Seven Points To Know About Breastmilk Supply Issues

By Jessica Martin-Weber

This post is generously made possible by Bamboobies

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For the most part, if you decide to breastfeed, the experience will be: have boobs, feed baby. A process that has worked long enough to get us to this point in civilization, as mammals, generally speaking we will produce enough milk for our young. If everything is working normally, our breasts are going to make the milk our babies need. Lactating after giving birth is, for our species, normal, like breathing.

Which is well and good. But for as normal as it all may be sometimes there are issues with breathing and sometimes there are issues with lactation. Sometimes those issues are related to milk supply.

Before you worry about it or before you tell someone else to worry about it or not to worry about it, there are a few things that may be helpful to know. This is all just the tip of the iceberg, we’ll have more on this topic in the future but for now this is just a quick overview of breastmilk supply issues and not intended to be health care or replace medical care. If you are experiencing any problems with your supply, please see your healthcare provider and an experienced, professional skilled breastfeeding helper.

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1. Supply issues are real. Though biologically speaking it is normal to produce milk for our young, the fact is some will experience issues with supply. While they aren’t as common as it may seem, supply issues aren’t made up, they really do happen. Dismissing the concerns about supply can actually cause more supply problems as it may lead to feelings of isolation, failure, pain, grief, anger, and depression. If someone is concerned about their breastmilk supply, getting help is the right thing to do. They may discover that there is no evidence of supply issues and they can let go of their worry or they may find there is in fact a problem and take steps to address it to adequately care for their child(ren).

2. There is more than one type of supply issue. Often when talking about supply issues people assume it is low supply or not producing enough milk. Low supply is indeed a very concerning issue but it isn’t the only supply issue that may be experienced. Pumping supply, oversupply, and temporary supply issues (ovulation/period, illness, pregnancy, separation, etc.) are other supply issues that may present challenges for breastfeeding families. From poor weight gain to recurring mastitis to not reaching breastfeeding goals, the effects of supply issues cover a wide range and all of them matter.

3. Don’t borrow supply issue trouble. Yes, supply issues are real but before stressing about or trying to fix a supply issue, it is important to know if there is one (see related: Help, My Milk Supply Is Low, Or Is It?). This can be difficult to do if we don’t understand normal human lactation or normal baby behavior. For example, if you heard that I was pumping up to 24 ounce every pumping session at one point and you pumped 1-4 ounces in a session, you may think you have low supply (tip: this wouldn’t mean you have low supply- this means I had oversupply, one I manufactured to pump enough to skim the fat off to feed my very sick baby with two holes in her heart). Or if you found that your baby was extremely fussy and wanting to breastfeed every 30 minutes suddenly and you didn’t know what cluster feeding was and that it was common for babies to increase their feeding sessions during times of rapid growth, you may fear that your breasts suddenly weren’t making enough milk. Understanding the range of normal in human lactation is crucial!

4. There are multiple reasons for supply issues. Physiologically speaking, most breasts should have everything necessary to make plenty of milk (statistically less than 2% of breasts are equipped for adequate milk production) though there are some theories that this number is increasing. But a lack of milk making tissue isn’t the only cause of low supply. Other reasons for low supply include, but are not limited to, fluids in labor, tongue tie (frenulum restriction), high palate, hormone imbalance, diabetes, gut health, scheduled feedings, retained placenta, excessive pumping, ineffective sucking, health issues, some medication, early sleeping through the night, and the list goes on.

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5. Supply issues can create other issues. Yes, even perceived supply issues can create other issues. Confirmed supply issues even more so. Postpartum depression, anxiety, mastitis, gas, poor weight gain, breast tissue damage, unwanted and unnecessary supplementing, early weaning from the breast, etc. Those encountering issues with supply need more support and care on both a social level and from health care professionals.

6. Supply issues aren’t all doom and gloom. For starters, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing when it comes to feeding our babies. There are ways to address supply issues including methods to boost supply, supplement at the breast, train baby to suck more effectively, and reducing oversupply. Identifying the type of supply issue, the cause, and then the most effective methods for improving the supply issue (i.e. skin-to-skin helps low supply, decreasing pumping duration and frequency helps oversupply, hands-on-breast compressions and proper flange sizes can help pumping low supply, and magnesium can help temporary low supply caused by fertility cycles) along with supplementing techniques to encourage breastfeeding (i.e. paced feeding and at the breast supplementing) may all work together to turn things around.

7. There is support for supply issues. I often hear from breastfeeders with supply issues that they feel broken and alone. Supply issues can directly impact a parent’s confidence, causing them to question their competency in parenting when the most elemental aspect of parenting, feeding the child, is so difficult and overwhelming for them. While it can feel lonely when you’re dealing with supply issues, we don’t have to be alone. From social media groups to in person breastfeeding support groups to specialized breastfeeding helpers in the healthcare field, there is support for those experiencing supply issues. Working with a breastfeeding helper such as an IBCLC may help resolve the issue more quickly.

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Jessica Martin-Weber

Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of BeyondMoi.com, and creator and author of the children’s book and community of What Love Tastes Like, supporter of A Girl With A View, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. She co-parents her 6 daughters with her husband of 19 years and is currently writing her first creative non-fiction book.

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The Breastfeeding Parent’s Gratitude List

By Jessica Martin-Weber and the Leakies

There are many reasons to be grateful for breastfeeding including ease of access, financial savings (though, let’s be honest, we’re not always saving that much money with breastfeeding), and happy babies. But there are reasons far beyond that. It is always helpful and good for us to cultivate gratitude and with breastfeeding, it can be really easy to do. To help us get started, we asked the followers over on The Leaky Boob Facebook page and The Leaky Boob Facebook Group. Here’s the list we came up with:

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I’m grateful for breastfeeding because it means I have a good excuse to sit down.

I’m grateful for breastfeeding because without it I wouldn’t have an excuse to whip my breasts out around strangers.

I’m grateful for breastfeeding because now I know what it is like to have my chest head butted by a 9 month old.

I’m grateful for breastfeeding because even though I’m fine breastfeeding in front of others, I appreciate the chance to escape to a quiet room every once in awhile to have to feed the baby.

I’m grateful for breastfeeding because it means I have to shop for new clothes that will let me get a boob out.

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I’m grateful for breastfeeding because it means I get extra breaks at work to pump and relax, LOL!

I’m grateful for breastfeeding because I get the chance to cuddle my adventurous kiddo that otherwise doesn’t ever sit still.

I’m grateful for breastfeeding because it guarantees one satisfied family member at meal times!

I’m grateful for breastfeeding because it means I get a break in chasing after the toddler and my partner has to take over while I feed the baby and scroll through Facebook.

I’m grateful for breastfeeding because it is portable and always ready, it’s the perfect food-on-the-go.

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I’m grateful for breastfeeding because having a tiny human being shriek hysterically for me to get my shirt off has made me feel so needed.

I’m grateful for breastfeeding because hooking up to a machine to suck my boobs is just such an unforgettable experience.

I’m grateful for breastfeeding because it means that feeding the baby is one thing that I won’t have to plan while driving 10 hours each way to spend Thanksgiving with family!

I am grateful for breastfeeding because of the meltdowns that I avoided by whispering in my 2 year old’s ear “want some booby?”

I’m grateful for breastfeeding because taking a shower is way more enjoyable than washing extra bottles. Or it would be if I got to take one.

I’m grateful for breastfeeding because with safe cosleeping, I can feed and sleep at the same time.

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I am grateful for breastfeeding because it saves me money so I can buy more wine and brownies.

I’m grateful for breastfeeding because I really am eating for two so a second piece of pie is totally reasonable.

I’m grateful for the terror it saves me of not having to go downstairs in the dark in case there are ghosts.

I’m grateful for being able to breastfeed my children for the fact that I can hold them more them anyone else and make the ‘they are hungry’ excuse if I don’t want someone holding them.

I’m grateful for breastfeeding because it means I (personally) don’t have to drug my toddler when he’s teething. Oxytocin for the win!

I’m grateful for breastfeeding because now I know what it is like to smell like sour milk all day, every day.

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Jessica Martin-Weber

Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of BeyondMoi.com, and creator and author of the children’s book and community of What Love Tastes Like, supporter of A Girl With A View, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. She co-parents her 6 daughters with her husband of 19 years and is currently writing her first creative non-fiction book.
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Breastfeeding, Your Partner, And Sharing the Journey

by Sarah Saucedo

This post is generously made possible by Bamboobies

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When you are considering breastfeeding your baby, it may seem like it will be a one-woman show. The notion that you will be the sole provider for your new baby’s nutrition may seem a bit overwhelming. However, that doesn’t need to be the case! Your partner can play a key support role in your breastfeeding success.

In the first couple days postpartum, having help to make the most of “lying in” should be a priority. “Lying in” simply means the days or week following delivery where mom and baby should be breastfeeding, bonding, doing skin to skin and little else. Your partner can help make this transition easier with a few simple acts:

  • Make sure any therapy or breastfeeding essentials are within your reach and ready to use (nursing pads, nipple balm, therapy pillows)
    • If using reusable nursing pads – make sure they are clean and ready to go
    • Heating or cooling the therapy pillows depending on your liking
  • Make sure you are hydrated and fed
    • Always have a water bottle on your nightstand
    • Place easy-to-grab snacks like protein bars or fruits that don’t need to be refrigerated, like bananas and oranges, within your reach
  • Help with any pain medications or dressings that you may have from your delivery; this can be a big help-especially if you had a cesarean or particularly hard labor.

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Once you are comfortable enough to move around the house more, there are plenty of ways that your partner can still be helpful and supportive in your breastfeeding journey. Here are a few:

  • Stock a nursing station or stations in you favorite spot(s), so you have what you need when you need it. Snacks, wipes, burp clothes, a full water battle, nursing pads and something entertaining, like a good book or magazine are essentials. Fueling you body and mind while the little one eats is multitasking at its finest.
  • Use a bottle to feed baby pumped breastmilk. This can give you some time to take that much needed shower, read a book, or even sleep if your partner is able to pick up a night feeding. It may seem trivial but these little acts of self-care go a long way in the postpartum period.
  • Clean the pump parts and bottles (they add up!)

Having your partner’s support doesn’t need to stop when you venture out of the house, either! Your partner can be just as involved in your breastfeeding journey whether out to eat, shopping, or at a sporting event.

  • Provide emotional support when you need it. It can be a huge boost to your confidence! Knowing that they support you and your breastfeeding journey can be the key to making a possibly anxious situation (like your first time out of the house) as smooth as possible.
  • Check to make sure the diaper bag is fully stocked with all your favorite breastfeeding supplies (pads, nipple balm, and nursing shawl) and whatever baby needs is also helpful. Don’t forget an extra diaper or two and a change of clothes for baby. You might want an extra shirt, too, just in case!

Bringing a new life into the world is challenging and exciting. Having a partner that supports your feeding choices makes everything a little easier. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Chances are, your partner will be looking for ways to be involved with baby and you during your breastfeeding journey as well. Happy breastfeeding!

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Sarah is a mom of two wonderful boys, and is expecting her third child in March! She is bamboobie’s support maven as well as a Certified Lactation Educator and Counselor and is passionate about all things breastfeeding. 
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Everything You Need To Know About Postpartum Bleeding And Periods After Childbirth

by Dr. Kymberlee Lake

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Most women know that there may be some bleeding after giving birth but often women are surprised by how much and how long and they aren’t aware of the difference between postpartum bleeding and discharge and menstruation. The first bleeding after you give birth is called lochia.

What exactly is lochia? 

Lochia is the discharge consists of blood from the area on the uterine wall to which the placenta was attached during pregnancy, the sloughed off endometrium (uterine lining which makes a bed for the fetus) which gets considerably thickened during pregnancy, blood and mucus from the healing cervix,  and dead (necrotic) tissue. Your blood volume increases by approximately 50% in pregnancy, all that extra blood also has to go somewhere after birth. Most women will experience blood and lochia discharge for 3- 6 weeks though that time span can very from pregnancy to pregnancy and can be directly influenced by a healing mother’s activity level.

Why do we have lochia and where does it come from?

The blood in the lochia comes mainly from the large raw area left in the uterine wall after the placenta detaches from it. While bleeding from this area is controlled by contraction of the uterine muscles immediately after delivery, it takes on the average about two weeks for this area to heal. It is important to remember that this is a wound and it is possible to do too much before it has healed and reopen the wound, causing fresh bleeding. You will experience this bleeding for around four to six weeks postpartum.
Stages of lochia postpartum bleeding lunapads reusable menstrual pads
For the first few days it will be a heavy flow (kind of like a heavy period) and will be  colored dark red, with some clotting.  About the end of the first week the flow should start to taper off, becoming lighter in saturation and color; as time passes, it will fade to a brown, yellowish or even almost-white discharge. 

One thing to remember is that the placental area as well as the sites of sloughing endometrium are raw and open during this time and bacteria can easily spread from the vagina. So, the use of tampons should be avoided – sanitary pads are the best options to be used during this time. 

What is normal and when should I be concerned?

You might notice a ‘gush’ of blood with clotting when you stand up – this is very normal. Also, if you’re breastfeeding, you might notice that you lose more blood after feeding baby; this is caused by your hormones doing their work to help shrink your uterus back to it’s pre pregnancy size. The lochia is sterile for the first 2-3 days but then becomes colonised by bacteria giving off a typical distinct lochial smell which is normal and should not be confused with the bad odor from lochia in postpartum infection.

If the discharge smells foul, you’re still noticing a lot of blood loss after the first four weeks, or the blood is bright red, these are signs of infection and you should speak to your health care provider as soon as you can. This is especially true if you also have a fever (no matter how slight)  or are generally feel ill. Likewise, if your blood loss is so heavy that you’re going through more than a pad an hour, you should get medical help immediately – this can be a sign of a hemorrhage. If in question and something feels “off” it is worth a call to your health care provider for advice.

Types of Lochia

Depending on the color and consistency, lochia can be of three types:

  • Lochia Rubra: Lochia rubra occurs in the first 3-4 days after delivery. It is reddish in color – hence the term ‘rubra’. It is made up of mainly blood, bits of fetal membranes, decidua, meconium, and cervical discharge.
  • Lochia Serosa: The lochia rubra gradually changes color to brown and then yellow over a period of about a week. It is called lochia serosa at this stage. The lochia serosa contains less red blood cells but more white blood cells, wound discharge from the placental and other sites, and mucus from the cervix.
  • Lochia Alba: The lochia alba is a whitish, turbid fluid which drains from the vagina for about another 1 – 2 weeks. It mainly consists of decidual cells, mucus, white blood cells, and epithelial cells.

Do women who give birth by c-section still have lochia?

Many women believe that the flow of lochia is less after a cesarean section since the uterine cavity is cleaned out after the birth of the baby. This is not true. The flow of lochia is not dependent on the type of delivery –  The amount and duration is the same in both cases.

Return of Menses

There’s no hard rule as to when your period will return post-baby – it can vary from woman to woman, and pregnancy to pregnancy. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Women who bottle-feed can see their menstrual cycle return within six weeks of birth – and most will have menses back by ten to twelve weeks.
  • Women who exclusively breastfeed may not get their period back for some time. When you breastfeed, you body releases the milk-producing hormone prolactin, which, in turn, keeps our levels of progesterone and estrogen low. Progesterone and estrogen are the hormones responsible for signaling ovulation and menstruation. Night nursing directly effects these levels, a decrease in breastfeeding at night may lead to a return of menses.

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Once your period returns, it can take even longer for it to get into a regular cycle. If you are bottle feeding it can take around six months, while exclusively breastfeeding your baby can take 12-18 months. But keep in mind that this does vary from mom to mom and pregnancy to pregnancy. Even with exclusive breastfeeding on demand and no artificial nipples, there are women who see a return of their menses as early as 6 weeks while others may not breastfeed and still experience a considerable delay. Each woman is different. Some women experience lighter flows and/or less cramping with their menses after having a baby, others experience the same, and still others may experience an increase. The range of normal variations is considerable but very heavy bleeding, soaking a full size pad in 1-2 hours, may indicate a problem and should be addressed with your health care provider. There are a variety of factors that contribute to possible changes with the return of your period but keep in mind that diet, physical activity, and your menstrual products can all contribute to cramps and duration.

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Please be aware that your first egg (ovulation) will be released two weeks before your period starts, so if you have unprotected sex without realizing that you are ovulating, you could get pregnant before you have even began menses again. It’s a good idea to speak to your healthcare provider about contraception even before you start thinking about sex again, so you can be confident in your choice ahead of time.

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Kymberlee is a Physician/midwife, Therapeutic foster/adoptive parent with 6 kids ranging in age from 31 to 3 and three grandchildren. She is living life to the full with MS in the Pacific NorthWET.  As an international travel enthusiast and fan of teleportation you can find her under the name “Dr_Kymberlee” live streaming and on social media, or on her often neglected blog, TheMamaMidwife.com
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8 Points About Breastfeeding in Pregnancy- What You Need To Know

By Jessica Martin-Weber

This post made possible by the support of EvenFlo Feeding

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Increasingly, families are finding that breastfeeding through pregnancy, an option previously considered taboo, is one they are interested in trying. While it isn’t for everyone, many may find that it is something they would like to do and it turns out there’s good reason too. Though once common in some cultures and settings, in the USA and other countries there are a lot of unknowns as the practice has not been acceptable for a few generations. Today though, more is understood and as more families have ventured into the journey, we have more experience upon which to draw and share wisdom. Below are 7 points about breastfeeding through pregnancy that members of The Leaky Boob community shared as what we need to know about breastfeeding through pregnancy.

It is possible. Though it has commonly been believed that breastfeeding during pregnancy isn’t safe, this is a fairly recent belief and throughout history, breastfeeding during pregnancy was considered normal. A reliable source of nutrition and comfort, for many families it just makes sense to continue. Breastfeeding through pregnancy is not only possible, it can provide many benefits for both the nursling, the expecting parent, and the growing baby in the womb.

It is safe- most of the time. Unless there is some underlying condition that would make it risky for you to breastfeed your child through a current pregnancy, it is usually safe to do so. While breastfeeding does cause some uterine contractions, these are brief and short-lived and in a normal, healthy pregnancy will not result in early labor. Unfortunately, not all health care providers are aware of this and may incorrectly advise pregnant parents to wean their nursling. If your health care provider has told you to stop breastfeeding, request information on why they are making this recommendation and what your risk factors are. Share with them this information here, here, and here on safe breastfeeding in a normal, health pregnancy.

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It can help ease the transition. An older baby or breastfeeding toddler may not be fully aware that they are about to have a new sibling but they can pick up on their parent’s emotions. Breastfeeding may help ease the transition through pregnancy, birth, and the newborn stage for your older nursling. Having this connection and nutrition continue may help them not to feel so displaced and gives them a way to share and connect with the new baby.

It may get uncomfortable. Some women, not all, experience discomfort with breastfeeding in pregnancy. Some will have pain. As the body changes it is possible the nipples and breasts may become more sensitive. For some women this is temporary and will end in the 2nd trimester, others experience it later in the pregnancy only, and still others may find it lasts the duration of the pregnancy. Trying different positions, setting limits with breastfeeding, and being patient with yourself and your nursling can help through this trying experience.

It may lead to low supply. Breastfeeding in pregnancy causes all kinds of hormones to rush through the system and some of them may have the unfortunate result of reduced lactation. Not all lactating parents experience this but it isn’t uncommon. As lactation is in response to the placenta detaching from the uterine wall at the end of pregnancy and birth and is maintained by regular milk removal and hormones, sometimes the body ceases milk production. Some may experience milk drying up early in the pregnancy and then early milk coming in near term, others experience milk drying up later in pregnancy with no signs of new milk until birth. It is possible to continue with suckling even if all milk production has ceased, this is often called “dry nursing” and if it is agreeable with both parties of the breastfeeding dyad it is fine to continue. Sometimes the drying up of milk leads to weaning of the nursling earlier than had been planned.

It may become an aversion. As much as some experience breastfeeding as a deeply beautiful, calming, bonding moment with their nursling, some find that pregnancy drastically alters their feelings about breastfeeding. In the moment, as their child latches and continues to suckle, they may feel a rush of intense dislike, anger, sadness, frustration, and a sense of being trapped. This can come as quite a shock and may lead to questioning her feelings and concern about her parenting. However, this is a hormonal response and not a reflection of her feelings for her child. There is a chance these feelings will ease through the pregnancy but some do experience it intensifying. On a case by case basis, pregnant breastfeeding parents may find that their mental health or their relationship with their child may benefit from weaning if feelings of resentment are making it difficult to connect. Many that experience breastfeeding aversion in pregnancy find that having an understanding safe person with whom to share their experience can help them cope should they chose to continue breastfeeding through their aversion.

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It may help your supply. Breastfeeding through pregnancy and then tandem breastfeeding following birth can provide a number of positives including more demand which may lead to mature milk coming in quickly. Lactation is a hormonal response first, a supply response second. The more milk is emptied from the breast, the more milk the breast will make. Having an older nursling alongside a newborn can provide relief from engorgement while at the same time ensuring a solid supply.

It’s ok. Yep, it’s ok. It’s ok, it’s not weird. It’s ok to breastfeed through pregnancy as long as there is no underlying condition that could make it dangerous. It’s ok to not breastfeed through pregnancy. It’s ok to start breastfeeding through pregnancy and then decide it isn’t for you. It’s ok to try it and decide you want to continue all the way through. It’s ok that not everyone will choose this and it’s ok that some people don’t understand. It’s ok.

As always, breastfeeding is a unique adventure and not everyone will experience the journey the same. From breastfeeder to breastfeeder, our stories may differ and that’s ok. Regardless, everyone deserves support and information in reaching their goals, trusted to make the best decision for themselves and their family. Should you choose to breastfeed through pregnancy, you’re not alone and you have our support either way and no matter what your journey brings.

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Jessica Martin-Weber

Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of BeyondMoi.com, and creator and author of the children’s book and community of What Love Tastes Like, supporter of A Girl With A View, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. She co-parents her 6 daughters with her husband of 19 years and is currently writing her first creative non-fiction book.
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Pregnancy and Infant Loss- What Helps and What Hurts

By Jessica Martin-Weber
This post has been made possible by the generous partnership of Tula Baby Carriers, Ameda, Inc., and Earth Mama Angel Baby.

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The way we respond to someone’s grief and suffering usually is about making ourselves more comfortable even if the intent is to comfort them. The key to offering true support is empathy, and to cultivate empathy we must first listen and sit with the pain. It is only then that we can come to understand that caring isn’t about fixing but rather, comforting. There is no way to take the hurt away, we can only be there through the hurt.

October is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month, a time set aside to educate on these issues. When that month ends, though, our awareness should continue as it does for those who carry the awareness of their loss(es) throughout the year. For those mourning loss, there is more than a month of processing their grief and while we may question our time and emotional bandwidth to be available, when someone we know and care for has journeyed the road of loss, we have an opportunity to make a difference and confirm that they and their loss matters.

Awareness is always just the first step, the second is action. To help us move our awareness into action, we are sharing what parents who have experienced loss say are the most and least helpful ways to act and respond to loss. You don’t have to have experienced similar loss to offer empathetic support and care, we’re all capable even if we’re unsure as to how.

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Understanding

In his book, Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy, J. William Worden explains that miscarriage is seen as a socially negated loss, that for some to even view such a loss as death can bring on guilt. Devan McGuinness, Founder of perinatal loss support website, UnspokenGrief.com and a loss mother herself, on the impact that discovering a friend grieved their own loss saying it: “helped me process my grief by talking with someone who understood and I felt that my grief was more “normal” – meaning that I wasn’t overreacting in feeling such loss and sadness.”

The loss of an infant is also a taboo subject, the fear of causing pain leads to silence and often loneliness in the mourning process. Worden’s Grief Theory describes grief as a U shape. The mourning processes takes us down into deep part of the U, a place that can be lonely and it is better if we can make the journey with others. We have to resist the urge to build a shoddy rope bridge across to avoid going down through the grief. Such an action only disconnects us.

Kari Bundy, founder of the infant loss support organization, Mason’s Cause which offers empathetic grief support with other grieving parents as well as practical information such as how to plan a funeral, shares that she and her husband felt alone when their son Mason died of SIDS at 4 months old and finding practical informative support as well as the emotional space to mourn was overwhelming.

Melinda Olson, founder of BabyLossComfort.com and founder, owner of Earth Mama Angel Baby, labor and delivery nurse, mother and grandmother, has spent decades now supporting families through loss: “It’s hard to know what to say to someone who has lost a baby. Bodies can be healed, but as with all other major wounds,  a scar remains. The same is true for grief. We don’t try to take that pain away, but to hold her hand through it. It’s never easy, but it’s always an honor.” Melinda offers a concise list on what to say to grieving families here.

Tula infant and pregnancy loss awareness with Tula Baby Carriers

What Helps – Remember Them

Jessica: Remember the child. Let the parents know you think of him or her. Trust me, you aren’t reminding them of their loss, it’s on their minds already anyway, but it’s nice to know someone else thinks of your child.

Leah: Don’t forget. Mark the date of loss on your calendar for years to come. What a glowing feeling it would bring me if just SOMEONE remembered my daughter’s birthday.

Kina: It really hurt that my hubby didn’t remember the due date or the date of the miscarriage. It made me feel like I was the only one who cared about my baby.

Tiffany: Speak my daughter’s name, it may bring a tear to my eye but you didn’t remind me she died. (I could never forget) but you saying her name means you remember she lived and that means the world to me. I fear the day when I’m long gone that her memory will be forgotten.

Vivian: Respect my ways of honoring and join me in them. Gifts are nice but your presence matters more.

Bridgette: I have a few friends who light a candle every year on my son’s birthday and send me a picture of their candle in his honor. It means more than I can say that others care for my son too.

 

Question, Wait, and Be Present – Don’t give advice, give availability

Tori: It meant the world when a friend came to sit with me/help take care of my son so I wouldn’t be alone while waiting out a miscarriage.

Anna: I really appreciated those who just listened. I needed to talk about it without any advice or words of comfort… There ARE no words of comfort.

Kara Glenn: Having friends and family check in, bring dinner, invite us over… all of these things make us feel loved, and keep us from feeling isolated.

Dykibra: My advice: ask people what they want. My mother was great and gave me the space I needed.

Dawnn: Helpful? Food. It’s the last thing I wanted to think about.

Amber: The best things was supportive hugs. Having someone call me daily to tell me they loved me.

Alyssa: The most helpful was my best friend helping with the details of planning my daughter’s funeral and understanding my anger about the investigation by the authorities. (SIDS usually requires an investigation.) She let me cry and vent whenever I needed to.

Marinas: It was helpful to hear that It’s okay to be angry right now. There’s nothing fair about your baby dying.

Samone: I lost two pregnancies at 20 weeks. What was not helpful was people saying that I was lucky because the baby would have been born with a deformity. Seriously, I just wish people had said that they were sorry.

“It’s hard to know what to say to someone who has lost a baby. Bodies can be healed, but as with all other major wounds, a scar remains. The same is true for grief. We don’t try to take that pain away, but to hold her hand through it. It’s never easy, but it’s always an honor.” 
~Melinda Olson

What Hurts

There’s no perfect way to support through such grief but there are ways that are hurtful that a little bit of awareness can help us avoid. Loss parents shared some things that are NOT helpful to say:

Sometimes it’s just not meant to be.

It must have been God’s plan.

At least you can have children/At least you already have a child(ren).

Oh yes I know how you feel, my friend had the same thing…

Well it was probably deformed.

You’re not the only person it happens to (because somehow that means I shouldn’t be upset).

Don’t dwell on it.

Charissa pointed out: I don’t need a distraction, telling me I need to keep busy so I was distracted made me feel like it was wrong for me to be sad.

Kara Glenn, mom and Tula Baby Carriers team member talked with me about the loss of her son, Oliver, her daughter’s twin, at 4 months old. You can read her powerful and moving story more in depth here (including loss after infertility). A true empath, Kara shared the conflicting range of emotions she experiences in grieving one child while being present with another. She’s very understanding of the struggle others face when trying to offer comfort.

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Kara’s twins, Avery and Oliver together before Oliver’s passing.

“I do know that people mean well. The death of a baby is a hard thing for people to talk about. It makes people say awkward things. I really try my best to shake it off when something rubs me the wrong way. I just don’t have the emotional capacity right now to focus on it.”

Still, she says, there are some statements that make it harder.

“When they say: ‘At least you have Avery.’ I know they mean well, but by saying that, it makes me feel that I’m not already thankful and grateful that I have my sweet baby girl. Like it’s not possible to both grieve and mourn the death of my precious four-month-old boy, and love his twin sister with every ounce of my being. Another comment that can be hurtful is when people say, ‘I don’t know how you are functioning, I’d be a mess.’ This automatically makes me feel guilty for functioning… for just surviving. Believe me, I don’t know how I’m doing it either. To assume that someone isn’t struggling just because you see them doing something normal like grocery shopping is just plain insensitive and hurtful. There are days when putting one foot in front of the other is the hardest thing in the world. On those days, you likely won’t see me. On those days, the groceries can wait.”

Whether you’ve experienced pregnancy or infant loss personally or want to be able to support others grieving their child, there is no expectation that comfort be offered perfectly. Trying means a lot and doing so with sensitivity and awareness makes a difference. Journey into the deepest part of the U with others by listening and empathizing as you go and you can be a part of making a difference. You don’t have to fix it, just offer comfort through it.

An extensive list of resources for information and support through infant and pregnancy loss a can be found here and for ideas to create pathways of remembrance, see here.

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Jessica Martin-Weber

Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of BeyondMoi.com, and creator and author of the children’s book and community of What Love Tastes Like, supporter of A Girl With A View, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. She co-parents her 6 daughters with her husband of 19 years and is currently writing her first creative non-fiction book.

 

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Pumping Breastmilk and What You Need To Know

By Amy Peterson, IBCLC

This article made possible by the generous support of Earth Mama Angel Baby.

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Not every mom needs to pump. When baby is with mom for feedings and transferring milk effectively, there is no need to pump. But there are times when pumping breastmilk is important:

  •      Baby needs more milk (a supplement for one or more feeds)
  •      Mom wants to increase her supply
  •      Mom and baby are apart for feedings, such as when mom is at work or school
  •      Mom wants to have someone else participate in feedings
  •      Anytime mom will miss a feeding

In these circumstances, using a breast pump helps maintain or increase the milk supply for future feedings, and the pumped milk offers the perfect food for baby. This article touches on choosing between the different types of breast pumps, general pumping guidelines, and tips for increasing milk supply if necessary.

When possible, choose a pump that meets your unique situation. If you’ll only miss a feed or two each week, a manual pump or single electric is plenty. If you need to pump for several feedings a day, a high quality, double electric pump is a better choice.  If your baby is hospitalized or you need to dedicate time to increasing your supply, a hospital grade/rental pump is the best choice.

You can get a breast pump from many different places: box stores (Babies ‘R Us, Target, WalMart, etc.), online, a friend, thrift store, or possibly through your insurance company. Buying a used breast pump or borrowing a pump is usually not recommended. Most brands are considered single user items. These pumps do not control for the transfer of bacteria or germs between the pump motor and the milk, putting the baby’s health at risk. If you know the pump brand has a closed system, you could consider purchasing a new collection kit with tubing. Even so, you may not know if the pump is working less effectively than when purchased new, potentially putting your supply at risk.

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It is also important to note that not all women respond well to pumps and not all pumps work equally well for every lactating individual. This is why we have options. There are various contributing aspects that may impact how well a pump performs such as flange size, suction strength, type of suction, etc. If a pump is not working well for you it is possible that another would. Some breasts prefer one pump over another and some breasts prefer manual expression.

Most breast pumps have two settings. One button controls the vacuum, and the other button controls how fast the pump cycles (sucks). These settings let you fine tune the pump to mimic your baby’s suction and rhythm. For maximum milk production, use the highest comfortable suction. Use a fast cycling rate until your milk flows, then adjust to your comfort level; this mimics how your baby sucks before and after a let-down. A few brands of breast pumps have a built in feature that begins with fast cycling and adjusts slower. Some moms find they have better milk flow when they reset the button and continue with fast cycling.

Here are some general pumping guidelines to get you started:

  •      Pump for any feeding you will miss. Your milk supply is based on supply and demand, and pumping for each missed feeding tells your body to keep producing milk during that time.
  •      Pump the amount of milk your baby needs.  For example, if your baby takes 3 ounces of milk, pump 3 ounces total (1 ½ ounces from each breast).  If you pump what you need in 4 minutes—you can stop pumping.
  •      Pump between feedings to build a bottle. You can combine the milk from several pumping sessions to make a larger bottle of milk.
  •      Pump at night or in the early morning hours when your supply is highest.
  •      A gentle breast massage routine, called hands-on pumping, has been proven effective in increasing the amount of milk a mom can pump. Check it out here.

For moms who are not able to pump enough milk and who want to increase their supply, there are additional pumping tips:

  •      Pump until your milk stops flowing, and then pump two more minutes. This limited extra pumping is enough to tell your breasts to make more.
  •      Pump more often. Leave your pump set up (where your toddler can’t reach it!). Pump for 5-10 minutes once or twice an hour.
  •      Use the hands-on pumping technique listed here and above.
  •      Know that pumping alone may not increase your milk supply. Work with a breastfeeding helper who is knowledgeable about other targeted methods to boost supply.
  •      While you work on increasing your milk supply, feed your baby. You can combine your breastmilk with donor milk or formula to be sure your baby is getting enough. Some moms choose to feed breastmilk separate from formula to avoid wasting any breastmilk if baby doesn’t finish the bottle. As long as your guestimate is cautious, it is safe to mix; the milks will mix in baby’s belly anyway.

While pumping is an important aspect for many families in reaching their breastfeeding goals, how much is pumped is not a reliable sign of milk production. As with most areas of parenting, take your cues from your baby. When baby is growing well and reaching milestones within range then how much you pump doesn’t need to be a concern. If you see signs of dehydration or poor weight gain, speak with your child’s healthcare provider.

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Happy pumping mamas! You’ve totally got this and we’ve teamed up with Earth Mama Angel Baby to support you in your pumping journey with a giveaway of Earth Mama Angel Baby’s Milk-to-Go kit for Leakies in the USA. A $40 retail value, this kit includes:

One pair of Booby Tubes® (one pair) for cold or warm therapeutic use, 1 box of Organic Milkmaid Tea (16 tea bags) a fragrant comforting blend that supports healthy breast milk production, safe Natural Nipple Butter (1 fl. oz.), Happy Mama Body Wash (1.67 fl. oz.), one Eco-friendly Reusable Insulated Bag, and a tasty recipe for Organic Milkmaid French Vanilla Chai.

Use the widget below to be entered!

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a Rafflecopter giveaway

Amy Peterson is a mom of 4, IBCLC, Early Intervention coordinator, and retired LLL Leader. She works alongside a speech-language pathologist, and together they co-authored Balancing Breast and Bottle: Reaching Your Breastfeeding Goals. They have also written a series of tear-of sheets available through Noodle Soup: Introducing a bottle to your full-term breastfed baby, Pumping for your breastfed baby, Pacifiers and the breastfed baby, and Bottle pacing for the young breastfed baby. Amy’s passion is helping others find fulfillment and confidence in parenting, regardless of feeding method. Visit Amy’s website at breastandbottlefeeding.com.

 

 

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Clicking Sound While Nursing

by Shari Criso MSN, RC, CNM, IBCLC

This post made possible by the support of EvenFlo Feeding

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Question:

From time to time while my baby is nursing, I hear a clicking sound. I try to take her off and re-latch her, but she gets really mad and doesn’t like to be interrupted… what could be causing this?

Answer:

I can’t blame your baby for being mad- who likes to be interrupted when they are eating?

As for the clicking issue… here is my definition of the perfect latch when breastfeeding: the one that doesn’t hurt and the baby gets milk. That’s the perfect latch. So, if your baby is clicking but the baby is not hurting you and seems satisfied, and your nipple come out looking normal and there’s no damage being done, I’d say to either try holding the baby a little closer while nursing, or don’t worry about it. Sometimes, that clicking sound comes from an oversupply, when you have a lot of milk. The baby keeps unlatching because it’s hard to latch when the nipple is so wet. So that’s probably what you’re listening to. But if you’re not in pain, and the baby’s latching, don’t disturb the baby – let her eat!

 

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Find more from Shari supporting your parenting journey including infant feeding on Facebook or at My Baby Experts©

Thanks for EvenFlo Feeding, Inc.’s generous support for families in the their feeding journey.

____________________

Shari Criso 2016

For over 23 years, Shari Criso has been a Registered Nurse, Certified Nurse Midwife, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, nationally recognized parenting educator, entrepreneur, and most importantly, loving wife and proud mother of two amazing breastfed daughters. You can find her on Facebook or her own personal site.
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Paths of Remembrance That Honor Pregnancy and Infant Loss

By Jessica Martin-Weber

This post made possible by the support of My Baby’s Heartbeat Bear

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Content Note: infant and pregnancy loss discussed.


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Loss is profound and deep, that’s part of what makes it loss. The loss of a child amplifies that profound depth of pain in ways that are nearly tangible as loving as deeply as the extraordinary ordinary love a parent has for their children makes them vulnerable to extraordinary pain. Love is always a risk. A beautiful, breathtaking, agonizing risk. One worth taking, as terrifying as it is.

There is no balm for the rawness left after losing a child, no set of steps to follow to make things right again. Grief may have some known stages but each individual journey is unique and the path isn’t always clear. How one experiences grief and processes loss may look drastically different from another’s. The manner in which we move through grief and process loss isn’t a reflection of how real or deep our grief or our love is, it is a reflection of how we personally process, our personalities, and our needs. There isn’t right or wrong, good or bad, or more or less “real” ways to journey through such pain. It is all real and it is all personal. After 4 pregnancy losses, I have experienced how different it can be from one to the next.

Individual paths of remembrance may vary greatly. For some, the ways they remember will be internal with little external manifestation. For others, the external honoring helps center the internal grief, an extension of the love, joy, grief, and pain of their loss. What matters most is the significance to those for whom the memorials provide connection and comfort and while some would never visit such a memorial, others will find healing in something they can touch and see.

Throughout history people have intrinsically understood the need for memorials, external physical representations of the significant losses in our society be it through war, natural disaster, or other tragedy. We build memorials, commission sculptures, fashion fountains, mount plaques, and more to preserve the memory of and respect significant loss in our societies. These memorials provide connections, anchoring points not only for our grief but also for our collective memories, drawing our communities together reminding us not only of those lost but also the importance of having such connections in spite of the risk of great pain. Such memorials honor love and life as well those we’ve risked loving in this life.

So it is with personal loss. Without even realizing it we construct memorials for ourselves even on a psychological level. There is a reason we can feel the anniversary of a loved one’s death approaching without even checking the calendar, our bodies remember. For some creating a tangible expression can be a powerful step in healing, a sort of remembrance path to travel, not to get over their loss but rather to connect with it and embrace the significance. In embracing our emotions and very real loss we can fully grieve, releasing ourselves.

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7 Remembrance paths that honor pregnancy and infant loss

Naming. If your child’s name wasn’t already known to you, consider selecting a name to honor their life and connect you with them as a person. Having a name for the one you’re grieving connects us with the realness of our grief and with the personhood lost. Whether you choose to display and publicly share your child’s name or to keep it to yourself, your heart will hold the name close in comfort and the reality of your loss won’t go unnamed.

Sharing. Society’s discomfort with personal grief tends to silence those that speak of pregnancy and infant loss, it was years before I learned that I had a great aunt and great uncle twins that died in infancy because nobody ever spoke of them. When I asked my grandmother about it she told me nobody ever wanted to talk about them but she thought of them often, just kept her thoughts to herself. We sat together that afternoon and memorialized the relatives I never knew who held a special place in my grandma’s heart. Speaking of those we’ve lost is a powerful way to honor and remember them. Sharing our stories of loss connects us with others and comforts both those sharing and those receiving.

Images. With pregnancy and infant loss we may not have very may still images or video given the short time our children were with us but any images we do have or ones we create are not only a cathartic connecting point for us as their parents, these images can invite others to connect as well and celebrate the joy that was, honoring the pain that is. Sonograms, bump photos, pregnancy announcements, birth photos, whatever we do have may be  Be they kept in a private place or displayed in a special place in your home or a unique framing, the images of the children we have lost can give us a focal point in our grieving and remembering.

Audio. As with images, we may not have much by way of audio of the children gone too soon but the sounds of those we love are amongst the most difficult memories to hold onto. Any audio we do have, a recording of the first heartbeat doppler or ultrasound, the sounds of our own voices sharing our happy expecting news, first cries, newborn gurgles and coos, whatever it is we have, these sounds may be comforting evidence of the life of one we love. With today’s technology we can memorialize those precious sounds in special picture frames, card, or even a stuffed animal to hear whenever we need to.

Green and Growing. One of my dear friends lost a child she never got to hold other than in her womb. After a grueling delivery experience, she and her partner decided to plant a tree with a garden stone bearing their child’s name and the date as well as words that she had associated with the pregnancy up until the time of loss. That was 7 years ago. Today this beautiful tree has grown solid and tall, a climbing tree for the other children in the family and neighborhood. Under the tree planted in their child’s honor picnics, parties, life and love unfold regularly. “Riley’s Tree” has become a special connecting anchor not only for my friend but for their community, a beautiful tribute to Riley.

Rituals. Lighting a candle at certain times, touching a special stone, telling certain stories on certain dates, playing a specific song, and wearing certain articles give a sense of security much like the environmental ritual of seasons.

Personalized. During pregnancy I select an animal for my baby. Everything I purchase and make for them with that animal is theirs and what I intend to save as heirlooms. For the pregnancies I’ve lost they become talking points with my surviving children. The stuffed puppy, the little robin, they were bought with love for a baby that we never got to play with.

No matter how you honor the memory of a child you have loved gone from this world too soon, the greatest memorial that can ever be is to live fully, honoring those we have loved and lost by living well, daring to go on risking our hearts by connecting, loving, and remembering.

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Jessica Martin-Weber

Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of BeyondMoi.com, and creator and author of the children’s book and community of What Love Tastes Like, supporter of A Girl With A View, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. She co-parents her 6 daughters with her husband of 19 years and is currently writing her first creative non-fiction book.

 

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Ask The IBCLC- Migraines, Blebs, and Teething

by Shari Criso MSN, RC, CMN, IBCLC

This post made possible by the support of EvenFlo Feeding

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Dear Shari,

Help! I’m 8 weeks postpartum with my third child. It was also my third C-section and the third time I’m breastfeeding exclusively. I’ve been having dizzying migraines that sometimes blur my vision, make my ears ring, and make my head feel like it’s in a fog. My OB recommended an excedrin migraine or a little caffeine. That doesn’t often help and I don’t want to take an excedrin or two daily. I’ve gotten the depo shot two weeks ago, and the migraines are still unrelenting. Is it hormones like everyone says? Is there something I can do to help control them or relieve them?

Dizzy Mama

 

Hi Dizzy Mama,

I am sorry to hear that you are suffering so much at a time when your full focus should be on caring for and enjoying your new little one!  As someone who has migraines myself and cared for many women who have also experienced this debilitating condition, I truly feel your pain.  It is not an uncommon occurrence affecting up to 17% of women of childbearing age.  Migraines tend to get better during pregnancy, due to the high estrogen levels.  Although this is not always the case.  Non-pharmacological treatments should be the first choice when treating anything whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding and can be quite effective. Keeping a “headache diary” can help to identify triggers and make lifestyle changes that will work. Unfortunately, some of the things that do trigger migraines are the norm for any new mom such as not eating regular meals or getting good sleep, however knowing this you can make an effort to take care of yourself as well as your baby.  Something that we as moms can forget quickly!  Caffeine can make a big difference in the effectiveness of migraine treatments and is generally safe to use in moderation and as long as it is not affecting the baby.  Excedrin is actually NOT a drug that I would recommend since it contains Aspirin which is transferred into breastmilk.  The baby receives about 4-8% of the mother’s dose.  Breastfeeding women are advised not to use aspirin because of the risk of Reye’s Syndrome in their babies.  As for what prescription medication to take, Imitrex is generally considered safe for breastfeeding as the infant will only receive about 1% of the maternal dose and it is cleared quickly out of the milk.  No short-term problems or long-term developmental issues have been documented in breastfeeding infants exposed to these drugs.  Of course you will need to consult your doctor about this or any other medication, as well as to obtain the prescription.  If your OB is uncomfortable due to lack of experience or knowledge, maybe it is worth seeking a second opinion.  I hope this helps and that you have some relief quickly!

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Dear Shari,

My daughter is 16 months old now. Lately my nipples feel so sensitive and sore and I’m not sure why. I think she may be teething, cutting her molars now, could that be causing this pain? What can I do about it? My plan was to let her self-wean but right now I wish we were done. I don’t want to give up on my goal yet though, how can I get through this and how long will it last?

Feeding a teething baby

 

Dear Feeding,

Congratulations on your great success breastfeeding!  Yes, it is possible that her teething is causing her to clamp down while nursing and causing your nipples to feel sore. If that is what is happening, it is important to pay attention to when she is done “eating” and to remove her off your breast before she has a chance to bite down or rub against your nipple trying to soothe herself.  You can also offer her a cold or frozen washcloth or teething ring to chew on so that she is not using you!  The other thing that I was thinking as I read your question…is to take a pregnancy test   This is actually the very first sign for most pregnant moms!  Nipple pain and soreness all of a sudden after many months of pain free breastfeeding (in the absence of any infection or damage to the nipple) can be the first sign that you are expecting again and it is worth ruling that out first with a pregnancy test.  If the soreness is due to pregnancy, there is not that much that can be done about it since this is hormonal vs. mechanical or technique.  For many nursing moms who become pregnant this is the main reason that they decide to wean their older child, but for others it is not a problem and they can safely continue throughout their pregnancy and beyond to tandem nurse their children. Keep me posted!! xoxo

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Dear Shari,

I have a sort of white dot on the tip of my nipple and it is extremely painful when my baby is latched on that breast. It’s been there for a couple of weeks now, it looks sort of like a pimple. I tried squeezing it but that just hurt more and didn’t do anything. My baby is just 7 weeks old and the idea of this pain lasting until we’re done breastfeeding is so discouraging. Help!

Owie Nipple

 

Hello Owie Nipple,

I am glad you wrote in to ask this question because it is a fairly common issue that moms will encounter.  It is called a “milk bleb” or a blockage of milk inside one of the nipple pores where the milk comes out of the nipple.  That is why it is white.  A milk bleb is not serious condition, but can cause serious pain in the nipple especially when trying to nurse or pump.

The best way to approach this is to first not wait to do something about it. Left untreated it can cause your breast to become engorged which can lead to a decrease in your milk production as well as mastitis.  The first thing you can try is to soak your entire breast in a bowl of hot water.  Fill the bowl with water and then lean over it and just soak for 5-10 minutes or longer.  Immediately try to nurse your baby or pump after that.  The water will often soften and loosen the plug and it will be sucked out by the baby!  It is perfectly fine for them to swallow.  You may notice after nursing that it is starting to come out.  If you can you can pull it out, but I would not squeeze your nipple to try and “pop” it.  It is not a pimple and squeezing your nipple can cause more inflammation.  If the soaking and suction does not work you may need medical help from your doctor or midwife who can use a sterile needle to remove it.  This is not something that I would do at home (although I know women who have) due to the risk of injury or infection.  Good luck!

 

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Find more from Shari supporting your parenting journey including infant feeding on Facebook or at My Baby Experts©

Thanks for EvenFlo Feeding, Inc.’s generous support for families in the their feeding journey.

________________________

Shari Criso 2016

For over 23 years, Shari Criso has been a Registered Nurse, Certified Nurse Midwife, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, nationally recognized parenting educator, entrepreneur, and most importantly, loving wife and proud mother of two amazing breastfed daughters. You can find her on Facebook or her own personal site.
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