*This post may contain graphic information. These are real stories*
As a breastfeeding Mom, I am sure you have experienced the intense hunger and thirst that comes along with breastfeeding. This is something I was not prepared for, and was not expecting to battle with.
During pregnancy I had learned that you need somewhere around 300-500 extra calories just to make milk and keep up with feeding your baby. Of course I got pretty excited about this because I love to eat anyways, so why wouldn’t this sound appealing?! I remember after giving birth when my milk was coming in that I had felt so hungry, nothing I ate could satisfy it. I had to eat and eat and I was afraid this was going to last my entire breastfeeding journey. The good news for me is once my milk supply leveled and my body got used to making milk, the intensity died down a little bit. Now, I typically just get really really thirsty every time I feed her. Like, dehydrated thirsty, I need water right now thirsty. If you have not seen this video on the incredible thirst, you honestly must watch it. It is one of the funniest breastfeeding videos and the little characters really explain the thirst while nursing.
Eat and Drink to satisfy the urge.
There is quite a bit of controversy around the internet and books of how much extra water you actually need, and how many calories you actually need. The best thing I have discovered is to drink to satisfy your thirst, and eat to satisfy your hunger. Your body has an incredible way of letting you know what you need. One of the worst things you could do is try to diet while nursing, because then you are in danger of dropping your milk supply and not getting enough for you and baby. I do my absolute best to eat as clean and healthy as possible, but let’s be honest, the occasional oatmeal cream pie has slipped into the grocery cart, as well as a box of peanut butter cereal.
I have read that a breastfeeding mom usually needs or takes in an average of 13 glasses of water per day. For me, this wasn’t really too much of a shock because I was used to taking in so much extra water during pregnancy.
Foods known to help promote breast milk production
There are some pretty common foods that have been known to help increase and support a healthy milk supply.
Oats are loaded with fiber and good for digestion, and a good source of energy for you as well. One of my absolute favorite go-to-foods that a friend introduced me to is this Bakery on Main Gluten Free Oatmeal. These oats are gluten-free, and also contain quinoa, flax-seed, chia seed and amaranth. I love the convenience of these packs and they are a go to for me when I am in a rush.
Fenugreek is known to help increase milk supply. You can buy them in bulk and add them to foods or cookies, I however am always too lazy to do this and run out of time. I do love this UpSpring Brand Powdered Drink Mix, that contains fenugreek and blessed thistle. Someone had me try it one day mixed with lemonade, and it has become one of my favorite little treats I like to drink. I will usually drink a pack a few times a week, or if she has gone longer between feedings, I will drink one just to help give a little extra boost to my supply. I was so shocked when I started drinking these how much fuller I felt!
Apparently they say papayas are a natural sedative and could possibly help you to relax and enable you to nurse better/easier
Garlic has a chemical compound that helps increase supply
Spinach and Beet Leaves
Containing iron, folic acid and calcium.
If I am not making my own lactation bites, one of my favorite favorite lactation brands that I like are Milkmakers Lactation Cookies, and specifically the lemon ones. Oh they are so darn good!
I had recently been asked by some other mommies what are some of my favorite go-to snacks that are simple and easy. Some quick foods I love are hard-boiled eggs, peanut butter on crackers, banana and peanut butter, Sargento Balanced Breaks, veggies like carrots, celery and cucumber, larabars, and lots and lots of water!!
So, as part of this breastfeeding series, each week I am going to feature a mom or two that has successfully breastfed, is breastfeeding, or one that has chosen not to breastfeed with each of their stories in hopes that whatever struggle you may be having, that you can find a mom to connect with on that level. Of course, I would like to thank those of you who have already reached out to me with your stories and struggles, and I am always willing to lend an ear.
Here is Mary Leigh’s Story
“Hey there, my name is Mary Leigh and I am the blogger behind Live Well Play Together – a family and lifestyle blog where my hope is to encourage readers to seek out beauty in the chaos and to live in community with others. Life really is more fun when we do it together, am I right?
I’ll start by giving a big thank you to Lauren for hosting this incredible series. I think it’s an important topic so I’m excited to be a part of the conversation.
I had always planned on breastfeeding when my husband and I had children. It was practical, natural, and not to mention way cheaper than formula. I was fortunate enough to nurse my little one for almost 21 months until he naturally weaned. It was a really wonderful and special part of mothering for me, but it was certainly not without it’s challenges.
Today, I’d like to share a couple of things that were really helpful to me during that time.
Not Breastfeeding Did Not Mean I was a Failure
I know this is a strange thing to say after just saying that I nursed my son for almost two years. But, I really think this was important. I am thankful to have several friends with wonderful, healthy children. In that group, I’ve had friends that nursed their babies for a year or longer, just a few months, and others who chose not to or were not able to nurse despite their best efforts.
I also had great advice from my own mom who had four of us kids and had experience both breastfeeding and formula feeding. (Spoiler alert: We all turned out fine.)
This knowledge allowed me to go into mothering with a certain level of peace and acceptance that while breastfeeding was my plan and my preference, it was possible that it might not work out and that my baby would be okay. I decided early on that we would breastfeed as long as it was working and that’s what we did.
It’s a Learning Process for Everyone
I cannot tell you how many times I had to remind myself of this little nugget. Breastfeeding is a learning process for everyone. Your baby has spent nine months literally connected to a constant food source. Now he’s out in the big world and has to not only ask for, but then learn how to get food. And mama. You’ve spent the last nine months sustaining the life of this little one, but now it’s totally different. You are exhausted and sore and didn’t that sweet baby just eat an hour ago? I get it. I felt totally functional in the first few weeks of breastfeeding. My little one would start crying and immediately be brought to me. He loved to eat what seemed like all the time. (Also, WHY did no one tell me about the one week growth spurt?!) Fortunately, I didn’t have to deal with many complications of nursing, but I still felt like it was all I did for a while. In fact, I remember doing a google search about hating breastfeeding in the middle of a particularly exhausting night.
When I shared this with a friend of mine, she told me confidently, “If you can do it for a month, it will get much easier.” She was right. Soon, we both got the hang of it and it became much, much easier.
You’ve Got This, Mama
Ultimately, I continue to be so incredibly thankful for our breastfeeding journey. It was mostly wonderful and I was glad to have been able to naturally wean my little one when I did. But, if breastfeeding has taught me anything, it is that for the most part, mamas are just doing what they think is best for their children. Whether that’s breastfeeding or formula feeding, making sure that mama and baby are healthy and thriving is most important. I had such a strong support network and really believe that it takes a village. Can we agree to support one another and cheer one another along in this motherhood thing? It is certainly not easy, but I think we can make it a little easier on one another if we offer up a little support. Here’s to healthy babies and healthy mamas!”
For more from Mary Leigh, be sure to stop by Live Well Play Together and say hello!
Do you have any favorite snacks you love to enjoy while breastfeeding? Please comment below or send me an email so I can share with other Mommas!
Join me next week as I share THREE more stories!
Go to Part Four here