This past week was #Blackbreastfeedingweek and to celebrate, Black women, took to social media to share the highs and lows of breastfeeding. The purpose of the week is to encourage, support and educate mothers who want to be informed about nursing. Black women suffer the most and have the highest rate of dying with birthing complications than white women.
As a new mom, I made the decision early on in my pregnancy to breastfeed. However, I wasn’t aware of the difficulties that came along with breastfeeding. It was a true journey to exclusively breastfeed and I wanted to share a few things I’ve learned on my journey.
You have to work for your breast milk.
I’ll be honest with you. As soon as I gave birth I expected my boobs to be flowing with milk. Even after a few days, I wasn’t getting much, or so I thought. So, like any new mom, I panicked and began bottle-feeding. No mom wants to feel like she’s starving her baby. I thought a bottle or two a day wouldn’t decrease my supply but it did. Six weeks postpartum I got my period and I was devastated. My doctor me I have to keep my baby on my breasts all the time to encourage my milk supply. It was hard to transition but luckily for me, I transitioned to exclusivity breastfeeding right as she was starting to cluster feed. It took me about two weeks to build my supply —going for two bottles a day to one every other day to twice a week wasn’t easy but I was dedicated. The secret recipe? Rest, co-sleeping, oatmeal, drinking lots of water and a few Milky Mama treats.
You need to rest to replenish your supply
Easier said than done, I know. Resting when my baby would sleep helped my supply. She slept on my chest all the time. I slept when she slept. Plus, I had a c-section so rest was a pivotal role in my recovery. Seriously, if you can, try to get sleep.
Supply and demand is real
If your baby only needs three ounces, your body is going to make three ounces. If you’re bottle-feeding and nursing your body will make up the difference of what you are nursing but it’s based on routine. If your baby is hungry every two to there hours, your body will have milk ready to be emptied. The more you empty your breasts, the more your breast will replenish with more milk. That’s why a lot of moms pump their milk. They can still pump their supply, offer a separate bottle and store their newly pumped milk. Empty your breasts, get more milk. This is how you establish your supply.
Cluster feeds are tiring but clutch
All of those hourly feeds that may or may not make your nips sensitive are necessary for a growing baby. Those hourly feeds are preparing your body to create a larger supply. You may go from two ounces to three or even four depending on your baby. When I cluster fed, I went from one and a half ounces of milk to almost three ounces. It took about a week or so for my body to adjust to the new demand of milk my baby needed.
Don’t measure your supply by what other moms post
This really depressed me. I would see all these photos in mommy groups and they would show photos of their milk supply in bags in the freezer and here I was barely pumping three ounces in a 24-hour cycle after feeding my baby. That’s because my body wasn’t making extra milk. My body was only making just enough milk to keep her full and happy. I didn’t have an oversupply and I wasn’t away from her for long bouts of time so I had no need to miss a feed. Don’t look at mommy supply photos, they will make you feel inadequate and you are not.
Most importantly, while #BlackBreastfeedingWeek is important, it’s also a choice. Whether you choose to breastfeed or not is completely up to you. Your baby will love you either way.