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Got Milk?

February 17, 2014

Women in my family have been blessed with a bountiful milk supply for generations. During World War II, my great-grandmother, while starving and running away from bomb explosions, still had plenty of milk to breastfeed both my grandma and her little brother. Legends are still being told about my mom feeding every premie and sick newborn in the maternity ward when I was born. (Of course, those tales quickly turned into a series of never-ending stories of how she had to stay up nights pumping endlessly to prevent engorgement and infection.) Even though I read many blogs and listened to first-hand stories of women having difficulties breastfeeding, I was counting on my strong milk genes to carry me through, and so they did. However, there were still a few things that I believe helped that I wanted to share with all new moms and moms-to-be.

Chest to chest.

IMG_0472As soon as Noah was born, the hospital nurses placed him on my chest, which has enormous benefits for the mom and the baby. Chest to Chest instantly calms the newborn, stabilizes baby’s temperature, hormones and blood sugar levels, creates a deeper bond and stimulates milk production (although the actual milk does not come in until a couple of days later).

 

 

Nurse.

IMG_0742Even though it hurt like hell the first month, I nursed Noah every 2-3 hours day and night. In the beginning, it took every bit of self-control not to scream every time he latched on, but after about three weeks my nipples got tougher and his latch got better and nursing became a more pleasant experience. The more the baby nurses, the more milk mom produces. There is no better pump out there than the actual baby and having him snuggled up, dozing on your chest is priceless.

Pump.

IMG_0724Nursing is key, but I had more milk than Noah could eat. Pumping helps prevent infections, reduce engorgement and blocked milk ducts/lumps as well as increases the milk supply. It also allows mom to take a break and for dad to bottle feed.

 

 

 

Limit bottle feeding.

IMG_0827After two weeks of only breastfeeding, I was getting exhausted – sleepless nights, aching back and shoulders, and sore cracked nipples. We decided to introduce a bottle to give me a break. The concerns I’ve heard are that some babies experience nipple confusion and/or refuse to take breast after experiencing the bottle (nursing from the breast is a lot more work for a newborn compared to a faster flow of the bottle’s nipple). If you wait too long to introduce a bottle, than the baby might not take it as he is too used to the breast. Timing is a delicate balance and based on our pediatrician’s recommendation Eric started one nightly bottle feed once Noah turned two weeks old. We stuck to just one bottle at night, slowly phasing it out as Noah started to sleep longer. To avoid nipple confusion I never bottle feed, so Noah associates nursing with mom and bottle with dad.

Invest in good nursing bras.

IMG_0728I purchased two Brovada bras and wore them daily for six months. In the beginning, the wireless seamless design was the big plus as my body was still getting used to nursing. But after six months as my body returned back to its pre-pregnancy shape, they were no longer supportive. I also could not stand the uniboob shapeless silhouette , so I switched to Anita’s 5041 and 5068 models. (It’s ridiculous how much nursing bras cost! I could have bought myself some serious bling for the amount I spent on bras  – two sets of maternity bras, two sets of nursing bras and three sets of sports bras).

 

Eat well.

IMG_0501As a nursing mom, you need extra calories to make milk. Every article and doctor out there will tell you not to diet after the baby is born if you plan on nursing. As women, we tend to worry so much about our bodies and getting back in shape after baby especially with seeing all those celebrity moms and their six packs four weeks post delivery plastered on the magazine covers at the grocery store checkout. I did not diet. I ate! I just ate good food – lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains. After all, whatever I ate would be going directly into milk for Noah.

 

 

Have a drink.

IMG_0685I have probably read every article, blog, and opinion out there on breastfeeding and alcohol consumption. Many articles cautiously mention that alcohol can actually help in milk production – the relaxation benefits aid in milk letdown. The general sense after talking to a couple of pediatricians, nurses and lactation consultants is that having alcohol in moderation (1-2 drinks) is ok as long as there is a waiting window of 2-3hrs for every drink before nursing. Alcohol enters/leaves milk same way as it does blood stream. Having alcohol with food and staying well-hydrated lowers its effect. To ease my paranoid mind, I even bought alcohol test strips which turn brown if any alcohol is present in the milk.

After all the milk enhancing techniques, I was faced with a serious dilemma – what to do with all the extra milk? We were quickly running out of storage space.

IMG_2312IMG_2314

In a conventional freezer, milk can last 3 months, in a deep freezer up to 6. After looking at a few deep freezers, we realized it would only provide a temporary solution, since Noah would never be able to catch up to my production. After all the pain, sweat, and tears in making and pumping this milk, I could not bring myself to pouring this liquid gold, the life potion, the ultimate immune booster down the sink, so I turned to Google.

Final_milk_bank_drop_logoTurns out, there is a milk bank right here in Austin that is in great need of donors. Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for little ones. Many premies and ill babies can’t take formula as their digestive systems are not developed enough, so breast milk is their only food source, but more than half of premie moms experience milk supply challenges. These babies rely on donor milk for survival. My application was welcomed with open arms. I had to go through a few quick screening steps and once approved there was a bunch of nearby drop off locations open 24 hours for my convenience. The milk is collected, pasteurized and distributed to hospitals all around Texas. So over the last 4 months, I have donated over 1000 ounces of milk and plan on continuing to donate until Noah’s 1st birthday.

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