to their immature immune systems. 

Nursing an older child will coo them to sleep. It continues to nourish them. When they get hurt it calms them. While they are learning this big world, it centers them and tells them there is a safe place of refuge within their mother, still, and always. Our children grow, it is what they were designed to do. No one is going to nurse until they leave for college, and that equation is ridiculous. They will always wean, and when that day comes it is bittersweet. 

I know many women who nursed beyond three and, often, they were made to feel ashamed—to hide. Our culture has decided they can name the ways in which a woman’s body works.

They have decided that breasts are innately sexual in nature. They grossly pervert the feeding of a human child when that is the crux of humanity’s existence!  Just as you can be a mother and a lover—breasts can play a dual-role, as well. 

Nursing my children into two, three, four, and five was an evolution of gift. Always changing, never looking the same, just like the breastmilk itself—altering to the needs of the situation. I say take the covers off. Take away the fear or need to hide while feeding your child. Don’t let the dictation of a woman’s body seep further into the clutches of this culture. Let women go where they will and let them feed their child where and how they like, and please let’s normalize the image of a woman feeding an infant as far into their future as they see fit, all while loving and supporting them. If you see a mama nursing, take her a water and tell her what a gift she is.