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How To Exclusively Pump and Keep Up Your Supply

“How To Exclusively Pump and Keep Up Your Supply” is a guest post written by Tiffany Thomas. Many thanks to her for sharing her wealth of knowledge on this topic!

How to exclusively pump

This post contains affiliate links, meaning a small commission may be earned at no extra cost to you.

Having a new baby should be a wonderful, joyous time for mothers.  While it is not perfect (how can sleepless nights be anything but?), it can be one of the most rewarding things you do.

Nothing can ruin those feelings more than the stress of having an inadequate breastmilk supply, especially when you have to pump exclusively.

For both of my children (and for future little ones), I have only been able to pump.  Tongue ties combined with flat nipples, mixed with severe health issues on my part have created a perfect storm of not being able to nurse.

While there is nothing wrong with exclusively pumping at all¸ it definitely has its challenges.  The biggest stress of pumping is ensuring you have an adequate milk supply for your baby.

It can be so disheartening to pump for literally hours every single day and only come away with 3-4 oz – total.  

I’ve put together some tips that can help boost your milk supply.  As you read these, however, please, please, please keep in mind that every woman’s body is different.

No matter how much milk you provide, or how much you need to supplement with formula, what matters most is that your baby is shown your love and affection.  Don’t let the stress of “not enough milk” interfere with that.

If you know you’re going to be pumping (not necessarily exclusively but while you’re at work) I HIGHLY recommend taking Milkology’s Ultimate Back To Work Pumping ClassIt will walk you through step by step how to build a freezer stash, how to talk to your employer, helping your baby go back and forth between bottle and breast, and much more!

How to Exclusively Pump Part 1: What you need

Get a good double breast pump

How to exclusively pump

 

The most important aspect of pumping is to have a good quality breast pump!  There are dozens of posts and reviews out there, so I won’t go into details in this post.  I give a few general guidelines, though:

  • See if your health insurance will provide a breast pump.
  • Try to get a hospital-grade breast pump.  My insurance company provided a rental (since these cost over $1,000) after my OB wrote a prescription.  Some hospitals will also rent them
  • While it is tempting to buy a used one, they are not able to be sterilized since the air circulates through the motor (unless it is hospital-grade)
  • Get a double breast pump.  Not only does this save time, you also don’t lose the milk from the other side when a let-down occurs.

Have the right supplies

There are a few must-haves (for me, at least) when I am pumping:

  • Hands Free Pumping Bra  The person who introduced this allows me to have both hands free while I pump.  I can then multi-task (like work or even play with my children) while pumping.
  • Something that smells/sounds/looks like your baby.  When you can see, smell, or hear your baby while nursing, it encourages more frequent, quicker let-downs.
  • Pumpin’ Pal Flanges  These are amazing.  Because they curve, you can lean back a little when you pump.  It helps my relax and not feel like my back is going to break!
  • Something to do.  Whether it’s work, reading a book, or even just browsing Facebook, you need to be able to do something other than sit and think about how much you could be doing if you weren’t pumping!
  • A comfortable place to sit.  Nothing will make you want to rush pumping more than feeling uncomfortable.

All of these things will help increase your supply because you will be less likely to be stressed and rush your pumping session.  If you are on edge or uptight, then you won’t be able to have as effective let-downs.

How To Exclusively Pump Part 2: Keeping Good Supply

How to exclusively pump

Stay hydrated

If you are not producing enough breast milk, one of the first things you should look at is how much you are drinking.  Water is preferable; you should avoid sodas, sugary drinks, and even sugary fruit juices.  Gatorade might be a bit better than water.

If you’re like me, and plain water makes you feel a bit sick, add some lemons or other flavoring methods.  I will water-down juice or powdered drink mixes, usually ¼ mix and ¾ water.  One thing that helps me is mix up an entire pitcher each morning and then leave it on the counter to drink throughout the day.

The average person should drink 64 oz per day, but that varies for each person. When breastfeeding, you should add an additional 32 oz to what you already drink (so around 100 oz per day).

Eat well

Did you know that you need more calories producing breast milk than you did being pregnant?  The average pregnant mother only needs an extra 300 calories in the second trimester and 400-500 calories in the third trimester.  However, when you are breastfeeding, you need at least an extra 500 calories per day.  (There are about 20-25 calories in each oz of breastmilk.)

So many mothers try to go on a diet to lose the extra baby weight, but what it really does is take away the calories needed to make healthy breastmilk for your baby.  You may also want to take a multivitamin, or continue taking your prenatal vitamin, so your breastmilk is full of nutrients.

Set a schedule that fits your body

Everyone’s bodies are different, so it makes sense that your body will produce and empty milk differently.  A baby will nurse until they are full, no matter how long it takes for the breast to empty.

For me, it takes forever to empty.  I do best pumping 5 times per day for an hour at a time. 

Yes, you read that right – an hour at a time.

It takes forever, I know, but I get 75% of my milk during that last 10 minutes of the hour.  I try to set a schedule that works, and my body gets used to producing the milk at that time.  In fact, if I am running late, I will still have let-downs during my scheduled pumping time, even if I am not actually pumping!

(Although I will point out that for the first month or so of my baby’s life, I just pump every time she eats, which is usually 10-12 times per day, for about 30 minutes each time.  Then I adjust to the 5 times per day.)

Try power-pumping

How to exclusively pump

When babies go through growth-spurts, they tend to nurse almost constantly, for short periods of time, for a couple of days.  The mother’s body will increase the amount of milk because of the high demand.

In order to mimic this in your own body, you can do “power-pumping” for a few days.  This will take more time, so it might be good to do this over a weekend (instead of trying to pump during breaks at work).

The way power-pumping works is that for each session you pump, you pump for 10 minutes, take a 10  minute break, pump another 10 minutes, take another 10 minute break, and pump for a final 10 minutes.  Repeat this 6-7 times  each day for 2-3 days.

This should increase your overall supply.  Nursing mothers will have full, uncomfortable breasts for a few days after a growth spurt.  Their body will then naturally lower the milk supply to match the baby.  However, since you pump, you should be able to maintain this increase!  When you need more milk, just power-pump again!

I tried to power-pump at least once a month when I had babies.

How to Exclusively Pump Part 3: Mental and Emotional Support

How to exclusively pump

Find a support system

Lastly, what you really need to have a good supply is a good support system.  If you are stressed about pumping and want to throw in the towel, having support is vital.

One of the best places I found support was through Facebook groups.  There are several different Facebook groups that are devoted to women who are exclusively pumping.  It’s a great place to ask questions, get advice, and interact with other women who are in the same place you are.  Odds are, they’ll also be up at 2 am pumping when you are, so you can have someone to talk to!

Keeping things in perspective

This may be a difficult journey, and exclusively pumping may not be what you had planned.  It definitely wasn’t how I envisioned I would feed my baby.  But I ended up loving it so much more than nursing, and it was the best fit for my family.

Just remember, every ounce of that liquid gold is worth it.

If you have to supplement with formula, you are not a failure.

Even if you do every one of these tips and only get 5 oz per day, you are not a failure.

Each ounce of breastmilk that comes from your body goes towards helping your child grow and builds their immune system.  But more important, fed is best.  If it just isn’t working out at all and is damaging how you feel about your worth as a mother, then let it go.  Purchase some formula, and enjoy snuggling your baby.

In the end, those snuggles and love will help your child more than anything.

Do you have any questions about exclusively pumping?

Leave me your question in the comments and I will answer!

And if you’re just starting out on your breastfeeding journey, don’t miss the 5 must-dos for breastfeeding success.

ABOUT THE GUEST POSTER

Tiffany Thomas is a former math teacher and SAHM who loves finding good deals!  She and her husband, who is an engineer, work together on The Crazy Shopping Cart.  They enjoy spending time with their family, geeking out over sci-fi together, and saving money.

Follow her here:

 

 

What It’s Actually Like After Giving Birth

When you’re pregnant for the first time, you will find yourself diving into research-mode about so many topics. Labor, childbirth, newborn baby care, breastfeeding, infant gear, safe sleep, and more. Somehow, it’s so easy to neglect to think about yourself and what actually happens to you after giving birth.

Most people (myself included) think of postpartum depression when they hear the word “postpartum”. But all postpartum actually means is after giving birth.

So many things go on with a new mom after delivery, both physically and emotionally. Here is a summary of the most notable experiences that stood out to me after birth that I wish I had been a little more prepared for.

(Note that my birth experiences were both vaginal births, so if you have a c-section some, but not all, of these may be different.)

What It's Actually Like After Giving Birth

Being forced to get up and walk

I had never heard of this requirement in my life, but a mere 90 minutes after giving birth for the first time, I was told I had to get up and walk to the bathroom. I have no idea what the medical reason is for this, but I can tell you it was downright terrifying.

First of all, I had an epidural that was not fully worn off yet and one of my legs was still numb.

I also had brand new stitches from “many” second degree tears down there. Not to mention the blood loss.

All of these factors combined made for quite the show out of my hobble to the bathroom which was probably only 3 yards from my bed.

Immediately upon getting up I felt extremely dizzy and was scared I was going to faint. The one nurse who was helping me realized she needed backup and called for another nurse to help support my other side. I almost asked for a chair to sit down on half way through, but it felt ridiculous given how close I was to the toilet already.

I have since heard of many postpartum nurse horror stories that are so much worse than this, that I don’t even want to complain too much about it. But at the time, I felt very humiliated and unsupported over this walk- no, shuffle- of shame. If I’d been given just an hour or two more to recuperate I’m sure it would have been a lot easier on me.

The pain of peeing

After pushing a baby out, you might have first, second, third, or even fourth degree tears (the one that goes all the way through- try not to wince, and don’t worry- these are rare). But even if you’re lucky enough to make it through without any tears severe enough to require stitches, you still had a great deal of stretching which is enough to cause many minor, fine tears in the tissue.

These will heal quickly on their own, but when you sit down to pee and the urine washes over them, it will burn like your entire womanhood has been lit on fire.

To avoid this, this handy dandy little squirt bottle will be your best friend. Just squeeze cold water on yourself while peeing and you will barely feel the urine on the cuts.

They give these out at most hospitals, but you may want to check and ask ahead of time and make sure they do at your hospital.

The scary first poop

After giving birth

Ok, I apologize that so many of these revolve around toilet issues. But this is the real deal and I’m trying to be honest more than polite.

Having to poop after giving birth is scary.

Maybe you are lucky and can avoid having to go in the first day or two after birth. Typically your body “clears out” before delivery, and you typically can’t eat during labor, so it’s possible.

But sooner or later, it’s going to happen.

Right in the midst of hobbling around feeling like your insides are falling out, while you’re rocking your padsicles trying not to feel anything down there- you have to push out a poop. I’ve been told this particular poop can feel like pushing out glass.

Luckily I had been warned ahead of time that when they offer you the stool softener, you say yes.

Without this warning, I’m sure I would have been perplexed as to why it was even being offered to me. “No thanks, I’m good, I’m not even constipated!” could have been my completely naive response.

Thanks to an older sister who had given birth before me, I said “yes please” and avoided a terrible post-delivery poop trauma.

Not gonna lie, it was still a little scary. But at least it didn’t feel like glass.

The most sore abs you’ve ever had

Think of pushing a baby out like the most intense ab workout you’ve ever done.

The pushing stage could go on for hours, especially if it’s your first. And chances are you haven’t done any ab exercises in many months.

Makes sense that you’re going to feel very sore after? You bet!

 

Want to be 100% prepared for labor, delivery and beyond? The Birth Smart Planner is a bundle of over 75 Printables with checklists for everything including packing your hospital bag, prepping your house, writing your birth plan, and more (oh how this would have helped my disorganized mommy brain when I was pregnant!) My favorite part is the Breastfeeding Handbook- it’s comprehensive, yet straight to the point for when you need quick answers during those first few weeks of figuring out breastfeeding.

Postpartum bleeding

My midwife had warned me ahead of time that it’s normal to bleed for up to six weeks after giving birth. I scoffed at that timeframe and thought “no way is it going to last that long.”

Well the karma gods must have heard me and laughed, because I ended up bleeding for TEN STRAIGHT WEEKS.

The first few days postpartum is when you experience the very heavy bleeding. You may have even heard about “golf-ball sized clots”.

This is the time when you need the big mama pads. Don’t send your husband out to go buy some cute little pads. Get the biggest, ugliest pads you can find. Pair them with the biggest, ugliest underwear you can find as well, because chances are they are going in the garbage after.

The next couple of weeks after that, the bleeding is similar to a normal period. You can use normal pads, and you’ll probably want to wear your comfy maternity underwear.

For an unknown number of weeks following that, the bleeding is much lighter. It changes from bright red blood to pink, then yellowish. It gradually tapers off to nothing just when you think you’ll never be able to live without pads again.

The fatigue

After giving birth

If you’re like me, you have something written in your birth plan about how “baby will room in with me” or “keep baby with me at all times.”

It’s a good goal to have, and certainly some new moms are able to pull it off.

Just consider the possibility of this:

  • Your water breaks at 1am after only a couple hours of sleep
  • The rest of that night is spent preparing and making your way to the hospital
  • 20 more hours are spent in labor
  • 2 hours are spent pushing
  • You are handed your bundle of joy and you have now completely missed TWO NIGHTS OF SLEEP IN A ROW.

In any other circumstance in life, after pulling two consecutive all-nighters you would go home and fall into a 12 hour coma-like rest.

But now you have a newborn, so you are sleeping with one eye open for maybe 90 minutes at a time.

If you decide in that moment that you’d like the nurses to keep the baby for a couple hours so you can get something that almost  resembles real sleep, forgive yourself. You are allowed to change your plan.

Believe me, it won’t be the last time that your motherhood ideals don’t mesh with the reality of parenthood.

Not being able to handle visitors

During pregnancy, you are so excited at the thought of your new little one being here, you can’t wait to show him off to all your friends and family. You might even tell people you want them to come meet the baby while you’re still in the hospital.

I would caution against this in most cases.

The reality of the hospital experience may be very different than what you imagined. Of course there is the hefty dose of exhaustion, and there is also a revolving door of doctors and nurses coming and going to check on you and the baby. Vitals need to be taken, tests need to be done, more blood needs to be drawn.

After giving birth

Added on top of that is the stress of trying to figure out breastfeeding. There will certainly be no such thing as a schedule for a baby who is only a couple days old at maximum, so you will need to nurse at unpredictable intervals, possibly every hour.

Trying to coordinate a time for people to come might just be overwhelming to you during all of this. Even more so if visitors drop in unannounced.

You honestly might just be dying for some alone time.

My advice would be to hold off on visitors outside of the immediate family until you get home and decide you’re ready. Or, decide in the moment how you’re feeling in the hospital and let the people you want to see know when you want to see them. I recommend giving them a short window of 20-30 minutes so they don’t overstay.

Remember, you can always invite more people or extend visits longer. It’s much harder to take back an invitation that you previously extended or try to cut a visit short while it’s in process.

The clothing dilemma

Everyone knows someone who knows someone who left the hospital maternity ward in their pre-pregnancy clothes. It’s like the baby name myths of Lemonjello or La-a.

For the rest of the world, you’re going to leave the hospital in maternity clothes. Possibly the same size you came in with, but probably your second trimester size clothes.

You’ll also be sore, so stretchy clothes are your friend.

When packing your hospital bag, it’s a wise idea to pack a couple options of clothes (especially if you’re going with pants) because it’s very hard to predict how much swelling you’ll have or how fast your belly will go back down.

Don’t dress for fashion, you’ll be sporting humungo pads and mesh underwear and you will just want to be able to walk comfortably.

A lose-fitting comfy dress might be a good choice too, especially in the event of a c-section when you won’t want anything rubbing near your scar.

The rollercoaster of emotions

Even if you’re not a crier, get ready for a ridiculous amount of tears after you give birth.

I promise you, there will be crying.

You’ll cry because you dropped your pen. You’ll cry at every single commercial on TV. You might feel like you’re going crazy crying over these ridiculous things.

It’s just the insane amounts of hormones that built up throughout the pregnancy rapidly exiting your body. Some call it the baby blues, and it’s completely normal.

What you want to watch out for (and alert your partner to help you be on the lookout) is the normal baby blues becoming postpartum depression.

Crying for silly reasons and then quickly laughing it off during the week or so after giving birth = baby blues

Feeling anxious about being alone with your baby, not wanting to leave the house, not wanting to see anyone, feeling like you’re a terrible mother, or thinking that you shouldn’t have this baby, are not baby blues. These are red flags for postpartum depression.

If you’re even questioning that you could have postpartum, call your healthcare provider and let them do a screening and decide. If you feel unable to make that phone call, ask your partner or someone you trust do it for you. Don’t suffer until your 6 week follow up if you think there may be a problem sooner.

The sweating

Another fun side effect of the hormonal changes is night sweats.

I gave birth in the dead of winter and New England and still woke up in the night completely drenched in sweat.

Yes, it’s gross, but luckily it only lasted a week or two and then it was back to dry PJs (well, dry except for the leaking breasts).

The pain of breastfeeding

After giving birth

I’ve written before in 7 Breastfeeding Surprises how I felt extreme pain and cramping in my uterus while breastfeeding shortly after giving birth.

In addition to that, many new moms experience painful breast engorgement and cracked nipples.

It’s safe to say you can expect breastfeeding to be uncomfortable at the start. The range could be anywhere from mildly uncomfortable to very painful.

Most of the time, these issues are resolved pretty quickly and breastfeeding should not continue to be painful beyond that initial stage. If it is, there is probably an underlying issue like a tongue tie or lip tie, and you should have a doctor look into it further.

Feeling like you don’t matter anymore

This is truly one of the hardest parts of the postpartum experience, and it’s rarely talked about.

When you’re pregnant (and especially at the end when you’re very noticeably pregnant) everywhere you go you get comments, accommodations, and just generally people trying to help you out. Everyone wants to give you a seat, hand you a glass of water, make sure you’re comfortable. Everyone asks how you’re feeling, how you’re sleeping, if you’re hungry.

As soon as that baby exits your body, all (or almost all) of that care and concern shifts to the baby.

Of course, in a way, that’s how it should be. The baby is a helpless new life and you’re an adult woman.

But that doesn’t mean that the change isn’t jarring, and that it doesn’t hurt.

If you’re lucky, you will have one or two close people in your life that still remember to ask how you’re doing and if they can help you with anything. Your partner, if he’s a good one, will still be looking out for your comfort and bringing you food and water.

Just don’t be surprised if all the other family members barely act like you’re there.

And if it makes you feel invisible, or sad, or like you don’t matter anymore, remember to talk to the people closest to you and remember that you are important. You are important now more than ever! The new baby craze will die down soon enough, and you will resume your normal, average place in society.

Most of all, remember that a good mother makes herself a priority. Seek out the support you need. Let others know how you’re feeling and get help when you need it.

The postpartum experience is paradoxically one of the most difficult and most beautiful times of your life! Remember to treat yourself gently. And when it gets hard, remember that it doesn’t last long.

After giving birth

Moms, what was your postpartum experience like? First time expectant moms, what are your concerns about the recovery after giving birth?

Terrifying Things Newborn Babies Do That Are Completely Normal

Bringing home a fragile, helpless new baby is scary enough. But then you start to notice they have some seriously freaky characteristics. Try not to worry, because these terrifying things newborn babies do are actually completely normal.


Disclaimer: This is not to replace medical advice. If you have concerns about your baby, you should always consult a doctor.

Pulsing head/soft spots

Newborn babies are typically born with one or two soft spots, or fontanelles, on their heads. These are gaps in the skull plates which allow room for the rapid brain growth to come.

You may be afraid to touch these soft spots, but even without the layer of bone there is still a reasonable amount of protection. Normal baby care should not pose a threat to the head.

One frightening sight to see is when your baby’s soft spot appears to be pulsing. Rest assured, you are not witnessing your child’s brain bulging or anything as bizarre as that. It’s simply the blood rushing through baby’s veins which pulses in relation to their heart pumping blood throughout the body.

Sleeping with eyes open

things newborn babies do

It can be unsettling to see your little one sleeping soundly while they seem to be looking right back at you! But sleeping with eyes open (or partially open) is actually very common in babies.

Known as nocturnal lagophthalmos in the medical community, sleeping without the eyelids shut is harmless in babies under 12 months. If it concerns you, or you want to prevent baby’s eyes from becoming dry or irritated, just gently stroke their eyelids shut.

The reason babies can sleep with their eyes open is unknown, but may be related to their differing sleep cycles and spending more time in REM sleep than adults.

Changes in breathing pattern

Ever settle in to sleep with your baby nearby, only to sit up in a panic because it sounds like baby’s breathing suddenly pauses, followed by rapid short breaths? It’s completely terrifying, but also totally normal.

Due to their immature respiratory systems during the first few weeks of life, babies may have bouts of Periodic BreathingWhen this happens, baby will return to breathing normally on their own without intervention.

Take caution that Periodic Breathing is NOT the same as baby stopping breathing or struggling to breathe. If you notice any signs of respiratory distress or lips turning purple or blue, seek emergency medical care.

Exaggerated startle reflex

Newborn babies are born equipped with the instinct to startle easily. Their entire body will suddenly jolt as they throw their hands up in response to a loud or sudden noise.

The freaky part? Sometimes they do this when there is no noise or trigger whatsoever.

Slightly different is the Moro reflex, which is a newborn baby’s response to the feeling of being unsupported or falling. He will throw his arms up and out and draw his knees in to his chest when being lowered down quickly (or out of nowhere when they’re sleeping!).

Babies can wake themselves up from this involuntary movement, so swaddling can help little ones feel secure and stay asleep.

Crossed eyes

things newborn babies do

For the first 3 months of life or so, it is normal for your baby to occasionally go cross-eyed.

Seeing your baby’s eyes cross may cause you to worry that they will look this way forever, but don’t believe old wives’ tales that “the wind will change and they’ll get stuck like that!” It just takes time for baby’s optic nerve to develop and for the eye muscles to start working together.

If your baby gets older (6 months+) and his eyes are still crossing frequently, have an eye doctor evaluate him for strabismus. This is a treatable condition if detected early.

Explosive poop

Newborn baby poop is interesting at best and terrifying at its worst!

The first couple days of life, baby is still passing meconium, the black/green tar-like stool from when they were chugging amniotic fluid in the womb. If you’re the lucky one who gets to change these first bowel movements, you’ll find them to be about as easy to wipe off baby’s bottom as syrup.

Once you’re out of the meconium period, newborn poop changes to yellowish brown and seedy, like dijon mustard. It can be quite watery, and it’s normal for it to seemingly explode out of your little one’s tiny bottom with surprising force.

These explosive poops tend to shoot up a newborn baby’s back, causing the dreaded “poop-splosions” that stain clothes and require full outfit changes. Definitely inconvenient, but completely normal.

Peeling skin

things newborn babies do

When you imagine your baby after birth, you likely imagine beautiful, soft, flawless skin like the babies in a diaper commercial.

The reality of newborn skin looks more like the aftermath of a horrible sunburn: flaking and peeling all over, especially in creases like the ankles, hands, and feet.

The reason for this skin shedding is the loss of vernix, the waxy coating that protected their skin while they were in the womb. Once this is shed (and likely rubbed off vigorously at birth), the sensitive skin is dried out and exposed to all new harsh elements.

Wondering what you should do? The flaking and peeling will likely go away on its own in a couple weeks. It is not recommended to put any lotions or skincare products on such a young baby. If you feel compelled to put something, make it something natural and edible such as olive oil.

Bizarre colored spit up

When I was in the hospital after delivering my last baby, I noticed a spit up stain next to his face that looked almost exactly like a small egg yolk.

Seeing as this was my fourth baby, I was sure I had seen all there is to see regarding baby spit up before. But I had never seen bright yellow colored spit up before, so I was a bit scared that something was wrong with my newborn.

The nurses came and took a look and said it’s actually normal to see really strange spit up for the first 48 hours after birth. The reason? Baby is still clearing out mucus and amniotic fluid from his nine month stay in the womb.

(Another factor- remember colostrum is darker, yellower, and thicker than regular breastmilk!)

In addition to egg yolk yellow, newborns can have other freaky colors show up in their regurgitation.

You may notice red or brown flecks, a pink tinge, or small streaks of blood your newborn baby’s spit up.

This can certainly be frightening to see but it is easily explained by the baby swallowing small amounts of maternal blood. During delivery, it is normal for baby to come into contact with its mother’s blood and it can enter baby’s mouth. Another possibility for breastfed babies is that mom’s nipples can crack and bleed, which would certainly result in baby swallowing some of mom’s blood.

Grunting and snoring

things newborn babies do

Many first time parents are surprised to find out just how loud newborn babies are when they sleep.

The amount of grunting, sighing, heavy breathing and snoring can cause some parents to worry about their baby’s breathing or sleep quality.

Strange sounds during sleep are actually normal for small babies.

For one, their nostrils are so tiny that they are easily congested. So even the slightest amount of mucus can cause them to sniffle and snore. Using some baby saline drops should help if that’s the case.

Even with clear nasal passages, newborns can still be loud sleepers. One explanation is the frequent partial wakings babies experience as they pass through the lighter sleep stages in the sleep cycle. During these, they may move around and make noise or even cry out before settling themselves back into sleep.

These are just some of scary things newborn babies do!

Were you ever afraid of something your baby did when it was actually totally normal? Tell us in the comments!

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things newborn babies do

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Breastfeeding Benefits For Mom And Baby

It’s no secret that breastfeeding offers many benefits for your baby, including nutrients, immunity, and attachment. But have you heard about all the breastfeeding benefits for Mom?

It turns out, the nursing relationship is mutually beneficial for mother and child for not only physical health, but emotional well-being and bonding as well.

Here are 14 of the breastfeeding benefits for mom and baby.

Breastfeeding benefits for mom and baby

Benefit for Baby: Physical and Emotional Connection

Skin-to-skin contact is essential for an infant’s development, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. In fact, a study released by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that breastfeeding leads to improved maternal-infant bonding.

A baby who does not immediately bond with another individual is at risk for significant stress that can lead to both physical and emotional challenges throughout life. Breastfeeding helps to reduce this risk and gives mom and baby a chance to connect right away.

Benefit for Mom: Faster Recovery from Childbirth

Even though the release of good hormones is often reward enough for breastfeeding, mothers also benefit physically each time an infant feeds.

Statistics show that many moms who breastfeed recover faster and more easily from childbirth as the hormone oxytocin releases. As a result, the release of this hormone can help to minimize postpartum bleeding and help return your uterus to its normal size.

In fact, research suggests that mothers who breastfeed and cuddle their infants within 30 minutes of childbirth can help to reduce the risk of postpartum hemorrhage.

Got childbirth questions? I’ve got answers. Read All Your Not-So Stupid Birth Questions: Answered!

Benefit for Baby: Protection Against Potential Illnesses

One of the primary benefits of breastfeeding for your baby is the potential to ward off infections, illnesses and diseases. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supports that infants are at less risk for developing respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections and type 1 and type 2 diabetes if they are breastfed.

It is well worth all your effort to know that nursing is providing your little one with daily nourishment as well as protecting him or her from future infections. 

Benefit for Mom: Natural Form of Contraception

breastfeeding benefits for mom

If you choose to exclusively breastfeed your baby, the process delays your menstrual period from returning after birth. Since you are not ovulating, breastfeeding your child serves as a natural form of contraception, which extends the time between pregnancies.

However, use this method with caution! The effect only applies if your child is less than six months, your period has not returned and you are breastfeeding both day and night. If you supplement with formula or start weaning, your fertility is likely to return.

Benefit for Baby: Improved Maturation

While all babies benefit from the nutrition and bonding that results from breastfeeding, pre-term babies especially reap the benefits of skin-to-skin contact with mom.

The American Academy of Pediatrics found that skin-to-skin contact from breastfeeding can improve neurobehavioral maturation, autonomic maturation and gastrointestinal adaption.

In addition, pre-term infants who are breast fed have more restful sleep patterns and cry less, which ultimately constitutes better growth.

Once you’re aware of the benefits, make sure you have the knowledge to achieve your breastfeeding goals. 

I always recommend a breastfeeding class for expectant moms who have their hearts set on breastfeeding. It makes a world of difference to go in prepared for any challenges you might encounter. Have the solutions already ready so you don’t need to search for answers when you’re stressed and exhausted with a newborn!

The best online breastfeeding class I’ve found out there is this one by Milkology. It is extremely thorough and the video format makes it feel like you’re really taking a class, but on your own schedule and at your convenience.

breastfeeding success

Benefit for Mom: Release of Hormones that Promote Love and Nurturing

For mom, the closeness of connecting with baby is the most rewarding part of breastfeeding, but there is scientific evidence from the AAP that explains why you feel good during nursing sessions.

These feelings are often attributed to the release of hormones that are released when feeding your baby. For instance, prolactin is released while breastfeeding, which gives mothers a nurturing sensation. It is also known to help moms to relax and improve focus.

In addition, oxytocin is released during breastfeeding, which promotes a sense of attachment and love.

Benefit for Baby: Reduced Pain

Breastfeeding benefits for mom

Infants who are born with medical conditions benefit significantly from breastfeeding, according to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

The agency’s research found that skin-to-skin contact from breastfeeding can neutralize the newborn’s body temperature and help prevent hypothermia. In addition, when a child is held by a parent during breastfeeding, the act can help reduce pain, decrease crying, offer cardiorespiratory stability and stabilize blood glucose concentrations.

Not only are you offering your child comfort physically, you are also providing nutrition and emotional support each time you breastfeed and cuddle with your infant.

Benefit for Mom: Cost-Effective Feeding Method

breastfeeding benefits for mom

Like everything related to babies, feeding your infant can get expensive. Baby formula costs about $15 per can, which may only last 3-4 days if your baby is a good eater. If your baby has allergies or difficulties digesting formula, special hypoallergenic formula can cost double that.

Depending on the formula you choose and how much your baby eats, a year of formula feeding will cost around $2,000. With breastfeeding, you are providing all your baby’s food- free of charge!

Benefit for Baby: Reduces the Risk of Childhood Obesity

Choosing to breastfeed your child as an infant can have significant effects on his or her development later in life. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics found that breastfeeding helps to reduce the risk of childhood obesity, a condition that affects three in 10 kids according to a 2016 study.

The balanced diet your infant receives from breastfeeding not only gives him or her a healthy boost early on in life, it also sets the tone for a healthy lifestyle in the future.

Benefit for Mom: Reduced Risk of Illnesses

As a mother, your primary goal is to provide nourishment for your children through breastfeeding, but you are also safeguarding your own future too. Studies released by the American Academy of Pediatrics have revealed that women who breastfeed have lower rates of ovarian and breast cancer later in life.

Women who breastfeed also have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes. As a result, your blood pressure and cholesterol are often lower during and after breastfeeding.

While breastfeeding does not guarantee a healthy future for mom, nursing can help you to reduce your risks for prominent illnesses and diseases. 

Benefit for Baby: Fewer Ear Infections

breastfeeding benefits for mom

It’s common for babies and toddlers to experience painful ear infections. Breastfeeding helps to ward off this physical condition. The U.S. Office on Women’s Health reports that infants who are breastfeed are less likely to contract as many ear infections as children who are not breastfed.

While your child is likely to suffer from common colds or illnesses throughout his or her life, reducing the risk of ear pain is a definite benefit for both your child’s and your well-being. 

Benefit for Mom: More Convenience and Less Rush

When an infant is ready to eat, he or she often gets fussy while parents rush to prepare bottles and formula. Breastfeeding eliminates this process and allows you to put your baby to your breast immediately.

The convenience also extends to travel or trips to the store. When your child is hungry, you can simply feed him or her while out and about when choosing to breastfeed.

Concerned about privacy? Many stores and businesses provide a private area for mothers to breastfeed. You can also invest in shawls or breastfeeding blankets to increase your privacy when feeding in public. You can even make your own nursing cover if you have basic sewing skills, by following this DIY breastfeeding cover tutorial.

The act is natural, and thankfully, much more accepted in private venues because individuals acknowledge the importance of breastfeeding.

Benefit for Baby: Increased Antibodies and Nutrients

Breastfeeding is the ultimate way to fuel your child’s body with what is often dubbed as liquid gold.

During pregnancy, mothers make colostrum, which is a thick milk your infant receive during the first few feedings. Colostrum is rich in antibodies and nutrients, which can ultimately ward off infections that affect newborns.

In addition, the U.S. Office on Women’s Health reports that colostrum can aid a newborn’s digestive system, even though he or she only receives a tiny amount of colostrum with each feeding.

As your baby grows, your milk matures, offering just the right amount of protein, sugar, water and fat your child needs. Breastmilk is constantly changing to provide exactly what your child needs at that particular stage of development. 

Benefit for Mom: Sense of Fulfillment as a Mother

One of the most beneficial reasons mothers choose to breastfeed is the accomplishment of singlehandedly giving your baby all the nutrients he or she needs directly from your own body.

Breastfeeding ultimately will provide you with a sense of pride. Your love for your child often surmounts when you are holding him or her in your arms and creating an emotional and physical connection with each feeding.

It is well known that breastfeeding is a commitment and it can be difficult, but the feeling of nourishing your baby from your own body is an amazingly rewarding experience.

For more on breastfeeding, pregnancy, baby names and all things parenting, make sure to follow me on Pinterest!

Resources: 

American Academy of Pediatrics: https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Breastfeeding/Pages/Benefits-of-Breastfeeding.aspx

American Academy of Pediatrics: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/Benefits-of-Breastfeeding-for-Mom.aspx

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/breastfeeding/conditioninfo/benefits

U.S. Office on Women’s Health

https://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/making-decision-breastfeed

How To Manage Labor Pain Like A Boss

Of all the worries first time moms-to-be have about labor and delivery, the pain of childbirth is probably the biggest.

Whether you have your heart set on a drug-free delivery or you just want to delay getting an epidural as long as possible, it’s a good idea to be informed of all your pain management options. It’s just about unheard of to have a pain-free delivery, so every pregnant woman should have an arsenal of tools at the ready to help with the pain of labor.

If you are wondering what the best options are for managing labor pain, read on for a comprehensive list of techniques. You will also hear from experienced moms answering the question “what helped you get through labor?”

how to manage labor pain

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you click one of the product links, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Use Music

Many women have found that making a labor playlist to listen to when you’re in labor helps to distract from the pain. This is especially the case when used with headphones, so you can silently retreat into your own little world.

 “I don’t know what I would have done without my labor playlist and headphones! This helped to keep me relaxed and focused on something else. Also, a hot shower helped tremendously.” -Inez, For The Love Of Mom

“When I was in labor, I had a specific song to focus on and keep me grounded. I would sing it in my head over and over again. This helped distract me for the most part, but when the pain was really rough, i did kegels!” -Melissa, sheis.com

“Prior to my epidural, music. It had to be through headphones, though. Listening to music that way has always helped me block out everything around me.” -Desteny, A Frugal Desteny

Birth ball

how to manage labor pain

Most maternity wards come equipped with birth balls, which are just regular yoga balls used during labor. Chances are if you have one at home you’ve already been enjoying it during pregnancy, as sitting on it helps take away some of the pressure on your back.

During pregnancy I also loved sitting on it with my legs out wide and swiveling my hips in a circular motion. This action not only feels good on your back and hips, it can also help the baby move down more and get into optimal position for birth.

Jessi, aka The Coffee Mom, tried a little of everything, including the birth ball:

“I had terrible back labor. The only thing that helped at all was getting on all fours and rolling on my yoga ball. Getting into a hot bath helped as well, for a little while. No lie though, I got the epidural after 5 CM.”

Julie (Fab Working Mom Life) describes how the ball and massage helped during early labor:

“I used the exercise ball for a while, rolling around sitting on it. I had back massages and the tennis balls in a sock trick helped at first. After a while, Pitocin got too intense.”

Hypnobirthing

Hypnobirthing is a popular technique based on mindfulness, breathing, and relaxation. The theory is that you need to counter the urge to panic, because that creates adrenaline which pumps blood faster throughout the body as it prepares to fight-or-flight. When you remain calm, the blood is pumped to the uterus where it can do its job of helping the baby move down.

Amy (Mum of the Tribe) says, “I hypnobirthed my second baby drug free- it works but it takes practice. The practice alone is worth it as it allows you go into deep relaxation and really connect with your baby while you’re pregnant.”

The book Amy used as her guide is HypnoBirthing, The natural approach to safer, easier, more comfortable birthing – The Mongan Method.

Aubree of A Mother’s Field Guide writes, “I used the Hypnobabies program, which helped me to relax and focus during my labor. Not only that though, I did a lot of prep work before labor ever started. ”

I think all mothers can agree, being prepared for birth is critical. If you don’t have a comprehensive prenatal class available to you through your hospital or birthing center, here is my favorite online birth class:

how to manage pain in labor

Counter-pressure and massage

During my 22 hours of labor with my first, the only thing that helped take away some of the pain was counter-pressure. We had learned this technique during birth class and I’m so thankful that we did.

With each contraction, the pain wrapped all the way around lower belly and into my back. When I’d feel a contraction starting, I would lean over the side of the bed and have my husband press his fists as hard as he could into my lower back on either side of my spine. This helped take away at least half of the pain! It helped so much that when he needed to use the bathroom I made him run in between contractions so I wouldn’t have to endure even one without his counter-pressure.

manage labor pain

Stormy (Pregnant Mama Baby Life) also enjoyed her husband’s counter-pressure as well as laboring in the tub:

“I labored for a long time with my first. The two things that helped me most were getting into a warm tub of water and having my husband push really hard on my hips during contractions. These two things help so much! Made the pain much more tolerable.”

Anna (Abrazo and Coze) enlisted the help of a Doula to get her through the pain. One of her techniques included counter-pressure as well:

“With my last birth, my Doula was the biggest factor in dealing with 12 hours of labour pain effectively. She played a fun game with Mr. A and I as distraction. Later on, she applied pressure on my back during contractions, which made the pain manageable, despite being on a full dose of pitocin (known for making contractions more painful and intense than without).”

Let water work its magic

how to manage labor pain

Laboring in the tub or with a shower head aimed at your back are both great ways to take some of the pressure off the contractions. Warm water is also a known pain reliever as it helps your body produce endorphins and promotes relaxation.

“When I was giving birth to my son getting in a warm bath helped with contractions so much! If your hospital has a tub I highly recommend giving it a try!” Kayla, Parenting Expert to Mom

Jennifer of Modlins Multiply simply says “Being in the water was a total game changer for me.”

Bella describes how she used the tub in conjunction with hypnobirthing:

“When I was in labour I slept in the bath until my body started pushing. It was so relaxing and peaceful. I had done hypnobirthing so that helped massively.” Documenting the Drews

Heather (Fearless Faithful Mom) confirms the pain relieving power of water:

“Water helped me! With one kid it was the running shower on my belly and with another sitting in a tub of hot water.”

Farrah says, “Warm water was instant pain relief for me. I loved to have the bath filled and have the shower running on me at the same time. (I had home births for my last two).”  New And Natural Mom

Practice relaxation

Contractions feel like an involuntary tensing and tightening of the abdomen. Most people’s reaction to the feeling of contractions is to tighten and tense up the rest of their body. Making a conscious effort to keep your muscles relaxed can actually help you deal with the pain. Think about keeping your body calm while letting the contraction wash over you like a wave.

Susannah of Simple Moments Stick writes, “Labor is all about relaxing for me. Consciously letting all your muscles go limp and focusing on that, not the pain, is a game changer!” 

Do what you can to promote a sense of calm in the room. Dimming the lights, keeping it quiet, and relaxing music can help you feel at peace.

Michelle writes, “Essential oils and fake candles played a part in keeping me calm throughout the fifteen hours.”

Heat or cold

manage labor pain

I used both heat and cold during my labor to help cope with the pain.

During early labor, I used my rice sock. This is a tube sock filled with rice that you can microwave to turn into a long flexible heating pad. It felt comforting around my neck and shoulders, and later under my back.

Aileen also found heat to be helpful as one of her pain management techniques:

“I had a doula who used a warm towel and essential oils around my neck. Counter pressure on my hips was the best until I hit transition. This was my third birth and a VBAC.” AileenCooks.com

As labor progressed and became more intense, it is normal to feel overheated. This is when I started favoring cold- especially washcloths soaked in a bucket of icy water. I put these on my forehead, the back of my neck, even my belly when it started to feel hot.

Ice also helped me from throwing up when I started feeling nauseated during transition.

Michelle of Bottles n Bellinis lists cold as one of the three things that helped her during her natural childbirth. She also illustrates why all pregnant women should have a backup plan for pain management, because sometimes an epidural isn’t an option even when you wanted one!

“Three things helped me during my natural drug free (not by choice) labor: 1) my nurse running her cold finger tips along the lines of my hands to deflect from the pain; 2) my midwife pushing on my lowering back during the peaks of my contractions; and 3) concentrating on breathing in and out! I was not prepared to labor without the assistance of an epidural, however, the anesthesiologists did not feel I was a candidate due to a rare blood condition that I have.”

TENS machine

A TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) unit is a handheld device that uses electrodes that stick to your back to transmit electric stimulation to your nerves. It doesn’t affect the sensation of the contractions directly, rather it interrupts the pain signal on its way from the nerves to the brain. In other words, the pain is still there, but you are not interpreting it the same way.

TENS is a low-risk pain management technique used in all kinds of different therapies and by chronic pain sufferers. It is largely unknown in the U.S. but is frequently used in Europe and Canada.

Susana of pregged.com says:

“I had back labour and the thing that helped most was my TENS machine. You need to put it on early though, when regular contractions start. After having it on for 5 or 6 hours the amount of endorphins I was producing due to the TENS made the whole thing far less painful than my other births. In fact I’d go so far to say I was in a state of bliss. It was a truly magical experience.”

Focal object

A focal object is anything you use to focus on during labor that directs your attention to something positive. It can be a photograph, a mantra, a song, or even a thought.

Focusing on holding your baby can help keep the pain in perspective as you realize it’s all moving you towards a positive outcome.

Amy (Daily Successful Living) used lots of pain management techniques including this focal thought:

Giving birth is tough! I don’t have one specific thing that helped me but had a lot of little things the helped distract me. I had a great playlist of inspirational songs, I walked around as much as possible, I almost broke my husbands hand squeezing and most importantly I meditated and focused on a positive outcome and being able to hold my baby for the first time.

Capricon (Dream Big Blog Hard) used a mom and baby focal picture:

My first one was cesarian, and because of that on my second birth I was stuck in bed with the monitor. I didn’t have the luxury of walk or warm bath and the labor lasted for 10 hours. The one thing that helped me was a focus on the picture on the wall. It was of a mother holding her baby. I keep telling myself that I will hold my baby soon.

Ashley from 5 Kids and a Bunny says:

Find something to stare at and just stare and breathe through contractions. I had them put on a stupid show I didn’t like just to have something to concentrate on.

Move around

When you’re laboring naturally, take advantage of the fact that you are not confined to a bed. This freedom to be up and about means you can look for whatever position is most comfortable for you in the moment. Walking around also helps speed up labor and bring baby down.

Tavia of Big Brave Nomad did lots of moving and changing positions during labor:

“I labored mostly standing next to the bed swaying my hips, then when I went into transition I moved onto the bed and labored on all fours with my arms draped over the back of the bed. I would blow raspberries with my mouth through contractions. I freaking love giving birth — hands down the best part of the pregnancy experience.”

Throw manners out the window

When you’re in the midst of physical agony, do whatever it takes to get through the moment. Go ahead and rip your gown off if it bothers you, squeeze your husband’s hand until he screams, or curse like a sailor. Your labor and delivery providers have seen it all before!

Ashley’s advice is, “Ignore everyone. If I didn’t feel like speaking or responding, I didn’t. Manners don’t matter right now.”

Alaina-Lee, www.momeh.ca, says: “I screamed profanity at my husband and doctors … that seemed to help a lot.”

Epidural

Some women are superhuman and make it through all of labor and delivery without the help of pain medication. But for many women, they reach a point where the pain either becomes too intense, or labor goes on so long that they are too exhausted to keep doing what they’re doing. Getting an epidural can allow you some much needed pain relief as well as rest.

Even if your goal in life was to birth a child completely drug-free, you should never feel like a failure if you end up getting an epidural. Delivering a child is an amazing feat no matter how it’s done!

If you’re curious about what it feels like to get an epidural, I answered that and any more questions in All Your (Not So) Stupid Birth Questions: Answered!

It’s also a good idea to have a general idea of what a C-section entails, just in case you unexpectedly end up needing one, which happened to the guest poster of 15 Things You Need to Know About Having A C-Section.

Those who have given birth before, what helped you manage labor pain? For those who haven’t yet, what are you planning to try?

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