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Breastfeeding Basics

Responsive Parenting and My Story of Weaning

As I began weaning my eldest, I began to reflect on the concept of response and the importance it may play in parenting. Being a mother is a wonderful gift and I think that response plays an important role in nursing, feeding, and parenting children.

Weaning can be challenging—both the mother and the child realize how response plays a role in their relationship. I’ve found that reflecting on response as a concept was a beautiful strategy to help me wean my oldest during my pregnancy. I found that around the age my daughter was two years old, there are many other ways that you can respond to a child than by simply nursing them. Although common, it is known that toddlers may benefit from nursing dry, milk, or colostrum response can be a powerful tool in helping a child feel secure, loved, and can learn many new things in a baby-led way. There were times during weaning when I took some time to do different things on my own that had to do with recognizing an internal need I owned going for a walk or simply noticing with love, my daughter play with independence for longer and more engaging sessions that usual.

Weaning can be challenging—both the mother and the child realize how response plays a role in their relationship.

Were the responses always honest? And, how mothers and fathers respond with very unique qualities having to do with attention and care. What does honest really mean? And, if you think it about how we do not know yet, humans may have likely breastfed before they were able to communicate with words and the fact that a child does not yet know how to speak. There is a sense of sacredness in breastfeeding and also in honesty and possibly commitment. A mother and father do care, in different ways. A mother cares a bit with her body and perhaps and bit more with her heightened instinct by transferring her sense of security to her child through holding, loving and yearning. Fathers are very loyal to their children but keep their yearning for something else higher than perhaps the child. It is this lack of knowing that keeps the father’s response honest in the middle of the night or also when a child is fearful or perhaps even hurt or maybe sick.

Some children need more responsiveness perhaps due to where they are in development but also their inherent qualities that are innate.

I think when you as a mom notice that your child does need more responsive qualities in their caregivers in ways that are seperate than weaning this can become especially challenging and also lead to somewhat of a powerless feeling, almost a mild sense of hopelessness tied to a bit of faith in eternity.

Nursing changes me, and most other moms, physically. Also, I was extremely grateful that it gave me a growing sense of confidence, especially when my child was very young, very small and needed food and also immunity protection

I think needs become a sense of connection to yourself along with sometimes your relationship to others later on in life, for example how you feel loss or maybe a bit of grief. There are moments in your life when you can, amazingly easily put something on hold in order to delay gratification until you receive what you may really need later on. To me, this sense of connection to secureness may be related to how you nursed as a child, or maybe weaned. I believe as an IBCLC and also a mom, that how a mother weans can compensate for a the beauty but also the immense challenges a mother may initiates and maintains her nursing.

Nursing changes me, and most other moms, physically. Also, I was extremely grateful that it gave me a growing sense of confidence, especially when my child was very young, very small and needed food and also immunity protection.

Blind faith was what it took me to wean and also at other pivotal moments in my life, if it is good or bad it doesn’t matter as long as you accept that maybe it is something that maybe you could just not do without. I think that essentially unattachment may begin at the beginning of the lifecycle but it is also something you can be in touch with throughout your life kind of like a little flickering candle in the wind. Sometimes you smell the smoke, sometimes you see the flame flicker and other times you just close your eyes and see the flame with a sense of grief that it will always be there. I hope that my daughter got what she needed from her mama milk or nursing experience.

Eventually babies, children, adults and even older adults lessen their connection to the rooting reflex, yet at the same time remembering it helps us to feel safe, nurtured and loved. It is this memory that lasts a lifetime.

It is every mother’s hope to hear the answer “yes, mama, I did,” when mothers ask that question of themselves. Yet when a child is too young to communicate in that manner, mothers and fathers and grandmothers and aunts may begin to answer that question for themselves instead of letting a child speak for themselves. With awareness, around this time, a voice popped into my head. Where did it come from? Was it wise? I did not truly know. To me it was my own voice in a future generation stating a mantra over and over again calling to me, whispering “just a reflex, just a reflex, just a reflex…” I began to think of reflexes, and wondered what are they there for? They are there to keep us safe, to keep us from choking, to keep our eyes from drying up, to prevent us from not being able to conceive of another child, to keep our heart pumping even as we approach starvation, and to show us how to eat and nurture another. Unattachment to our reflexes does facilitate any example of something that does relieve suffering because it is perhaps a bit of give and take with realizing their presence and also yet not needing them. I hoped to give my daughter unattachment by remembering the rooting reflex. The root seems to have a different quality associated with love more than all the other reflexes, yet it also teaches us our first lesson in unattachment through a pattern of remembering and forgetting. Eventually babies, children, adults and even older adults lessen their connection to the rooting reflex, yet at the same time remembering it helps us to feel safe, nurtured and loved. It is this memory that lasts a lifetime. The perhaps Buddhist concept that we can symbolically nurse for a lifetime is challenging to master and even understand. Yet the concept of honoring the mother through compassion affects us all, it affects humanity, and may be carried throughout future generations to come.

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Breastfeeding Basics

Pre-IBCLC Exam Thoughts

When I began this blog almost a year ago, my daughter was not even 6 months old. I remember writing my bio and putting “aspiring IBCLC,” with a sense of hope and determination. Someday… I thought to myself as I was actively completing my five hundred practicum hours under my mentor. The journey was certainly a long one but so far it has been worth it. Yet now, with my exam date less than a month a way reality has begun to sink in, and I am beginning to wondering if someday sooner than I think I may need to delete the word “aspiring,” in my biography section.

One thing that is exciting to me about taking this exam is that this will be the first “international,” exam I have ever taken. Even though I will only be in my little suburban Person test center, it is still neat to think that all across the globe people will be sitting for IBCLC exam licensure around the same time. How perfect is it that of all certifications, the lactation certification is an international one? I think that is great, because all across the world people breastfeed! And, to top it off, the world health organization recommends breastfeeding for the first two years of life.

One thing that is exciting to me about taking this exam is that this will be the first “international,” exam I have ever taken. Even though I will only be in my little suburban Person test center, it is still neat to think that all across the globe people will be sitting for IBCLC exam licensure around the same time.

It will be interesting to think how this blog may also change with time. When I began the blog, there was something exciting about writing aspiring before the letters “IBCLC.” To me this blog is a place with creativity and science meet, a place where together ideas can be explored about breastfeeding journeys, hopes, goals and questions while having a conversation about some of the science of breastfeeding. Since then I have covered topics relating to motherhood and breastfeeding ranging from pumping to sign language to baby massage.

If I pass my IBCLC exam I will be excited about improving this blog in even more ways and looking towards breastfeeding science even more while keeping the conversation fun, light and interesting so passions about breastfeeding and motherhood can unite to give babies and toddlers the very best!

Thanks for reading as I approach these final days up to my exam. I may even have to capitalize on this time with even more to write about in the upcoming weeks. Although I will not be able to talk directly about the exam after I take it, there may be a few generalized comments I can make about how I felt of processed the exam experience.

So here’s to a bit more learning, a bit more breastfeeding, and a bit more creativity in the upcoming weeks!…

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Breastfeeding Basics

Toddler Takes Flight

The first time I flew with a toddler, I have to admit, I was nervous, but I rose to the occasion. The return flight went a little better than the destination flight, and I was glad, because as a tiny tots traveler myself my goal for my daughter has always been to turn her into a little traveler.

Packing for the trip wasn’t as challenging as I thought because I gave myself some alone time and allowed myself to get in the “zone.” To me, packing isn’t all about bringing lots of stuff but sometimes it’s a bit more about your mind and “remembering.” Lots of people forget things on trips but as I pack I try to place, how am I going to be using the thing I bringing, and what my daughter will truly be using. One last word of advice? Always be prepared to be a bit underprepared.

I’ve always wanted to be one of those lactation ladies that supported breastfeeding in public places and been a total advocate, and I’ve kind of been honest with myself that its been a bit of my downfall. But luckily when you got to do what you got to do, there is always a way to rise to the occasion.

The first time I breastfed on plane it was bit ridiculous, but I felt people were still nice about it, and in the end I kind of said “big deal,” to myself, “I didn’t brake any laws.” So, me and my gentle weaning tot got under our little pink blanket, (I had decided not to bring my whole cover because I thought we probably weren’t gonna need it), and her teething side bit me and then she cried when I de-latched her as I am supposed to with my finger.

The second time I breastfed on the plane, she knew what she was doing and I knew what I was doing. I wore my low cut tank top with a button up sweater over it. I sat in a window seat as we flew over the beautiful planes leaving a Las Vegas family vacation. She sat on my lap as she did her latch and looked out the window. And I thought of how its wonderful to have so much time available to nurse on a plane while remembering some of the Nicu nurses and friends who strongly support breastfeeding and all was well. After about 30 minutes she fell asleep on mommy and daddy’s lap right during her nap time. You gotta love it when the world deals you an interesting deck of cards…

Toddler mom life is crazy sometimes. Its messy and filled with fun while making decisions for your child. I am sending Alaska a thank you letter for a wonderful flight and for stewardises that supported breastfeeding with ease when it’s not always easy, not always smooth. I am topping that off with a thank you letter from DHS “safenet,” who happens to support breastfeeding too!! Here’s how you can check out the links to some breastfeeding laws in Oregon: www.healthoregon.org/bf and I am going to make it easy for them while providing the business address they can send the letter too.

I am so grateful that you breastfeed in all fifty states that flying over the planes made me feel high and gleam with pride. Don’t know where you are? Trust, peace out, and just nurse on mama.

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Pumping & Storing

Tales of Pumping

So often we hear stories of breastfeeding and not of pumping. Pumping is simpler we think, and thus less interesting. It’s more of a one and done, mechanical motion, so why write about it? It is true that breastfeeding should be a bit more of the focus when it comes to writing and discussing feeding our little ones, but that doesn’t mean that pumping needs to be overlooked. Mothers are constantly pumping for their babies, whether on the job, in the NICU/hospital or at home. We need to highlight that type of work and effort too!

One of the issues with focusing on pumping is that when we focus on pumping we get driven to focus so much on the amount we have pumped.

I still related to, and kinetically remember the feeling of producing what was to me, a high volume of milk in one setting and feeling elated. On a different day, I might pump far less and struggle with different, sadder feelings. It is important to not get too focused on amount driven pumping. When we are feeding our babies at the breast, the focus is different- we look at the latch, the connection, maybe the time, maybe the feeling of fullness in the breast but not the amount.

In reality, pumping and breastfeeding share a lot in common- both are emptying the breast and feeding a baby. So maybe not concentrating on the quantity of the amount pumped should be practiced. Rather allow your mind to go to another happier place, thinking of your baby, that you are doing good for your body and congratulating your efforts to maintain your milk supply and continue breastfeeding either way. Then, the milk supply will follow on its own accord.

One thing I like to talk about in regards to pumping is just how different everyone is. Because I had a NICU baby, and was pumping a lot in the beginning, I joined some social media support groups called “exclusively pumping mamas.” Although breastfeeding changed and improved for us, and I don’t pump as much anymore, I am still apart of those groups because I find them interesting. On the other hand, I know other moms that are avid breastfeeding moms and have hardly pumped at all. Some say their body never really responded to a pump and yet their children have still grown up on mainly breastmilk. I think it is fascinating how people have so many different views when it comes to pumping and yet still share the common thread of being a breastfeeding mom.

The truth about pumping is that different people have different pumping situations that may work better for them than others. For example, some mother-baby nurse friends at the hospital have access to a sharable hospital grade pump at work and thus don’t have to pack their pump with them to work, they can just bring the tubing. Not everyone may have this available to them. Others may have co-workers that are highly supportive, others may not. Some may have a comfortable pump space, others may have to make do with what is offered to them. Either way, everyone has the law protecting their right to pump at work or school every 3-4 hours for 30 minutes unpaid during the first year after birth. But it is great, when one can look beyond the law, and maybe to the culture with a sense of gratitude of what is keeping you going in regards to pumping? Is it your co-workers, your pump space, your pump, or maybe your baby motivating you!

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My Favorite Things

Communicating with a Baby: Approaching Baby Signs

I first began to sense the glimmer of excitement of being able to communicate with my little one someday through sign language. It’s funny how the mind works, and it takes a lot to imagine your child signing back at you. I remember the other day when my little one created a grasping motion with her hand while we were nursing directly after I had shown her how to say the word milk in sign language. Although it was probably just a coincidence, I couldn’t help but wonder could this be my little one repeating back to me the word “milk”? You can imagine the excitement I had for a moment, but then it caught up to me, that she was only 5 months old. Most babies don’t start signing that young. It must be a coincidence.

I first began to get interested in practicing baby sign language many years ago when I saw my cousin signing with her children. At first, I didn’t think it was possible- it seemed too advanced. Then she explained to me how it is actually easier to speak sign language than the English language. Although a little one won’t be signing complete sentence, they can still sign key words which gives the mother an idea of what that baby wants.

I am looking forward to taking an actual sign language class with my baby because it will give me a context and fun experience for using sign language with her. The class I am taking uses songs and games to make it stick in your head. I figure that I can learn the same way that a child can learn and learning along with my baby will be fun.

An approach to teaching sign language to a little one includes lots of repetition, but also teaching words that she is motivated to learn. Often moms are just motivated to teach the words that have to do with routines, in order to be efficient and get things done. But teaching fun words like animals or colors can provide more motivation for a baby learning to sign.

One of the goals of sign language for babies can be to communicate younger and earlier with your baby. It can take more dexterity to communicate with your mouth than your hands. Want to teach your baby a few key words? Use sign language. Some of the symbolism is easier to remember and they can repeat them back to you.

It can be difficult to interpret your little one’s signs in the beginning. There signs may come close to resembling the correct interpretation, or so I have heard.

Some people talk about the day their little one performed their first sign and how thrilled they were. So you could imagine the thrill I had of just projecting that thought onto my little one in the future. But, at the same time what I saw leads to a sense of wonderment as to how early does a human being really begin communicating.

From the day we are born we begin communicating in ways we don’t even understand, through body language, gestures, sounds and touch. So close your eyes and begin to imagine someone new in your life, or your little son or daughter signing back to you, smile and allow yourself to think that you may understand them. Then… let your mind wrap around the idea of the silence and the mystery that is love and caring without communication. Let that be, and take your time.

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Hurdles and How-To’s

The Joy of Baby Massage: Getting Around Wiggles and Other Challenges

Touching and cuddling with a baby feels like a joy to many moms, dads, and other caregivers. When I was looking for other ways to connect with my baby, touch was my go-to, as it is one of the first ways that a baby begins to develop communication skills with a caregiver. I signed up for a baby massage class and was pleasantly surprised with what I found. The class was not always easy however, and some challenges presented themselves along the way.

If you are thinking of signing up for a baby massage class some of the challenges you might face are your baby crying during massage time. Also for some of the massage moves where you unbutton your baby’s diaper to reach their lower back and lower abdomen be prepared for the potential for your baby to poop on you. The last challenging aspect is that babies are very wiggly. It is harder to give a massage to a wiggling baby that won’t hold still, rather than to an adult, because the wiggles throw the massage moves off.

These challenges do not come up too much, but when they do, it is nice to be prepared with how to deal with them. For the messy diaper obstacle you can have your diaper laying right underneath and a change of clothes and wipes at the ready. For the crying aspect, it is important to remember that baby massage is not meant to be used to soothe a crying baby. Instead, one should use alternative soothing methods and use baby massage to bond during more happy moments. The challenging aspect of crying for me, is often I was not able to get in all the massage in that I liked before my baby started crying, and she was not always balanced on each side as a result. It is possible to learn to be more relaxed about this. Lastly, for dealing with wiggly-ness, I interpreted that as a part of the bonding aspect of  the massage time- as it was her massage, her way. I took time to enjoy her wiggles and smiles and let my massage to my baby be interactive in that regard.

Other things I learned in baby massage include the importance of using oil (I used a blend) so as not to create friction when doing a massage. Also, the massage does not need to be super gentle, in fact babies enjoy a firmer touch because it reduces their level of ticklish response, and as most of you know, being tickled during a massage can be quite annoying.

Babies are just like us. When we get a massage on a bad day, we are more likely to open up and talk to that person about our day. This is a form of trust and bonding. Although, a baby can’t talk to us about their day, you can see in a baby’s eye the form of trust and reliance when receiving a massage. Because babies rely on caregivers for so much of their care every day, it is so wonderful for them to realize the joy of massage in a trusting way.

There are many how-to guides on baby massage out there, but I recommend taking a class if you get a chance from someone who is trained in baby massage because you can really learn the basics best by practicing on your baby and they can observe you as you begin. Remember that the massage you are giving to your baby is different than a body worker such as chiropractor trained in craniosacral therapy. That professional would be doing joint manipulations, while you are more practicing a form of loving touch for the sake of joy and touch. Just like adults, both forms can complement each other and have many benefits for baby. This includes helping baby to gain weight and catch up developmentally.

I truly enjoyed my experience with baby massage, but I also realize that it is a practice. It is a special way to connect with another human being, but it takes discipline and patience just like any other practice that is worthwhile. I noticed after practicing baby massage on my baby, her digestion improved and she warmed up to me even more.

The biggest piece of knowledge to keep in mind is the purpose, which is to enhance the bond between you and your baby. Have fun and enjoy your special massage time with your baby. Everyone’s experience is unique, but with these simple tactics, you will be able to combat challenges that may arise during a class you may decide to take. You will be prepared and succeed in the baby massage process, whether you decide to take a class or practice it on your own.

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Hurdles and How-To’s

Approaching the Weaning Blues

Everyone’s breastfeeding journey is different and subjective. Perhaps yours began in a hospital room? At home? You could be breastfeeding your first child or your third. You may have had plenty of help and support, or you may have been on your own. Maybe you supplemented, pumped, and bottle fed? Maybe you decided against it. Often, everyone’s breastfeeding journey ends differently and at different times as well. As the weaning process varies from mom to mom and baby to baby. Wherever you are in the process, you have come so far and that alone is amazing.

Each day you breastfeed, you could consider it a day closer to weaning. Even though it is hard to fathom that this time may be approaching, it never hurts to be informed about how moms deal with the “weaning blues,” or for that matter, how little ones might react to weaning.

 

The “Weaning Blues” and what to expect

It is very common for women to experience a deep sadness during and after weaning. These feelings can vary between lasting only a few short weeks, to being severe and needing medical help. Many people explain the weaning blues as a form of grieving the loss of the bond that breastfeeding creates between mother and child.

The weaning blues can also be linked to chemical or hormonal unbalance because less of the relaxing chemical, oxytocin, is needed to produce milk.

Oxytocin is known as the “love hormone”, so when there is less of it, depression tends to ensue.

Often times, when a mother is weaning, partners and other family members may not fully understand what she is going through. A partner may react negatively to her depression and not connect it to the fact she may be weaning the child. Our culture often thinks of weaning in an overly simplified way, such that it can be easily controlled and managed and that it is a conscious choice one may make. In fact, weaning starts early on with a baby’s first bite of food and can continue long after that. Evidence-based practice suggests that weaning should be child-led. Ideally, it would begin around the time that the baby is expressing less interest in nursing and the mother’s ideas are not imposed on the little one. Additionally, moms should remember to give their partner a loving heads up that they are going through the weaning period, and this should help to curb any negative comments or feelings.

 

Weaning has its positives

The process of weaning can help to make the final days of breastfeeding less abrupt, in addition to being easier on your little one. It is important to practice good and healthy habits during the weaning time period. Continue to pursue good nutrition, go to sleep at a regular time, practice deep breathing and meditation, and exercise. Try and encourage the oxytocin hormone in other ways, such as kissing and hugging your partner and children.

Other ideas moms can tie in to make weaning seem like less of a sad time, is to throw a weaning party or a celebration for the little one with other children that have weaned and can involve eating solid food treats.

Sometimes children can relate to other children about their nursing experience in ways that adults can’t. This can also be seen as somewhat of a celebration because the mom and child have a newfound sense of independence, and the child can be even more a part of the dinner table. There are even some children’s books written about weaning from breastmilk and this can help a child relate to what is going on in a conceptual and fun way.

 

The choice is yours

Mothers wean at different times and it is important for the mother not to feel guilty for weaning. Hopefully, a mom feels like when to wean is partly her decision and not pushed into it by people around her or by society. It is important for a mother to look at her situation before deciding to wean and see if there is a compromise. For example, a mother going back to work may not have to wean if she is able to continue pumping and still deliver some breast milk through a bottle.

My nursing journey is still a fairly new one. There are so many ups and downs and different things to learn along the way. For me personally, I see weaning as something that will happen between me and my child within the next couple of years. You may see weaning as something to begin tomorrow, today, or it may have happened yesterday. Remember it is all a part of your nursing experience and not just “the end.”

This article was also published at https://www.mimijumi.com/blogs/mimijumi-blog/approaching-the-weaning-blues.

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Breastfeeding Basics

Forward thinking thoughts on Donor Milk and Milk Banks

For moms that pump milk, sometimes you may have more milk than your baby needs. Some moms decide that this excess use of milk is best donated, and if you have some to spare, it’s something to consider, though certainly not a must just because you have extra milk. There are other things you can consider as well such as milk shares with other mom’s or storing milk for your baby down the road. Remember that frozen breast milk can be stored in the back of the freezer for as long as six months, as that is the longest way to keep breastmilk.

However, donating to a milk bank is the most commonly recommended way to share milk and it can be pretty fun too! I used to volunteer at a milk bank cataloguing milk that came in as a donation and everything felt very organized and streamlined to me. That sort of organization energy can be very motivating and grounding to a busy mom who is trying to keep her baby fed and well nurtured. Plus donations go to a great cause- helping premature babies live. Studies show that breastmilk can increase a baby’s rate of survival greatly which is a miracle if you think about it. Still that doesn’t obligate any mom to donate by any means. Instead, what I would encourage you to do is see how milk donation can fit into your life and enhance your breastfeeding experience. This has the greatest potential for a win-win situation for all parties, and besides in your new role as a mom, your new baby still comes first.

One of the first things you will have to do when becoming a donor is get screened this includes a blood test to make sure that your milk is safe to give to other baby’s. They will also most likely interview you about any health concerns and any medications you are on.

It’s important to be honest and forthcoming with the milk bank. Keep in mind, during this process, that your milk is specially formulated for your biological baby. This can sometimes be the stressful part of the milk share for some moms. For example, some mom’s ask “how will this donation benefit other babies if it’s meant for my child?” others ask “will this donation change the composition of my milk and ultimately affect my child?” These questions are hard to answer, but worth considering.

However, you will see that when it comes down to it, the process of sharing and equalizing milk may actually contribute to better milk supply, among those premature babies’ moms as well as having a grounding and motivating effect for you. How? By raising the group energy of everyone working together and contributing to the fair allocation of milk through standard practice. Sometimes generosity through a private milk share can come back to serve one less than one thought. Although done with a good intention, it may eventually end up just being an easy way out for the mom that discourages her from working on maintaining her milk supply. Although we may have a good heart when sharing and even ask the mom why she needs it or what her intentions are, it’s good to remember she and even you could need some professional advice over kindness and a good share.

So let’s keep our kindness, group energy and good efforts going towards the bank. Allow the structure to serve you and your baby too, after all, you are the one making the effort. Remember your role as a mom is loving your baby as number one. Keep milk clean, and last but not least… allow your baby the glory of generous heart too.

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Breastfeeding Basics

Self-Care as a Mom may take on new Forms

Before I was a mom, self-care was a staple in my life. I pretty much used self-care as a modality to accomplish a multitude of things in life. For example, I never had to change my eating habits to maintain a healthy weight, I just practiced enjoyable self-care that kept me on track by my own homemade recipes, getting plenty of rest and practicing restorative yoga.

When I became a mom, I realized that self-care can look a little, or a lot different, than it did before a new baby entered your life. Sometimes I barely had time to make it to the bathroom on time, let alone have time for a few hours of restorative yoga. It’s no secret, nothing can truly replace self-care in your life. If you spent ample time in your life practicing self-care before a baby came along, there isn’t a short cut that can get you back to the same place you were before your baby was born and you were practicing self-care for hours on end every day. However some self-care is better than none, and there may be ways to fit little bits of self-care into your own routine with baby that may be new and different than how you were practicing self-care before.

You can begin a breastfeeding meditation practice by savoring the quiet hours spent breastfeeding, focusing on your breath and even various sensations you feel during breastfeeding. Some people have even taken meditation and breastfeeding as far as doing a yoga pose while breastfeeding, which is pretty neat! I haven’t been able to master that yet, but it is definitely something to aspire to.

For example, one of my friends told me how she was practicing meditation while breastfeeding at night. When beginning a meditation practice, it can feel like you are putting a little work in on the front end, but after a little practice it feels pretty relaxing and the mindfulness pays off into other areas of your life. Meditation while breastfeeding is a perfect combination because most people enjoy breastfeeding their baby, but it can also get a little monotonous at times as it happens for hours on end throughout the day.

Other examples of self-care that can be practiced while taking care of your baby is truly loving on your baby. Think about the things you enjoy about being a mom and make a quick gratitude list. Maybe they are simple things like the cuteness of your baby, the sounds your baby makes, a good photo you got the other day. As we appreciate the good in life it seems to make piles of laundry a little easier. I also incorporate loving kindness into the practice of caring for my little one and it would make my mind go quiet and become grateful while doing what may seem like tedious tasks. Take time to smile at your baby during changes and treat them like a true friend explaining everything you are doing to care for them as you do it.

It’s all about choices and it is helpful to prioritize what self-care you value over others, while still keeping a light heart about everything. I stay free formed and light heart and don’t restrict make up, but if it’s too much that day I let the critical voice in my head take a hike!

Allow yourself to let go of some of the standards you held high for yourself before having children. For example, I am comfortable going out of the house without make up on now. I never wore tons of make up before being a mom so this was not a huge step for me, but I could see anyone taking baby steps in this direction. For me skipping some natural looking eyeliner and bronzer could save me lots of time and I could devote that time to a more rewarding form of self-care like doing ab exercises.

Another thing I noticed as a new mom was the desire to reach out and be more social than before. Birth is such a life changing experience and as a new mom we go so far as to taking on a new identity. We also have lots of new happy chemicals flying through our bloodstream like oxycytocin. Every mom needs support and being social can be a great way to get it. There are lots of new mom groups like La Leche league, baby-wearing clubs and breastfeeding support groups. I made a lot of new friends at these groups. It’s pretty neat how having something in common like the life change of becoming a new mom can break down any barriers and differences between various people and you can even form a few unlikely friendship you might not have found without being a mom. But, just listen to how this life change speaks to you and ask yourself what new forms of self-care might be calling to you in your life, it could be friendships as it was for me, but it could also look like seeing a different side of nature, working on posture, renewing an old relationship or picking up a new skill.

These are just a few ideas to get you started on incorporating self-care in a new way into your life. The list doesn’t end here, but the main idea is that give your self-care goals a sense of flexibility when tackling mom life. You may not have the same amount of time that you did before for self-care, but there certainly are some creative ways to fit in self-care as a mom throughout your day.

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Hurdles and How-To’s

Weaning from the Nipple Shield: A Personal Depiction of my Breastfeeding Experience

It’s amazing how in a flash breastfeeding can change, for better or for worse. In my case, I birthed a late preterm infant. Breastfeeding has only gotten better and better day by day. I even had a major breakthrough, which was weaning from the nipple shield (a nipple shield is a plastic layer that goes over the nipple when breastfeeding a baby that can make a nipple more pronounced and also change the flow of milk affecting breastfeeding).

Also, as I begun to nurse, I realized that in my eyes as mother no matter how I looked at, my daughter always seemed to be nursing so perfectly. I felt lucky that I didn’t feel any nipple pain, when many mother’s do. But to me my daughter was learning! I was just so proud of my young daughter.

I am an aspiring IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) and an RN (Registered Nurse) who has done plenty of studying and formed my own opinions and impressions about breastfeeding.  I definitely wanted to do everything right from the get-go, provide strong milk for my baby, and be successful with the process.  I vowed never to use a nipple shield because it can have an effect of limiting your supply of milk and offer less benefits to your baby, especially when it comes to some of the benefits breastfeeding gives to your baby by mechanically exercising their mouth properly. I was surprised when nipple shield use played out differently for me during my breastfeeding experience. It’s amazing how excited I was to breastfeed, and still am, but it’s also amazing how much I had over simplified it.  I was stuck in an “if then” style of thinking.  For example, if I don’t use a nipple shield then my supply will be better. If my daughter is able to learn to latch then she will always know how to latch, etc. When you are so happy to try something new, you have a tendency to over simplify it in your mind in order to connect with the excitement.  It’s not bad; just something for which to be aware.

Also, as I begun to nurse, I realized that in my eyes as mother no matter how I looked at, my daughter always seemed to be nursing so perfectly. I felt lucky that I didn’t feel any nipple pain, when many mother’s do. But to me my daughter was learning! I was just so proud of my young daughter.

The biggest piece of information I found was to not allow my baby to fatigue during breastfeeding. This was a large part of the reason why she went to the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) along with struggling to pass the glucose protocol. But it is so interesting to me that we did not need to use a nipple shield right off the bat.  My husband and I waited until she was approximately seven days old.  We tried it out of the blue.  My reasoning was that she had already been exposed to a bottle; why not a nipple shield too? Also, I hoped she would be able to leave the NICU as soon as possible with as little intervention as possible. To me, even though bottles were not ideal as far as breastfeeding goes, they sure were less invasive than a glucose IV or a temporary feeding tube.  I figured that if I used the nipple shield, it would help her be able to be more apt to accept bottles.  Bottle feeding is where she would be getting most of her nutrition for a while, from my pumped breast milk as well as donor milk, and then we would still be able to breastfeed for 15 minutes each time in order to “practice.”

In the NICU, I asked to work with a lactation consultant once or twice a day, and I sure did take advantage of that! To me, being in the NICU was a challenge and sometimes sad.  Getting to work with a lactation consultant was a way for me to “treat myself.”  After all, as an aspiring IBCLC, just being in other lactation consultants’ presence was very reassuring.  As they worked their magic, it always seemed we had a better nursing session. I thought the IBCLCs were so great I was sure I would be able to wean from the nipple shield in no time, but it was much a harder than that. But it did evolve and I never gave up

Ultimately, we ended up weaning from the nipple shield around two and a half months after birth, and I do believe it was baby-led. Although I tried to push it a few times, I, as the mom made sure I never went too far so as to curb any negative experiences.  Sometimes she would be crying and upset afterwards, but in those cases I would always give her the nipple shield. If that made it smoother for her, then so be it.  We would always finish our nursing.

We tried all the tips in the book and nothing seemed to produce a result. We tried pointing my nipple to the roof of her mouth. We tried starting with the nipple shield and removing it part way through a feeding and drying off my nipple and re-latching, etc.

Along the way, with this, I found out I had a bit of an oversupply and also learned that nipple shields can help with this, and help to inhibit the flow of milk so that the baby could handle it better, so that could have been a contributing factor of why a nipple shield was helping. Also the fact that I had smaller nipples. I had to work on bringing my supply and flow down a bit so she could handle it a bit better along with getting more hind milk (which is the fatty portion of the milk that follows the foremilk towards the end of the feeding).

Ultimately, we ended up weaning from the nipple shield around two and a half months after birth, and I do believe it was baby-led. Although I tried to push it a few times, I, as the mom made sure I never went too far so as to curb any negative experiences.

But eventually it happened and I think it was partly developmental and baby led… she started kind of fiddling with the nipple shield during nursing which to me was a sign that she was annoyed with it. And right after I went to one la leche meeting (a meeting which offers breastfeeding support), I could see her beginning to wean from it. However I always wondered why they called it weaning? It seemed more like a break through to me. Although we had been working on it for a long time it seemed like one day we were using it, then another day, we weren’t.

I was so overjoyed when we no longer needed the nipple sheild. Less plastic to wash, I was more connected during nursing, and I knew my hard work had paid off. I learned that there truly is a mother-child connection and when the mom is working hard and patient with something the child senses it and takes baby steps in that direction to trying the easier way for the mom… whether psychologically, spiritually or physically. I’ve heard from other moms that they loved their NICU experience, and even though it was a struggle at times, I think in the end you own your experience, the struggles and the growth periods. I don’t know if I would have traded my experience for another, I never really let myself go to that place, instead I look fondly back on my experience and it is part of me, it is mine, just like this new child is mine also.