Where's All the Good Mama Friends At?

Dear Mama,

We are here for you during the best, most amazing time of your life.

And you are wandering around Target and the mall, working or hanging out at home, wondering where all the good mama friends are.

 

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Being a mama is magical. You know that and we know that.

Babies help you make oxytocin and that hormone makes everything feel amazing. But to reduce it to oxytocin is to minimize what you just did. You grew a human being with your body.

Say that again.

Your BODY, that never measured up, in any way, in your life, just grew a human being!!! And if breastfeeding is working, you are still growing that baby or child with your magic milk.

And more magical than that, your baby LOVES you. Bigger than that, YOU are the center of their world. You are the sunrise and sunset, the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega or this little human's life. And for the next few years, it's just going to get bigger and better! Nobody loves more intensely than children.

But this is the toughest job in the world, and if you try to do this solo, you will be sooo.... unhappy.

It's OK to be unhappy. Raising a baby or child comes with constant changes and some downright unfairnesses. It's exhausting. It brings up all your bad memories. It can bring out the worst in your birth family and partner. You may be noticing the bloom is off the rose of your marriage. You may be feeling postpartum and weepy. Your body may make you cry in the way it looks, or feels.

I wish I could tell you that all that bad stuff will just go away. It usually does, but sometimes it gets worse. If it's getting worse, you should know that you can get help to make things better.

Stop and think a minute. Are you more happy or more unhappy. If unhappiness is winning, it's time for some positive changes, and you can't do this alone.

First. Do you even remember who you are?

Can you remember those days when you used to have it all together? What did you do that made you feel like "YOU?"

Take a pause right now and remember those things.

They're a lifetime ago, but they are still relevant. You still need them. And your mission in your life, besides trying to grow a human, is to start fitting some of those back into your life.

Go ahead, roll your eyes in an impersonation of your best 15 year-old self.

There are definitely some things you never want to do again. That's OK! Becoming a mother is another stage in growing up.
 
And some of the things that you used to do, you can do with your baby, even if you just start with little bits of them. Maybe instead of full made-up face, you do a quick eyeliner and lip gloss? Maybe a haircut and some product will help you have wash-and-wear hair? Maybe you can walk with your baby as the first step back into mountain climbing? Maybe your baby likes shopping as much as you do? As your baby grows, you will make more time for yourself.

There are some parts of reclaiming your old life that you will need help with.

Date nights are essential for couples. Even if you only pretend for an hour that you don't have kids over take-out burritos, it reminds you of some of the reasons why you decided to be together. There are so many ways to do this: Send the baby out and stay home; Bring in gramma and head out; Swap toddler playdates with another couple in the same boat; Bring the baby out in a sling for a late dinner; Sneak away from the family reunion for a bike ride or swim; Bring the baby and babysitter to the fancy-pants wedding and nurse between segments.
 
You are no stranger to major body changes, sleepless nights and hormones. This also happened when you entered puberty! You figured that out and you will get a grasp on this, too.
 
Do you need more exercise or good food? Accountability from an app, a group or personal trainer all help keep you on track for fitness. Good food can come from many sources and planning for a week of meals helps most. Enlist your partner, or one of your mama friends to make some meals together. Form a meal coop with your friends. Look into one of the home delivery semi-prepared meal services.

If you feel more than the baby blues, it may be postpartum depression or anxiety. Studies show that social support and exercise are key for maternal well-being. Women are meant to be in community. We need friends and all of us need certain kinds of friends. I know as well as anyone how overwhelming it is, especially if you feel depressed, to add "making friends" to your to-do list.

Which is why I've done all the "heavy lifting" for you.

If you are feeling the need to reclaim your SELF and make some friends, our compassionate and loving community of mamas (and mamas-to-be!) is waiting for you. We have something nearly every day and in all kinds of formats from online and live support groups to classes and events.

We are here so you can get encouragement and inspiration, learn lots of mama and baby tips and tricks, and most of all, to find your new self.

My love to you and your family!

Donna

Donna Bruschi, IBCLC

How to have a great milk supply (for beginners)

Even if your breasts are small, even if you have twins, even if you're worried… (this isn’t foolproof, but it works pretty well)

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The most important factor in making an abundant, but not too abundant milk supply, is frequent, active feeds.

"Frequent" means to feed your newborn 12-16 times every 24 hours until they are 2 weeks old. It may seem like a lot, but you are probably holding, rocking and soothing your baby that often anyway.

"Active" means you are paying attention to how your baby is feeding and your baby is noticeably swallowing milk. Comfort nursing and flutter sucking are part of active feeds, but only a small part. If your baby is comfort nursing for more than 5 or 10 minutes, without falling into a deep sleep, then release them, burp them and switch sides.

A newborn may feed hourly, or may cluster feed for irregular sessions, before sleeping 3 to 5 hours. It may seem like a wide range, but this is normal for humans. No matter what the pattern, most babies need to feed about 12-16 times in 24 hours in the first few weeks.

Pay attention to your baby's sucking and behavior. 

You can’t overfeed a breastfed baby but you can underfeed them.

If baby is rooting, looking hungry or acting discontented, they probably need to eat. If you aren't sure, offer your breast. In our culture, we aren't used to breastfed babies and often moms will compare their new baby to an older breastfeeding baby or a formula fed baby who eats larger amounts every 3 or 4 hours.

If your baby is sleepy and not rooting or discontented, this means you need to keep them skin-to-skin with you and watch for them to stir. When they do feed, use breast compressions to push your milk into their mouth. Many sleepy babies dream feed easily when you do compressions. When they slow down, burp, and switch sides.

When weight gain is steady, breastfeedings are easier, and if your baby is agreeable, it's ok to decrease to 8-12 feeds in 24 hours. Feeding fewer than 8 feeds a day is likely to result in decreasing your milk supply which can lead to supplementation and early weaning.

Use a checklist or an app to keep track of how many times you feed. Frequent feeds may also calm an overabundant supply, avoid engorgement and help to prevent a crying and fussy baby, mastitis, slow or no weight gain!

The role of colostrum

At birth, your baby's stomach is the size of a large marble. As your baby grows, it will be always be about the size of their fist, so, really not that big. The teaspoon-sized feeds of colostrum are the perfect size for their tummy and because the amounts are so small, it's easier for both of you to learn to breastfeed. 

Colostrum is full of immune factors and just the right amount of calories and nutrients for a newborn baby. Your baby may seem hungry and want to feed more. Keep putting them to your breast and switch sides when their suckling slows. It's not that you don't have enough milk, even though it seems like it. Your baby's frequent nursing is jumpstarting your milk production so that you will have enough milk in just a few hours or days. 

A newborn has an immature immune system and is vulnerable to illness.

Colostrum starts fighting germs with immune factors, pre-biotics and probiotics which colonize the baby’s digestive tract. This biome boost creates the thick and protective mucus membrane that will ensure your baby's good health. Just one bottle of formula can disrupt the optimal composition of the biome. Trust your body to respond to your baby's cues. If it hurts or if you are unsure, call or text. We can help you figure out what to do next.

How will I know if I can be successful breastfeeding?

Nobody can look at your baby, breasts, nipples or health history and predict how successful you will be. The only way you can know if you will be successful is to try breastfeeding. The fastest way to be comfortable learning breastfeeding, is to have a mentor or coach, often a lactation consultant, to help you through the first feedings and answer all your questions with accurate information.

If you are pregnant, interview lactation consultants as well as pediatricians so you are know who you are calling and are comfortable asking questions when you need to.

It's easiest to learn breastfeeding the right way the first time.

And, it’s easier to address a breastfeeding problem in the first five days, than on Days 7, 14 or 21 because you and your baby haven't learned any bad habits. More importantly, you aren't totally frustrated and overwhelmed and your baby still has reserves from pregnancy.

If you need help, send a text to Donna Bruschi (845) 750-4402 or fill our contact form. We'll get right back to you.

Embarrassment

Our culture is messed up!

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You may be embarrassed about your breasts and body because they don't look like the pictures you see everywhere. Jumping to the next illogical conclusion, if they don't look right, they probably don't work well either.

Another American cultural mindset is that breasts are part of sexuality. The idea of a baby suckling them is unnerving and weird to many Americans. 

Embarrassment on a deeper level is shame.

Abuse, sexual assault, and shaming as a child or adult result in feelings of shame and disgust that can affects either parent. When parents are deciding to breastfeed or not breastfeed, shame can be the deciding factor. And, when some women breastfeed, it triggers feelings of shame, bad memories, or both.

Sometimes store clerks, restauranteurs, and members of the public stare or show outright hostility toward women breastfeeding their babies in public. If it happens to you, you will feel embarrassed and may not want to feed in public again. 49 states (Idaho is the exception) have legislation protecting breastfeeding as a human right. It's against the law to deny a baby's need to feed. 

In the United States, we have a prudish streak from our Puritan forefathers about certain body parts, sex and nudity. Breasts are thought of mostly as sexual objects which should be hidden from children and the public. 

On the other hand, there has been this tremendous push to free our culture from this constriction resulting in breasts and sex everywhere. It is now normal for women to wear clothes that accentuate and highlight breasts. But not in a functional sense like breastfeeding.

Awareness, acceptance and understanding is the process that eases embarrassment.

Being around other breastfeeding mothers helps overcome embarrassment.. The birth process and being with your newborn also helps the healing process. After birth, many women notice their embarrassment fades and they find breastfeeding natural feeling, and not at all weird anymore.

Breastfeeding is normal and babies need to eat frequently.

Breastfeeding is your baby's most basic right! Pope Francis made a point to encourage mothers to breastfeed in church because what’s good for babies and good for mothers is good for a community. Jesus was breastfed and there is a holy shrine in St. Augustine, Florida dedicated to Mary breastfeeding Jesus.

  • Don’t make any decisions against breastfeeding until you have your baby. Your milk is going to come in after birth and many women feel very differently when they hold and touch their baby. You might not, and that’s OK too. It's your body and your baby.
  • Talk to your partner or husband about your embarrassment. Your partner's role is to protect you and your baby. Make a plan for the early days for when you have guests and for when you feed your baby in public. 
  • Join a mother’s group, like La Leche League or a Breastfeeding Circle where women breastfeed and see how they do it in ways that are discreet. You are welcome to attend mother’s groups when you are pregnant. When asked, most mothers wish they had some to a group when they were pregnant. Ask what kind of clothes they like. Ask other mothers how they overcame their embarrassment or shame. Ask if anyone has a therapist who helps them cope with the stresses of mothering. We have a Breastfeeding Circle at Café Mama on the calendar.
  • Look up the breastfeeding law in your state. 49 states explicitly protect nursing in public. Some people print the law on business cards to hand out while they are nursing in public. 
  • Thinking about all the ways breastfeeding is good for your baby and watching how your baby is thriving while breastfeeding is a good way to overcome your embarrassment.
  • If you feel intense emotions or depression while breastfeeding, know that there is a name for it. (Dysphoric Milk Ejection Release, D-MER) Find a therapist who can help you with bad feelings and memories that come up.
  • Buy one or two shirts made for nursing so you don't feel exposed. 

If you just can’t bring yourself to breastfeed, you may want to pump and bottle feed. Your baby will be receiving the best food in the world. Many women find it fulfilling and satisfying even though it has its own set of challenges. It might be the way for you.

So-called Breastfeeding Fail

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Moms can’t believe how quickly the first 2 months go by, but that only happens after the first two months are over. Make a long term commitment to breastfeeding by focusing on one day at a time. Try not to quit on your worst day, because it can take a two or three months to get comfortable breastfeeding.

There’s a wide, wide range of normal.

Breastfeeding takes many forms. Some women breastfeed exclusively, but many more do not. Some women express and breastmilk feed. Some women have enough milk for three babies and can't get their baby to latch comfortably. Some women use donor milk or formula in a supplementer.

When you are in the thick of it, days last forever. You can hate breastfeeding. You may dread feeding your baby and your baby may even refuse to breastfeed.

If you are facing one challenge after another, and it's affecting your physical, mental or emotional health, it's healthy to re-evaluate how committed you are to breastfeeding or breastmilk feeding. In making the decision whether to stop or to continue, you need to include how much support you have and what resources are available for continuing.

If it isn’t working, accept that it isn't working. It’s your life. You will have to find ways that work for you and your family not only with with birth and breastfeeding, but with sleeping, vaccines, discipline, friends, school, and more. There’s more to life than breastfeeding, even though in the beginning, it feels like there is ONLY breastfeeding.

There are many, many reasons why breastfeeding doesn’t work out and you may never know exactly why.

But even if you do know, it’s still not what you wanted. It’s sad, even devastating, when it happens. And, it can take a while to grieve your loss even if you feel relieved that you stopped. It’s normal to have mixed feelings about ending breastfeeding. You may feel angry, defensive or resentful and happy all at the same time. It's normal to cry and be weepy. Feeling your feelings doesn’t mean you are a bad mom, it means you are a healthy mom.

Give yourself time to be angry; to rage at yourself, your doctor, the hospital, the world or even God. Anger is expression of an injustice that has been done and a force for positive change. You may fill a journal full of venomous thoughts. And, you may also find your life’s purpose through your anger.

Accept it, grieve your loss, and get back to living your life and enjoying your baby.

Once you put the loss behind you, you will have energy to discover other things that make you and your baby feel good and connect with each other. In the end, what matters is that you love and accept yourself and your baby. Everyone wants to feel successful. When they don't meet their breastfeeding goals, many women shift gears, expanding into an area of their life where they do feel successful.

I hope you create your own positive way of thinking about your experience because any amount of breastmilk helps you and your baby. Know that however long you nursed and however much milk your baby received, gave them a wonderful start in life with life-long benefits.

If you are criticized or judged by people who didn't see the cascading chain of events leading to weaning, it can be helpful to use statements like “I made a choice.” and “This works for our family.” which are more energizing than “I failed at breastfeeding.” or “I didn't get the right information and support.” Whatever you do, just don’t think or say you failed. Maybe you didn’t breastfeed as much as you wanted to, but you tried, and in trying, you got to know yourself and your tremendous courage, strength and love.

Everyone has insurmountable challenges in life.

You are going to know babies with disabilities, kids with life-threatening allergies, teens who die in car crashes, parents who lose their jobs or divorce, and so much more.

This is your challenge right now. It's not an easy one but you will find the strength to get though it because you love your baby.

Breastfeeding Café

So... "What happens at the Breastfeeding Café?"

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We talk. We nurse our babies. We talk about nursing our babies and what that is like on that particular day or week or month. Some bottle feed, either in transition onto the breast, to use up milk in the freezer, because they've weaned or because they aren't comfortable breastfeeding in public.

We celebrate. We celebrate challenges overcome and milestones achieved. We listen to eachother and offer empathy, compassion, hugs and friendship.