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Tips for Successful Breastfeeding

By August 31, 2015Uncategorized

Human milk is designed perfectly for human babies. It provides the perfect nutrition for our little ones and creates a beautiful way to bond. But I’ll be the first one to admit that breastfeeding is so much harder than it looks! The endless information my midwives, lactation consultant, and mamma friends shared with me really helped when I was learning how to breastfeed my first child, Elvis. This is why I wanted to write this blog post: to share those tips with you which made a load of positive difference in my personal breastfeeding journey.

Breastfeeding is especially hard the first time around because not only is it your baby’s first time learning how to eat from your boobs, it’s also YOUR first time learning how to feed your baby from your boobs. If you are reading this already having tried to nurse your first or second child with failed attempts, that does NOT mean you cannot be successful at it the next time around. The mass majority of women have the physical capability of being successful at breastfeeding long term. Some sources, and most midwives, even say up to 99% of women have the potential to produce enough milk for their child. But many simply don’t have the right support, knowledge, and care from others, which makes becoming successful at breastfeeding much harder and which is why so many women find themselves unable to breastfeed.

There are, of course, exceptions which prevent mothers from breastfeeding their children. Like when a mother has had breast surgeries which cause issues with milk flow due to cut breast ducts. Or when a mother is on medications for an illness. This blog post is NOT here to put any woman down, no matter what their reason, for not breastfeeding their children. Showing love and support for all women’s circumstances is an integral part of having a positive mother-community.

Before I get into the “breastfeeding tips,” I want to explain in a nut shell how the process of breastfeeding works, which will end up being a huge breastfeeding tip itself!

“Contrary to popular belief, attaching the baby on the breast is not an ability with which a mother is [born…]; rather it is a learned skill which she must acquire by observation and experience.” – Woolridge M.

The first few days after birth, before your milk comes in, the yellow liquid your new baby receives from sucking at your breasts is colostrum. Colostrum is the first secretion rich in antibodies which help protect your newborn from diseases. The amount ingested is so small, just teaspoons, not ounces. It is like liquid health, or liquid gold, if you will, for your baby. Also worth noting is that this “liquid gold” colostrum has a laxative effect that clears the meconium from their bodies (which is a good thing!) These two factors are the main reasons why the average baby loses about 7% of their birth weight in the first week. This is totally normal because your baby’s immature kidneys are not ready to ingest large amounts of fluid yet. Your milk will come in two to five days after birth, most often on the third day. And within a few days your baby will quickly regain his weight. The more natural your birth and post-birth experience with lots of skin-to-skin contact and the more often your baby nurses, the quicker your milk will come in. But what is shocking is how frequently doctors advise new mothers to supplement with formula because “the baby lost weight in the first week.” Another reason doctors frequently advise to supplement with formula is in suggestion so that the mother can sleep longer at night, in hopes that the baby sleeps longer stretches from the more filling formula (because formula takes longer to digest than breastmilk.) Mothers are often told “a little formula won’t hurt,” but this is terrible advice if your goal is to be successful at long-term breastfeeding. BECAUSE….

Breastfeeding is a supply and demand relationship. The more your baby sucks at your breast with a good latch, the more milk your body will produce. If your baby is given formula, he or she will not suck at your breast as often, which will inevitably decrease your milk supply.

Let me explain. As your baby sucks at your breast, signals are sent in your body to tell how much milk your body should produce. So the more he sucks at your breast, the more milk your body is told to produce. For example, if a baby is given formula once in any particular day as a supplement, this means the baby will suck at the mother’s breast one feeding session less than he or she normally would. Now, that one time likely won’t affect how much milk the mother’s body will supply the next day. But if the baby is given formula once a day for three or four days, the body realizes, “Oh, I guess the baby doesn’t need that extra feeding session anymore, so I won’t produce that extra amount.” This is one example of what starts an inevitable struggle to produce enough breastmilk to fulfill all the baby’s caloric needs. But with the right knowledge and support, you are much more likely to avoid this type of struggle!

And let’s talk about sore, cracked, and hurting nipples! It is much easier to prevent sore nipples than it is to treat them. The main cause for sore nipples is when the baby has an improper latch. Right after birth, your nipples might hurt when your baby first latches on. But all pain should go away within a couple weeks. During that time a good rule of thumb to know if your baby is latching on correctly is that if your nipple hurts for longer than one minute, likely the baby does not have a good latch on your breast. If that is the case, detach her from your breast and start over, aiming for a proper latch. Ask your lactation consultant or an experienced friend or family member to show you how to help your baby get a proper latch at your breast.

It is best to not introduce bottles (or even pacifiers) until breastfeeding is well established. This is because the baby could get nipple confusion. Many times if a baby is introduced to the bottle super early on, they end up not enjoying the process of breastfeeding as much because it takes more effort to get milk out from your breasts than it does from the bottle.

Alright, now that we got through the process of how breastfeeding works, let’s talk about tips to help the supply-and-demand relationship of breastfeeding get off to a good start.

BREASTFEEDING TIPS

“Choosing where and how you will give birth is one of the most important preparations you can make for a good breastfeeding experience.”-Ina May Gaskin

I’m not going to say much on the topic of labor and birth because this post is specifically about breastfeeding, but I want to mention the importance of Ina May’s quote above. Surrounding your labor and birth experience with mindful, loving, gentle and natural birth promoters will do a world of good for your breastfeeding experience. As little interventions as possible during labor and after birth so that you can have instant skin-to-skin contact and bonding time with your baby is magic! If you are a low risk mother, home birthing is wonderful if it inspires you. You can get educated on the subject by reading Ina May Gaskin’s books and watching the documentary found on Netflix called “The Business of Being Born.” Wherever a mother feels safest is where she should give birth, whether that be a hospital, birth center or the home. For me, that is at home which is where I had two beautiful water births with my boys. But I want to say that no matter what type of birth you end up having, whether it goes “according to plan” or not, you can still totally be successful at breastfeeding.

HIRE A LACTATION CONSULTANT as soon as baby is born. Don’t wait longer than three or four days because the beginning is the most important in establishing your milk supply. It is so worth the $100-$150 for a knowledgeable, licensed and experienced mother to come to your home and guide you and baby through learning how to breastfeed. I cannot express just how glad I am that I hired a lactation consultant to give me tips and encourage me when I was a new mom. She will check to see if your baby’s latch is correct, and guide you to help correct your baby’s latch if he is having trouble. She will give you tips on how to stimulate milk flow. She will encourage you and help you to stay calm and trust in the journey and process of learning how to breastfeed.

GET COMFORTABLE.Your comfort is key in having a good let down. I totally recommend getting a Boppy pillow, which is a comfy pillow-like contraption that helps you hold the baby up while you breastfeed. Also have your midwife or lactation consultant show you how to nurse lying down. That way you can stay off your bottom as much as possible while your body is physically healing from birth. Wear comfy loose clothing and avoid bras as much as possible. Now is the time to let it all hang out, literally. It is especially beneficial in the first month or so to wear loose organic cotton clothing with no bras so that any oversupply and letdown can soak up in your shirt. Letting the milk flow out onto your loose shirt instead of holding it in with tight bras is one way to help prevent mastitis, a painful infection of the breast tissue. If you do go out for a long period of time and want to wear a bra, wear a cotton bra with nursing pads. Organic cotton washable nursing pads are much softer than the disposable kind. Your breasts will thank you.

And since I brought up mastitis, it is best to be aware and detect mastitis as it creeps up before it becomes a full blown infection. If you catch it in time and take good care of yourself, you will help prevent the need for going to the hospital. Firstly, eat healthy so your immune system can fight it off naturally. Secondly, at the first signs of mastitis (fever, flu-like symptoms, intense pain in one or both breasts, and red, hot or swollen area of the breast) start to take action. Mastitis is a sign that you are doing too much too soon so get your REST! Sleep with your baby for all or most of her naps and nurse her as often as you can on both breasts. Her sucking will help draw out the infection and it is not harmful for your baby. Apply a warm washcloth on your breast throughout the day and massage the sore area while she nurses. Wear loose clothing and vary your nursing positions. Have your partner or friend bring home a head of cabbage and cool it in the fridge. Then carefully tear off two cabbage leaves to cup over your breasts and leave them on on for thirty minutes at a time. I swear it helps! I also found the Wish Garden brand tincture “Happy Ducts” to really help as well. If symptoms do not disappear or lessen within a day or two after these methods, contact your midwife or doctor to take further action. But even before then, it is a good idea to contact your practitioner at the first sight of mastitis to get more insight.

LET YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS TAKE CARE OF YOU SO THAT YOU CAN TAKE CARE OF THE BABY. This tip is so important. So much energy and love goes into establishing a secure and positive breastfeeding relationship with your child those first couple months. And you will have a much easier and smoother transition into new motherhood if your partner and/or close family members are there to help take care of your physical needs. Surround yourself with only positive, affirming, and helpful people. Your partner’s duty is largely to take care of you, so that you can heal from birth and take care of the baby. Both times after Elvis and Sandy were born, I barely had to get up for anything other than to go to the bathroom or take a shower. My husband was right there to open fresh coconuts for me, bring me blankets to catch milk from my leaking breasts, and make my smoothies and salads. He took care of practically all of Elvis’ needs too after Sandy was born so that I could focus on our new little infant. Every new mom deserves this type of help. Resist the urge to clean your house and instead ask someone to do it for you. The more you rest, the quicker you will heal from birth. If you are a single mom, or have a partner who has to go right back to work, find a loving and helpful friend or family member to be there for you when you need it most. This means letting your loved ones do the laundry for you and especially make your food. My midwife even says, “For the first three or four weeks nobody should come to your house unless they are doing your laundry or bringing you food.” Allowing help from others not only gives you more time to bond with your infant, but also helps you to keep your stress levels low, which brings me to the next tip.

BE CONFIDENT IN YOUR BODY’S ABILITY TO NURSE YOUR CHILD. Throughout your day, and especially when you are breastfeeding, repeat to yourself over and over positive mantras which will relax you and give you confidence. Phrases like, “My body has just the right amount of milk for my child.” “Milk is flowing out of my breasts while I nurse my baby.” “I am healthy. I am whole. I am present. I am a breastfeeding goddess.” It might sound silly to consider encouraging yourself in this way, but it really helps! This is because STRESS is extremely detrimental for good milk flow. When a mother is stressed out, worrying about her ability to feed her child, it clamps up her whole body-including the flow of her milk.

I learned this lesson when Elvis was just a week old. I vividly remember attempting to breastfeed Elvis for a good hour in the middle of the night in the living room (so I could turn the light on and see what I was doing because I was having so much trouble figuring it out), while my husband Andrew was asleep in bed. Elvis was fussing and crying because he couldn’t get a good latch and even when he was finally able to latch on, no milk was flowing out. I began to cry for many reasons. But mainly I was worried about being able to produce enough milk for Elvis because of this experience I just described. And I was stressed out and beyond exhausted from this experience of being a new mom. So I decided to call my midwife. Yes, I called her in the middle of the night. That is one of the many perks of having a midwife/home birth. My midwife was there for me 24/7. She advised me to call her anytime I needed her, and I am SO grateful for her words of wisdom, support and love. She listened to me cry on the phone and then replied to me calmly with,  “Ellen, you are perfectly healthy and have plenty of milk for your child. But stressing about it prevents your milk from flowing. Take a few deep breaths and know that you CAN do this. Drink some water and relax” And sure enough within 30 seconds of her telling me this, my milk began to flow. And I mean flow like Niagara Falls flow. Ok, I’m exaggerating but you get the picture. Baby Elvis became a happy camper to say the least.

As you relax and stay low stress, your milk will flow easier and more freely. This tip is especially crucial in the first few months as you build a good supply. The better your milk flows, the happier your baby will be to suck at the breast. And as I said before, the more your baby sucks at your breast the more milk your body will know to supply.

HYDRATE. Drink copious amounts of water and get your hands on as much hydrating food/drink as you can. Fresh coconut water, watermelon and/or watermelon juice and lots of green smoothies are wonderful ways to stay hydrated.

GO TO BREASTFEEDING SUPPORT GROUPS and surround yourself with other like-minded mammas to get support in breastfeeding. There are so many other tips I won’t even get a chance to cover on this post that you will find at support groups like this which can aid you in your breastfeeding journey. The mamma’s group I went to when Elvis was small was a place called Granola Babies in Costa Mesa, California, where we were living at the time. They hold free breastfeeding groups which truly helped me a lot!

EAT HEALTHY PLANT FOODS IN ABUNDANCE. One is much more likely to be able to produce enough breastmilk for their child if they eat healthily. Eat fruits and vegetables in abundance. It is very important to eat enough calories to sustain yourself. Your body is burning extra calories making breastmilk for your baby, so remember to eat, girl! Most sources say a breastfeeding mother needs an extra 400-500 calories a day to sustain themselves. High calorie whole plant foods (like ripe spotty bananas, mangos, dates, potatoes, yams, rice, and quinoa, plus some avocado, coconut meat, hemp seeds, etc) will help you feel your best even with the sleepless nights. And don’t forget the veggies! I personally love eating mostly raw and thrive best this way. So when I make a smoothie I fill it to the brim with high calorie ripe fruits and greens. And when I feel like eating some cooked food I go for a couple pounds of boiled sweet potatoes or load it up on the brown rice pasta. No calorie restriction for me! Thank you, whole foods vegan lifestyle for the abundance factor.  If you are looking for some healthy vegan food inspiration check out my e-book, “Epic Raw Food”, HERE filled with 50 raw food recipes and 10 pages of health tips.

Ok, I’ve finished with my main tips to be successful at long term breastfeeding and to enjoy the journey at the same time. But I want to share a little information in regards to examples where many times there is confusion on what is really happening in the midst of breastfeeding trouble. I don’t know what to call this section except Troubleshooting Examples, so that’s what I’m going to call it.

TROUBLESHOOTING EXAMPLES

Many mothers have come to me with the question, “My milk is drying up, so what is the best way to increase my milk supply?” But that is a loaded question. Because first we must figure out why the mother thinks her milk is drying up. The reason will help explain if in fact her milk is drying up, or if a totally different situation is occurring.

For example, a mother might think her milk is drying up because her baby is fussy at the breast and no longer seems satisfied with her feeding sessions from mommy’s boobs. When really what is happening is her baby is going through a growth spurt. Growth spurts occur at about 2 weeks and 6 weeks of age and again at about 3 months, 6 months and 9 months of age and beyond. But babies don’t use calendars, so your baby might grow at a slightly different pace. When a baby goes through a growth spurt, her caloric needs from mamma’s milk goes up. The baby will send sucking signals to your body to produce more milk, but likely will be fussy at the breast for a week or so while she waits for your body to get the memo to produce more. When Elvis went through growth spurts I could physically sense his body language while nursing saying, “MORE MORE MORE, give me MORE mamma!” After a week or so of consistent on demand “fussy” nursing, your milk supply will go up to meet your baby’s caloric needs and then she will go back to her satisfied feedings.

But what happens many times in situations like this is the mother either panics in fear of her milk supply going down, or someone else makes her fearful of it, and because of this decides to supplement with formula. But as we discussed earlier, her milk supply will THEN inevitably go down because breastfeeding is a supply and demand relationship.

For situations when the mother’s milk truly is depleting, I would say to first look to all the other factors that promote good milk supply (like taking care of your own body for optimal health…good sleep, lots of water, healthy abundant food, staying low stress etc). Another thing that could help mothers who are in situations with low milk supply and struggling to increase is taking the herb Fenugreek in capsule form. I personally have not used it myself, but have talked to a few mothers who said it did wonders for helping build their milk supply. There is no reliable research that supports the use of this herb for boosting milk supply but many practitioners have recommended it to mothers with great success.

Photo of me nursing Elvis when he was one and a half years old

Another situation to understand is when a young baby seems to have little interest in breastfeeding anymore. He fusses at the breast and frequently turns away from your boob.This is very common for babies around 6-9 months of age, but can start happening as young as 4 months old. In this situation, the child has not actually become disinterested in his mother’s milk, but rather has become more aware and interested in his surroundings and is therefore distracted during feeding time. When this happens, make extra effort to find a quiet, dark, and familiar space to breastfeed your child for longer stretches without distractions. Within a month or so of consistent effort to nurse in distraction-free zones, your child will most likely adjust and go back to focused eating when he is hungry.

Sometimes a mother finds herself with one breast much larger than the other because her baby only likes to nurse on one particular breast. This can be quite annoying! There are a few answers to this one, but a common reason for this is simply because the baby is uncomfortable nursing on one side and could benefit from a chiropractic adjustment by an experienced chiropractor who specializes in baby adjustments. When Elvis was a newborn I noticed he became fussy quite easily nursing on one particular breast. I took him to my pregnancy chiropractor who adjusted his neck and body. Once he got adjusted he began nursing equally and comfortably on both breasts. Infants sometimes need a neck and body adjustment to balance out their bodies from the stressful experience of coming through their mother’s vagina. If this situation is not caught early on when the baby is an infant, the baby continues to nurse more frequently on the side she is most comfortable. And because nursing is a supply and demand relationship, one breast will produce more and flow better than the other. Which then in turn makes nursing on the uncomfortable breast have less milk coming out, giving another reason for the child to not want to nurse on that side. If you think this is what’s happening with your little one, consider taking her to a chiropractic adjustment. Ask your midwife or lactation consultant for a recommended chiropractor near you.

Next, my friend Sara is going to share her breastfeeding journey with her daughter Kaia and how she fixed an issue with the right help and support. She has some very useful tips for many mothers in need of advice for this common situation!


Sara:

When we first began our breastfeeding journey I never imagined that I would be nursing a toddler. Actually, I didn’t even think we would make it through the first two months.

Like many mothers, I faced several struggles during the first few weeks of breastfeeding. My struggles began at the hospital, where the nurses told me that my daughter, Kaia, was losing too much weight. They told me that I had to supplement her with formula, or else she would lose more weight, and wouldn’t be able to “catch up”. I was scared, beyond exhausted, and wasn’t given any other options. My midwife had already gone home for the night, and no one else around me could offer breastfeeding support. After awhile, I reluctantly agreed to let them feed her a bottle.

After only a few bottles, Kaia began getting fussy at my breast. She would throw her head around, cry, and wiggle away when I tried to nurse her. It became very challenging to get her to latch and stay latched. At the time I didn’t understand what was happening, but now I do.

 Once a baby receives a bottle they begin to adjust to the way that a bottle gives milk; which is faster, and easier than the way a breast does. Simply put: To get milk from a breast requires a lot more work than a bottle does, and once a baby is started on a bottle they begin to lose their patience at the breast. After Kaia became used to the bottle, I struggled to get her to nurse from my breast. Her infrequent nursing left me with huge, painfully engorged breasts (I mean, like the size of watermelons); which in turn made it more difficult for her to latch her tiny mouth onto my huge breasts.

It wasn’t until my midwife sent a lactation consultant to my home that I finally found the answer to my problem. After explaining my issue, she showed me how to express my milk with a manual-pump, which decreased the size of my breasts enough so that Kaia was able to get her mouth around my nipple. After that, she set me up with a nipple shield, and a supplemental feeder.

Nipple shields are small silicone nipples that fit over your breast. They are used for many things, but in this case, they act to mimic the feel of the bottle that the baby is used to. The supplemental feeder helps make the flow of milk faster so that the baby doesn’t get frustrated at the breast.

 The way it works is this: You put your pumped milk, or formula, into the supplemental feeder, and then feed the tube into the nipple shield. The supplemental milk then flows through the nipple shield (and into your baby’s mouth) during a breastfeeding session. This system helps the baby get back on your breast, allows them to get milk easily, and also allows your nipples to be stimulated so that your milk supply doesn’t decrease.

Kaia and I used this supplemental feeding system for about a week until she was back on my breast. After that, she still preferred the nipple shield for a few weeks. By the time she was eight weeks old we were nursing straight from the breast at every meal.

Today, she is almost two and half years old and is still nursing. If there is anything that I want you to take away from my experience, it is that YOU can overcome your breastfeeding struggles, that you are NOT alone in the struggle, and that if you can’t seem to get your baby back on your breast, the supplemental feeding system may work for you!” -Sara Triglia

Thank you, Sara, for sharing this with everyone. If you’d like to get in contact with Sarah, her blog is www.lovingkaia.com and her IG is @lovingkaia.

Ok, lastly I want to cover pumping tips!

PUMPING TIPS

If you are going back to work either part-time or full-time, it is best to get a good stash of milk stored up in your freezer well before you start your first day back at work. This way you will never be stressing over having enough pumped milk for your babe when you are gone at work.

 I went back to work part time when Elvis was 3 months old, and started pumping a month before that. The best way to get a good amount of milk stored up in the freezer is to start pumping once everyday around the same time of day, and in the same place and same chair. This will teach your body to produce an extra amount consistently. Early in the morning is when you have the most milk, so this is when I personally find to be the most beneficial time of day to pump. Follow all the breastfeeding tips written above in the post to have the easiest time teaching your body to produce more. Get in a comfortable and calm space. Drink a large glass of water right as you begin to pump. When you begin pumping, take deep calm breaths and focus on positive mantras like the ones I mentioned above. Imagine your baby sucking at your breasts and milk flowing from them. Sometimes even looking at your baby or a picture of your baby if you are away from him can help with let down. Be positive and confident in your ability to pump milk. Make sure you have a high quality pump to get the most bang for your buck. You’ll spend more money for a quality pump but will be grateful you did in the long run. I use the Medela double pump “In Style Advanced Breast Pump On-The-Go-Tote” and I love it. Make sure you are assembling the parts properly to avoid sore nipples. Just like breastfeeding should not hurt, pumping should not hurt either. If pumping hurts your nipples, try a lower suction setting and if that does not help, then ask an experienced mom to help make sure you are using the pump properly. A natural vegan nipple cream from a health food store might be useful if your nipples are especially sensitive.

Generally in the first few pumping sessions very little milk will come out, but within a week and a half of consistent every-day-pumping, a good amount of milk should fill up within 10-20 minutes. If you are still having trouble getting much milk out of your pumping sessions, try pumping on one breast while the baby nurses at the other (with an electric pump and hands free pumping bra). The baby will better trigger your milk ejection reflex and fill up more easily on the pumped breast. Another thing to do is to check your pump and make sure all the parts are working properly and that you are assembling them right. Specifically I’ve noticed that the membranes that attach to the valves wear out and need to be replaced with new ones every three months or so.


“Even if it has not been your habit throughout your life so far, I recommend that you learn to think positively about your body.” -Ina May Gaskin

If you are happy, healthy and in a comfortable situation with plenty of milk for your baby, consider pumping extra milk to donate to a mother in need! By simply teaching my body to produce more milk through pumping once a day, I have been able to donate over 400 ounces of milk! Sandy is only four months old at the time of writing this, and I am continuing to pump six to eight ounces of milk a day to donate. I am not here to convince anyone to donate their milk who is uncomfortable at the thought or who simply doesn’t have the time. But for those who are inspired by this, can you imagine how beautiful that would be if milk sharing became the norm again? Less babies would be on formula, which means healthier babies! I think about how grateful I would be for donated milk if I were in a situation needing to supplement, so it brings me joy to donate the extra milk I have. You can find someone who is looking for donated human milk by visiting humanmilkforhumanbabies.com and search for their Facebook page in your location. Then you can post about your breast milk you would like to share and connect with a mother in need.

What is the best alternative to breastmilk when a mother cannot breastfeed her own child? The answer is breast milk from another mother.

“Since prehistory, mothers in need of human milk for their babies have relied on other mothers in their family and community with milk to spare and share. According to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, the second-best feeding option, after breastfeeding, is breast milk expressed by a child’s own mother, followed by milk from a healthy wet-nurse or from a human-milk bank.” -James Akre, CEO of International Breastfeeding Support Collective and member of the editorial board of the International Breastfeeding Journal and of the Scientific Advisory Committee of La Leche League France.

If you are a mother who is not lactating but would like your child to be on breast milk, put your energy into getting as much donated or purchased breast milk as you can. Purchased breast milk can get pricey but is worth the cost of investing in your child’s health if you are able to afford it and cannot get enough donated breast milk.

How long should babies be breastfed? Anne Osborne, a fruitarian mother who raised two healthy raw vegan children, says it perfectly:

“Breast milk is the most natural choice. Most people think that breastfeeding a four year old is a bit strange and weird, yet they would support the belief that milk is important for the child. Giving a four year old cows’ milk is seen as acceptable whilst breastfeeding a child of this age is regarded with suspicion. Which is the more natural however?” -Anne Osborne

Photo is of my friend Ivette nursing her toddler, Dilan, along side her cat nursing her kittens

Human breast milk is nature’s perfect food for human babies and toddlers. For the first year of life, breast milk should be the primary food source for your baby. Solid food in the first year is really mainly for fun, learning and play. But even after the first year when children become interested and invested in eating solid foods, keep breastfeeding! You baby will thank you for continuing the incredibly enriching bond of breastfeeding. And the health benefits of breastmilk past the first year are incredible. I have a blog post called “Starting my Baby on Solid Foods” if you are interested. Babies should be breastfed from at least two to four years of age for optimal nutrition. Even the World Health Organization recommends continued frequent, on-demand breastfeeding for at least the first two years of life and beyond.  A beautiful way to go about the breastfeeding journey is to nurse as long as the child desires. Children know when their bodies don’t need it anymore. Too often doctors and well-meaning but uninformed friends and family members advise mothers to wean their one-year-old babies off breast milk and switch them to formula or cow’s milk. But this makes no sense where health and nutrition is concerned. Check out my blog post “MOOOOO Milk is for Cows” for compelling info on how completely unnatural cow’s milk is for us humans.

“The human body has no more need for cow’s milk than it does for dogs’ milk, horses’ milk or giraffes’ milk.” -Michael Klaper, MD

Breastfeeding is hard work. I don’t know anyone who would deny that. If you feel like giving up, remind yourself of this: According to the WHO, breastfed fed babies have a lower risk of death from infectious diseases in the first two years of life. They are less likely to get diarrhea, respiratory infections, allergies/asthma, ear infections, and are less likely to become obese in both childhood and adulthood. Breastfed fed babies also have a decreased risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and some chronic diseases including juvenile diabetes and childhood cancers. Higher IQs and better vision are just two potential long term benefits to breastfeeding our children. Breastfeeding also benefits the mother by reducing the risk of ovarian and breast cancer. And let’s not forget that breastfeeding is free and formula gets quite costly!

“About 2 million child deaths could be prevented every year through optimal breastfeeding. Exclusively breastfed infants have at least two and a half times fewer illness episodes than infants fed breast-milk substitutes. Infants are as much as 25 times more likely to die from diarrhea in the first 6 months of life if not exclusively breastfed. Among children under one year, those who are not breastfed are three times more likely to die of respiratory infection than those who are exclusively breastfed.” -World Health Organization

For more statistics on the benefits of breastfeeding, including the stats on the ones I just mentioned, check out this very in-depth WHO journal HERE and public.health.oregon.gov article HERE.

Phew! that was a lot of information so I think that’s all I’m going to cover in this blog post. And it’s crazy to think how much information I didn’t even get a chance to cover. So much can be said about our boobies haha. I admire all the mothers out there, no matter what their journey has been. Like I said before, breastfeeding is so much harder than it looks! So I find value in accepting and empathizing with everyone’s experience and hardships. I hope you feel encouraged and empowered about your body’s ability to breastfeed your child and I hope you find these tips helpful. You are a powerful goddess, a giver of life!

“When we as a society begin to value mothers as the givers and supporters of life, then we will see social change in ways that matter.”-Ina May Gaskin

-love,

Ellen Fisher, Mango Island Mamma

*PHOTOS INSIDE ON NURSING CHAIR SHOT BY RACHAEL MCALLISTER (rachaelmcallister.com)

*PHOTOS IN AND NEAR WATERFALL BY IVETTE IVENS (ivetteivens.com/breastfeedinggoddesses)

Author Ellen Fisher

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Join the discussion 24 Comments

  • Haley Macklin says:

    Oh Ellen, this post is making my heart sing! What beautiful advice you have shared with many new mums and mums to be. We need more mamas sharing their wisdom and advice, and it’s so great seeing you use your position of social influence in such a lovely way.
    I had 4 months of breastfeeding hell with my now 15 month old. Fortunately we made it through without formula (although I gave him milk from friends of mine), and we now have a wonderful feeding relationship (I love when he yanks up my top and goes “baabaa!” That’s boobie in Noah language ;-)) it was because of advice like yours that I was able to keep going, and I thank my lucky stars that I had the information at hand, because there were so many times I felt like throwing in the towel and giving up. I can only hope that your blog does that for other mums struggling with feeding their new babies. As you said, the ability and knowledge of how to breastfeed is not innate, but learned, so we need to educate mums on the how so they can give their little ones the best start in life.
    Love and light x

  • Chantelle Spriggs says:

    Amazing post thank you, you are such an inspiration xx

  • Sammy Jarvis says:

    Awesome blog Ellen, you have a way with words that really inspire and comfort those who read them. Keep up the gorgeous work, much love.

  • Mushkie says:

    Thank you – really enjoyed this post!

  • Jade says:

    Lovely blog.. I wish I had this knowledge when I breastfed my son. I do worry I won’t be able to breast feed any future children due to a breast reduction which is heart breaking for me.. as a vegan I would definitely be looking into wet-nursing! X

  • Melissa C. says:

    This was a beautiful post! I absolutely loved it! I’m soon expecting my first baby, and was wondering what you think about pumping so that dad’s or others can get involved in feeding the baby. Does Sandy ever get bottles of your pumped breast milk? If so what types of bottles do you recommend? Thanks!

  • Island says:

    Ellen,

    Thank you for sharing your experience and knowledge! You are so inspiring!!! I would love to know little bit more about home birth and also how did you find your midwife?

    Much mahalos!

  • Giselle says:

    Thank you so much for sharing and advice. I’ve had 2 breast surgeries that cause problems from breast feeding. I’m pregnant with my 3rd and hope i have more success this time. With my last I was able to do it for 4 months with a suplemental feeder and donated breast milk. Then when I went back to work she refused the breast. Reading your post now I understand why. And I stopped trying. She continued with a bottle and my best friend donated breast milk. I’m praying my ducts have regenerated fir this baby but worse case scenerio I will get donated breast milk and use a suplemental feeder.

  • Melissa C. says:

    Also I forgot to add, how would you suggest reheating frozen breastmilk without destroying it’s raw nutrients? Thanks Ellen! 🙂

  • Sara Fuller says:

    Thank you, Ellen!!! I am not planning on having children for 4-7 years, BUT I am gathering information while in my 20s! I much appreciate the knowledge and know that when it comes time, the confidence factor will be very important for me in succeeding at breastfeeding! I’ve always felt a pang at being very small chested, but I don’t want that history and lack in confidence during puberty and young adulthood to stop me from being the momma I dream of being!
    With Gratitude,
    Sara

  • wes says:

    Very well done Ellen. This will help a lot of people. I liked how you included a line on Chiropractic. Winston was helped greatly by a good Chiropractor when he only wanted to breastfeed on one side. His neck was adjusted and then he began to eat on both sides.

  • AGos says:

    Hi Ellen I admire you, thanks for these tips, I´d like you to share the transition from milk to food on babys. How to start, and so on.. Please! Lots of love.

  • Kim says:

    Hi Ellen! This is one of the most comprehensive and positively written posts on all facets of breastfeeding! I will be glad to share this with many struggling mamas. I read a quote from the La Leche League that nursing a baby is a privilege but should be every baby’s right. I have the privilege of nursing number 2 while preggers with no 3 and now she is 3.5 years and he is 17 months old! Luckily my toddler and preschooler are also learning how to share, be patient and have all their needs met whilst nursing. I love how they can communicate with their words now about how my milk tastes better than sweet mangoes! Although there are brief moments when I wish I could wean, its only to stop pumping at work. Then I have a mama who needs extra milk and I am so honored when they take my offering. Keep up the great blog and videos of your adorable boys!

  • Kim says:

    Hi Ellen! I have trouble posting to Instagram because I am old and new at social media stuff !
    I just love love your vids so much. Elvis is a gem, and I would love for him to play with my trio . I love watching how much he enjoys his food because we feel the same too! We also are around many “picky” eaters who only like pizza and chicken nuggets – but luckily my kids have expressed those things lack color, and are- well- disgusting . We don’t condone putting down food of any type because it is rude, but kids are honest.
    On another note, I could just nibble on your sweet baby! He is so precious ! I love those fluffy mama’s milk legs and cheeks! Mine two nursers are 3.5yrs and 17 months and have lost that fluff!
    Thank you for your promotion of sharing milk! I have donated to moms and milk bank of north Texas and it brough me such joy. I still pump at work, but now my supply is much lower than a year ago! My own sister wouldn’t use my extra milk for my niece and made me so . But I was able to donate colostrum to my friend’s NICU baby when her milk wouldn’t kick in and made me happy to help! Hopefully our culture will change and realize cows milk is not suitable for our babies and ruining our next generations health- which is riddled with obesity . Thank you Ellen for your great blog and vids! Your family is awesome!

  • Shannon says:

    As a midwife I just want to say how wonderful it is to have someone with such a large follower base endorsing breastfeeding in a such a warm, positive way and most importantly, with CORRECT information. You are a credit to yourself and your beautiful family are very lucky to have such an educated and caring mother. Lots of love x

  • Sarah Pacyna says:

    It is so helpful and make hope… LOVE YOUR THOUGHTS

  • gretta says:

    hi ellen,

    thank you so much for this information! I had my first babe 4 weeks ago and thank God, breastfeeding is going well. But I am a little fearful that my son & I have thrush (we go to the dr tomorrow). Might you be able to suggest any natural cures in case we do have it? I am determined to not let this set back (if true) stop me from feeding my little baby boy! Thank you for being so inspiring!

    gretta

  • Renée says:

    Hi Ellen!

    You are a true inspiration to myself and my newborn. I’m so glad I started reading this post while feeding my almost 4 week old during what is apparently a major growth spurt considering he’s been eating for 4 hours now! This post has helped me get through what would otherwise feel like an impossible task rather than a beautiful experience. My hubby and I thank you for your well written words here and on Instagram. I hope to one day be a vegan and live in a warm tropical climate similar to yours. Please continue to spread your knowledge and positivity!

    xoxo

  • Rosanne says:

    Wow Ellen, what a compassionate and useful post! Back in the ’90s, I breast fed both of my children until they were four years old. That meant that I breast fed my first child while I was pregnant with my second child and after he was born. The new little guy got first dibs and thrived. even though he was sharing the nursing with his big sister. It all worked out fine. At the time, I was following my instincts, but what I would have given for some positive advice and support from blogs like yours! Most people and family members thought it was weird that I nursed them “for so long” but I continued to follow my attachment instincts despite the feedback I was getting. Luckily, my husband said it was between the Mom and the child to decide how long to nurse and nobody else! Both my children are extremely smart and have great minds. They are uniquely individual and do not follow the crowd. They have great strength of character and work to make a positive impact on this earth. I’ve always thought that nursing them for so long really helped their development and got them off to a great start. Through the years, I feel this thought has been confirmed and more. To all you young mothers out there–don’t give up if you are having trouble. Seek help to get going with the nursing. It will really pay off big in the end. Don’t let this unique chance slip by you and your child, it is so important! As mammals, we are defined by the fact that we nurse our young. It is a huge gift you can give to your child that has far-reaching effects. Much love and good luck to you all!

  • Sarah says:

    Thank you so much for this info, very helpful to find out from a line minded individual. I truly admire how you are raising your kids.

  • Lucy says:

    Thank you Ellen,
    I have just found out I am pregnant with my first babe and breastfeeding is something I am very keen to be successful with, so your words of wisdom are invaluable to me!
    I look forward to reading through all of your posts in great detail, you are a very inspiring mother!
    Much love from London,
    xx

  • Sarah says:

    what an amazing article! thank you very much 🙂 I think you are doing a very great Job as a mother, Blogger, youtuber etc. and you are a great role model!

  • Sarah says:

    what an amazing article! thank you very much 🙂 I think you are doing a very great Job as a mother, Blogger, youtuber etc. and you are a
    great role model!

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