This summer as you get outside to explore, keeping your baby close and on you can be a big help with feeding your baby. With so many different types of carriers available, there’s almost certainly an option that will work for you. Between the different brands of carriers (and some brands having more than one style, such as Tula), online support and information (such as this online chat with Paxbaby and The Leaky Boob) and retailers (where you can find many different brands in one place!), babywearing libraries, babywearing educators, and ways to purchase used; more and more families have access to figuring out what babywearing can be for them.
And that’s good news. The skin to skin contact of babywearing sends signals to your body that helps you produce milk even as you’re busy keeping up with older kids and vacation plans. There are so many benefits of babywearing, even including neurological and physical development, see more on that here. Even better, for moms feeding directly at the breast, learning how to breastfeed in a carrier can be a total game changer, making it possible to feed on the go. We think this is so important, we have a whole workshop at the Milk Conference to teach moms and support providers more about breastfeeding in the carrier. While not everybody will be comfortable breastfeeding in the carrier, having the option to do so can help remove just one more breastfeeding obstacle. Carry all the babies, feed all the babies! (On your front, just to be clear, unless you have a sense of humor and flexible breasts like this.)
Even if breastfeeding in the carrier isn’t for you or if you’re not breastfeeding directly at the breast, babywearing can be a fun and special way to care for your little one… and your toddler! (I share all about why you might want to wear your toddler and preschooler here.) Babywearing is an excellent way for non-breastfeeding partner parents to connect as well, (older siblings too, see this article for more on sibling-wearing) fostering connections and closeness in shared experience and constant snuggles. For tips on what to consider in looking for a carrier that works for you and/or your partner, check out this link to get you started.
The conversation and education about babywearing has increased, and with good reason. There are a lot of benefits of babywearing but it is important it’s done safely. This is why we are talking about it, anyone could make a mistake (including this celebrity) and babywearing safety is important. Together we can support each other in caring for our little ones.
Want to read more? Check out the rest of our latest news on breastfeeding, partner and babywearing resources, and EXCLUSIVE giveaways in our latest newsletter
RIGHT HERE !!
by Vivian Muehlen
this post made possible by the generous support of KoalaKin.
I still wince when I think that I had to give up breastfeeding 5 months after my son was born, due to a myriad of issues ranging from low milk supply, tendonitis, mastitis and lower back pain. And that was almost 12 years ago!
When my second son was born, I was again 100% committed to breastfeeding, but now I also had a preschooler running around the house. Not only that, but I was again afflicted with mastitis (caused by a poor latch) and arm, neck and shoulder pain from breastfeeding my little guy 8-12 times a day. Wait! Wasn’t breastfeeding supposed to be natural? It was then that I realized that breastfeeding may be natural, but its not instinctual. I needed help ASAP!
I tried slings and wraps, but they didn’t work for me. They weren’t supportive enough and my son’s face always ended up not perfectly aligned with my breast, or his latch would slip as soon as I moved.
I was at my wits end, almost giving up, when I decided to create my own solution. As soon as I developed a halfway functioning prototype of the KoalaKin and began using it with my son, a flood of relief ran through me as I was finally able to relax a little bit. My son was supported, his latch was firm and I had not one, but two free hands. Not longer feeling any strain, I was able to give my boy all my attention. I noticed his teeny, tiny fingernails, his fine hair, and the insane cuteness of his little feet… Words cannot explain the feeling of empowerment, confidence and GRATITUDE I felt when I realized that after all these years of struggle, I was finally able to effortlessly breastfeed my child.
And best of all: I now loved just staring at him breastfeed, knowing I was giving him the absolute best. There’s no feeling like it. No pain, all gain.
One of the best pieces of advice I received in my breastfeeding journey, was that it was important to minimize stress as much as possible. When moms are stressed, their breast milk supply usually decreases dramatically. Also, some studies even show that elevated levels of stress also cause a defective let down reflex.
Paradoxically, breastfeeding in itself is actually calming. The hormone prolactin is released during breastfeeding, which gives mom a feeling of peace and tranquility. That being said, the worry ABOUT breastfeeding (is my baby getting enough, what, he’s hungry again?, when is the laundry going to get done?), causes stress amongst moms and may interfere with a mom’s ability to establish a good milk supply.
What I wish I had known on how to relax during this special time:
Don’t wait until your baby is crying. Nothing stresses out a mom more than hearing her baby cry. Fussiness is the first cue that a baby is hungry. This is the time a mom should calmly sit or lay down with her baby and nurse. Not waiting until the baby cries will greatly reduce feelings of stress and overwhelm.
Listen to calming music. Take a moment to pop in your favorite calming tunes. Don’t focus on what kind of music you listen to, focus on how the music makes you feel. Classical music may be relaxing to some, and annoying to others. I personally liked to listen to yoga music, which always drove my husband crazy!
Create a favorite breastfeeding spot. Be it a bright space by a window in your living room or a dimly lit corner in your child’s nursery, creating a favorite breastfeeding spot can immediately relax and calm a tired, overwhelmed mom. Again, choose a spot that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. That’s the feeling you want over and over again when you breastfeed.
Make sure you are seated in an ergonomic way. There is virtually no way a mom can relax if her body is feeling any level of discomfort. Back or arm strain can make a nursing session torturous, and therefore it is very important to ensure mom is comfortable, and can stay that way for the next 20-40 minutes. A chair with excellent back support and an armrest is a must. Breastfeeding pillows, slings or a KoalaKin can help support the baby’s weight, allowing mom to relax any areas of strain and enabling a more ergonomic breastfeeding position.
Prepare a light snack to eat while breastfeeding. Don’t they say “sleep when the baby sleeps”? Well, I’ll add to that and say “eat when the baby eats!” Keep a stash of healthy, convenient snacks, like trail mix, pretzels and hummus, healthy energy bars and fruits where you can just grab and go. Once the baby is latched on and contently nursing away, treat yourself to these delicious snacks. Since nursing sessions can take up to 40 minutes, moms can take their time and really enjoy nourishing themselves!
Read a good book or watch TV. After a good snack, there’s nothing better than indulging in a good book or favorite TV show. As much as breastfeeding can be bonding, it’s not practical to expect to stare into your little one’s eyes through every session any more than every meal with your romantic partner should be a candlelit dinner. Getting comfortable and enjoying something that has you looking straight ahead can also help relieve tension in the neck and shoulders when you have good support.
While breastfeeding is something we do for our babies, with a little bit of organization and practice, this can also be a time that moms can use to take care of and nourish themselves.
Thanks to the KoalaKin, I was able to bond more with my son, and most importantly, I was able to breastfeed longer than I would’ve been able to, because the KoalaKin helped ease the strain I was feeling.
I’m a big believer that a mom should use any tool she thinks might help her successfully nurse her baby. After all, breastfeeding is one of the most beautiful, healthy and natural things a mother can do with her baby. There isn’t any one tool that work for every mom or even with every baby for the same mom. Be flexible and willing to try new things and take care of yourself to better be able to take care of your baby. Relax, you’ve got this!
The KoalaKin Hands-Free Nursing Pouch was created by Vivian in 2009 after she suffered through several very frustrating breastfeeding attempts, where a poor latch coupled with arm, neck and shoulder pain from holding her baby in the same position for 30-40 minutes several times a day, took away from the wonderful experience that breastfeeding should be.
Tired of the pain and frustration, Vivian decided she needed help fast and turned to products such as slings and wraps. However, she quickly realized there was nothing in the market that addressed her needs … so the first prototype of the KoalaKin was born! With the goal of becoming the product that provides the best possible breastfeeding experience, Vivian worked tirelessly with lactation consultants and other birthing professionals, and turned her early prototypes into the KoalaKin that is available today.
by Cindy MacDougall
My youngest child, four-year-old Eddie, likes my breasts. He likes to hug them, and he will sneak a hand down my shirt occasionally. The family joke is that E. is a boob man.
Eddie loved to breastfeed, and continued to do so until his fourth birthday. When we finally weaned, it was a long and gentle process, which I wrote about in my parenting column here.
After weaning, Eddie still showed a need to touch the “babas” that far outweighed my patience for being touched. I had given him four solid years of nursing, and had been breastfeeding for a total of about nine and a half years over four kids. I was more than ready to have my body to myself.
What I hadn’t counted on was that Eddie and my breasts seemed to have a relationship entirely independent form me – at least in his mind.
“The babas are nice and soft,” he explained once. “I love them. I want to hug them, please.”
“But I don’t want you to touch me right now, Eddie,” I said.
“Oh, I’m not going to touch you, Mama,” he reassured me. “Just the babas.”
Another time, I explained to him that he was a big boy who had been weaned, and that meant no more touching my babas. He erupted in floods of tears.
“But mama, I gave up drinking the babas like a big boy,” he sobbed (taking the opportunity to lay his head on my chest.) “I didn’t know I had to give up touching them. I have to touch them, Mama, sometimes.”
We know from childhood development experts that children need touch in order to properly grow physically, mentally and emotionally. I touch and hug my kids often, as does their dad.
But I had never thought about my children’s needs to touch me back, and especially about a former nursling’s need to occasionally reconnect with the breast as they continue to grow away from being a member of a breastfeeding dyad.
I know Eddie is not alone in this need, as my other children liked to touch my breasts after weaning (though not nearly as much) and I had watched friends go through this same struggle. But I didn’t know how common this need is amongst children, so I did a bit of Googling to find out.
The La Leche League International message board has several long threads of posts about toddler and pre-schoolers touching breasts after weaning. One mother there described her child as “boob-obsessed,” and others described patting, rubbing, pinching and touching. Some kids were sneaky about it; others outright asked; some needed to touch the breasts to fall asleep.
Dr. Laura Markham, a clinical psychologist and founder of the parenting web site Aha! Parenting, wrote about weaned children touching the breast in her “Ask the Doctor” feature.
“It is very common for toddlers to need to touch their mother’s breasts for comfort or to fall asleep for as much as a year after weaning,” she wrote to a concerned mother. “Your breasts symbolize comfort and safety and love to her…. So if she is clingy, just give her lots of extra reassurance and realize that this is the final stage of weaning.”
It’s good to know Eddie is normal, if enthusiastic, in his need to have some cuddle time with his, ahem, my, “babas.” And the closer we move to his fifth birthday, the less often he seems to need to touch them.
If you’re dealing with a similar situation, there’s no need to change or challenge the habit if you’re both happy and comfortable.
However, if it’s driving you bananas, think of this as an excellent opportunity to teach your child about body autonomy. Your breasts are yours, after all, and it’s important to teach kids that each of us own our own bodies, and no one can touch us, or them, without consent (barring medical necessity, safety, etc.) That gives permission to set the same limits with their own bodies, to be able to say “no” to unwanted touch.
With Eddie, I made rules: no touching the “babas” unless he asked, only at home, and only a hug or cuddle. He seems to be approaching the end of this “final stage of weaning” and hasn’t asked in a while.
Despite what our society tells us, touching each other, with permission, is generally healthy. For small children, the breasts are about love and nutrition, not sexuality. If we are comfortable with that and allow them healthy touch, it teaches them good things about the body and physical forms of affection.
Cindy MacDougall is a writer, a mother of four children, a public relations professional, and a former parenting columnist with the Victoria Times Colonist. She covered health issues for CBC North Radio One for seven years, and is a recipient of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada’s 2004 Journalism Award for Excellence in Women’s Health Reporting for her radio series “Into the Mouths of Babes: Breastfeeding in the Northwest Territories.”
by Joni Edelman
this post made possible by the generous sponsorship of Rumina Nursingwear.
Let me just start this off right by saying, YAY. All caps YAY. Jessica asked me to write this guest post my and first thought was, naturally, “Who? Me? Are you SURE? But I’m not worthy.” It was a real Wayne’s World moment, and if you don’t know what Wayne’s World is, don’t tell me, I don’t want to know. Mostly because it would imply that I am old. Which I am not. In any case, once I was able to return to standing, I remembered that I have boobs and they have collectively nursed 10 years and 5+ kids.
Editor’s note: I nearly fainted when she said yes she would write for us! And having fed babies meant she was infinitely qualified to write for TLB. Also, Wayne’s World was a Saturday Night Live skit from the late 80’s turned feature film in the early 90’s for those of you too young
to be reading this, I mean, get the reference. Back to Joni…
Speaking of boobs, let’s talk about mine! They’re round(ish). They have nipples. The right one is bigger than the left. And because the right one is bigger than the left, the right nipple points sort of downward in an ode to gravity, and my bellybutton. And speaking of gravity, my boobs and gravity, they are well acquainted. In addition to being round, nipple bearing, disproportionate, and subject to gravity, they are also large. As of this writing, they thoroughly fill an F cup. F is for frick. As in frick, those are some big boobs.
I digress. Let me start from the start. I was born in the early 70s. In the early 70s women were setting their bras on fire and such, which in hindsight seems pretty sensible. I imagine my mother, cut off shorts and tube top, perched on my dad’s shoulders at a Janis Joplin concert, waving her bra in the air, screaming, “THE MAN WILL NOT HOLD ME DOWN.” Or some other such profound feminist thing. As a consequence of the bra burning, my mom wasn’t really wearing bras. As such, I was quite intimately aware of her small sloping breasts and thumb size nipples (which seemed really grotesque to me at 7, but which I now see as relatively common, as in mine look just like that).
I personally didn’t have any boobs. I was 99.7% sure that I was destined to bear the chest of a 10 year old boy until such day as I left this earth.
Then when I was 16 I went to Europe. And while in Europe I ate a lot of pasta/nutella/bread/gelato. Because I was there for quite a while, all that pasta/nutella/bread/gelato basically adhered itself to my butt and chest. Tada. By miracle of chocolate and hazelnuts, plus a sprinkling of hormones, my boobs were born.
And then my first baby was born when I was 20. No one in my family had breastfed a baby since The Grapes of Wrath. So no one really talked about it and no one could, or would, really tell me about it. But I decided I was going to figure it out so I equipped myself with two boobs full of milk and three nursing bras.
I nursed that baby and then her brother and his brother and his sister and her brother. And if you lost count, that’s five. Plus some random babies here and there because I am cow-like in milk production. Milk glands are like sweat glands. So making milk is akin to sweating. I sweat a lot and I also make a lot of milk. COINCIDENCE?
The milk sweating doesn’t really have anything to do with the fact that I have two boulders attached to my chest. That’s mostly just genetics. I’m German and when I consider my family tree I picture a busty barmaid in a corset with a tray of beer. Wait. That’s the St. Pauli girl. In any case, where these suckers came from may remain a mystery but what is not a mystery is that they are big.
I was fit for a nursing bra after that first baby, because the three I bought looked like I was trying to shove a watermelon into a tube sock. When the lovely lady at Pea in a Pod (or something. It was the early 90s, the options were slim) measured me and declared me a 34G, I must have turned some shade of white/green, because even she looked alarmed.
Ten year old boy to Dolly Parton. Bam.
Bras and nursing tanks are more readily available now, but in the 90s if you wanted a special size you had to order it. From a catalogue. I know. It was the dark ages. We just all sat around looking at our catalogues by candlelight and eating our curds and whey.
Milk ducts actually increase with the birth/nursing of each subsequent child. Which basically means that by now, I’m equipped with enough milk-sweat glands to feed a not very small village. I nursed my last baby 2.5 years from a G cup.
Nursing with breasts this plentiful has it’s benefits, and of course it’s downfalls. Discuss.
- Buying a bra is no easy feat. Forget off the rack, unless you go to Sports Authority and buy two hammocks and whipstitch them together.
- Discretion is not easy. It’s hard enough to keep a baby covered much less a breast the size of volleyball. I never even tried. Look stranger, I double dog dare you.
- Your giant breast may inadvertently smoosh into your baby’s face. Not like suffocation level though (because babies are born with that little nose channel to help them breathe, probably in circumstances such as these) but smoosh, non the less.
- It’s more likely that your infant will inadvertently latch on to the side your breast, simply because there is so. much. boob.
- Your back is probably going to hurt from lugging around a pair of tatas heavier than your baby.
- Looking like Dolly Parton. (This can actually fall into either category. The former, from my perspective)
- In the event you are tandem nursing, it is quite easy to nurse two children at once, even if they are not near each other.
- In that same category, you can nurse on your back. Because your breasts simply fall down. The one time gravity and breasts work together toward a common goal.
- Ever been on a long car drive with a crying baby. Boob in the carseat and you don’t have to dangerously lean over the seat. Need I say more?
Despite my lack of support/example/community I nursed all five of my babies until they stopped. I’m profoundly grateful for my E.5 (left) and F (right) breasts. They have served gallons and gallons of meals to a bevy of babies. My gratitude is expressed by way of a well fitting bra, ordered from a catalogue. Just kidding, thankfully it’s from Cacique. Which is good because I’m fresh out of candles.
I’m Joni. I’m lucky enough to have 5 amazing kids (19, 16, 15, 4 and 2), one fantastic husband, an awesome sister and a yarn addiction. When I’m not raising up people I’m a freelance writer, RN, and the momma behind mommabare. Love is my religion. I like cake and crafty crap. And yoga. In that order.
Call for speakers
MILK: An Infant Feeding Conference,
Calling for submissions from clinicians, scholars, students, artists, mothers, fathers, researchers, and others familiar with infant feeding from clinical and social perspectives. Submissions of a wide variety are welcome, including research presentations, theoretical papers, academic papers, creative submissions including personal essays, social commentary, literature, and performance art.
We are looking for presentations on topics related to infant feeding and maternal health including but not limited to: continuity of care and infant nutrition, the diagnoses and care of physiological barriers to breastfeeding, sociological barriers involved in infant feeding, anthropological perspectives of infant nutrition, analysis of marketing in the maternal baby industry, conscientious marketing, exploration of infant feeding and child nutrition controversies, policies in the workplace for family support and breastfeeding, politics of infant feeding and policy making, postpartum depression and mental health research related to infant feeding, infant feeding practices in subsequent children, sociological family support and infant and child nutrition, infant feeding education, infant nutrition in public health, feeding multiples, managing maternal health issues through breastfeeding, nonviolent communication strategies for supporting infant feeding, developing infant feeding support products, immediate postpartum infant feeding support, the impact of birth interventions on maternal breastfeeding goals, maternal and pediatric allergies and infant nutrition, premature infants and nutrition, feminism and infant feeding, natural duration breastfeeding, weaning, infant nutrition and sleep, partner support and education, breastfeeding after breast reduction, socioeconomic and racial disparities in infant feeding support, breastmilk pumping, inducing lactation and relactation, the role of infant nutrition in relation to dental care, and the future of infant nutrition support.
Submissions accepted through February 28, 1015 and close March 1, 2015.
Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference, is a MommyCon conference envisioned by The Leaky Boob with the support of Ergobaby. Designed to bridge professional conferences for clinicians, health care providers, academics, and researchers, with consumer conferences for parents, Milk aims to educate, inspire, and support parents in feeding their children, as well as the people that support them including nutrition, lactation, maternal, and pediatric health care providers.
To submit to speak at Milk 2015, please use this form.
by Carrie Saum
This post was made possible by the generous sponsorship of Wean Green Glass and TLB sister site, Our Stable Table.
Can we just chat about ED for a hot second? Yes. That ED.
It happens, nobody really wants to talk about it, fewer people want to hear about it, and yet it affects so many of us. ED complicates the most straightforward activities, creates more stress during a stressful season, and siphons our time, energy, and mental capacity to make sound decisions.
Elimination Diets suck. (What? You didn’t think I was talking about the other kind of ED, did you? Psh.)
I’ve been on some sort of elimination diet for over two years. First, it was because I was pregnant. I involuntarily eliminated most food for 5 months, then only added in what my incubating baby would allow me to consume after that. And what my unborn child wanted to eat was croissants and kombucha, in spite of my every intention of eating mostly protein, veggies and fruit. Then I birthed my baby and ate ALL THE THINGS. That was a mistake. Turns out, my son didn’t take well to many foods, even through breastmilk. After a few months, we regulated one of the meds he had to take for seizures, and I cut out wheat and dairy for starters. My son’s poop diapers improved a bit. I could easily blame the rest of his relatively mild GI issues and eczema on his meds, so I left it at that for a few more months.
Then he started solids.
Within weeks, it became crystal clear that not only was my babe intolerant of certain foods in my breastmilk, he wasn’t tolerating solid foods at all. He was diagnosed with FPIES, a rare food allergy. We ran every blood test. We tried every non-invasive alternative allergy testing method to help pinpoint possible triggers. He still reacted to my breastmilk, and it was getting WORSE. So, an Elimination Diet was the next stop on our journey.
I started small, became super strict about wheat and dairy. I added soy and sugar to the elimination protocol. It wasn’t enough.
You know what was enough? Cutting out food altogether.
Just kidding. But I did cut out many, many more foods. At one time, my elimination list looked like this:
Eliminated Foods: Safe Foods:
Corn Products (HFCS, Canola Oil, etc) Poultry
Oats Red Meat
Eggs Most Veggies
Pork Most Fruit
Cane Sugar Most Nuts and Seeds
Asparagus Raw Honey
Tomatoes Most oils
Sweet Potatoes Wine
It’s SO FUN eating this way!
Just kidding. Again. Have you tried going to a party where you can’t eat wheat, dairy, sugar, soy and corn? Because nothing says party like rice and kale, I became a master of RSVP’ing to Evites with a cute “I’ll be there with my own delicious green smoothie and big bowl of brown rice to share!”
Although all of my friends and family are supportive, not everyone understands the nuances of an ED. Some would kindly try to accommodate me at dinners and parties and ask me for a list of foods to avoid. Without fail, I would email the list and my friends would reply with “What the hell do you eat?!”. My answer? “Hopes and dreams.”
After a while, I found it was easier just bring my own food to the gathering and eat it on the sly while I pumped in a back room. That didn’t last long, though. I’m a social creature and need interaction. So, I donned my pump cover and armed myself with a safe-for-me treat and ventured out into the party. People were usually so fascinated or uncomfortable by the pump mooing next to me that they didn’t pay much attention to the weird food I was eating.
Later, when I could manage a night out without pumping every three hours, I brought enough food to share. Then I made it a game. I would try to come up with the tastiest, most decadent ED treat my limited options would allow and then present it as regular food. Pretty daring, right? It worked. My food was always a hit. And I rarely told people the ED backstory because good food is GOOD, regardless of what label you put on it.
Mamas, we make an obscene number of sacrifices for our miniature milk monsters. We wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s okay to be sad to give up our comforts while still being glad to be able to provide what our little ones need. And if the sadness of giving up ice cream or baguettes gets to be too much, replace it with something else that brings you joy. For me, it was something like this Meyer Lemon Coconut Tartlet , and this fun infographic only you will appreciate.
Carrie Saum brings a passion for wellness and over a decade of experience in health care to her clients. A certified Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor (AWC) from the Kerala Ayurveda Academy, she empowers individuals and families to achieve health and balance through time-honored practices. Carrie has extensive first-hand experience in vast array of medical fields. She has a background in paramedic medicine and spent ten years serving in the non-profit sector managing organizations, programs, and orchestrating resources to meet the health needs of people across the United States and abroad in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Zambia. She has coached countless clients on topics such as nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. In addition to her work as a wellness counselor, Carrie is a passionate “foodie” and blogs regularly about healthy cooking and nourishing the whole family with The Leaky Boob’s sister site OurStableTable.com and Facebook page. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son.
by Carrie Saum
This post was made possible by the generous sponsorship of Wean Green Glass.
Pumping. Nursing. Weaning. Teething. Lip ties. Tongue ties. Thrush. Mastitis. Clogged ducts.
What do these have in common?
Well, for starters, they can all be painful. Super painful. When I started my breastfeeding/pumping journey, I experienced serious boob trauma. In all of the pre-baby breastfeeding classes I took, nobody prepared me for pumping, nobody showed me how to hook one up, and the diagrams in the pump directions resembled a more risqué version of Ikea furniture assembly than easy-to-follow steps. Add a poorly fitted breast shield on a double electric pump, a baby with a hard suck, partial facial paralysis, and upper lip tie and you have the recipe for some seriously ouchie boobies.
I look back now and laugh at my naïveté. After all, much of what I’d heard from other moms was that breastfeeding (and pumping) would be painful. I expected it. So when my areolae wore down to pale, oversized, paper-thin circles, I wasn’t surprised. When my nipples were a violent bright red, sometimes tending towards purpley-black hues, I thought it was normal.
IT IS NOT NORMAL.
Common, but not normal. And a sign of there being something wrong. Not that you’re doing something wrong but that there is something wrong.
For months, my breasts were off limits, even to myself. The slightest graze of my husband’s hand would cause me to shriek, and not in a good way. The needle-like spray from our low-flow shower converted me into a stinky land dweller. I white-knuckled my way through each pumping or nursing session, telling myself that this level of pain seemed excessive and prolonged, but gosh, it was supposed to be this way, right? RIGHT? Even though I had been evaluated by FOUR lactation consultants, none of their suggestions seemed to help. I began combing the internet to figure out how to make feeding my baby less painful because this just was not working.
After correcting my son’s lip tie at 8 weeks, nursing became slightly less painful. (Wonder if your little one has a tongue or lip tie? Check out these basics of tongue and lip ties here.) I wanted to enjoy it. I loved the cuddles and sweet stares between us. But damn it, my boobs still hurt! Because of some other medical issues my son faced, I still pumped 50% of the time. I wised up and began using coconut oil to lubricate my breasts during pumping sessions. I changed out my breast pads every day. I washed and sterilized all of my pump parts regularly. I soaked my bras and nursing tanks in an apple cider vinegar solution before laundering them in order to kill all of the milk/saliva/sweat bacteria. And still…the pain was nearly unbearable.
I asked our doctor, who is also our midwife, to take a look at my breasts at my son’s four month check up. She called in another one of the midwife-doctors for a second opinion and they were both visibly pained by what they saw. My doctor suggested trying a different type of breast shield, which I ordered that same day, and manuka honey breast pads for my nipples and aureolas.
Turns out, the manuka honey breast pads are very spendy. I bit the bullet and purchased them anyway. I was desperate. After $20-ish and a week of use, my boobs started to feel so much better. I showered with abandon. I slept without breast pads. Nursing felt remarkably less painful. My husband touched my breasts and I almost enjoyed it. However, I still had a long way to go before they were healed up enough to lose the super-sensitivity.
Since I’m a mom on a budget, I set out to make my own raw manuka honey breast balm concoction. (It was still expensive, but more financially viable than the pads.) Initially, I was worried about putting honey on my breasts. Honey + baby = potential botulism. But cleaning the area impeccably (and I do mean impeccably) before nursing or pumping made it safe for my little guy. I created a simple recipe, used VERY clean utensils and pots, and made certain to keep the honey in it’s most raw state possible in order to preserve its antibacterial and healing qualities.
I applied this in a micro-thin layer in the morning during my son’s longest daytime nap, and again in the evening for a couple of hours before bed, making certain to wash thoroughly with soap and warm water before pumping or feeding. I also switched out my breast pads to avoid cross-contamination. Within two weeks, the super-sensitivity vanished. I enjoyed feeding my baby, softened at my husband’s touch again, and didn’t cringe when I accidentally bumped my boobs while changing my shirt or squeezing by someone in a crowded place…like our bathroom.
So, to recap:
Pumping and breastfeeding should NOT be excruciatingly painful for prolonged periods of time. But if it is, there’s help. Find an IBCLC, (which I did not do), and have your baby’s latch evaluated. Lip/tongue tie, thrush, suck, etc. They can help you. Also, have your pump properly fitted and ask for a tutorial by someone who knows all about it…like an IBCLC. Lastly, take care of your boobies. They are amazing, miraculous milkmakers and you will only use them in this capacity for a short, but critical, window of time. Take the time to care for them (and yourself) with kindness. Healing oils, balms, spendy nursing pads, whatever. It’s worth it.
YOU are worth it.
The Nice Boobies Healing Salve
3 TBSP Raw Manuka Honey (I like Wedderspoon brand, available here.)
3 TBSP Organic Virgin Coconut Oil
1 tsp Organic Beeswax
1 tsp Rosewater
4 oz tin or glass container with lid, sterilized (we used Wean Green glass.)
1) In a small, stainless steel pot, combine coconut oil and beeswax and stir on low heat until dissolved.
2) Take pot off burner and stir in honey. Once the honey is completely incorporated, stir in rosewater.
3) Immediately transfer mixture to container and allow to cool to room temperature. Cover with lid and store
away from direct sunlight or heat.
1) Wash hands thoroughly. Scoop out a small, pebble sized amount with a clean utensil and warm between fingers to soften.
2) Apply a thin layer of salve to nipples and areola.
3) Cover with clean breast pad or soft cloth and bra.
4) Before nursing or pumping, CLEAN THOROUGHLY, and gently. (Botulism, people. And not like Botox.)
5) Put used breast pads immediately in the hamper to reduce cross-contamination.
*This salve is excellent for healing all kinds of ouchies. I use it on minor blisters, burns, and cuts. This has replaced our first aid cream.
** If the manuka honey is cost prohibitive for you, try sharing the cost with other moms and splitting a jar.
***If you are worried about your baby accidentally ingesting some of the salve, I successfully managed to keep my baby (who is allergic to almost all food) safe and uncontaminated. But please, only use this if you are comfortable doing so!
What kind of nipple issues have you struggled with? What tips and tricks have you found help?
Carrie Saum brings a passion for wellness and over a decade of experience in health care to her clients. A certified Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor (AWC) from the Kerala Ayurveda Academy, she empowers individuals and families to achieve health and balance through time-honored practices. Carrie has extensive first-hand experience in vast array of medical fields. She has a background in paramedic medicine and spent ten years serving in the non-profit sector managing organizations, programs, and orchestrating resources to meet the health needs of people across the United States and abroad in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Zambia. She has coached countless clients on topics such as nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. In addition to her work as a wellness counselor, Carrie is a passionate “foodie” and blogs regularly about healthy cooking via her blog, Come Kale or High Water. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son.
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.
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.
Here are three things I want you to know from my experience:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
From the American Journal of Pediatrics: The Mother of All Food Allergies