Breastmilk Storage: Everything You Need to Know

Breastmilk Storage: Everything You Need to Know

How long can breastmilk sit out? Can you reuse milk that your baby doesn’t drink? What about re-freezing? Can you do that?

 

The whole process of storing, freezing, and thawing breastmilk is confusing. But if you’re a pumping mama, it’s unavoidable.

  

Here is everything you need to know about how to properly store, freeze, and heat breastmilk.

 

*This post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure here. It’s pretty anticlimactic.

How Long Can Breastmilk Sit out at Room Temperature?

Great question! According to the CDC, breastmilk can be stored at room temperature (77 degrees F/ 25 degrees C or cooler) for up to 4 hours.

 

For example, if you thought that your baby wanted more milk, but you both fell asleep for two hours before he drank from the bottle, you’re in the clear! You can still refrigerate the milk for later use.

 

I should note that the Mayo Clinic says that up to six hours is acceptable, assuming that the room is not particularly warm.

 

Clearly there is some level of flexibility here. If your house is 70 degrees and the milk is out for 4.5 hours, it’s not like it suddenly spoiled 30 min ago.

 

It’s always best to play it safe. If you’re a paranoid mom (no judgement here), you will probably feel more comfortable throwing it out right at the 4 hour mark.

 

But if you’re not a paranoid mom (again, no judgement either way), it’s not like you’re going to poison your baby by leaving it out for up to 6 hours.

 

You Might Like: The New Mom’s Ultimate Guide to Breastfeeding

 

If my baby doesn’t finish a bottle, can I refrigerate that breastmilk and reheat it later?

 

Unfortunately, no.

 

Bacteria transfers from your baby’s mouth, into the bottle, contaminating the milk.

 

According to pretty much every authoritative source, you need to throw the milk out after your baby drinks from the bottle.

 

I’m just going to throw this out there though- I don’t.

 

Why? Because I’m lazy, cheap, and can be laid back to a fault.

 

I like to live life on the edge. I do things like eat my eggs over-easy when I’m pregnant and let my kids smack their heads on the bottom of the table when they stand up.

 

To be clear, I am NOT saying that you should follow my lead in regards to re-refrigerating used breastmilk.

 

In fact, I recommend that you don’t. Health and safety guidelines recommend that you don’t.

 

But if you do follow my lead, I won’t judge you.

 

 

How Long Can I store Breastmilk in the Fridge?

 

Again, when we are looking to authoritative sources we get slightly different answers about breastmilk storage.

 

 

Regardless, they all agree that you should move it to the freezer within 3 days if you don’t plan on using it.

 

When storing breastmilk in the fridge, you should always place it in the back. This ensures that the temperature stays as cool as possible.

 

The worst place to store breastmilk is in the door where it will be exposed to frequent bursts of warm air.

 

Related: Best Breastfeeding Diet: What to Eat, Galactagogues, Food Allergies, and Alcohol

 

How long can I store breastmilk in an insulated cooler?

 

breastmilk storage how to store breastmilk

 

If you have plans to travel, or you need to pump while you are out of the house, you can safely store your breastmilk in an insulated cooler with ice packs for up to 24 hours.

 

If you are exclusively pumping, or want someone else to take the night shift, this is a convenient way to store breastmilk overnight.

 

It takes less time to heat, and saves you a trip to the refrigerator.

How Do I Freeze Breastmilk?

Freezing breastmilk is pretty easy and straight forward.

 

First, begin by washing your hands and your workspace.

 

Breastmilk storage bags are the most common option, though Milkies Milk Trays are also great.

 

Do not use small ziplock baggies to store breastmilk.

 

I’ve seen this going around on Pinterest and find it extremely stupid (though I have to admit, I almost did it when my first baby was born).

 

Breastmilk storage bags are thick, BPA free, and pre-sterilized for safe use.

 

Simply dump the expressed milk from the bottle into the breastmilk storage bag. Some women use the pumping flange as a funnel to prevent spills.

 

Milk should be stored in small amounts to prevent waste. Between two and four ounces per bag is ideal.

 

Remove as much air as possible before sealing. If using a hard plastic or glass container, leave one inch of air for expansion.

 

For the most efficient storage, lay flat to freeze. After the bag of milk is frozen solid, it can be propped up and stored like files in a filing cabinet.

 

Milkies Milk Trays are a great alternative. Each tray freezes eight 1oz “sticks” that fit into any bottle.

 

This enables you to thaw the exact amount that you need, without the stress of wasting milk.

 

How long can breastmilk be stored in the freezer?

 

Breastmilk can be stored for:

 

  • 6 months in a freezer that is attached to a fridge

 

  • 1 year in a deep freezer

 

Never store milk in the door because of the influx in temperature.

 

Breastmilk should always be stored toward the back of the freezer where temperature remains consistently cool.

 

How Do I Thaw Frozen Breastmilk?

 

Once you have frozen your breastmilk, there are a few different ways to thaw it out.

 

  • Move to the refrigerator overnight

 

  • Set in a bowl of lukewarm water

 

  • Place the bag (or bottle) under a stream of warm water

 

The slower you thaw breastmilk, the less fat and nutrients will be lost. This means that thawing it overnight in the refrigerator is ideal.

 

But sometimes your baby is hangry and you’re in a frenzy because there’s no milk in the fridge.

 

In that case, quickly thawing your breastmilk with warm water is perfectly safe and won’t hurt your baby in any way.

 

NEVER should you EVER heat up breastmilk in the microwave. Microwaving breastmilk kills its amazing antibodies, and worse- creates hot spots in the milk which can burn your baby’s mouth and throat.

How do I feed thawed milk to my baby?

breastmilk storage how to feed baby frozen breastmilk

This should be intuitive, but it’s actually not. Here are some things you should know:

 

  • Never heat the milk in the microwave. Again, it can scald your baby’s mouth, even after it has been swirled.

 

  • Place bottle in a bowl of warm or hot water (or a bottle warmer), but do not use boiling water. That will kill antibodies in the breastmilk.

 

  • Swirl the milk to mix it. Never shake a bottle of breastmilk. Shaking breastmilk breaks down the proteins.

 

  • Test the temperature on the inside of your wrist. It should be lukewarm or cooler.

 

  • You can feed baby cool milk. There is no rule that says they have to drink it warm. In fact, if you are exclusively pumping, feeding your baby cool milk will be much easier in the long run.

 

  • When heating milk, only heat it once. If baby does not drink it all, it can be refrigerated and served cool within two hours (<– I fail at this one too).

 

Related: Pumping for NICU Twins- A Twin Mom’s Tips

 

How long is thawed breastmilk safe to use?

 

Two days. To be clear, that is two days from the time the milk is completely thawed out.

 

This means that if you put it in the freezer at 8pm on a Saturday night and it is thawed out by 8am on Sunday morning, the clock starts at 8am on Sunday.

 

Can I Re-Freeze Breastmilk?

 

That’s a big fat NO. The risks for contamination and bacteria growth go up substantially.

 

Even I won’t do that. Sorry.

 

Helpful tips for storing breastmilk

breastmilk storage frozen breastmilk organization

  • Store milk in small quantities. 2-4 oz is ideal to eliminate waste.

 

  • Label milk with date, quantity, and name of child (if child will be going to daycare)

 

  • When measuring quantity, use the ounces on the bottle as opposed to the bag. When you dump the breastmilk into the bag, it will almost always look as though there is one extra ounce. This is confusing when you are trying to track how much your baby eats later.

 

  • When freezing in a breastmilk storage bag, lay milk on a flat surface until frozen solid.

 

I hope this was helpful for you! Pin it or pass it on, and hit me up in the comments if I missed anything!

Is the struggle bus dragging you by the feet?

 

As a mom it’s easy to feel like you are failing at every turn; like your best just isn’t enough.

But that’s a dangerous lie that will steal your happiness.

Get your joy and your confidence back with our FREE meditative affirmations.

Because you deserve to be happy.

 

 

 

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Pumping for NICU Twins- A Twin Mom’s Tips

Pumping for NICU Twins- A Twin Mom’s Tips

Providing breast milk for your baby is no easy feat. Imagine doing it for two babies- in the NICU- as a first-time mom!

 

Our guest today, Jeanne Visser, has done exactly that.

 

Jeanne began her journey as a twin-mom back in 2016 when she gave birth to her first babies; twin girls. Since then, she has given birth to a baby boy and begun blogging about her experience at Have Twins First.

 

Jeanne has some amazing insight into the world of a pumping mother of NICU twins, and offers real, practical advice for how to juggle it all.

 

 *This post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure here. It’s pretty anticlimactic. 

 

Jeanne Visser

Jeanne Visser

Jeanne Visser writes baby registry, sleeping, and feeding tips for babies, toddlers, and twins at her blog Have Twins First. In addition to her blog, she works full time as a process engineer in western Massachusetts.

When you are pregnant with twins, the thought of a NICU stay is always in the forefront of your mind.

You know that you are likely to have an early birth, which greatly increases your chances of a NICU stay.

I was mentally prepared for a NICU stay and I knew I wanted to breastfeed. But for some reason the thought of pumping for NICU twins never crossed my mind.

An Early Twin Birth

My twins were born at 35 weeks, which is the average length of a twin pregnancy.

While I was in labor it was unclear if a NICU stay would be required. Shortly after they were born, we learned that it would be.

 

I was able to hold each twin for about 10 minutes before they were whisked away to the NICU.

After that, my husband and I went back to our room to recover. Little did we know the journey that we were about to embark on.

Recovering From A Twin Birth

One of the most important factors for successful breastfeeding is the mother’s well-being.

If the mom is in significant pain, the road to breastfeeding will be much more difficult.

I received an epidural during labor, but the insertion did not go well. Spinal fluid leaked out of my spinal cord, resulting in debilitating spinal headaches.

 

Trying to breastfeed with a spinal headache is next to impossible.

 

Spinal headaches cause a throbbing migraine when you sit up. The only way to relieve the pain is to remain flat on your back.

  

The culmination of labor, delivery, and these postpartum complications prevented me from sleeping for 3 whole days.

 

This made the transition to breastfeeding, especially breastfeeding multiples, quite difficult.

Breastfeeding Preterm Babies

Another critical factor for successful breastfeeding is a good latch and sucking reflex.

 

Babies do not fully develop these reflexes until 36 weeks gestation, making them common hurdles for premature babies. 

So, what were my options? I was advised by the nurses that my path to successfully breastfeeding my twins would be to start by pumping.

For whatever reason I was not prepared for this.

I had taken a special class about twin birth, but still did not realize that pumping was a very real possibility.

Pumping At The Hospital

pump breastmilk for NICU twins, breast pump

While I was still at the hospital, the lactation department came to fit me for a pumping bra and set me up with the Medela In Style Advanced pump.

I had been advised at my Twins Class to wait to get my pump at the hospital because lactation could advise and provide the best pump possible for free through my insurance.

During my stay, the nurses showed me how to use their hospital grade pumps, and I pumped as needed.

 

With the spinal headaches, it was very difficult to make it through each pumping session, but I powered through.

Because the twins were being cared for by NICU staff, I could focus on pumping at the correct times.

Twin ‘A’ Comes Home

Twin A did not need a long stay in the NICU. In fact, she was able to come home with us at the same time I left the hospital.

 

Unfortunately, Twin B needed to stay in the NICU to receive antibiotics because she swallowed fluid during birth.

 

This is when pumping became complicated.

Pumping At Home

 

pumping breastmilk for NICU babies

We decided to go home in hopes that I could get better sleep and be more comfortable. It was a very tough decision, and we hated leaving Twin B at the hospital.

 

This is a very real possibility with twins, to have one twin at home and one still in the NICU.

 

I start pumping at home for both babies. It is important to point out that during this whole process I was not pumping enough breast milk for the twins to receive breast milk exclusively.

 

I was pumping six times a day and about 40-50% of their diet was breast milk. The rest was formula.

 

With one twin at home and one twin in the NICU, we were running back and forth between our house and the hospital constantly. Thankfully, the hospital is close, and we were able to bring Twin A with us.

 

 

Breast Milk Storage

A tricky part of pumping breast milk while you have a baby or babies at the NICU, is transferring breast milk from your house to the NICU.

 

It is difficult to pump enough breast milk for twins. It can be done, but there are many different factors that play into your breast milk supply.

 

Once you pump, you will need to separate the milk you have evenly for both babies. It’s definitely a good idea to have sticker labels such as these on hand so you can record the:

  • date
  • time
  • quantity of pumped milk
  • which baby the bottle is for

 

The next step is transporting pumped breast milk from your home to the NICU in a timely manner. You will need to make sure the NICU has as much breast milk as possible.

I highly recommend the Medela cooler or something similar.

Related: Breastmilk Storage: Everything You Need to Know

Pumping At The NICU

breastfeeding and pumping for premature NICU baby

The wonderful thing about pumping in the NICU is that they have pumping rooms set up with hospital grade pumps. 

This meant that I did not have to transport my personal pump to and from the house every day.

 

It also made scheduling visits a little bit easier.

Everyone Is Finally Together

As you can imagine, between my difficult recovery after birth and having one twin home and one in the NICU, it was a huge relief when Twin B was able to come after a 1 week NICU stay.

I was able to continue (mostly) exclusively pumping over the next 10 weeks.

After going through the experience of pumping for NICU twins, I came up with some tips to help other twin moms get through pumping for NICU twins.

Each family will have their own unique journey, but here are some tips to help.

Pumping tips For NICU Twins

  • Accept help from family, friends, and nurses. If someone is willing to help, take them up on their offer. Do not feel guilty.

  • Pump as much as you can, BUT don’t drive yourself crazy overdoing it.

  • Take care of yourself, so you can be there for your babies.

  • Decide how many times you will pump a day and establish a pumping schedule. The more often you pump, the more milk you will produce.

  • Label your bottles and have a good system for transporting breast milk to (and possibly from) the hospital.

So, there you have it. I hope my experience gives some insight on what to expect if you end up pumping for NICU twins.

 

It will be difficult, but the good news is that it is a temporary situation.

And, last but not least, good luck with the start of your journey into twin motherhood.

Best Breastfeeding Diet: What to Eat, Galactagogues, Food Allergies, and Alcohol

Best Breastfeeding Diet: What to Eat, Galactagogues, Food Allergies, and Alcohol

Now that your little one has finally become an air-breather, you are undoubtedly looking for the best diet to provide them with the most nutritious milk possible.

 

Like any good mom, you want to make the best choices possible for your baby. If you stumbled across this page, it’s safe to assume that for you, that means breastfeeding.

 

So how much does your diet affect your milk? Do you need to eat lactation inducing foods? How can you tell if your baby is sensitive to your diet? And what about alcohol?

 

All of those questions and more are answered below!

 

*This post may contain affiliate links. That means that I make a few pennies if you make a qualifying purchase through my links in a timely manner. It doesn’t cost you anything, but it does help me spend my time providing you with resources like this instead of finding a real job. You can read my full disclosure here. It’s pretty anticlimactic.

 

Also, please note that I am not a doctor or nutritionist. If anything I say sounds crazy, consult a doctor or IBCLC. You should never make major life decisions off of a blog anyways.

HOW DOES YOUR BREASTFEEDING DIET AFFECT YOUR BABY?

healthy food breastfeeding diet

 

Many women swear that certain foods increased their milk supply, while other women have tried everything to no avail. 

 

Some women claim that foods high in fat increase the fat content of their milk.

 

Some eat pizza and pop tarts all day, and their babies are healthy, while some maintain a diet that the rest of us could only dream of, and their babies still get sick.

 

Instead of jumping into the rumor-mill and looking at anecdotal evidence (which will tell you anything that you want to hear), I decided to gather information from peer-reviewed medical journals.

 

According to recent research, the correlation between a breastfeeding mother’s diet and the composition of her breast milk still remains largely unknown.

 

Regardless of how intricately linked your diet and breastmilk composition are, what we do know is that aside from vitamin D, which is best absorbed by sunlight, breast milk provides everything that your baby needs for their first six months of life.

 

In other words, your body is so determined to put your baby first, that it will pull from its own nutrient stores if you refuse to give it what it wants.

 

Depletion of your nutritional stores poses long-term health risks, and will leave you feeling run down in the meantime.

 

The purpose of a healthy breastfeeding diet is, therefore, more for you than your baby.

 

 

WHAT IS IN A HEALTHY BREASTFEEDING DIET?

Assuming you don’t want your body to steal all of your nutrient stores, it is important to establish a healthy breastfeeding diet as soon as possible.

 

You should aim to provide all of the vitamins and nutrients that will go into your breast milk, as well as the ones that your body needs to stay healthy and recover from childbirth.

 

The best breastfeeding diet is one that is nutrient-dense and diverse, encompassing all the colors of the rainbow.

 

Ideally, your diet should contain:

  • 3 servings of protein such as chicken, beef, lamb, eggs, or beans.

 

  • One or more foods that are rich in iron such as liver, beans, and lentils

 

  • 2 servings of fruit such as mango, guava, or pears

 

  • Foods that are high in healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, and avocado.

 

  • ½ oz of water for every pound of body weight + 1 glass for every caffeinated drink

 

If it’s too hard to consume that much food, try to hit two birds with one stone by eating foods that fit into more than one category.

 

For example, eating a serving of beans will provide you with both protein and iron. Sweet potatoes are both a complex carbohydrate and a colored vegetable. Collard greens are packed with calcium in addition to being the obvious: a leafy green. 

 

 

If you maintain a healthy diet like this, your body will be able to produce enough milk for your baby without tapping into your reserves.

 

A healthy diet is also the biggest factor to shedding baby weight. Exercise all you want, but if you have a crap diet, that belly is not going to shrink.

 

And who says you can’t have cheat days? You just made a freaking human, and now your body is sustaining it. If anyone deserves a cheat day, it’s you.

 

You might like: The New Mom’s Ultimate Guide to Breastfeeding

 

The healthier you eat throughout the day, the less impact that pint of Ben and Jerry’s will have on your thighs.

 

 

WHAT ARE GALACTAGOGUES? DO I NEED THEM?

  lactation inducing foods galactagogues lactogenic herbs   A galactagogue (from the Greek word “galacta,” meaning milk) is any food, drug, or herb that is used to increase a mother’s milk production.   Galactagogues have been used for centuries, and vary from region to region around the world.   Every culture has its own popular galactagogues, though few have undergone enough research to confirm their milk making properties.   Many are consumed in the form of tea or supplements, while others are added to dishes to enhance their health value. Some, such as oatmeal, are a meal of their own.   It’s never a bad idea to incorporate galactagogues into your menu. Many of them can be seamlessly incorporated into a healthy breastfeeding diet.   Examples of this are oatmeal with flax seed for breakfast or a salad with chickpeas, avocado, nuts, and chia for lunch.   Certain herbs are most often taken as supplements. These herbs include fenugreek, fennel, goat’s rue, and blessed thistle.   Whether you need to take supplements like these depends on if you truly have a low milk supply.   The American Pregnancy Association has some great information to determine if you have a low milk supply.   If you do in fact have a low milk supply, seek proper care for your baby before anything else.   Recent teachings that every mother has the ability to meet the nutritional needs of her baby have had devastating consequences, including infant hospitalization and death.   After ensuring that your baby’s needs are met, load up on supplements such as Let There Be Milk and teas like Pink Stork Lactation, while adding pumping sessions after nursing your baby.   Herbal galactagogues should not be necessary for daily, long-term use, but if you find them useful, there is no reason that you should need to stop.   Check out this great list of 57 lactogenic foods here!    

Food Sensitivities and Allergies

If you have been scrolling through Pinterest lately, you are probably under the impression that everything you eat will give your baby and upset tummy.

 

Milk, broccoli, beans, nuts, wheat, you name it. At the end of the day, you are probably wondering what the phuk you can eat.

 

Truthfully, the vast majority of breastfed babies will won’t have any adverse reactions to their mother’s diet.

 

Food sensitivities and allergies aren’t something that you need to navigate your entire life around in preparation for your baby.

 

If something in your diet doesn’t sit well with your little one, they will tell you in their own way.

 

Signs of a food sensitivity or allergy are:

  • Unusual fussiness

  • Excessive spit up or vomit

  • Rash or eczema

  • Dry skin

  • Congestion

  • Diarrhea or loose, watery stools (how in the hell we are supposed to know the difference between this and normal breastfeeding poops is anybody’s guess)

  • Traces of blood or mucus in stool

 

The most common allergen is by far dairy. Cow’s milk contains a specific protein that some babies struggle to digest. When a mother consumes dairy, it passes into her breast milk.

 

If you notice any of these symptoms, eliminate dairy from your diet to see if you notice a change in your baby.

Related: Formula, Pumping, and Breastfeeding: Amanda Shares Her Story

 

You should see changes within 3 days, however if it is a true dairy allergy, it could take up to 4 weeks for the protein to completely leave your system. This means that some of the symptoms in your baby may persist to some degree.

 

If you are able to rule out a dairy allergy, an elimination diet is the next step to find the source of the problem.

The Elimination Diet

What is the elimination diet?

The elimination diet is a diet that eliminates all high-allergen foods at once, then slowly reintroduces them one at a time to find out which particular allergen is causing adverse reactions.

 

Why should you use an elimination diet?

Because the process of eliminating one food group at a time to find out if works is painstakingly slow, and both you and your baby must deal with the effects of the allergen until it is discovered.

 

An elimination diet is the quickest, most effective way to pinpoint the source of your baby’s tummy problems.

 

Dr. Sears happens to have the best resource that I can find for how to implement an elimination diet while breastfeeding.

 

If you have ruled out a milk sensitivity, head on over to his website to find out how to take the next step in diagnosing the source of your baby’s belly problems.

 

Is it Safe to Drink Alcohol While Breastfeeding?

drinking alcohol breastfeeding 

You just spent 9 months avoiding alcohol. Is it time to unwind with a glass of wine yet? Or will you have to pump and dump all of your precious milk?

 

I am more than please to tell you that yes, you can drink again, and you don’t need to throw out your breast milk!

 

And all the mothers said, “Amen!” 

via GIPHY

Alcohol enters and leaves your breast milk in the same manner that it does your blood.

 

The general rule of thumb is that if you are sober enough to drive, you are sober enough to breastfeed.

 

That means that pumping and dumping is just a sad waste of your precious liquid gold.

 

The best way to make the most of your time is to drink immediately after nursing. This will give you a 2-3 hour window to unwind with your beverage of choice, and let it wear off before your baby is ready to eat again.

 

If you are unsure about the alcohol content of your milk, these breastmilk alcohol testing strips can help put your mind at ease.

 

Summary

 

The best thing for you is the best thing for your baby.

 

A healthy breastfeeding diet will help you recover from childbirth and give you the energy that you need to care for your new baby.

 

Food sensitivities and allergies are rare, but they do happen, so it’s important to know the warning signs.

 

While galactagogues are helpful, they are not always needed in herbal form.

 

Moderate alcohol intake is perfectly fine, especially when timed appropriately.

 

Enjoy motherhood. If you aren’t happy, figure out what you need to do to find balance.

 

There’s no need to make yourself miserable over breastfeeding. Contrary to popular belief, recent studies show that long term, it doesn’t make that much of a difference anyways.

 

Good luck! And don’t forget to snag your  FREE breastfeeding diet checklist.

 

 

 

 

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The New Mom’s Ultimate Guide to Breastfeeding

The New Mom’s Ultimate Guide to Breastfeeding

Most millennial mothers will decide to breastfeed, or at a minimum, give it a shot.

If you are looking for non judgemental tips and advice about breastfeeding, you have come to the right place my friend. 

From the outside looking in, breastfeeding looks simple. Put the baby on the boob. Baby sucks the boob because that is what they do- it’s natural, right? And BOOM! Baby is fed.

 

But if you have ever breastfed, you know how complicated and confusing it can be.

 

If you are about to breastfeed for the first time, welcome to the party. May the odds be ever in your favor.

 

*This post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure here. It’s pretty anticlimactic. 

*Also note that I am not a doctor or lactation consultant. I’m just a normal gal who has been squirting milk for 2+ years. Consult your doctor before you take anything that I say for gospel.

BREASTMILK: WHAT IT IS, WHY IT’S GREAT, AND HOW IT CHANGES

Before giving birth, and for a few days afterward, your breasts will produce colostrum.

 

Colostrum is a thick, yellow liquid that is packed full of antibodies and nutrition. It is also a laxative, which aids your baby in passing their first meconium poop.

 

Colostrum is low in calories, so expect your baby to lose weight. Babies typically lose 7-10% of their weight after birth, but gain it back within 2 weeks. Breastfed babies drop more weight than formula fed babies because of this caloric deficit. 

 

After 3 to 4 days, your body will begin to produce transitional milk.

This milk is still quite yellow, but not as thick. It contains more protein and carbohydrates than colostrum. 

 

It can be quite painful when your transitional milk comes in. Your breasts will rapidly expand and engorge, and can even become hot to the touch.

 

You can aid this transition with the help of warm compresses or a breast pump.

 

The transitional milk will last for about two weeks until your mature milk comes in.

 

Mature milk is what your body will continue to make for the extent of your breastfeeding journey. It is 90% water, and 10% carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

 

Mature milk can be broken down into two types: foremilk and hindmilk. The foremilk, or first milk, is high in carbohydrates, whereas the hind milk, or last milk is high in fat.

 

When you begin nursing (or pumping), your breasts will automatically begin to release foremilk, then slowly transition to hindmilk. There is no distinct switch from foremilk to hindmilk, rather it is a gradual process.

ESTABLISHING A MILK SUPPLY

via GIPHY After giving birth, you should be able to begin nursing immediately, assuming that both you and the baby are stable, and there are no significant issues with the latch.   Ideally, it is best to nurse within the first hour, but if circumstances don’t allow it, you will both be fine. Not having that chance to nurse immediately is not going to destroy your ability to produce or your baby’s ability to suckle. During the first few weeks, your body is trying to figure out how much milk it needs to produce. For this reason, feeding on demand is often recommended to new mothers.   Most babies will naturally show hunger every 2-3 hours, and eat anywhere from 30-45 minutes.   If your baby is going significantly longer than 3 hours without nursing, or is taking over an hour to eat, speak with your hospital’s lactation consultant to make sure that your baby is latching correctly, and to get ideas about how to keep them awake.   It might be tempting to begin pumping so that you can produce an abundance of milk in the future, but I strongly advise against this if you are planning to breastfeed. Pumping in the early weeks can encourage an oversupply. While an oversupply of milk sounds amazing, it leads to pain, engorgement, and increased chances of mastitis. Not to mention a lack of sleep and social life because of painful, leaky boobs.    

THE LATCH

A proper latch is the most critical element for a good nursing experience. I can’t stress this enough. The difficult thing is that while sucking is a natural reflex for babies, nursing is still very much a learned skill.

 

My #1 recommendation in this area is to have a pediatric dentist or ENT check for lip and tongue ties within the first 24 hours.

 

Most pediatricians are not trained to look for these, and lactation consultants frequently miss them as well.

 

Lip and tongue ties will prevent your baby from latching onto your breast properly. A lip or tongue tie may:

 

  • Be extremely painful for the mother
  • Prevent baby from receiving adequate nutrition
  • Cause an oversupply or undersupply of mother’s milk
  • Result in baby taking 1 hour or more to nurse
  • Cause colic in babies due to excessive inhalation of air
  • Cause reflux

 

If your baby has a lip or tongue tie, getting it revised is quick and pain free. The pediatric dentist will apply a local anesthetic, then use a laser to quickly cut the ties, binding the wounds in the process.

 

Assuming your baby is free of lip and tongue ties, here are some great tips to help you achieve the perfect latch.

 

Open wide! Baby needs to have a big, wide mouth to latch correctly. His mouth should fit over much, if not all of your areola. If he doesn’t open his mouth wide enough, he will only suck in the tips of your nipples, which hurts like a mofo. 

 

Pucker up! Baby’s lips must be flanged outward. If his lips are curled in, he will inhale air and become gassy.

 

Nose to boob. Make sure that your baby is close enough to press the tip of his nose to your breast. There is no need to smother him, but he should never have his head bent backward. Try drinking a cup of water like this- it’s hard!

BREASTFEEDING POSITIONS

There are several different ways to hold your baby while nursing them.

Regardless of which position you choose to nurse in, the important thing is to make sure your baby’s body is facing you (they should always be facing forward when they nurse), and that you are tummy-to-tummy.

 

cradle hold nursing mother

In the cradle hold, you latch the baby onto one breast, and position their body across you, so that their feet are near the other breast. You hold their head in the crook of your arm, and often use a nursing pillow to hold them up.

 

CROSS CRADLE HOLD

The cross cradle hold is similar to the cradle hold in that your baby is lying across your body. The difference is that in the cross cradle hold, instead of using your arm and a pillow to support your baby, you use your hand.

FOOTBALL HOLD

In this position, you hold your baby much like a quarterback running in for a touch down. The baby lays lengthwise on the same side as the breast that they are nursing on, with their feet pointed toward your back.

 

SIDE-LYING HOLD

In this position, you and baby lie down on your sides, facing one another. Baby is latched onto your breast with their tummy touching yours.

 

 

NIPPLE PAIN 

While some level of pain and discomfort during breastfeeding is normal at the beginning, extreme pain is not.

via GIPHY

Again, I can’t stress enough the importance of having a pediatric dentist or ENT check your baby for lip and tongue ties. They are surprisingly common and prevent many mothers from having positive breastfeeding experiences.

 

Assuming your baby doesn’t have any ties, if you are still experiencing pain or discomfort, there are a few things you can do to help your breasts adjust to their new role as a human cafeteria.

 

  • Vary nursing positions. This can help by adjusting which parts of your nipple receive the most pressure from baby’s suction.

 

  • Apply nipple balm. Nipple balm protects and moisturizes your skin to relive or prevent cracks and soreness. I survived off of Lansinoh lanolin cream with my first baby, but I know many moms who have raved about Mother Love nipple cream. Both are safe for your baby to ingest, so you don’t have to wipe it off before the next nursing session.

 

  • Gel pads are often quoted as “magic” and a “lifesaver” by nursing moms. Lansinoh has some great gel pads that many mothers store in the fridge to extend their use up to 3 weeks!

 

  • Apply breastmilk and let air dry. Many mothers swear by this. Personally, I didn’t notice a difference, but hey, it’s completely free and takes two seconds, so it’s worth a shot!

 

  • Blow dry or air dry nipples. Regardless of if you apply breastmilk to your nipples, you should give them time to thoroughly dry after nursing your baby. Warm, damp environments are a breeding ground for fungus, so if you want to steer clear of thrush, dry those puppies off before you tuck them back into your bra.

 

  • Wear loose fitting clothing. This is helpful when you don’t have the time to air dry. Let’s be real- you probably want to sleep every spare second you have, not spend your time blowing on your own nipples. Loose fitting clothing is also helpful to relieve pressure on your breasts from sudden engorgement.

FREQUENCY OF FEEDINGS

A newborn will eat about every 2-3 hours for about 30-45 minutes (15-20 minutes per breast).

 

Total, this will be anywhere from 8-12 times per day.

 

By the time your baby is 3 months old, he should be eating every 3-4 hours, with longer stretches at night.

 

There are no hard-set rules about exactly how often or how long your baby will eat at each stage of development. All babies are a little different, so it is helpful to maintain a level of flexibility with your expectations. This is why many people recommend feeding on demand in the early days.

HUNGER CUES

via GIPHY

You don’t need to wait until your baby is wailing to determine that he is hungry. There are several things that your baby will do to indicate his hunger before he becomes hangry.   If you fail to recognize his early hunger cues and your baby moves into hangry zone (it happens to the best of us), you will probably have to calm him down before he is able to eat.   Recognizing a baby’s hunger cues is a learning process. In fact, it’s really confusing as a first time parent.   Everyone who told you that you will just know forgot what it’s like in the beginning.   You will learn, just as they did. And by the time your baby is 6 months old, you will have gotten so used to meeting their needs that you will feel like you just know.   Here’s a handy infographic of cues to help you out until you get there.  

HOW MUCH MILK YOUR BABY SHOULD DRINK, AND DIRTY DIAPERS THEY SHOULD PRODUCE, BY AGE

 

How much should you expect your baby to eat? How do you know if he is getting enough?

 

Those are nerve-wracking questions, and the answers change daily in the life of a newborn.

 

To help you out, I created this handy little info graphic.

 

 

 

 

I feel that it is critical to note that if you are pumping in addition to breastfeeding, the amount of milk that you collect is not necessarily reflective of how much you are actually producing.

 

That probably sounds ridiculous, but it’s not. Some women just don’t produce as well for a pump.

 

Additionally, babies are much better at emptying the breast than a pump is.

 

The best indicators for whether or not your baby is receiving enough milk is if they are meeting the wet/dirty diaper quota, and gaining weight steadily.

 

Many first time moms freak out because their baby was born small and stays smaller than other kids their age. They assume that they are not producing enough milk.

 

The reality is, genetics also play a role.

 

Smaller people have smaller babies. Bigger people have bigger babies.

MOTHER’S DIET

 

While it’s possible for some mothers to produce enough milk while on a diet of pizza and pop tarts, it won’t be for most of us.

 

For optimal milk production, your diet should be high in protein, carbohydrates and dark leafy vegetables.

 

One of the most overlooked parts of a nursing mom’s diet is WATER.

A great goal to shoot for is a half ounce per pound of body weight. So if you weigh 150 pounds, try to drink 75 ounces of water.

 

It sounds like a lot- and it is- but dehydration can shrivel up your milk supply like a prune.

 

The best way to do this is by using a water bottle with measurements on the side. My personal preference has always been Blender Bottles because of their tight seal.

 

Another factor to consider about your diet is potential allergens for your baby. Some babies are sensitive to certain foods in their mother’s milk.

 

These allergens will cause your baby to have an upset stomach which makes them pretty cranky and not a lot of fun to be around.

 

By not a lot of fun to be around, I actually mean miserable to be around.

 

Unfortunately, the most common allergen is dairy.

I know. It sucks. I feel for you. I’m in your boat right now.

 

To determine if your baby has a food sensitivity, begin by eliminating dairy for 2 weeks. It takes a while for the cows milk protein to clear your system.

 

If you notice a difference in your baby’s behavior after that time, jackpot!

 

If not, you should seriously consider doing an elimination diet. It sucks, but it’s better than getting screamed at for hours a day.

 

Related: Best Breastfeeding Diet: What to Eat, Galactagogues, Food Allergies, and Alcohol

One Last Note

I feel like it is really important to say this: Not every woman will be able to produce enough milk for her baby, and that’s okay.

 

Throughout history, as long as there has been a record of lactating mothers, there has also been a record of mothers struggling to meet their baby’s nutritional needs.

 

Being unable to provide enough breast milk for your child does not make you any less of a mother.

I repeat, being unable to provide enough breast milk for your child does not make you any less of a mother.

 

There are many factors that go into breast milk production, some of which are outside of a woman’s control.

 

In the past, if a wet nurse was not readily available, the baby would die. Animal’s milk was sometimes used, but it was largely unsuccessful for infants.

 

Today we are fortunate to live in a time where babies are able to survive and flourish regardless of access to breastmilk, assuming there is access to clean water and pure formula.

 

While many breastfeeding activists are quick to boast that breastfed babies will fare better in terms of intelligence, risk of obesity, and overall health, sibling studies show otherwise.

 

While breast milk is undeniably more nutritious than infant formula, when we look observe long term results, breastfed children have the same outcomes as their formula fed counterparts.

 

You probably don’t believe you, and I don’t blame you. I encourage you to check out the study for yourself. It’s not the most exciting read in the world, but it’s worth your time, especially if you are feeling guilty about not producing enough milk.

 

On a personal level, I absolutely support breastfeeding. I have, and continue to breastfeed both of my daughters, the oldest of whom is 2.5 years old.

 

That being said, I have experienced significant psychological damage from breastfeeding; damage that hindered me from being able to connect with my oldest child for quite a while. So I also realize that it isn’t the best option for everyone.

 

Related: Feeding on Demand: What I Learned Might Surprise You

 

I don’t think that any mother should be guilted, shamed, or scared into making decisions that compromise her wellbeing.

 

So while the health of children is important, so is the health of mothers.

 

Good luck on your breastfeeding journey! I hope that you find it to be a wonderful, rewarding experience.

  

But if by chance you don’t, know that you are not alone. 

9 Tips to Relieve Back Pain from Breastfeeding

9 Tips to Relieve Back Pain from Breastfeeding

Did anyone else feel like they were hit by a truck after giving birth? Seriously, the cramps and fatigue afterward are the worst.

 

If growing a baby and delivering it isn’t brutal enough on our bodies, we then carry and feed this child around the clock, which is also labor-intensive.

 

Neck and back pain is one of the most common complaints from mothers of newborns, and a lot of it is associated with breastfeeding.

 

Personally, I can’t speak much to bottle feeding. I have mainly breastfed my babies. But I have heard that bottle feeding has similar effects on your neck and back. You are still leaning over a child for countless hours a day, resulting in significant pain.

 

I went through excruciating back pain while breastfeeding my first baby. After much blood, sweat, and tears 2+ years of nursing my children, I think it’s sufficient to say that I have learned a lot.

 

Let’s dive in!

 

*This post contains affiliate links. You can see my full disclosure here.

Core Strength

 

You might be surprised to learn that much of the pain surrounding breastfeeding stems from having a weak core.

 

Your core is the band of muscles that wrap around your abdomen- not just your abs. This band of muscles is responsible for stabilizing your entire body and keeping you safe from injuries.

 

Without good core strength, we are prone to back pain, abdominal weakness, poor balance, loss of bladder control, pelvic weakness, and sexual dysfunction.

Diastasis Recti

Have you ever heard of diastasis recti? Diastasis recti is a condition in which your abdominal muscles split apart, weakening your core.

 

It is caused by excessive pressure on the abdominal wall (like…um, a growing baby). So unsurprisingly, it is most common among pregnant women. In fact, about two thirds of all pregnant women will develop it.  

I first learned about diastasis recti from Beth Learn over at Fit2B Studios. She is a mamma, fitness instructor, and powerhouse of knowledge.

 

Beth and a team of physical therapists are dedicated to creating “tummy safe” workouts for moms.

 

She explains that a lot of the exercises we typically think of for strengthening our cores, such as crunches, can actually weaken our core if we have diastasis recti.

 

A key element to relieving back pain is to restore your core.

If you are unsure if you have diastasis recti, here are step-by-step instructions to check.

If you have a weak core, it is difficult to maintain good posture. And likewise, if you have poor posture it is difficult to maintain a strong core. It’s a vicious cycle.

 

Both are essential to alleviate back pain that comes from nursing babies.

 

 

Here are my top 9 tips on how to break the cycle, strengthen your core and correct your posture so you can finally breastfeed without pain.

​​

#1 Bring Baby Up to You

 

If at all possible, don’t hunch over when nursing your baby! This is the golden rule of breastfeeding. When you hunch over to put your breast in Baby’s mouth, you are forcing your back into a compromised position for hours a day.

 

The #1 way to reduce back pain from nursing is to bring baby up to you. You should be bringing your baby up high enough to keep your back straight while nursing. Ideally, good posture should be maintained at all times.

 

You can do this by supporting your gaby with your arms, pillows, or a specific nursing pillow.

 

But, this is easier said than done, especially in the early days of nursing when it’s often difficult to establish a good latch.

Both of my daughters demanded that I dangle and drop my boob into their mouth to get them to hold on.

 

If your baby refuses to latch when being held up to you, a helpful trick is to bring them up to you after latching them onto the breast.

That brings me to tip #2.

 

 

#2 Use a Proper Nursing Pillow

 

Having the right nursing pillow can make or break your back. There are a lot of nursing pillows on the market. Popular nursing pillows include the Boppy, My Brest Friend, and the Infantino Elevate.

 

Personally, I’ve tried all three, and I would only recommend My Brest Friend.

 

Here’s why:

The Boppy does not enable you to adjust the height. I constantly found myself leaning over my baby for the entire nursing session, or shoving extra pillows under her head. Sometimes both.

It was a pain in the butt to get set up with a boppy and additional pillows for every single nursing session.

 

That experience lead me to buying the Infantino Elevate. At first glance, it looks great because of how adjustable the height is. After all, that was my number one frustration with the Boppy.

But it has a huge flaw- it doesn’t fit snugly to the mother, so Baby easily rolls between Mom and pillow! I didn’t even know that could be a problem until I bought it.

I tried using it after bringing my second daughter home from the hospital, and found it incredibly frustrating. It is currently gathering dust in a dark corner of my house.

 

Then I tried My Brest Friend.

My Brest Friend snaps around your waist securely, enabling you to choose how high or low you want to position your baby, while the lower back support helps you maintain good posture.

 

This keeps you from hunching over, and keeps the baby from rolling around.

 

It can even be tightened securely enough to walk around the house while supporting the weight of a newborn.

 

 

An added bonus is a pocket to stash your water or snacks!

 

This nursing pillow is hands-down the best one on the market right now.

 

 

#3 Mind Your Posture

 

After growing and carrying a baby for 9 months, your body is going through significant adjustments that affect your posture.

 

Your center of balance has been thrown off, your ligaments have been stretched beyond belief, and the hormone relaxin is still coursing through your veins.

 

It’s HARD to maintain good posture when you’re nursing a baby for hours a day, every day.

 

Beth Learn created a whole course dedicated to learning basic movements that protect and strengthen your core in your day-to-day activities. She calls this course the “Foundational 5.” I highly recommend it.

 

There are all sorts of movements that we make subconsciously that affect our back, neck, and core in negative ways. Did you know that the way you sit up from a lying position can worsen your diastasis recti if done incorrectly?!

 

A few pro tips that I have picked up along the way are: 

  • Keep your shoulder blades together as much as possible.
  • As hard as it is to look away from your precious baby, take a few moments to tilt your head back and stretch out your neck while nursing.
  • Keep your back straight as much as humanly possible. Squat and bend at the knees instead of bending your back.
  • Stretch in small increments throughout the day.

 

 

#4 Exercise

 

If you’re anything like me, during the last months of pregnancy (and the first, and maybe even the middle), exercise is just not going to happen.

 

And those days with a newborn? Hahaha. That’s cute. You can find me sleeping every chance I get. No way in hell will I be found doing any form of exercise beyond walking the halls with a screaming baby.

 

But exercise is essential to alleviate back pain. And exercising correctly is crucial.

Remember all that stuff about diastasis recti? Yea, it’s going to affect your workout routine significantly.

 

If you don’t exercise correctly, you can put more pressure on your abdominal muscles, resulting in a bigger abdominal split, a weaker core, and a bigger “mommy pooch.”

That is why some moms find their bellies growing rather than shrinking when they exercise. Talk about discouraging.

 

Beth has over 200 videos designed specifically for pregnant women and mothers. They range from 10 minutes to an hour, and can be done in your living room.

 

I have personally done a lot of the workouts and really love them. If I’m low on time and energy, there are tons to choose from. And if I want to get my butt kicked, there are options galore.

 

Kimmy Smith also has a great video with 5 exercises that she has hand picked to help alleviate back pain for nursing mothers. It is definitely worth checking out.

 

 

#5 Yoga

 

Doing yoga in the morning is a great way to prime your body to maintain good posture throughout the day.

 

I highly recommend taking a look at this article by Ann Pizer, a yoga teacher in NYC.

 

Ann has amazing tutorials on 8 poses that she suggests specifically for breastfeeding mothers. Poses include cat-cow, sphinx, bridge, and extended triangle. Trust me, you will want to check it out.

 

And again, shout out to Beth Learn. She has tons of great yoga videos, ranging in time and intensity. All are safe for diastasis recti.

#6 Belly Binding

 

Belly binding, or splinting, has multiple benefits. By belly binding alone, I brought my baby belly almost completely back to normal in 2 weeks! But that’s a story for a different day.

 

In regards to relieving back pain, belly binding offers phenomenal back support, which keeps you from slouching. It also helps you pull in your core, which is essential for good posture and increasing core strength.

 

There are several items that you can use for belly binding: a bengkung, velcro wrap, and corset.

I find that the bengkung looks intimidating and bulky. I haven’t tried it, so I can’t give an honest review, but I mainly see women wearing them over their clothes, which is not really my thing.

 

I have used a velcro wrap, but I’m not a big fan. The main reason that I don’t like using a velcro wrap is because it always looks funny under my t-shirts. That being said, I DO use them immediately after having a baby. They offer more flexibility in size before I can fit into a corset.

 

Then there is the corset. These are great because you can wear them under your clothes, and nobody can tell. They help you look great, shrink your belly, and stand up straight. It’s a win-win-win.

 

 

 

A nice little bonus is that they make your bust look amazing.

 

The one that I use and highly recommend can be purchased on Amazon.

#7 Chiropractic Care

 

Chiropractic care is like country music- you either love it or you hate it. Personally, I love it, but my husband hates it. We both have our reasons, and both are valid.

 

If you love going to the chiropractor, or are at least open to it, it can do wonders to ease your back pain.

 

On more than one occasion I have called my chiropractor in tears, begging to be seen that day. And he has never let me down. I have gone from crippling pain to floating on clouds in a matter of seconds.

 

If you aren’t working on the root issues- a weak core and poor posture, you will forever be going back to the chiropractor.

 

But if you are in a lot of pain, I suggest giving it a shot.

 

#8 Get a Massage

 

This is the most desirable way to relieve back pain from breastfeeding. Who doesn’t like a good massage?

 

But relying on your partner to give you a massage will only go so far. Maybe your hubs has to travel for work, leaving you in pain for days. Or maybe he has lame excuses, making you resentful.

 

If and when you can get a massage, go for it! When you’re sacrificing your body for hours a day to feed a child, you deserve a massage.

 

But when that’s not an option, rolling on a tennis ball or lacrosse ball can be extremely helpful. Personally, I favor lacrosse balls because they are firmer, providing a more deep-tissue massage than a tennis ball.

 

I even sleep on a lacrosse ball when my muscles are especially tight or bothersome.

#9 Use an Inversion Table

 

An inversion table lets you recline securely to relieve pressure on your back. You are in control of how much you want to recline, and for how long.

 

You can start out with a slight tilt, or go completely upside down!

 

If you are interested in buying one, I recommend trying one out first to know if it will be helpful for you. Some people experience significant pain relief. Others experience very little, if any.

 

 

Using an inversion table provided me with so much pain relief when I was nursing my first daughter, that I refused to fly back to Thailand without one. We looked more than a little ridiculous carting it through the airport.

 

But after my daughter began sitting up to nurse, the inversion table didn’t make as big of a difference.

 

Now that I am nursing another newborn, I find it to be extremely useful again.

 

 

Well, there you have it! Those are my top 9 tips to relieve back pain for breastfeeding mothers. What works for you? Do you have any other tips? Comment below to share!

 

eliminate breastfeeding back pain