fbpx

What you need to know about breastfeeding and postpartum contractions

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Naturepedic

This post made possible by Naturepedic Organic Mattresses for the whole family
Use the code “TLB15” for 15% off your cart at naturepedic.com.

Lactation can save your life, help heal your body, and be good for your uterus.

This is all true.

We talk a lot about how great breastfeeding can be for baby, but did you know it can be great for your uterus too? What your uterus wishes you knew about lactation:

It can save your life.

Potentially in more ways than one. But what really makes your uterus happy is that putting your brand new baby to suckle at your breast stimulates the release of oxytocin in your brain which helps your uterus to clamp down. These postpartum contractions are often called afterbirth pains. That initial latch of your wee babe strengthens the natural contractions and if you haven’t already, helps you expel the placenta and make sure you don’t bleed to death. It can help prevent a postpartum hemorrhage. But don’t worry if your baby doesn’t want to feed right after birth (give them a break, it was an eventful occasion, being born), this continues to work for as long as it takes for your uterus to reduce to it’s normal non-gestating size.

The uterus returning to it’s not-currently-gestating size gives room to the organs that have been squished, making it easier to breathe, eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom. It also means less pressure on the pelvic floor organs and tissue. This is an important stage of early healing. Often afterbirth contractions are more intense and painful with subsequent babies but it still does the job. Hate it all you want but it is way better than hemorrhaging and it’s the body’s perfect way to make sure you’re safe and around for a long time.

Every time you put your brand new baby to your breast, even if it doesn’t last long, and you endure a wave of contractions you may curse, swear, stomp your foot, breathe through clenched teeth hissing at your partner that next time they’re having the baby but those painful afterbirth contractions that your nursing babe brings on are important as they cut off the supply of blood to where the placenta had been allowing for healing and recovery to take place. Some don’t experience these contractions as much more than some mild cramping, others find them worse than labor itself. There’s a wide range of experiences, don’t be alarmed if you find that your own varies from that of others. 

Along with signaling to the uterus it’s time to shrink back down, breastfeeding can help you rest. For many that have just had a baby, life just doesn’t let them have the time they need to really heal and that open wound in their uterus doesn’t get the rest it needs which can lead to mom becoming anemic, fatigued, sore, and taking longer to heal. While there’s always a lot to do, breastfeeding can help busy moms take a load off in those early weeks with a hungry baby forcing them to sit and be still long enough to work on a good latch and fill up that little tummy. Taking time to have skin to skin fosters the breastfeeding relationship and can reduce their healing time, leading to sustainable recovery. And because it can help reduce postpartum bleeding and menstrual bleeding both in volume and length of time, some will experience a natural rise in iron levels which will be a real energy boost.

 

Fertility can be delayed with lactation. With my last baby, my 8th full term pregnancy, I got a break from my period until 21 months postpartum. Including pregnancy, that was more than 30 months off and no ovulation. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t miss it one single bit. This isn’t a guarantee but the majority of people experience a delay in the return of their fertility after giving birth if they exclusively breastfeed/chestfeed (meaning no supplementation). When baby is fed only with nursing, the body suppresses fertility to focus on continuing to grow this little person. This would mean no period sometimes until full weaning happens though any time solid foods, supplementation, or artificial nipples are introduced it’s possible their cycle will return. Sometimes that can be thrown off, usually if artificial nipples are used (yeah, even with bottles of their own pumped milk) but sometimes even if there is only ever exclusively nursing the cycle may return early in the postpartum period. But for those that experience suppressed fertility due to breastfeeding, it can be a nice break from their regular menstrual cycle. Because there are no guarantees though, unless you are hoping to get pregnant again shortly after having your baby, some kind of birth control measures would be wise.

Lactation can help with endometriosis and may help reduce cancer risks. Because it is common for the menstrual cycle to be delayed by lactation, those that have endometriosis may experience a stabilization of the progression of their condition which may lead to some relief. This won’t necessarily cure the condition but some do find it is no longer an issue. Causation or correlation, studies show that women that breastfeed have lower incidence of developing uterine, endometrial or ovarian cancer. 

Nursing is no magic bullet that will save you, you may lactate and still get cancer, you may nurse and still experience a retained placenta or postpartum hemorrhage, you may bodyfeed and struggle with endometriosis or have your fertility return right away. But hey, a chance that you could get a break and make your uterus happy? If you can, it could be a chance worth taking.

_________________________

If this resource was helpful for you, consider helping The Leaky Boob by giving back. Help us keep our information, support, and resources free by becoming a patron and get access to exclusive content just for our supporters. Join here today.

______________________________

 

Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of wereallhumanhere.com, freelance writer, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. Jessica lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest and co-parents her 7 daughters with her husband of 23 years.

How to set up a lactation space you’ll love

by Jessica Martin-Weber

This post made possible by the generous support of Ready Rocker
Use Code: TLB-30 for 30% off your cart on readyrocker.com

 

There’s something comforting about knowing you have a space just for you, all set up with your favorite comforts. When you get there, you can really relax, you feel safe, everything you need is right there, and you can focus on what is really important to you. That is even more true for breastfeeding.

While lactation and baby or toddler feeding happens where it needs to, when it needs to, it can help to have a regular comfortable space or two set up for when you’re home with everything in easy reach so you can just focus on what’s really important. Being comfortable, able to focus, and able to relax can make a difference in getting a latch that works for you and baby without pain, encourage let-down, prevent stress on your body, allow for more complete postpartum healing, and support different positions.


To set up a lactation space you’ll love, keep in mind that one-size-doesn’t-fit-all. We’re all different and that’s great! What works for one may not be what works for another. So get specific about what you like and don’t worry if you’re the only one doing it that way. Your lactation space, like your lactation journey, should be as unique as you and your baby are. Don’t pressure yourself to have the instagram ready lactation journey or breastfeeding space, let your journey unfold, seeking help and using the tools you need in the process. It may not be perfect (whatever that means) but it will be real and that is beautiful.

Some considerations:

Since nursing can be expected to happen at least 8-16 times a day (such a wide range) and be up to 30 minutes a session (and honestly, sometimes longer while you and baby are first learning), meaning 8 or more hours a day spent JUST feeding your baby, it’s important to be as comfortable as possible for those feeds. With that in mind, here are some considerations to take into account when setting up your lactation space.

Picking a spot- get comfy!

  • Quiet and away or in the middle of things?
  • Comfortable seating options? 
  • Is there room for position options and changes such as football hold or laid back positions?
  • Room for others or just you and the nursling?
  • Do you need to be near an outlet, entertainment remote controls, etc.?
  • Lighting- are you able to control the lighting to make it brighter or dimmer?

Once you’ve decided the specific space or two- it may work best for there to be multiple areas set up as a lactation space depending on the time of day or other needs of the family, it can save a lot of stress and headache to have the items you may need or will make you more comfortable within easy reach. What that is depends on each individual’s unique needs but there are some most find handy.

A basket, rolling cart, small tub, caddy, or bag nearby to contain the smaller items makes it easy to have everything you may need in addition to the seating and larger elements of your lactation space. This way you can move your lactation space as needed with easily portable items contained and elements that have multi-function or are portable can streamline the process once you’re more comfortable breastfeeding in other areas. This is why I love a charging adapter with multiple port types and the Ready Rocker for a rocking chair option I can take anywhere.

May be helpful to have…

  • Footstool
  • Water/drink (trust me, you’re going to get thirsty)
  • Snacks (nothing like breastfeeding hunger!)
  • Ready Rocker 
  • Nursing pillow or other supports
  • Cozy options (blanket, sweater, etc.)
  • Nursing pads
  • Heat/cold packs
  • Helpful tools (i.e. nipple cream, lactation massager, burp cloths, hands-free-pumping-bra, etc.)
  • Fidget or safe toy
  • Breast pump or silicone suction expression cup
  • Phone charger
  • Speaker or earbuds
  • Entertainment (phone, book, tablet, etc.)

Now all that’s needed is the baby!

Oh, and while not a part of the actual space, set-up for each lactation session by being sure you empty your bladder first and washing your hands. You don’t want to regret that step, that’s a sure way to make even the most comfortable spot miserable!

How do you have your lactation and baby feeding space set up? Is there anything you’d add to our considerations?


_________________________

If this resource was helpful for you, consider helping The Leaky Boob by giving back. Help us keep our information, support, and resources free by becoming a patron and get access to exclusive content just for our supporters. Join here today.

______________________________

 

Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of wereallhumanhere.com, freelance writer, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. Jessica lives with her family in the Pacific Northwest and co-parents her 7 daughters with her husband of 23 years.

TLB’s First Ever Newborn and Postpartum Summit

Newborn and Postpartum Summit

A totally free event with say-it-like-it-is conversation about the newborn and postpartum stage featuring guest experts and The Leaky Boob’s New Baby Guide.

This completely free summit event is made possible by the generous support of GooseWaddle, My Baby’s Heartbeat Bear, Charlie Banana, Pura Stainless, Andaluz Waterbirth Center, Bets & Emy, Crane USA, and TWELVElittle.

Enter the giveaway at the end of this post before December 1st for your chance to win some of our favorite products from the sponsoring brands.

 

___________________________

Guest speakers:

Rebecca Michi, Children’s Sleep Consultant

Dominique Gallo, IBCLC, Doula

Sue Potts, CNM

Angela Campos, Child Injury Safety Expert, RN, CPST

Victoria Strong, CPST

Laura Brown, LE, CPST, Babywearing Educator, Postpartum Doula

___________________________

 

The summit featured 4 livestreams on The Leaky Boob Facebook Page, and they’re all gathered here for your convenience:

 

Newborn Behavior: Sleep and Feeding- The Leaky Boob Newborn and Postpartum Summit

The dreaded “is she a GOOD baby?” is almost always really about sleeping and feeding and crying. But are babies really even capable of being “bad?”

Is my baby supposed to do THAT? Is it ok he wants to feed ALL the time? Whoever said “sleep like a baby” hasn’t met my baby- will she ever sleep? Is that even normal?

What is normal anyway?

Down to earth, this first livestream in The Leaky Boob Newborn and Postpartum Summit debunks the “good baby/bad baby” myth with a realistic look at normal newborn behavior when it comes to sleep and feeding.

 

Postpartum Recovery and Healing- The Leaky Boob New Baby and Postpartum Summit

Why do they smash on your belly after you give birth? What’s with the no baths rule? Why does your bleeding change color?

Certified Nurse Midwife Sue Potts fills us in on the postpartum recovery process explaining what’s happening in our bodies, what we need to fully heal, and what to expect with your care provider.

The Leaky Boob Newborn and Postpartum Summit features 4 livestreams with different guests in one day taking an honest look at the newborn and postpartum period. Host and TLB founder Jessica Martin-Weber is joined by her best friend, Sue Potts, CNM to tell you about the wonders of perineal ice packs, what’s really behind the no baths rule, and more about postpartum healing and recovery.

 

 

Newborn Safety and Gear- The Leaky Boob Newborn and Postpartum Summit

Have you ever asked “is that safe?” What’s the most common injury for babies? How do you know you pick the right car seat? What hidden dangers am I missing to keep my baby safe?

Child Injury Prevention Expert, Angela Campos, RN, CPST and Baby Gear Concierge, Victoria Strong, CPST join host and TLB founder, Jessica Martin-Weber for The Leaky Boob Newborn and Postpartum Summit. Hear what safety products are worth investing in and get guidance in what baby products you really need, what’s nice to have, and what you can probably skip.

The Leaky Boob Newborn and Postpartum Summit features 4 livestreams with different guests in one day taking an honest look at the newborn and postpartum period. Host and TLB founder Jessica Martin-Weber is joined by two long-time Leakies and safety experts to discuss gear and safety for the Newborn.

 

 

 

What Postpartum is REALLY Like- The Leaky Boob New Baby and Postpartum Summit

The first pee and poop after having a baby… what’s it REALLY like? How long does the bleeding last? Did you know about the night sweats? Or why you may want to hold on to those maternity clothes long after giving birth?

Postpartum Doula Laura Brown is our special guest for an honest-to-goodness-hold-nothing-back discussion about what postpartum is REALLY like. Giving it to you like it is, you might just laugh so hard you’ll pee yourself.

The 4th livestream in The Leaky Boob Newborn and Postpartum Summit, host and TLB founder Jessica Martin-Weber is joined by Laura Brown with real-talk about our bodies and lives after having a baby. With 13 children between them plus many more they’ve supported through birth work, doula support, breastfeeding support, and more, Laura and Jessica draw from experience to be sure nothing about the postpartum period takes you by surprise.

 

If for some reason the videos aren’t playing for you here, you can follow these links to watch them on Facebook:

Newborn Behavior: Sleep and Feeding

Postpartum Recovery and Healing

Newborn Safety and Gear

What Postpartum is REALLY Like

___________________________

Here’s the giveaway! Ends December 1, 2020.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

More Than Mommy Exhaustion: How I recovered my energy and health

by Carrie Saum

Mommy exhaustion.

I know you’ve felt it. Too many nights waking up with your tiny baby, fussy toddler, or insomniac older children. Feeding on demand, pumping around the clock, midnight and 2am boob snacks that stretch to 4am. School projects, sleep regressions, a few minutes of Me Time between 11:31-11:57 pm after all the dishes are done, lunches are made, and housework is sort of caught up.

You pour another cup of coffee at noon, after reheating your first cup approximately six times in the microwave. You try an energy drink mix that your friend is selling. And still. You are so worn out, you can barely string five words together to create a coherent thought.

You resolve to take walks, get outside, or try that pilates DVD you’ve had for ages. You feel good about your choice, but you are wiped out for the rest of the afternoon, trying to recover your shaking muscles and push through the exhaustion until you can climb into bed.

You resolve to eat better, cut out the junk and convenience foods, and maybe that will help you feel more energetic, too. After a few weeks, you see a marginal improvement, but it’s not enough of a pay-off for the sacrifice you are making.

And let’s not even talk about the weight gain.

You wonder if maybe you’re missing something but chalk it up to this season in life where sleep is scarce, demands are abundant, and time for self-care is at a high premium. Of course you’re depleted. Who wouldn’t be?

A few months ago, I brought up my debilitating exhaustion to my doctor. Being a mom herself, she’s familiar with all that goes along with it. She encouraged me to see if there might be an underlying problem in addition to this season of life. She told me about a blood panel called The Boston Heart. The Boston Heart tests multiple vitamins, nutrients, and hormones using a fast blood test. Many insurance plans cover it 100%, even if you have high deductibles. I checked into my insurance coverage, and sure enough, it was covered. No money out of my pocket to get some information about unidentified issues I might have which would paint a bigger picture of my health, instead of just chalking it up to parenthood.

When my results came back, I was shocked. Even though my thyroid was in surprisingly good shape, (which I thought was the culprit), my niacin levels were incredibly low. And you know what happens when your body doesn’t have enough niacin? Your muscles shake when you exert them. Daily tasks wear you out. Do you know what makes it worse? Not getting enough sleep, too much stress, and eating processed foods.

Magnesium, Omega 3, Vitamin D3, and my progesterone were also very low, all of which are easily depleted during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Hello, depression! So, no matter how much sleep, good food, or exercise I was getting, I still felt like crap because I was drawing from a dry well.

I began supplementing with food-grade vitamins immediately, on the recommendation from my doctor. My trusty pre-natal vitamins weren’t enough for my specific needs, and I sealed them up tight and put them in my refrigerator for future use. I strategized to get veggies in every meal, and keep seasonal fruit on hand for when the sugar cravings were too much. I added as many healthy, unadulterated fats as I could. I whipped up a salad dressing using hemp seed oil, which is full of Omega 3, and a little apple cider vinegar. Buttered coffee was always on hand. We stocked our refrigerator with grass-fed meats and veggies to lightly sauté or roast as the main course for all three meals.

OvereasyFriedEggSalad

My go-to meal for quick, easy nutrition: Two sunnyside up fried eggs over greens with hemp seed oil, ACV, and dried herbs. Perfection.

Oh, and I put a total moratorium on strenuous exercise, eating out, and plans with friends before noon and after 5pm on the days I wasn’t working. I also went to bed at 9:30. It meant less Me Time. It meant I often went to bed with dirty dishes in the sink, my floors unswept, and wore the same pair of jeans six times before washing. But it was only for a few weeks and it was vital for my recovery.

I found that watering and weeding my garden while my toddler played close by was enough exertion for me. I also found that I relaxed on a deeper level than I have in years because I gave myself permission to stop trying to do it all. I just did some, accepted what I was capable of in that time frame, and waited until I felt replenished to rejoin the world.

GardenPlay

We happily kept it low key in the community garden.

After the three week moratorium was over, (and believe me, it was hard saying no to things), I started slow. I worked hard to begin refilling my very limited well. Being gentle with my body and my psyche was my number one priority. This is how I came back to the world:

  • A walk in the park.
  • Running up and down the stairs to the basement doing laundry.
  • Vigorous weeding and replanting in my garden.
  • A pilates DVD, increasing by 5 minutes at time.
  • Doing something fun before doing work. On purpose.
  • Saying yes only if it felt 100% doable and okay.

These little things added up quickly. But I want to be clear: I stopped when I was tired. Not exhausted. Not beyond my limit. Not when I was shaking and close to dry heaving. Maybe that works for some people, but it doesn’t work in recovery mode.

Last week, I took a very long walk, pushing my two year old in a stroller the whole way up and down hills that would have had me shaking with exertion after 10 minutes a few months ago. I walked at a pace I felt comfortable with. I stopped and pushed my son on a swing and then stopped again a little later to get an iced decaf coffee at one of my favorite neighborhood places. As I pushed my son up the final, excruciatingly steep hill, I huffed and puffed but I did NOT slow down. My brain wanted to quit but my body was up for the challenge. I spent the rest of the afternoon working, cooking, and playing with my son. I’m not joking when I say that has never happened before on the days I worked out.

And later that week when we braved a trip to the beach, I chased my toddler all over the beach, splashed with him in the water, and played soccer on the hard packed sand without getting winded.

MommyandEHugPoint

Playing hard at the beach with my little boy, feeling super energetic, happy, and proudly rockin’ my bikini.

These bodies of ours are amazing. We are resilient. We are tough. But being exhausted all the time is not normal. Even for you, mama. Be gentle with that body. Be kind to your skin and your bones and your blood and your squishy places and your soul. And find what works for you to feel like yourself again.

 __________________________________________________________________________________

If you like this article, check out Peace In The Passing: Why My Early Miscarriage Was A Relief and her series on #TinyTriumphs over on Our Stable Table.


IMG_2895Carrie 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 and health knowledge. Carrie has extensive first-hand experience in vast array of medical and service fields.
With background in paramedic medicine, Carrie spent ten years serving in the non-profit sector managing organizations, programs, and orchestrating resources to meet health needs of people across the United States and abroad in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Zambia. As an AWC, Carrie currently coaches her clients and their families about topics including nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. In addition to her work as a wellness counselor, Carrie is a passionate “foodie” and the voice behind OurStableTable.com. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son.

 

 

 

 

Baby Weight Workout

I hear often from moms wanting to get back in shape after having a baby but concerned that exercise and dieting could harm their milk supply.  IBCLC Star Rodriguez helped clarify the questions we see frequently from moms on breastfeeding and fitness in this article here.  Be sure to check that out and don’t forget that it is always best to work with your health care provider in determining a healthy activity level and nutritional plan.  

Once you are certain that adding working out and increased physical activity is a healthy choice for you (and evidence supports that it’s healthy for most of us!) the challenge many parents face is when to find the time, space, and right activity.  Having children around it can be difficult to make some space for yourself and your health.  You are worth it though and your children deserve to have healthy parents, plus, when your children see you making physical activity and your own health a priority, you are modeling how important it is for them as well.  The best way for your children to develop healthy habits is for you to demonstrate healthy habits yourself.  Happy health to you and your family!  ~Jessica

 

Jennifer from Fit For Expecting has offered up a workout to help make it easier to find some time to take care of you.  Check out this Baby Weight Workout that you can enjoy WITH your baby.  I think it’s a great springboard for customizing and creating your own workout that fits your family’s unique makeup.  For more support, be sure to check out Jennifer’s website and like the Fit For Expecting Facebook page.  ~Jessica

Most moms know that exercise is good for them physically, mentally and emotionally. But, when life gets busy, exercise often gets put on the back burner. I designed a workout specifically for Leakies, that’s quick (5 minutes total) and incorporates baby into each exercise. I’m calling it the “Baby Weight Workout” because, that’s right, baby functions as the weight.
A few general exercise tips to keep in mind:
  • For your comfort and for a content baby, you might want to breastfeed before exercising.
  • Stay hydrated – drink water before, during and after exercising.
  • Eat a snack 1 1/2 – 2 hours before exercising.
Enjoy!
TLB Workout - Exercising with Baby

Help them help you- new baby sign with ways for visitors to help

Sugarbaby, minutes old. Photo by Debra Parker

For my last 2 babies, my midwife had a piece of paper she taped to my front door before she left after the birth.  Announcing to visitors that there was a new baby in the house, it shared birth facts such as weight, length, name, date, etc.  That part was nice but what I really loved was the part about what visitors could do.  Informing them that a new baby means help is needed and that their visit should be brief, this little piece of paper taped to my front door encouraged those that loved us and wanted to celebrate with us to keep their voices low, limit their time, understand if we needed to be alone, and give them ideas of how to help such as offering to do the dishes, sweep a floor, run the vacuum, or take the bigger kids to the park.  In short, it helped our visitors figure out how to be the best kind of visitors and I discovered that I didn’t mind having people stop by as much as I did with my older kids simply because they helped more and were more understanding of our needs.  Knowing they already saw a notice of sorts on the front door before they came in made it easier for me to respect my own boundaries, excusing myself to rest or not feeling awkward about them asking if they could help with something around the house.

There are far too many expectations on families when they have a new baby.  Respecting the postpartum recovery and the important bonding that needs to happen with the new family member sets up families to continue on well for the long haul.  If you’re breastfeeding, this time is crucial to establishing your breastfeeding relationship and focusing on that will have a long term pay off.  Pushing for too much too soon, other people interfering with the bonding, can leave moms feeling burnt out and unwell months, maybe even years later.  Having true support and help to take the time to really heal leads to endurance in the parenting journey.  That, and knowing we’re not alone along the way.

So my gift to you is my version of this life-saving piece of paper.  Ask your care provider to sign it complete with the appropriate initials behind their name then stick it on your front door when your little one arrives and leave it there for at least 6 weeks (8 if you birth via c-section).  Be a good friend and print it off to give others that are expecting for them to put on their front door.  Don’t hesitate to point out the note, referring to it by asking if they saw how much baby weighed or how long she was and if they didn’t notice, encourage them to go check out the info posted on the front door.  It can be hard to ask for help yet not allowing others to help ends up creating isolation and robbing others of the joy of offering support and encouragement by helping. This little bit of guidance can help not only the new mom and family but the friends and family that want to offer quality support but just aren’t sure what is needed.  Take the guess work out of the picture and everyone wins.

new baby help sign for front door

 new baby sign and help list for front door