Photography by: Rebecca Siewert
When I envisioned myself as a breastfeeding mom, the images were filled with satisfied babies and hours of cuddling and kissing. I was not prepared for the frustrations, tears and feelings of failure that would come with the experience. This was supposed to be lovely?! How is it possible that I can be failing at something I’m naturally equipped to do?
I’m not completely sure on why (nor was my Doctor or Midwife), but right around the 5 month mark my body does a shift and my milk supply drops (Possibly from having Hypo-Thyroid.). I know this because, along with physically seeing and feeling my milk supply drop, my babies go from feeding on a normal schedule to being unsatisfied and having to eat every few hours. The first time with McCarthy I was told “it’s probably a growth spurt, don’t worry about it, your body will adjust.” From month 5-9 my body did not adjust! I have tried fenugreek seed, blessed thistle, breast feeding cookies, pump more, pump less, drinking more…you name it I’ve tried it. Breastfeeding has not been fun, easy, or something I will ever take for granted. I’m so thankful I have been able to do it at all, because I do believe in the power of breast milk and the amazing nutrition it gives our babies. I was determined to not give up with the boys and forced them to make it to 9 months. I’ll be honest, the day they both stopped nursing was met with joy and sorrow. Gone where the days of wrestling through another feeding but so where the days of the peaceful feeds where I kissed their finger tips and watched them stare at me with such trust.
I was determined with Adelaide to try it again and somehow overcome this struggle. I started looking at my emotional state as well as my physical well-being and their attachment to breast feeding. With both boys, we had started supplementing with goats milk at 6 months as well as pumping as much as possible to make up for the feeds where they didn’t get enough. With Adelaide, I decided to try and actually pump less then I had with the boys. I know this goes against what they will tell you when it comes to increasing your milk, but to be honest, pumping did nothing in the past to increase milk. It only stressed me out how little I got and left me questing the whole process every time. I knew stress was something I did not want to add to this experience. Right from the beginning we knew Adelaide would be a struggle, due to the fact she was distracted by her brothers and more worried about what was happening in the world then the milk entering her body. With baby number #3 you do not have the luxury of slipping away and doing relaxing breast feeding sessions. We do it everywhere! I’m pretty sure the whole town of Kelowna has seen me breastfeed at this point. It’s done in the school parking lot, grocery store, restaurants, the gym…yep, everywhere. I’m past the shy stage of “oh whoa, what if someone sees my boobs?!?” I have a baby here waiting to breastfeed and this relationship is constantly throwing me for a loop! The constant life of being on the move and having loud brothers around you has caused Adelaide to become something they call a shallow feeder or “ light eater.” This behavior causes her to want to eat not so much during the day but at night when life is quite. Addy started waking up every 2-3 hours in the night and wanting to feed both sides. After 2 months of this I could feel the emotions building and my body wearing out. I decided at 4 ½ months to make some changes to our feeding and mine. Since herbs hadn’t really worked in the past for my body, I started looking into other forms of nutritional balance. What makes you feel good? What refreshes you? I encourage you to explore the answers to those questions. With my background in fitness and nutrition, I know the body performs better and gets better results when we are giving it what it needs. Breastfeeding is no joke! Dear moms, you are frickin’ athletes! Train like one, eat like one and when you can, sleep like one. So what do athletes need?
I’ve always drunk greens but with breastfeeding I have to take it up a ton! Juicing gives you pure nutrition that fuels and fights for your body. Greens are packed with vitamins and minerals that help to balance post-baby hormones while giving your body a healthy supply of carbohydrates for your milk supply. Green juice has become an addiction for me, because I love how it makes me feel. I drink it first thing in the morning to get the most nutrition out of it and post workout to refuel the nutrients my muscles need for recovery, rather then downing protein shakes. Greens are packed with iron, protein and tons of other goodness our body needs for all that breastfeeding action.
Get my favorite green shake here.
I had read up on all these special kinds of breastfeeding cookies and thought….why are we baking this stuff? Keeping things raw is definitely one of the best ways to keep the most nutrition in your food, so I started eating more raw snacks. Now remember, you are an athlete, so you must eat like one! An athlete calculates their meals and makes sure their body is getting everything it needs for optimal performance. You are feeding a person and running around like crazy! You must eat and you must eat well. Breastfeeding balls (as I like to call them;) include flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, natural raw butters and sea salt. This combination is filled with antioxidants, healthy omegas/fatty acids, protein, brain supporting carbohydrates and minerals. Here is one of my favorite breastfeeding balls recipes.
1 cup of raw almond butter
4 tbsp ground flax seed
4 tbsp chia seeds
4 tbsp hemp seeds
a bit of raw honey for sweetness
3 tbsp. raw cocoa powder
You can also add some oats if you would like them to be more dense.
Roll into little balls, place on parchment paper. Sprinkle with sea salt and place in freezer for 30 minutes. Best is to keep them frozen, so pull a few out and let them sit for 5 minutes before you indulge.
Snack smart! Don’t just snack
When my milk started depleting with the boys everyone told me to snack more! Food increases milk right? Wrong! If you are snacking on a bunch of crap, the results aren’t fun. You’ll end up spiking your blood sugar levels stirring up your hormones which will cause your brain to be fuzzy. This type of snacking is going to leave your body drained and depleted. One of the best ways to get your milk supply to increase is to balance out your body. This was my biggest learning! With the boys I just snacked because I thought it’s what I was supposed to do. With Adelaide, I started looking at my relationship with food and why I was eating it. I pre-planned snacks that I could grab easily and would fuel my body. Someone asked me to start putting up what I eat daily and I laughed because I have the most boring eating plan. I literally eat the same thing almost every day. I’m busy and I don’t have time to get fancy right now. Sometimes I get creative but 90% of the time I eat the same things over and over again. I have a fridge full of items to juice, a freezer packed with balls and a slow cooker with either soup or chilli going. It’s not fancy, but it gets the job done and I don’t have to think about what I’m going to eat in between pre-school pick up, teaching and the other 100 things I’m doing that day. Make yourself a list this week of 3 things you are going to make. Then make a butt load of them. This may not be rocket science, but I promise it will help!
Supplement when you need to:
When my milk started dropping again, the tears immediately started to flow. I had failed again!!! I wanted so desperately to enjoy this experience the 3’rd and possibly last time. But instead of allowing emotion to take over I started to look at where my head was at. What had weighed heavy on me in my previous breastfeeding attempts? The pressure of what would people think if they saw a bottle? Was I eating enough? Was I made for this? Maybe there was something wrong with my body!!!! News Flash…Who gives a crap what anyone else thinks?! They are not sweating it out with you in the nursery at feeding time and they certainly aren’t filling your freezer with food so you can put your feet up. So you need to let that one go. You were made for this and if you allow yourself to hear your own voice I truly believe you will know what is best for you and your baby. Sometimes that means adding a little something. Instead of worrying, I headed to the local health food store and stocked up on goats milk. Goats milk is actually one of the closest things to breast milk and in my opinion one of the best supplement choices. Due to the fact I was not planning on completely stopping breastfeeding, I didn’t need a formula. So I started giving Addy a nice big bottle of goats milk before she headed to bed at night. Sleeps became deeper, I wasn’t waking every 2 hours to feed her, and Adelaide continues to thrive.
Do what you love:
Motherhood is one of the most amazing gifts but it also puts a lot of pressure on our physical and emotional state. I truly believe one of the best things we can do for our babies and family is take care of ourselves. This next piece of advice may be harder for some of you to swallow then others… You must take time for you. My husband asked me a question a couple months ago that left me stumped…”What are your hobbies these days”? UH…..Running a business, making babies and trying to inspire people through social media! To fuel a baby’s body and live a life that has energy to love, we must be willing to take time to refuel ourselves. So I made a list of the things I love and what I want to accomplish for my personal health this year. I now have an appointment with myself every week. Some days that appointment is only 30 minutes, but it’s what this mind needs to be refreshed, refueled and inspired to take on 3 children under the age of 5.
I wanted to share this post and be honest that this has not been easy for me. I am not a gifted milk machine, but I am determined! Sometimes I believe we are allowed to go through things because God knows we will search for a solution and spread what we have learned. By adding these food items to my weekly schedule, removing pumping and adding goats milk, I can honestly say I truly am enjoying this breastfeeding experience. Every day I take it for what it is and don’t worry about where I may be coming up short. I can tell Adelaide has felt the shift as well. She is calmer in feeds, offers me lots of encouraging smiles in between sips and above all sleeps better! Whether it’s the nutrition tips or just the encouragement of hearing you are not alone in your breastfeeding battle, I hope your heart feels lighter after reading this post.
I truly believe the battles we face as moms would be a whole lot easier if we where just honest with one another and offered grace to those who are struggling. If breastfeeding is not for you and you would like some educated advice I have listed some helpful links below. Know you can e-mail me and ask questions at anytime!