Sunday, May 5, 2013

Breast-feeding: For my Fitness Fanatic and Clean Eating Friends

I would like to start off by saying that I do not mean to be offensive in any way. One thing I don’t do, since having a baby, is judge a woman, especially based on her parenting. Whether you nurse or bottle-feed, or had a natural birth or C-section… that is all you and you probably have great reasons to have done so. I know mom-guilt and I don’t plan on laying any more of that on anyone.

I was prepared for the initial pain of breastfeeding. I was ready to grin and bare it for as long as it took. I read all of the books so I could take charge of any issues. I learned about thrush, heavy letdown, and how to increase milk supply. I knew that I could breastfeed because I am not one of the 5% of women with banana boobs who can’t do so (that is supposedly the only reason a woman can’t breastfeed). That’s what “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” by the La Leche League says anyway. But then again, that ignoramus also covered a whole couple of chapters on how a woman who gave birth via c-section can’t love her baby as much as a woman who had a natural birth. Really? I’m pretty sure I love my baby as much as the next person because I chose to give birth to my baby alive the only way I could do so, and I don’t think I could love anything or anyone as much as I love my little guy.

Anyhow, I want to share with my fitness fanatic and clean eating friends something no one warned me about. I didn’t find it in any book, nor did any doctor or nurse or lactation consultant tell me about it until after it happened.  First off exercise, nor restricting calories, nor losing weight quickly, affects milk supply. In fact, nothing at all affects milk supply except for your baby’s demand, as long as you eat plenty of protein, Vitamin B and stay well hydrated. Unless you have rare issues, you will produce the AMOUNT of milk your baby needs. That’s a fact. Another fact: The amount you pump is not the amount your baby eats. Check out… the average amount a woman can pump is somewhere between 2-3 ounces per feeding. In the beginning I could only pump .5 oz but could pump an easy 3 weeks later. Your baby is most likely eating much more than that.

Now comes what happens that we aren’t told. My baby wasn’t gaining weight as quickly as the doctor wanted, which I was fine with. He was in about the 1st-3rd percentile for his first 3 months. That was okay since my husband and I are both small people. I was holding off on supplementing because I thought I had all the issues covered. Then he went a couple weeks without gaining any weight, at just shy of 3 months. The day I decided to switch to formula, I pumped and studied my milk. It never occurred to me before that my milk should probably not be clear with just a faint tinge of white. Maybe it should look like…. Milk? That day I went to the lactation consultant and she said I would have to up the fat in my diet, by maybe the equivalence of half a jar of peanut butter at this point to up the fat in my milk. I was giving my poor baby SKIM MILK! His pediatrician confirmed this, and I switched him over immediately. I couldn’t understand before why he was eating around the clock, literally. I had milk out the wazoo, baby had ridiculously saturated diapers, and I could pump what he needed and he would have milk running all over his face when he ate. My milk just didn’t have the calories necessary.  I would have been happy to up the fat in my diet if it were his first week of life, but he had already gone 3 months without fat, so I wasn’t going to experiment with his diet at this point. I was going to mom up and do what I knew would be best for him.

I’m not an expert on any of this. I’m just sharing my experience. After I went through this, I looked up a few cases where babies of vegans were dying from “SIDS”. They later discovered the vegan diets the mothers were on didn’t contain fat, and the mothers themselves had a low level of body fat so the babies couldn’t get fat from the milk. My little guy gained a pound a week ever since we switched… I’m sure it will level out in the next couple of weeks once he catches up to where he should be weight-wise. He’s still in the 9th percentile after 1 month on formula, but he is gaining (obviously) very steadily. He is a completely different baby now and sleeps through the night, is happy all the time, and only starts to cry if he’s hungry, which we catch before that happens. I always thought I had the world’s most perfect baby, but he is so incredibly perfect now that he’s so happy. Poor thing was happy even when he was hungry… he’s a champ.

As soon as I find out I’m pregnant again, I am going to go crazy on fats. Avocados, nut butters, butter, cheese, full fat yogurt, meats, nuts and seeds… I’m getting it all in. Even if I am like the last pregnancy where the thought of food with fats (meat) made me nauseous. I’m sucking it up because I loved nursing like I’ve never loved doing anything else. We now have an infant scale as well, so I can make sure the next one gains like he should be on a calorie-dense milk supply. I’m also saving a tube of pumped milk to test and compare to my next supply so that I can be confident that I’m giving my baby what he needs to thrive.

By the way, I have done everything possible to breastfeed. Everything. I don’t need any more questions like “Are you sure it wasn’t your supply?” or “Maybe your baby is just small?” because I’ve got it all covered now. Don’t you hate when someone tries to give you advice you never asked for? This post certainly isn’t meant to be such, I just know that I wish I knew something like this in the beginning so that I could possibly still be nursing right now, because it really is the best bonding experience in the world.