If you think this post is about poop, then you're half-right. But that's not the most important half.
In the last three weeks I've learned more about breastfeeding than I ever imagined possible. For instance: did you know that there is no research-based evidence that nipple creams are effective? Or that there are federal laws prohibiting the re-use of a personal breast pump? Or that a galactagogue is not an alien species? Well, now you do.
So what of this is relevant to soon-to-be mamas? Well, a little bit of all of it. Here are some of my picks of relevant breastfeeding bits that you may not have known, along with some that perhaps you already knew.
Breastfeeding is enjoyable: sure, some discomfort in the first two weeks is normal as you and baby figure out how to latch on and get things going. But after that, most mamas find that they enjoy the bonding experience because the act of nursing releases oxytocin, the love hormone. That's handy. Pumping, while great, doesn't offer the same neurological benefits, which is why women rarely drive off into the sunset with their pumps, nor do they pay for them to go to college.
Nipple pain and engorgement are not normal: you might hear that these two painful conditions come with the territory, but that is as true as saying that lost luggage is the norm. Sure, it happens to a lot of people, but you don't need to ignore it and should seek help from a lactation consultant* if you feel either of these coming on. Usually both problems are an easy, quick fix.
Success is something you get to define: so get on it! If you're interested in giving breastfeeding a try, talk to someone like me or another lactation educator. All CLE's trained by CAPPA will help you determine what success means to you and help connect you with the resources you need to meet your personal definition. No judgement.
It is incredibly likely that you will provide all the milk your baby needs. A lot of companies will send you messages like "in case you don't make enough/your milk isn't good enough," but that is because they want you to buy what they are selling. Your milk is made on demand and offers the perfect balance of everything that your baby needs. Babies will start to want iron-rich foods at about six months of age, and that's when they will normally need additional food. When in doubt about supply or supplementation, always talk to an IBCLC.
Don't trust everything you read on the internet (including this). Why? Because you may drop everything to run out and buy cabbage leaves when all you need is a cold compress. There are lots of old wives tales about breastfeeding, and some of them are accurate, some are harmless, and some are incredibly dangerous. I like La Leche League International for easy to read and access information. Be wary of the resources you use, and consider their motivations. Are they trying to sell you a product? And does that product involve you breastfeeding more or less?
Exclusively breastfed babies' $#it doesn't stink. This was the most mindblowing of everything I learned. If you need proof, this is a great time to explore chat rooms and facebook groups. Babies who drink only human milk make poop that smells a little like buttermilk and is easy to wash out of cloth diapers and clothing. Now that's a party trick I can get behind!
*in an upcoming blog post I'll explain all of the different professionals who specialize in breastfeeding so you know the lingo. I always recommend an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).
My best friend gave birth to her son ten years ago, my flower girls are graduating from high school, and people I used to babysit for have children who can speak in full sentences. And yet every time I see each of these babes I think to myself:
1. Who are you and what have you done with the two year old I loved
2. I am now that old lady I used to hate who would say "my, how you've grown!"
There are days when I can't believe I'm not five years old.
We all know that babies grow too quickly. People tell pregnant women this very thing every day, "treasure every moment," or, "hold on to this sweet age as long as you can," or, "I enjoy nude parasailing in Niagra Falls, and you should try it, too."
Ok, maybe they don't say the sailing bit, but it makes just about as much sense. You can't possibly hold onto every moment that goes by, because if you did you wouldn't have time to watch it (or you would be making a video of you watching a video). It is the slimy paradox of easy camera access these days. Have you traveled to any of the local wonders in your town and experienced the tourists taking in the beauty of the Garden of the Gods or Malibu Beach or the Biggest Gumball in Texas? Have you noticed that each one is hiding behind a small, squarish box made of metal and glass, squinting one eye?
This may be how your child remembers you, if you're not careful.
Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't take pictures of your children. You should. You should take lots of pictures, videos, sound recordings, and you most certainly will want to encase parts of them (the children) in cement or dough (briefly) to preserve just how tiny that little hand or foot was. But you should also write stories, do interpretive dances (together), have private moments and just be. Because the beauty of a photo is that it remains the same forever. It can be touched up to hide those unsightly wild hairs or colorized and digitally remastered to appear old timey or even more fabulous. But it can never get any sweeter, the way true memories do. Unless you're steadfastly attached to grudges about all of your exes, you probably think better of them today than you did the day you broke up, right? The same may be true of your favorite memories.
Just as yoga exists between the asana, the beauty of life exists between the photographs.
Hire a pro. I know that there are dozens of apps for taking and forging images out there, but nothing compares to the quality that a professional can get. That's why they are professionals. They will make sure you look natural and fabulous, and you'll be glad you did.
Spend at least as much time on each side of the lens. Even Hitchcock made an appearance in each of his films, and so should you. Otherwise when baby looks back 50 years later they will wonder what you looked like and why you were so intent on harassing them in every moment of their lives.
Back them up. Print them, email them, store them on hard drives. You decide your privacy factor, but make sure that whatever you're doing doesn't live exclusively in your iDevice or at one place or another. One of the best games for a rainy day? Look at old photographs (this requires old photographs).
Share the LOVE. However you choose to do this is up to you. Perhaps private albums on Picasa or Facebook, or publicly as the face of your product. This helps those of us who live far away avoid the "Oh my GOSH have you GROWN UP!" comments that every child fears.
Give them the power. In the hands of a child, anything is possible. Once they can manage the complexity of iPhotography, hand them the brick and let them shoot. See the world through their eyes. You might be surprised by what you see!
Me, with two great conversationalists.
The most common complaint I hear about being a new mama? Abject boredom once the circus leaves town. Don't mistake me, most mamas breathe a sigh of relief once family, in-laws and outlaws ride off into the sunset, but a few days later magazines, Facebook, and daytime TV start to lose their charm.
Some mamas immediately join playgroups or mama and me yoga. But even these outings, as arduous as they can be the first couple of times, don't fill 24 hours.
Suggestions for Things to Occupy Your Mind
Stitcher. Video may have killed the radio star, but bad writing and political commercials killed the TV star. I love listening to podcasts, but know that it can be tricky for new mamas to download new episodes or spend time synchronizing devices. Stitcher is an application for mobile devices that works like Pandora radio. You download the free app and then have access to streaming podcasts. My favorites include This American Life, Fresh Air, Freakonomics, La Tavola Marche, and The Boob Group.
Handheld readers. The beauty of a Kindle in particular is that you can read a library of books with one hand, without turning on a bright light (some phones also work, but the lighting isn't quite as fancy). It is backlit and lightweight, and easy to manage while breastfeeding. Our local library lends ebooks which you can obtain without even leaving home. Bored in the middle of the night? Download something new.
Research. If you have the internet, the world is your oyster (but beware the undertow). Look for positive things, like vacations you'd like to take, graduate programs you might pursue, or how to win big at blackjack. Avoid the rabbit hole of medical websites. Do not research All the Things that Could Go Wrong, because there are plenty of panicky messages on message boards with truly insane recommendations for home remedies. Plan a mythical trip to Sweden, or learn what it takes to get a visa into Bhutan, but don't google "small red rash on baby's booty."
Also, if I may recommend avoiding games. Sure, they make the time go by, but at the end of the day you will have nothing to chat about with your partner or the other mamas at yoga. Learn a thing or two and make yourself an excellent conversationalist because you may end up talking to yourself at times, and don't you want to be interested in what you have to say?
Ever glanced at magazines at the checkout counter and wondered what it would be like to have everyone eager to learn what you ate last week, where you plan to shop next weekend, or who you've been sleeping with?
Congratulations, mama. Now we all want to know (we might have some good guesses on at least one of the areas above).
Your pregnancy announcement tells the masses that you're identifying yourself as someone worth cyberstalking. Your bump may attract all sorts of inappropriate questions, unsolicited advice, and direct stares. I know some mamas who love this, who welcome their new status as The Keeper of the Next Generation and some who start wearing abnormally large hats and bags to “cover” their belly just as your favorite character does on TV when the actress becomes pregnant, but the character she plays does not. P.S.: No one is fooling anyone.
As anyone who moves into the ranks of fame will tell you, you will soon learn who your friends really are.
Tips for Becoming a Famous Mama-to-be:
Tips for Being an Adoring Fan, Not a Criminal Stalker/Creeper
I'm one of those people who loves making your life easier (and I believe in you). I am an experienced registered prenatal yoga teacher and a lactation educator.
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Thanks for inviting me to be a part of this process with you. You're stronger than you think you are.