9 Tips to Having More and Better Sex After Baby

by Jeremy Martin-Weber
This post is a partner post to one Jessica wrote, 16 points about sex after baby, on beyondmoi.com and a giveaway for Newport Beach MommyCon on November 1, 2014.  Find the giveaway information and widget to enter at the end of this post.

Running the risk of sounding like Cosmo, or Marie Claire, in honor of Valentine’s Day and all the men out there making strategic plans, hoping that their romantic equations will guarantee that they’ll get lucky, I’d like to offer a list of my own.  I don’t claim to be an expert, but my list is the product of 17 years of trial and error with my wife, and I can personally attest that as long as I stick to it, she simply can’t get enough of me.  Seventeen years and six children, and sex just keeps getting better, and we both want it more than we ever did before.

#LoveBeyondMoi The Leaky Boob Beyond Moi Valentine's Day giveaway

You too can have a better sex life; it’s not over just because you’re parents.  If you’re looking for ways to make her (or him) want to drag you to the bedroom, rip your clothes off, and have hot, steamy, sex with you all night long (that’s how those magazine covers read, right?), then this list is for you.

1. Help around the house… but not for sex Everyone loves a partner who is involved, who takes time to help out with household duties.  Way back when we were first married, I first heard the notion that if I took the trash out, my wife would find that act so sexy she wouldn’t be able to help herself and would have to have me right then and there.  I thought that sounded rather strange and hadn’t noticed that effect on her before, but I really started paying attention the next few times I took the trash out, and here is what I noticed: she appreciated my help, but didn’t think it was anything extraordinary.  And that made sense.  But I also noticed that when we were both paying attention to the ways the other was helping out, we both appreciated the other person for doing so, and we felt closer for noticing, and feeling closer can easily lead to sexual feelings.  See how it works?  But it won’t work if you help around the house just to have sex.  There is no magic there.  My advice: do the dishes, help out with your kids, fold and put away the laundry, by all means take the trash out, and for extra credit, thank your partner for those same things and all the other tasks they do.  They may argue that they don’t do it for you, and don’t need to be thanked, but they’ll still appreciate you noticing.  Noticing is sexy. That first tip isn’t just for parents, I admit, but it may be more relevant to parents because prolonged lack of sleep so effectively scrambles your brains that even very simple relational things can get sucked into that black hole (or driving your children to all of their extracurricular activities – that can scramble your brain too over time).  It’s very much the same for this second tip.

2. Get physical… but not for sex Touch your partner.  Often.  Every day.  We can get so determined to get it on that we forget the thrill of simple touches.  You know how physical relationships are compared to a baseball diamond, each base representing more intimate acts of physical expression, ultimately culminating in sexual intercourse when you get to home base?  We can be so goal-oriented, or sexually frustrated, that all we focus on is getting to that home plate.  When Jessica and I were first dating, even the simplest of touches was thrilling because it carried so much meaning.  Caressing each other’s hands communicated love and care, romantic intention, and sexual desire all rolled into one.  A kiss was a gesture of commitment, a desire to be close, to be real and vulnerable.  Sure, at other times, a kiss was an expression of sexual desire, full of passion and wild abandon. But that’s exactly the point.  Physical expressions weren’t all just a means to a steamy, naked end.  Because of their variety, their commonality was clear: a communication of love.  And when I feel loved by my wife, I feel safe, trusting and sexy.  And I know she feels the same way.  And do you know what that leads to?  Great sex.  My advice: kiss your partner at least every morning and evening, wrap your arms around her, hold hands, maybe even take a few dance steps together, and savor each of those physical moments for their simplicity.  Because touching to communicate love is sexy.

3. Distance makes for sexier reconnection Now that we’re all ready to touch our partners more, I offer a word of caution: it has to be the right moment.  Unfortunately, most of us have to find out through trial and error; that’s for both partners.  Jessica and I have both had to learn about ourselves how and when we like to be touched, let alone what our spouse likes.  If you try to touch your partner and you are rebuffed, don’t jump to the conclusion that they just don’t like your touch or don’t want sex (touching just for that end is already a big libido killer anyway).  Pluck up your courage, control your urge to scream and cry (if you actually have feelings, of course), and ask your partner about it.  The way our schedule works, one of us is often home with children most of the day while the other goes out and works at a coffeeshop.  It doesn’t matter which one of us it is, some days at home leave us wanting to find a dark, quiet, corner where we can hug our own knees and twitch for awhile as our brain tries to reboot, and our body relaxes from being touched all day long.  It’s not that we don’t love being home with our children, it’s that it’s not the easiest job in the world.  If you walk in the door and see a frazzled, bleary-eyed partner with a blank expression on their face, that is probably not the time for dipping your partner and a fervent I-missed-you-so-much-wasn’t-today-great kind of kiss.  If ever you’re unsure, I have the simplest solution: ask.  And follow it up with an offer to give them some space.  Ask how you can help before jumping in.  And then, by all means, jump in!  Find ways to give your partner a break on a regular basis.  Sometimes 20 minutes is all it takes to center ourselves.  Sometimes it may take a whole morning, or an entire day, but trust me on this: sex is way better with a centered partner.  Because getting time away is sexy.

4. flirt more… but not for sex I think that every healthy, sexually mature human being likes to feel sexy.  One way to feel sexy is to get a good idea of what real sexy people look like by gazing at magazines, watching music videos, or checking out the latest blockbuster film, then looking in the mirror and saying to yourself: “Damn I look good!”  If I just described you, then this whole post probably isn’t for you at all.  For most of the rest of us, feeling sexy is deeply tied to feeling desired.  When Jessica gives me a sultry “Hey sexy” I feel a boost in confidence, my day gets brighter, and I feel sexy.  Granted, I have to fight off the destructive voice in my head giving me a 5 reasons why you’re not on the sexy list, and just trust that my wife is calling it likes she sees it.  This takes practice, but when I do it regularly, that vile voice in my head gives up and must go into hibernation or something.  I’m sure I don’t have to tell anyone that when you feel sexy, you’re more inclined to have sexy thoughts, and… you know.  So my advice to you is to give your partner a reason to silence that voice in their head.  All the time.  Okay, don’t be obnoxious about it, or you’ll come across as pushy.  Flirt, wink, do the Magnum P.I. eyebrow thing (if you don’t know what that is, well, then, never mind), make subtle suggestive comments; whatever communicates to your partner that they are desired, and desirable.  But don’t have your heart set on sex.  Because flirting is sexy and is an end in and of itself.

5. Spend quality time together… but not for sex.  Developing togetherness has been foundational to our relationship and affects every part of it, including our sex life.  I realize that this concept may definitively put me in the hapless romantic category, but I don’t care, I am an unabashed hapless romantic who has great sex with his wife of 17 years so there.  We have this notion that relationships are living things, and they are constantly evolving, just as each person in the relationship is growing and changing daily.  This means that being static (not changing) is not possible.  You are either growing closer together and developing stronger bonds, or you are slowly drifting apart – unless you are a stone statue of a couple, and even then erosion does take its plodding toll.  So we intentionally find ways that bring us closer together.  There is no reason why you can’t still be as into each other as when you first got together.  Actually, we believe that you should cultivate your relationship keeping being into each other as a worthwhile goal.  Find common interests, and/or try new experiences together.  Play games together.  Make music together.  No, those aren’t references to sexual activities.  Cook together.  Hike or bike together.  Visit museums.  Go out for coffee or a fancy dinner.  Any activity that you will enjoy together, preferably with lots of eye contact, and with no electronic devices or screens (after you’re done reading this you should try it).  Because when you spend time being into each other, you end up wanting to explore all the ways you could be into each other.  (that was a sexual reference, by the way…).

6. Talk more… and I don’t mean about sex (and I don’t mean talk dirty more) Spending time together, being more and more into each other, involves a lot of communication, and most of that will be through actual conversations.  With words and sentences and all that.  If you’re really getting into each other, developing that sense of togetherness that I mentioned in the previous point, then you’re going to want to communicate that you care about your partner’s life, about their day, every day, and that you’re interested in the details, the little experiences that you missed out on.  This may seem obvious, but you’re going to want to communicate that you missed your partner.  Because being missed is sexy.  And giving a damn is really sexy.

7. Help get the kids to bed, and again after midnight.  So finally a practical tip!  I suggest that you don’t gloss over the relational mushy-gushy stuff that I took nearly 2,000 words to write about.  That’s the stuff that really leads to more, and great, sex.  The practical logistics of making sex happen won’t cut it by themselves.  Getting obnoxious distractions (i.e. children- only obnoxious when you’re hoping to make some whoopie) out of the way is essential to hooking up with your partner.  Bed time can be exhausting and time-consuming, and, depending on the age of your children, can burn a parent out and render them huddled in a dark, quiet, corner, hugging their knees, etc.  Or fast asleep before the kids.  It’s much better with two parents.  That way you communicate that you give a damn, that you want to do this together, that you’re willing to help, not to mention demonstrating to your children that you are there for them and their other parent.  Ways to make it more fun: text each other once the bedtime routine is finished but your haven’t extricated yourself from your children’s arms and legs.  A fun texting game we’ve played is where one of us sends the other a random emoticon, and the other has to guess what it’s supposed to mean.  Oops, now everyone knows: we’re dorks.  Dorks that flirt and have great sex.   This may or may not lead to sexting, by the way, which is always fun but possibly awkward and ill-advised if you’re still helping kids settle.  Getting kids to bed once may not be enough.  You may have to commit to moving a sleeping baby, 1 or 2 or even 3 yr old back to their bed after they have sweetly sought out your comforting cuddles around midnight and fallen asleep in the bed where, damn it, you were hoping to have sex (or just cuddle with your partner, or sleep on separate sides of the bed, depending on how grueling the bedtime routine was and how long you each need to huddle by yourselves in the dark, etc.).  Because a kidless bed with just you and your partner is sexy.  (This isn’t to say cosleeping damages sex lives, it doesn’t and we do cosleep, we just also have a “bed” for the cosleepers that they visit for us to have alone time in our bed.  And, if you don’t have teenagers around, there are plenty of other, though less comfortable, places in a house to utilize.)

8. Change the sheets! Those of you who have known us for a little while know what this means, so feel free to skip this tip.  For those of you who don’t, I’ll let you in on our little secret: clean sheets are sexy.  Clean sheets are so sexy that my wife has this irresistible urge to sleep naked in them.  If it weren’t for the sheer logistics of children seeking cuddles, 8 of us in a house with one washing machine, and having to work and feed our family, I would probably wash our sheets every day.  Quick disclaimer: I have learned that just because my wife is naked in bed does not guarantee that we will have sex, or that she is logically interested in having sex.  You would do well to heed these words.  That being said, clean sheets may increase your odds; they certainly increase mine!  Also, mind-blowing as this may sound: sleeping naked together is sexy, and an end in and of itself. And finally, if you’re still with me, the #1 thing you can do to have more sex as parents:

9. Stop asking for it.   There is nothing quite like a whiner to kill a mood, or destroy any chance of there even being a mood to get into in the first place.  Asking for sex, or demanding it, damages your relationship with your partner.  Asking for it communicates only one thing: you think you have to have sex, that you deserve it, or that it is some kind of need.  It is not a form of flirting, it is not flattering, it is not sexy, it doesn’t communicate that your partner is desirable, it does not bring you closer together, it does not communicate that you care, or give a damn about anyone but yourself, and most of all, it communicates a lack of love and respect.  It is gross.  Even if the sheets are clean.  And if you helped around the house, and you flirted, and did your part in getting kids to bed, and spent time listening to every little detail of your partner’s day, and watched whatever stupid movie they wanted to, and this somehow means that you deserve sex, that they owe you sex, then you know nothing about what a healthy relationship looks like, and I would further venture to say that this is exactly the kind of thinking that leads to an abusive relationship.  Talk about it but in a carefully, respectful, and concerned conversation.  “I miss having sex with you” means a lot more than “We never have sex any more.”  And if you mention your sexual needs, like it’s some kind of basic human need, you should be slapped.  A basic human need is one where the human is at risk of dying if that need isn’t met.  Like eating, or drinking water.  Are you at risk of dying if you can’t have sex?  No.  And if you’re that horny and you feel like you just can’t keep it together without a release, then I’m sure your partner would appreciate you using your capable hands, rather than pressuring them or guilting them into letting you use their body for your own pleasurable end.  Because guilting your partner into sex is NOT sexy.  And pressuring your partner into sex will not lead to more and better sex, before or after baby.  Also, consider getting therapy.  Therapy can be sexy too.

There is one thing that effectively sums up my 8 tips to having more sex after baby (because that last one wasn’t really a tip, was it?): focus on your relationship with your partner.  All the rest will take care of itself.  And no, that’s not a sexual reference.

~ The Piano Man (aka: Jeremy from BeyondMoi)

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Join us at MommyCon Newport Beach on November 1, 2014 where Jessica is talking about Breastfeeding and Healing sponsored by Motherlove Herbal Company, and Jeremy and Jessica are leading a workshop on Sex After Baby sponsored by our friends at Arm’s Reach Cosleeper. For a chance to win a pair of tickets, use the widget below: a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Motherlove Giveaway: Organic or non-GMO?

Motherlove is dedicated to providing the healthiest products to the world, their standard of quality being such that only the purest ingredients are acceptable in their formulations.  What does this mean?  How is this achieved?

By using only USDA Certified Organic ingredients, and wild crafted herbs when those aren’t available.  Sounds pretty earthy, doesn’t it?  And this means that Motherlove products possess the richness of dirt itself (dirt from the wild in a place like Colorado, not the dirt in your urban backyard).

You may be wondering if this means that their ingredients are also non GMO (Generically Modified Organisms).  The answer is simple: according to the USDA definition of “organic,” if the product is USDA Certified Organic, it is non GMO, by definition (more details from USDA here).  A product cannot bear the label “USDA Certified Organic” if it is GMO or has been in contact with GMOs or has anyone in their family tree with a history of GMOs; and all this, from seed to full-grown plant, to the grocery store, and to your kitchen (or at least check-out at the store).  And since Motherlove only uses USDA Certified Organic ingredients or wild crafted herbs (which means that they are organic, but so wild that they don’t bear the rubber-stamp of certification), then all of Motherlove’s products are non-GMO (to read more about this, click here).

Here is a simple way to visualize it:

USDA Certified Organic = non-GMO (absolutely)
non-organic = could contain GMO

Just how wholesome are Motherlove products?  Here is a list of NOs:

NO GMOs
NO synthetic ingredients
NO artificial ingredients
NO toxins

And when you think of applying something to your skin, isn’t that the way it should be?

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Motherlove is giving away a Pregnant Belly Salve to 3 lucky Leakies.  

Pregnant or not, this salve is good for your skin, especially in this season of dry skin.  

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Good luck to everyone!  Please use the widget below to be entered.  The giveaway is open from October 23, 2014 through October 30, 2014.  A big thanks to Motherlove for their ongoing support of TLB and all breastfeeding women; please be sure to visit their Facebook page or follow them on twitter and thank them for their support of TLB and this giveaway opportunity.

This giveaway is restricted to U.S. residents only.

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Get Comfortable Breastfeeding- Bebe au Lait Giveaway!

A big part of reaching your breastfeeding goals may actually be about how comfortable you are breastfeeding. Physical comfort (back ache or nipple pain is going to put a big damper on things!), emotional comfort, social comfort, you name it, feeling comfortable can be key to the whole breastfeeding experience. Which is why we are talking about comfortable breastfeeding with our friends at Bebe au Lait and Katy Linda, IBCLC from The Breastfeeding Den and give away 2 breastfeeding covers and 2 breastfeeding pillows to help you get comfortable in your own breastfeeding journey, whatever that means for you.

 

Breastfeeding in public with a breastfeeding cover. When you're a model family at an adorable cafe. Thanks to Bebe au Lait for this image.

The Nursing Cover, $36-$38 value

Bebe au Lait introduced the Nursing Cover, 10 years ago as a solution for nursing in public. The stylish and comfortable covers are adjustable, and are made with a patented open neckline that holds the cover away from the baby, allowing mom and baby to make eye contact. They come in a variety of designs and colors, and are made of either 100% cotton, organic cotton or muslin.

 Bebe au Lait breastfeeding pillow

The Nursing Pillow, $55 value

Bebe au Lait launched for the first time this year, The Nursing Pillow. Created by a nursing mom, The Nursing Pillow puts baby at the optimum height to promote a better latch. The features include a reversible, dual sided surface (soft or flat), convenient two-sided pocket to keep essentials within easy reach and an adjustable, tuck-away strap. The Nursing Pillow is designed with an open shape for a better fit and is foam-free. Both pillow and removable slip cover are 100% cotton and machine washable. Please note that this item is not yet available and will be shipping mid December with the lucky winners being some of the very first to get their hands on one of these beautiful new pillows.

 To be entered for a chance to win one of these prizes, follow the directions on the widget below. Please note, this giveaway is open to those in the USA.

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The Romanticized Myth of What Constitutes Successful Breastfeeding- An Apology

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Dear Leakies,

This is my 5th version of this letter. I’m going to finish this one.

But first I’m going to do something I’ve never done here before:

To hell with the WHO Code

That’s a picture of Sugarbaby receiving a bottle. A bottle of my milk. Taken 2 years ago by my wonderful husband, I love this photo. So much love and pride captured in this moment. A vital moment in me reaching and achieving my breastfeeding goals. And that bottle wasn’t even kind of a “booby trap” to my breastfeeding goals.

Still, I never shared it with any of you here, on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Why haven’t I shared this or images like it with The Leaky Boob community before now? Why is this my 5th attempt at this letter? It’s simple:

Shame.

Yep. I have harbored shame. Not shame that my babies have received bottles, no, I have absolutely no shame that I’ve fed my children as I needed to. No, my shame came from using a bottle made by a WHO Code violating company. (To learn about what the International Code of marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes is, go here.) Only, that’s not really the shame I’m holding either, do you know how hard it is to find a bottle that’s not made by a WHO code violator? Nearly impossible.

No, my shame goes way beyond even the WHO Code, bottle feeding, or supporting a WHO Code violator.

My shame is that I haven’t cared about the WHO Code for 3 years, but felt I had to in order to be a “good” breastfeeding supporter.

My shame is that I played along, even became a part of the self-appointed WHO Code policing brigade for a time, even though I knew all along, deep down in my heart, that the almighty WHO Code was creating barriers.

My shame is that I felt righteous supporting the WHO Code. The original purpose of the WHO Code was so pure, so right, so good, how could I not support it?

My shame is that I upheld an artificial picture of what it looked like to successfully breastfeed and called it supporting the WHO Code.

My shame is that my actions supported the WHO Code more than they supported women, babies, and families.

But my shame is not that my babies were fed, not that they were loved, not that they sucked on an artificial teat.

To hell with the WHO Code

Look at that big sister love and pride!

Screw shame. I’m done. And I’m sorry. I’m deeply sorry that it has taken 3 years for me to find my courage to take the stand I live but never shared here.  I’m sorry that I’ve not been honest.

Because this is what successful breastfeeding has looked like for me:

To hell with the WHO Code

And so is this:

to hell with the WHO Code

For every single one of my 6 beautiful children, bottles and breast have been a part of me reaching my goals. And not just because I had to go back to work. I choose to go back to work, I love working and am a better parent when I work, but even when I didn’t work outside the home, I elected to partially bottle feed my milk to my baby. This was a positive thing for me as I get physically stimulated very easily and as an introvert found the need to create some space for myself. I did better mentally and emotionally, which meant I was in a healthier place mentally and emotionally to parent my children. It was the best healthy choice for us. I have never, not once, regretted it. Today, with a breastfeeding 2.5 year old, I also don’t believe it ever interfered with our breastfeeding nor did bottles have a negative impact on me reaching my breastfeeding goals.

In fact, I firmly believe that without bottles, I would have quit breastfeeding early on.

And see the big child in this photo bottle-feeding her baby sister my milk?

to hell with the WHO code

Do you see that eye contact? *melt*

She was mostly formula fed.

I don’t have any shame about that either. In fact, I’m damn proud that when the time came I could make the right decision for us to stop breastfeeding and switch to formula. The regret I have felt about that has been artificial and circumstantial, never true. It took a lot of courage for me to make that decision and it was the right one. I would make it again if I had to. I will support you if it’s the decision you need to make as well. We’ve been vocal here that breastfeeding doesn’t have to be all or nothing to be successful, I just haven’t been visible with that reality for myself.

Through The Leaky Boob I have contributed to a beautiful yet often unattainable depiction of what it looks like to breastfeed. In my attempt to normalize breastfeeding and provide support up what breastfeeding looks like, I have held up at the breast breastfeeding as being more beautiful, more important, more viable, more worthy of sharing and discussing and promoting than any other infant feeding methodology.

I support people before I support a feeding method.

to hell with the WHO Code

Sugarbaby’s big sisters loved to give her a bottle

I look at these photos of my baby receiving bottles and I see a beautiful, important, viable feeding worthy of sharing and discussing and promoting. Normalizing breastfeeding (bottle-feeders will tell me they feel that is normalized) and normalizing bottle-feeding(breastfeeders will tell me they fell that is normalized) shouldn’t be in competition with each other. What really seems to need to be normalized is caring for children. Parenting. Without it being a contest or a platform to boost how we feel about ourselves.

Feeding your child is real, no matter what they are fed or the mode of delivery. It’s real, it’s important, it’s complicated, and parents deserve support as they navigate this terrain. I am sorry that The Leaky Boob has, at times, failed to communicate that. I a sorry if instead of being a part of building your confidence, I’ve been a part of tearing it down. Deeply sorry.

I know there are those who will tell me I haven’t failed and I appreciate that.

I also know there will be those that will tell me that I haven’t failed until now. I appreciate that too.

But for the last 4 years as The Leaky Boob I have not been entirely honest with you. As a public voice in breastfeeding support, I have contributed to a mythical image of breastfeeding. I wish I could say it wasn’t intentional but it was and of the 4 years I’ve been doing The Leaky Boob, I have wrestled with this for three years. Motivated by fear, I allowed myself to present a picture of my breastfeeding journey and an idealized image of “successful” breastfeeding that simply wasn’t true. Well, not true for me anyway and likely not true for many of you. And I know holding that ideal up was damaging for some and a sort of betrayal for others. It wasn’t that I overtly lied, it was more of an omission of truth. I was wrong to do so and I am sorry.

A few weeks ago I was sitting with a friend of ours, a new dad who was bragging about how his wife and son had worked so hard at breastfeeding and just the day before, at close to 8 weeks old, had fed directly from the breast for all of the feeds. He said something that struck me: “you know, I think they’ve been breastfeeding, we’ve worked so hard but it’s not like you ever see pictures of breastfed babies getting bottles. Our lactation consultants were great but it’s a lot of work, a lot of time, a LOT of money, you know? The work you do is so important, we were on The Leaky Boob all the time and we have found a lot of help and support there but we still felt alone. I mean, it feels like it’s not as real if we’re giving a bottle, nobody ever talks about that. Does anyone else go through this?”

I was confronted with the reality of my failure on my couch.

to hell with the WHO code

Babies feeding babies here. So much big sister love!

Leakies I am sorry I never shared images of my babies and other babies receiving bottles. I was wrong to only ever present a side of my infant feeding journey that was safe for me as a public breastfeeding supporter. Anxious that I would be inviting drama and attacks from other breastfeeding supporters, educators, blogs, organizations, and my own readers, I didn’t want to risk being accused of being a WHO Code violator by posting pictures of my babies with their bottles. Specially since I do make some income from The Leaky Boob, I was concerned that if I ever even showed bottle feeding some would think it was sending the wrong message.

But message or not, this is the truth: my babies, all 6 of them, got bottles. One got mostly formula in her bottles. Back when I was attending women as they had their babies, often I was helping a new mother and baby pair with their first few feedings while my baby was at home getting a bottle of my milk. And every single bottle my babies have received was manufactured by a WHO Code violating company. I’ve never once regretted that, never once felt guilty for it, never once wished it was another way. But I did feel afraid to show it.

My incredible husband, Jeremy, The Piano Man, has never had a problem sharing these images though and not because he doesn’t understand the WHO Code or is unaware of the barriers women face when it comes to breastfeeding. When he came home one day with a new bottle and I stressed about having a WHO Code violating bottle in our house, that it couldn’t be posted anywhere online, and that I felt sick giving money to a Code violating company, he simply looked at me and calmly said “I thought this was about feeding our daughter.” I sterilized that bottle and moved on, knowing I wouldn’t post any photos of the offending bottle. But he did. And the very first comment on the photo was this:

WHO Code

E bottle feeding A copy IG bottle feeding comments redacted

I understand where the commenter was coming from and she wasn’t giving anyone a hard time but it’s true, because of the half truth I had shared, it was strange to see one of my baby’s drinking from a bottle. But it wasn’t strange that she was receiving one, it was actually a part of our normal infant feeding routine.

Bottles were an important part of me reaching my breastfeeding goals. Without bottles, I’m not sure I would have made it as far as I have and I’m pretty certain I would never have even started The Leaky Boob. I have talked about using bottles and formula feeding my second daughter, but I never shared images and I carefully couched sharing those experiences as safely as I could so as not to invite controversy.

I have let go of my shame and my fear.

By intentionally keeping that part of my breastfeeding journey quiet, by not sharing images of my baby receiving a bottle, by just sharing images of my babies feeding only at my breasts, and by neglecting the real life bottled-up aspects of the breastfeeding journeys of others, I perpetuated a romanticized myth of what constitutes successful breastfeeding.

I am sorry. Please forgive me.

With all my love, sincerely,

~Jessica

bottle feeding and breastfeeding The Leaky Boob Sugarbaby

Do you use bottles? How do you feel about using bottles? Do you share pictures on social media of your baby receiving bottles? Need help bottle-feeding your breastfed baby? Check out this articleFacebook page, and this book.

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What I Want You To Know About Why My Son Can’t Eat- FPIES

By Carrie Saum Dickson

This guest post shares the feeding journey of 16 month of Echo as told by his mother. A breastfeeding, pumping, allergy story of a little boy with a bright spirit and a mom and dad with steadfast hearts and commitment. Their story is beautiful, inspiring, challenging, humbling, educational, and so very raw. Be sure to go on to read part 1 and part 2 of their story as well.

Carrie and Echo FPIES

Shortly after birth, my sweet little boy, Echo, had a stroke. We struggled to breastfeed and I ended up exclusively pumping for him. But that was hardly the extend of his feeding difficulties. You see, my son can’t eat. For a while there he couldn’t eat anything, now he has a few safe foods. But he still really can’t eat. He’s 16 months old.

My son’s name is Echo and he has FPIES.

What is FPIES? According to The FPIES Foundation:

Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome (FPIES) is a type of food allergy affecting the gastrointestinal (GI) tract.  Classic symptoms of FPIES include profound vomiting, diarrhea, and dehydration. These symptoms can lead to severe lethargy, change in body temperature and blood pressure. Unlike typical food allergies, symptoms may not be immediate and do not show up on standard allergy tests.  Furthermore, the negative allergy evaluation may delay the diagnosis and take the focus off the causative food.  Nonetheless, FPIES can present with severe symptoms following ingestion of a food trigger.

I will tell you this: I’m a fierce mama bear. I will not let my son be defined by a stroke or FPIES or anything else over which he has no control.  He is a strong, charismatic, people-loving, joyful being. He walks confidently into a room full of strangers, waving and smiling as though the world has been expecting him all along, and is ready to receive him. He is so much more than a diagnosis or cluster of symptoms. Echo is pure light. We do our best to make the world safe for him. Sometimes we fail. With every trip we’ve taken and guest we’ve hosted, Echo has experienced acute reactions each time despite our vigilance. But we walk a very fine line between taking calculated chances and raising Echo in a bubble.

This. This new normal. Echo, at 16 months old, has two handfuls of safe foods and resists eating, all while laughing and giving kisses and shaking his head “no”.  Me? I’ve made peace with the pump. Peace with my life in this moment, with the ever-changing new normal. My son has one constant and safe food source that he never turns down (mommy’s milk!), and it brings me great peace of mind. We’ve learned to keep participating in life, even when my mom innocently asks if there’s a mute button for the pump motor, or when Echo enthusiastically licks the trash can and we know we will be up all night.  I’ve learned I can do anything for ONE MORE DAY, which in this case adds up to almost 500 days. Especially if it’s for my son. I’m grateful and proud that my body still impossibly provides most of what Echo needs. The dark clouds of survival lift and retreat when I remember this: I am lucky to be his.

Echo FPIES I am the voice

Here are three things I want you to know from my experience:

  1. FPIES scary and effing HARD. Have you ever tried to keep a toddler from eating food? It’s impossible. And sad. And no matter how careful we are, Echo often manages to find something and then we hold our breath until we know he’s okay. Leaving the house is stressful, play dates are almost impossible, and no space (except ours) is safe for him. Leaving him with a sitter is always a test of faith and competence. Finances are continuously tight. As it turns out, shipping donor milk, taking the max dose of Domperidone, (which insurance does not cover), and keeping up with medical bills all require quite a bit of cash. Also, it really takes a toll on a marriage, even a solid, seasoned one. Many families don’t make it through these rigorous trials with chronically ill children intact, even with proper support. Try not to judge us when we all seem a little fragile.
  2. FPIES is exhausting. When Echo experiences a reaction, he is in continuous pain, nobody sleeps for two days, and we have to take extra care with him. It requires total gut rest and a diet of only precious breast milk for days. I hate that he suffers so much, and it takes us all about a week to fully recover. We get little sleep and even less respite. We are hyper-vigilant everywhere we go because food is, well…everywhere. So, if you see Lance or me getting hyped-up when Echo gets food on his finger or there are crumbs on the floor or freak out when you pull out the goldfish crackers, please don’t think we’re crazy. And please don’t take offense when we start cleaning up after your kid or respectfully wiping their hands and faces before they play with Echo.
  3. FPIES is a real thing, and it’s rare. I’m part of online support groups where moms have been diagnosed with Munchausen Syndrome when they take their very sick children into the ER after an especially bad reaction, and some parents have had their children taken away because the doctors don’t even know what FPIES is or believe the parents when they explain it. (The parents eventually get their kids back when the doctors and social workers see that the reactions happen no matter whose care the child is under.) Although I refuse to dwell in fear of this happening, it is still something that happens. And the only way it stops happening is if you guys know about FPIES.

 

For more information about FPIES, visit these websites:
The FPIES Foundation
http://fpiesfoundation.org/fpies-medical-literature

From the American Journal of Pediatrics: The Mother of All Food Allergies
http://www.jpeds.com/article/S0022-3476%2803%2900273-7/fulltext

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Feeding Echo, Part 2- Solids, Vomit, More Pumping, Donor Milk, and FPIES

By Carrie Saum Dickson

This guest post shares the feeding journey of 16 month of Echo as told by his mother. A breastfeeding, pumping, allergy story of a little boy with a bright spirit and a mom and dad with steadfast hearts and commitment. Their story is beautiful, inspiring, challenging, humbling, educational, and so very raw. Be sure to go on to read part 1 and part 3 of their story as well.

Echo eating solids

We began introducing solids when Echo turned six months old. My career focuses on healing the body and restoring vitality through nutrition, and I was excited to begin this work with my son.   I was ready to share the burden of feeding my baby with the rest of the food-eating world, namely organic fruits, veggies and properly-raised protein.

I was already planning a pump burial ceremony the day after Echo’s first birthday. My enlightened, supermom-self felt extreme gratitude to be able to exclusively give Echo breast milk for six months, and I could find the grace to pump six more. I know it is a precious gift so many moms are unable to give their babies and I felt genuinely humbled. But with my supply waning and the freezer stash quickly diminishing, I was ready to have help feeding my son. I was also ready for some sort of life again, a life that did not revolve around pumping and keeping up my supply. Plus, my nipples were starting to look kind of horrific, my areolas worn paper-thin in spite of my best efforts to keep them in good shape. My favorite mantra of “I can do this for ONE MORE DAY” felt as thin as my areolas. I was officially over it.

Happiest Echo 8 months

Echo’s first solid food was avocado and he LOVED it. He got it all over his face and hands and in his hair. Then we tried pastured egg yolk with grated grass-fed liver. I’ve never seen such a look of joy on his face. My baby was a total foodie at heart, just like his mommy. He wasn’t a huge fan of winter squash, but that was okay. He liked everything else we gave him.

We traveled to Texas for Christmas and Echo threw up a couple of times. It happened a little while after eating, which was weird, but we chalked it up to travel and maybe a stomach bug.

We came home, gave Echo avocado again, he threw up exactly two hours after eating it. Then he continued vomiting uncontrollably for the next 90 minutes and even threw up bile. We communicated with his doctor intermittently over the next 12 hours, assuming he was allergic to avocado. Echo bounced back in 48 hours, and a few days later we gave him his favorite, egg yolk. Exactly two hours after ingesting the egg yolk, the vomiting began again and this time it was much more severe. Echo became extremely lethargic. We communicated with his doctor continuously throughout the night. I gave him sips of watered-down breast milk and Lance and I took turns soothing and cuddling him.

We saw Echo’s doctor the next day and she brought up Food Protein Intolerance-Entercolits Syndrome, or FPIES for short. She tested Echo’s stool for blood, and it returned positive. We researched FPIES and his symptoms fit exactly, but nobody wanted to jump to a diagnosis. A few days later, Lance gave Echo a carrot to teethe on and precisely two hours after introducing the carrot, Echo threw up. That confirmed it. Our son was allergic to food. I wept unabashedly in front of his doctor on the day we received the FPIES diagnosis. Staring down the tunnel, that watery light of hope ending my relationship with the pump, began to flicker and fade as I realized there was no real end to pumping in sight. Not only that, but my baby was very sick and I could do very little to change that for him. I felt completely undone and powerless. The impossibility of pumping for the next 2.5 years loomed big and the dark clouds of survival rolled back to cover me once more. I would not break up with my pump any time soon. But more than that, my baby was sick. The kind of sick you can’t fix, or treat, or hope away.

We chose to stop all food trials, (with the exception of coconut oil, which has no protein in it), until Echo turned one. Resting his gut seemed like a wise move, and gave Lance and I time to come to terms with our amazing miracle boy who needs meticulous care and consideration. It also gave us time to come up with a strategy for feeding him, and space to deal with the long-term ramifications of FPIES. With each new food introduction, the rules for trialing it are stringent: one food at a time for 18 days in a row, followed by a three day break and reintroduction on the 21st day. No grains, no soy, no cow’s milk, no corn derivatives and no processed or combined foods. All of this in hopes of healing and reducing the strain on Echo’s gut. Eating out, eating in, traveling, playdates, childcare, the zoo, splash pads, children’s museums, playgrounds…they are all latent with food. Our home is safe from Echo’s trigger foods, but the rest of the world is not. Echo even reacts to grass and leaves that he sneaks in his mouth while we are outside playing, which turned us both into helicopter parents. Lance and I both mourned the loss of freedom we all would experience, but mostly the loss of freedom and exploration for Echo.

One More Day Carries Pump Hygeia

At eight months, my supply tapered way down, and no amount of herbs, tea, extra pumping sessions or positive thoughts brought it back. Under the supervision of my doctor, I tried Domperidone as a last resort. It worked for the most part, however, I still needed to supplement with donor milk. This was another hurdle. Echo mildly reacts to specific foods in my milk and I wanted to find a donor who would be willing to follow the same specific diet I do to give my son the best chance at healing his gut. One of my oldest friends, Allison, stepped forward and offered to be a consistent, diet-compliant donor and ship the milk overnight from Texas to Oregon every month.

Allison wasn’t the only person to step forward and help us. My three closest friends have also provided safe milk for Echo’s supplementation. With their help, Echo has remained in the 70th percentile for weight. Our vibrant, close-knit community have all helped us stay afloat. They’ve prayed, rallied, provided meals for Lance and I, given us date nights, an understanding and compassionate place to vent, and most importantly, a safe haven for our son. Company picnics and nanny-shares and beach weekends with our friends are possible because our remarkable little tribe cares enough to share the burden of Echo’s well-being.

Carrie lance and echo

 

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Feeding Echo, part 1- Breastfeeding Trauma, Exclusively Pumping, and FPIES

By Carrie Saum Dickson

This guest post shares the feeding journey of 16 month of Echo as told by his mother. A breastfeeding, pumping, allergy story of a little boy with a bright spirit and a mom and dad with steadfast hearts and commitment. Their story is beautiful, inspiring, challenging, humbling, educational, and so very raw. Be sure to go on to read part 2 and part 3 of their story as well.

skin to skin newborn

It’s 8:30 on a Wednesday night. My husband, Lance, is in our son Echo’s room, feeding him his bottle and reading a bedtime story. Bedtime is later than usual tonight. After working a full day building my practice as an Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor, taking Echo to an early evening doctor’s appointment and cooking dinner for the three of us, time slipped away from me. Echo ate his dinner late, too. We are all tired and cranky from a day that held too much activity and not enough down time.

I’m washing baby bottles in the kitchen when I hear Lance frantically yell through the monitor, “Carrie! Carrie! It’s happening again!”. I slip the bottle I’m washing back into the soapy water and hurry to Echo’s room. Echo, Lance, and everything within a three-foot radius is covered in vomit. I grab a towel for Lance, take our crying one-year old son, and try not to cry, too.

I draw a bath while Lance peels off his vomit-soaked clothes and climbs in the tub. I undress Echo and give him to Lance and go clean up Echo’s bedroom. I strip the double bed, break out the sanitizer and get down on my hands and knees to make sure I don’t miss anything. I study the vomit: color, consistency, quantity, and make notes to share with Echo’s doctor. The details are important.

I go back to the bathroom to get my sweet, smiley and spent little boy, put him in fresh pajamas while Lance showers. We start the bedtime routine all over again. We play peek-a-boo and pretend to eat his toes and we all feel a little better after laughing. I go back to the kitchen, finish washing Echo’s bottles, and sit down on the couch with my trusty pump as Lance kisses me goodnight and heads to bed himself. It’s 10:15. Exhausted, discouraged and hurting, I massage my right breast, which seems to constantly be clogged these days, and allow myself a good ugly cry. I leave the fresh-pumped milk out on the counter so I don’t have to waste precious minutes heating up a bottle in a couple of hours when I’m sure Echo will wake.

It’s 11:00 before I climb into bed, my right breast still hard and hurting with unexpressed milk. I know my sweet little Echo will wake up several times tonight, either from pain or hunger, and I’ll sing to him and soothe him the best I can in those long nighttime hours.

Echo has eaten green beans 10 days in a row now without any reaction, and we began to hope that maybe this would be a Pass. That his diet would expand to something other than breast milk, coconut oil and spinach.   This latest vomit episode signals the end of the green bean trial and one more food to add to the Fail column, of which there are many. And more than that, it means we have to start over from scratch with a new food, and all of the trepidation and hope that comes with it. I fall fitfully asleep worried about my baby, my boobs, and this betrayal of my son’s body called FPIES: The Mother of All Food Allergies.

Echo’s relationship with food has been fraught with difficulty from Day Two. When he was 36 hours old, he stopped breathing while nursing and continued to stop breathing every 10 minutes for the next 16 hours. In the hospital, he received his nutrition through an IV for almost three days. We didn’t know it at the time, but Echo was experiencing non-breathing seizures due to a stroke he suffered sometime shortly after birth. None of the doctors could tell us what caused it, and they chalked it up to happenstance.

Echo stroke NICU Exclusively pumping

My relationship with feeding my son has also been fraught with difficulty. Resuscitating him when he turned blue at my breast brought on PTSD and panic attacks for months. Over a year later, I still feel a faint, tiny, cold fist of fear in my chest when I remember it.

My first experience with a breast pump was sitting next to Echo’s bed in the Pediatric ER while a team of medical personnel worked furiously to keep him from crashing every 10 minutes while my eyes continuously leaked tears of terror and exhaustion. I pumped every 3 hours around the clock, even when I could not hold him for two days as my milk (miraculously) came in. I continued to pump, proud of my body for rallying to feed my baby, in spite of the circumstances and in spite of my fear. My body could do this one thing for my newborn son, and it did it well through bone-crushing exhaustion and fear.

Around four months old, Echo began making great strides in his stroke recovery. The muscle weakness on the left side of his body that affected his latch retreated. We weaned him off one of his anti-seizure meds. He woke up to the world around him, alert and happy and contagious with laughter. He also rejected the breast entirely. We had worked up to three nursing sessions a day and I was sad and frustrated when he wanted nothing to do with it. He looked terrified and scared every time I put him to breast. I told him aloud “we can do the hard things together, baby”, the phrase which I used to affirm us from pregnancy on, and resolved silently to myself as I hooked up my pump, “I can do this for ONE MORE DAY”. Grace always showed up to help me through those difficult early days of weaning and extra pumping.

 

exclusively pumping

I wondered if Echo remembered his first seizure and in my gut, I knew forcing the breast was re-traumatizing him. So, we stopped nursing. Many of the dark clouds our little family had been surviving under, lifted. We enjoyed lots of cuddles and closeness with bottle-feeding and we allowed this breast feeding-free world to be our new normal. I developed an even closer relationship with my pump. It went with me everywhere, even places my baby couldn’t. I tried hard not to resent the extra dishes, the double duty of pumping and bottle-feeding, my miniscule supply of free time, and the total loss of freedom to just take my baby and have a day away from home without first planning how much milk to bring and where I could pump in privacy.

Carrie and Echo skin to skin

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My Baby’s Heartbeat Bear “Save the Midwives” Giveaway

My Baby’s Heartbeat Bear is there for all parents who want a special way to preserve that precious baby heartbeat captured before birth.  Those cute and cuddly keepsakes now have a new friend: the “I <3 My Midwife” bear, inspired by their creator’s own birthing experience last year.  In honor of midwives and to support them in her creative way, Purusha has added a “Save the Midwives” BabyHawk Mei Tai carrier and the “I <3 My Midwife” heartbeat bear to her online store.  Check out what she has to say about these new products and enter for your chance to win them in the giveaway below.

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TLB:  Followers of The Leaky Boob know My Baby’s Heartbeat Bear as a sponsor that cares about moms, and the beautiful bond that they have with their babies.  Could you remind our Leakies about the furry products you carry? 

Purusha: Yes! We carry Heartbeat Animal kits for expectant mothers to record their baby’s heartbeat and create a unique pregnancy keepsake. Each kit comes with an adorable stuffed animal and heart shaped recorder.

TLB:  You now carry a couple of new items in your store in support of midwives.  Could you tell us about those? 

Purusha:  We just added our exclusive “SAVE the Midwives” Babyhawk Mei Tai and “I <3 My Midwife” Heartbeat Bear kit!

TLB:  What inspired you to start carrying the “Save the Midwives” Mei Tai and T-shirt wearing bear? 

Purusha:  Last year I had a homebirth. Except it wasn’t in my own home. Where I live midwives are not legally allowed to accompany a woman giving birth in her home. So I was forced to find a place out of state to have my baby.  In fact, this is happening all over the country. I was lucky enough to have an amazing Midwife that offered her home to me and she is the reason I created these products.

TLB:  What was your experience like working with a midwife? 

Purusha:  It was a wonderful experience. She gave me the emotional, physical, and spiritual support I needed during my pregnancy and the birth of my 10 lb. baby boy!

TLB:  Is there anything else that you would like our Leakies to know about My Baby’s Heartbeat Bear or your “Save the Midwives” products? 

Purusha:  A portion of every sale is donated to the Save the Midwife legal fund. We all deserve the right to choose how and where we give birth. It’s time we help SAVE the Midwives.

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Purusha is giving away a Save the Midwives Mei Tai, and an “I <3 My Midwife” Heartbeat Bear to 1 lucky Leaky.

  1. Raise awareness and benefit from the convenience of babywearing with this swanky Babyhawk Mei Tai.  Retail Value: $115.00

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  1. The I Love My Midwife Bear kit comes with an adorable 15″ stuffed tan bear dressed in our “I <3 My Midwife” t-shirt, and red heart recordable sound module to record your baby’s heartbeat. Retail Value: $35.00

midwife jpg

 

Currently Leakies can find these and other cute and furry items at mybabysheartbeatbear.com.  

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Good luck to everyone!  Please use the widget below to be entered.  The giveaway is open from October 14, 2014 through October 21, 2014.  A big thanks to Purusha and My Baby’s Heartbeat Bear for their ongoing support of TLB and all breastfeeding women; please be sure to visit their Facebook page or follow them on twitter and thank them for their support of TLB and this giveaway opportunity.  You can also find My Baby’s Heartbeat Bear on Pinterest, Instagram, and YouTube!

This giveaway is restricted to U.S. residents only.

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Lactation Consultant Licensure in the United States

By Stephanie Rodriguez-Moser, IBCLC, RLC

Breastfeeding newborn

On July 3rd of 2014, something very exciting happened in the lactation world. Rhode Island passed a bill that would allow International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) to be licensed providers.   A surprising number of people have no idea that this occurred, or what it means for professionals, mothers, and babies.

Licensure is something that lactation consultants have been working towards for a long time. Breastfeeding support has many faces, and this can lead to a lot of confusion for those looking for lactation services. The Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition has a wonderful document that goes into all of the credentials out there and what they mean, what they stand for, and what kind of services they provide. If you click on that link and download the PDF, you will see that it is really, really long.   There are 14 types of lactation help listed, and several of them use a “L” and “C” in the name, even though they all have different standards of what they are, what they do, and what their scope of practice is.

Currently, anyone practicing breastfeeding care can call themselves a lactation consultant. It’s not a protected term. This can be a problem, because a mom who thinks she is getting help from a qualified, trained professional might actually be getting help from a lay person. While I firmly believe that there is a need for many types of lactation support and assistance, I just as passionately believe that mothers have the right and need to know the training of the people that are helping them. Generally speaking, IBCLCs are the most qualified to be engaging in clinical care of the mother/infant dyad as breastfeeding is concerned. Most of the other certificates or certifications are qualified to provide education and basic counseling.

Licensure of IBCLCs protects mothers. It provides a way for mothers to know that the person they are seeking out has met the standard of qualifications dictated by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE). This includes lactation specific training, college coursework, clinical hours, passing a comprehensive exam, and regular recertification. A licensed body means that mothers would have a board to file a complaint with if the IBCLC damaged their breastfeeding relationship or acted in an unprofessional or unethical manner.

This would also help IBCLCs be placed in more areas. There are many “lactation deserts” out there, where help and support is difficult or impossible to come by. This isn’t due to lack of IBCLCs, but it is due to lack of job opportunities and reimbursement options. The Affordable Care Act was great for breastfeeding support, but failed to define who was a trained lactation care provider that was eligible for reimbursement. IBCLCs that are non-nurses, not advanced practice nurses, et cetera, are not seen as billable licensed providers for lactation care in many states – especially through Medicaid. Hospitals and clinics are therefore often skittish about hiring someone for lactation care alone, as reimbursement can be a problem. Private practice providers have a difficult time getting insurance companies to see them as reimbursable. WIC clinics often don’t have the budget to hire IBCLCs as stand alone IBCLCs, especially in smaller areas. This leads to women in minority and/or socioeconomically challenged areas not having available help, despite the fact that these are the women facing some of the biggest challenges with breastfeeding.

We all want mothers to be supported in their unique breastfeeding goals, be that a year (or more!) or a month or even a day. Access to qualified care is one of the best ways to make this happen – and licensure is a big part of that. I encourage you to find a way to get involved in licensure efforts in your state. As someone who is chairing a licensure effort, I can assure you – we need a lot of help! Please find your state’s information below and see what you can do.

(If your state is not listed or is listed incorrectly and you know the licensure contact information for it, please let us know. We would love to include them!)

Colorado

Florida

Georgia and More for Georgia

Massachusets

Minnesota

Pennsylvania

New York

North Carolina

Utah

Is your state missing? Please contact your state breastfeeding coalition to ask what they are doing for advocacy in your area!

 

Starbaby Star Rodriguez, IBCLC, RLC is a provider in the Central Lakes, MN area.  She provides services online at Lactastic Services and in person.  She also blogs for The Leaky B@@b and volunteers her services to loss mothers at Stillbirthday.

 

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Tips From The Leakies for Breastfeeding and Babywearing

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Breastfeeding in a Beco Baby Carrier Soliel video demonstrating how to position and adjust the carrier, baby, and breast for hands-free breastfeeding:

The Leakies on the Facebook page had some tips to share for breastfeeding and babywearing, no matter your breast size:

  • Don’t wait for baby to be super hungry and upset, it’s easier when everyone is calm.
  • If your carrier has a hood, put the hood up for privacy.
  • Use a lightweight baby blanket rolled up under your breast for support and positioning help.
  • For small breasts, be sure not to drop the waist band too low and don’t be afraid to tighten the straps for better support.
  • If you need baby higher, a rolled up baby blanket under their bum can help.
  • Practice at home before trying to do it in public.
  • Talk to your baby while you position them to help you both keep calm.
  • Stretchy necklines are your friend!
  • It’s important to get comfortable, don’t end up sore or awkward, practice positioning until it works for both of you.
  • Try to have babies head tilted a bit so nose is clear to breath safely.
  • Hip carry options can be easier for large breasts.
  • Baby’s mouth height should be just at/above nipple.
  • Hold your breast for the latch.

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What tips would you add?

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