On Your Mark, Get Set, Breastfeed!

Conquer school mornings in stride with this Olympic-worthy breastfeeding game plan!

By Karen Williamson, CLEC Milkies Special Contributor

Does the alarm clock chime send a shiver down your spine? Get your baby fed and your school-age kids to class on time, with a little help from a simple planner, some extra pump parts, and a streamlined routine.

Chart the course for happier days, easier milk

If we let it, stress can steal so much of our joy as parents. According to Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple: A Guide for Helping Mothers (Hale Publishing, page 228), it can also diminish a nursing mom’s milk ejection. This can result in a baby consuming less milk when nursing. Likewise, a jam-packed schedule may decrease milk production, if nursing sessions are dropped or shortened.

If you don’t already own one, find a planner or electronic calendar app to serve as your mainstay this school year. In addition to school and extracurricular activities, leave room for recording days and times that you plan to store up breastmilk either through pumping or using the Milkies Milk-Saver. Keep your planner by your bedside to review before sleep. Then, review it once more each morning to clarify your vision for the day.

Round up backpacks, school clothes, and pump parts before nightfall

I am sure that at least one of my gray hairs can be accounted for by the dreaded elusive permission slip or missing school assignment. Avoid morning time-wasters by reviewing your children’s homework, signing permission slips, and reading school notices before bedtime. In addition, work with your child(ren) to lay out backpacks and clothes the night before—complete with socks, shoes and any after-school gear for karate, ballet, etc. That way, you don’t have to play hide-and-go-seek for a missing shoe in the morning hours.

If you work and pump outside of the home, consider purchasing at least one extra set of breast pump parts (flanges, storage bottles and connecting pieces) through your pump manufacturer’s website. Then, you can bypass the dreaded wash-by-hand chore. At the end of the workday, simply gather all of the used pump parts into a zippered mesh laundry bag or mesh bathtub toy bag, nestle the bag into the top rack of your dishwasher, and set the dial for the hot wash cycle.

Forget Food Network lunches. Aim for the best food you can manage.

Although I would do a cartwheel (not an easy feat for this post-baby body!) for one of Food Network star Jeff Mauro’s tantalizing “Sandwich King” creations, when nursing I had to give myself permission to pack simple dinner leftovers. In fact, in some instances, all I could muster was filling a plastic sandwich bag with a few dollars for a lunch purchase at school or childcare.

The “bedtime bewitching hours” can be trying for nursing and non-nursing moms alike. So if you opt for homemade lunches, load up lunch boxes after your nursling dozes off to nighttime dreamland. Or better yet, if available, recruit your partner to be the official lunch-packer. Don’t forget to delegate to those under counter height, too. Even little tikes can handle taking dirty containers out of lunch bags and tossing them into the sink.

Rise before the rest of the team.

For most nursing moms, morning is prime time for milk flow and therefore prime time for getting more milk output from a pumping session—thanks to sleep’s positive effect on prolactin levels. According to The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide to Making More Milk (McGraw-Hill, page 66), even brief naps can boost this milk production hormone.

Whether you opt to pump or not in the a.m., feeding baby before other siblings arise helps prevent distractions that can lure baby away from that important first feed of the day.

Get your sling on.

A sling can be a lifesaver when you really need to brush your school-age child’s hair or help tie a shoe, but your nursling insists on nursing now! Having trouble finding a sling that you and your baby both feel comfortable in, so your hands can be free? Before purchasing one, ask the moms at your local mom’s group or play group if you can try on theirs to evaluate how your baby and you respond to each. For additional shopping pointers and sling-wearing safety tips, visit babywearinginternational.org.

Exercise your breastmilk storage skills on weekends, too.

Both in the world of sports and the world of lactation, consistent routines appear to be essential to long-term stick-to-itiveness. To perform at the peak of their game, most Olympians exercise at least six days a week. Similarly, many lactation experts recommend that moms who pump on work days also pump on days off work. This helps moms set aside some breastmilk before the busy work week begins.

To sneak in extra time with the pump on days off without feeling perpetually strapped to the machine, pump 10 minutes or so immediately after a breastfeeding session. As a bonus for many moms, this can help boost milk supply for the upcoming work week. (Overproducing mamas may want to forego this idea.)

And if your non-nursing breast leaks while your little one is latched onto the other side, consider using a Milkies Milk-Saver to store that breastmilk so that it is not wasted in your nursing pad.

With these tips in action, you’ll be headed to school or the bus stop feeling a lot less like you’ve just competed in a triathlon.

Breastfeeding matters! Please contact your doctor, midwife or lactation consultant with specific breastfeeding questions or concerns. This article is intended only to provide general information.

Supplementing with formula? Learn more about DHA/ARA additives.

(This is a great newsletter from Healthy Babies Happy Moms, Inc a wonderful clinic in Rhode Island that helps moms navigate the early days of motherhood and breastfeeding. I thought this information was important and want to share it with Milkies readers.)

Sometimes, a lot of what we do at HBHM Inc. involves helping moms navigate the system to get what they need for their particular situation. Read below for the experience of one of our clients, a Rhode Island mother of two small children, who is also a RN with a Master’s of Public Health. In this instance, she taught us new information on DHA/ARA content in formula and an insurance benefit we were not even aware of, which might be helpful for mothers who need formula because of a low milk supply.

DHA/ARA Concerns and Insurance Coverage of Formula

Controversy surrounds the use of DHA and ARA additives to infant formula. While DHA and ARA are compounds are also found in breast milk, manufactured sources of DHA and ARA are structurally different and may not actually be beneficial. More concerning are the potential negative health effects of these additives, which remain largely untested in infants. DHA and ARA additives can expose babies to environmental contaminants and fungal toxins. These contaminants and toxins are most concerning for infants with immature immune systems and can cause unpleasant side effects in all babies. For a full discussion of the dangers and side-effects of DHA and ARA in infant formula, visit this link.

The side effects of DHA and ARA are what I noticed first in our newborn. I had to give him formula due to a low supply issue I have had with both of my children, despite my best efforts to exclusively breastfeed my babies. He had watery explosive diarrhea, excessive foul smelling gas and what I suspected was abdominal cramping by observing how fussy he became when he passed gas or had diarrhea. Our pediatrician said “babies have gas” but I felt like this was more than just a common case of fussiness. I learned about the possibility that DHA and ARA were to blame from the website www.HealthyBabiesHappyMoms.com. Figuring that this was an easy change to make, I set out to buy formula that did not contain DHA or ARA. Sounds simple, but it wasn’t.

After hours spent pouring over formula websites and on phone calls with formula companies, I learned that most formula makers have stopped producing formula without DHA or ARA. The only company that makes a formula without these additives is Baby’s Only, however, this formula is a “toddler” formula and I did not feel comfortable giving this formula to my newborn.

Through my research I discovered that Good Start does make a DHA/ARA free formula but it is only sold in Canada. I called the Canadian Good Start company (Nestle) to ask if I they could send some formula to me but they couldn’t do it. Customs rules do not allow things that are regulated by the FDA to be sent across borders. The man I spoke to on the phone was perplexed. Why was I calling him about this formula when it is actually made in the United States and then shipped to Canada? I wanted the answer to this question too so I called the American Good Start company. I know that you manufacture this formula here, I said, could you just send me a can? But no, they couldn’t. “Not FDA approved for sale in the US,” was the response I received.

I happened to have a friend who was visiting Canada at the time and she brought three precious cans of DHA/ARA free formula back for me, hidden in the trunk of her car. My baby is now three months old and we’ve been using the formula for the past two and a half months. He’s doing so well on it, virtually no gas, normal poops. He’s an incredibly happy and easy baby. But we’re running out of formula and I don’t have anyone to get it for me now. Short of driving six hours to Canada to get it myself, I’m out of luck.

My solution is the one that you may also have to consider, if you are concerned about DHA and ARA in infant formula. Through my research I learned that while all formulas contain these additives, they contain them in different quantities. Earth’s Best, Enfamil and Good Start contain 17mg of DHA and 34mg of ARA per serving but Similac contains less, 8mg DHA and 22mg ARA (personal communication with formula company representatives via phone). If you choose to use Similac, at least you will be exposing your baby to the least amount of DHA and ARA possible.

One unexpected surprise from my previous experience was to find out that Moms with low milk supply can get supplemental formula for their babies for free through insurance. To take advantage of this benefit, ask for a prescription for the formula from your baby’s pediatrician. Some insurance plans may also require that the pediatrician submit a letter of medical necessity in which she should state that this is a breastfed baby with “failure to thrive” due to low breast milk supply. Other insurance plans do not require a letter for babies under 1 year old and only a prescription is required. It’s best to call your insurance provider to ask what sort of documentation is needed.

In my personal experience, I have dealt with two insurance carriers (Blue Cross Blue Shield of New England and Tufts Health Plan) and I have had formula covered without any issue. As a mom with a low milk supply, having formula covered by insurance is such a gift. Paying for formula after heroic attempts to establish adequate milk supply would be like adding insult to injury. It is good to know that insurance companies support the efforts of breastfeeding mothers with low milk supply by helping them to make up the difference in the amount of milk their baby needs. Hopefully, they will be equally supportive someday of coverage for lactation consults and breast pumps!

Check out this great website here- www.HealthyBabiesHappyMoms.com.

Are Breastfeeding Recommendations Unrealistic?

This week I posted a link to an article that suggested mothers are feeling too much pressure to breastfeed. The author referenced a study in which mothers seemed “stressed” and felt their doctor focused on six months of breastfeeding at the exclusion of the overall health of the family.

We know there are a few moms that are physically unable to breastfeed. That must be a truly frustrating ordeal and I have nothing but respect for mothers in that situation. However, the majority of mothers and babies are physically able to breastfeed. So why are only 14.8% of babies are exclusively breastfed for six months? A few social factors that are associated with shorter duration include smoking during pregnancy (10%), Caesarean birth (32% of births), a baby going to NICU and mom returning to work before 6 months of infant’s age (55%).

The majority of research shows that many moms are also undermined in their goals for a strong milk supply and suitable latching baby by early supplementation, pacifiers and inappropriate birth interventions. The guilt that so many mothers feel about their unsuccessful breastfeeding attempts can make the recommendations of exclusive breastfeeding for six months feel unfair. I understand the frustration, but it should not be directed at the recommendations for exclusive breastfeeding, but the raod blocks that created the difficulties to a fulfilling breastfeeding experience.

Several articles have discussed this study and the suggestion to soften up the 6 month recommendation. The rationale is that if we just took the pressure off mothers they would be happier and more confident in their mothering ability. This theory is based on lowering the bar to make everyone feel like they accomplished something reminds me of giving every kid a trophy so no one feels bad. Except the kid/trophy scenario is a somewhat arbitrary contest, unlike breastfeeding.

With a new baby, life changes forever and completely. One physician observed many families attempt to regain control during the chaotic early months by changing the feeding method in hopes baby sleeps longer and relieves stress on the family. What new parent hasn’t wished for a magic, baby-whisperer trick to get their baby to sleep faster and for hours at a time?

So the choice is framed, family harmony or exclusive breastfeeding. Hmmm- I wonder which will prevail?