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Postpartum

The myth of the freezer stash

The myth of the freezer stash

One of the common questions I get as a birth professional and postpartum doula is, "When should I start pumping after my baby is born, and how much do I need to have saved?"

On FaceBook and in articles online, we see these women who have massive freezers full of thousands of ounces of pumped breastmilk. For some, that becomes the goal. However, most of the time, a giant freezer stash is not necessary. In fact, it may be problematic in some ways. 

Let's talk first about the potential problems with a massive freezer stash.

1. The mother very likely has an oversupply in order to produce so much extra milk on top of what her baby is eating. Many people would say, "That's awesome! It's better to have too much than not enough." However, as an over-producer myself, I know what unique challenges come with having too much breastmilk. 

An over-supply can mean problems for the baby, such as gassiness, choking due to trouble handling the fast flow of milk, fussiness (to put it mildly) at the breast, green and foamy bowel movements, and spitting up.

It can also cause problems for the mom, including sore nipples, constant leaking, breasts that always feel full and heavy, plugged ducts, and mastitis.

2. If the baby is fed bottles from the freezer stash and the mother does not then pump, or if the baby is "topped up" after breastfeeding sessions with the freezer stash milk, this can lead to a drastic decrease in the mother's milk supply. Breastmilk supply is a demand-supply system, so if the demand decreases because the baby is being fed from the freezer stash, the supply will decrease accordingly. This can undermine the breastfeeding mother's long-term goals if her goals are to continue breastfeeding for the first year. 

3. If a mother is not able to achieve a full deep freezer full of milk, she may feel like she has failed and is not capable of providing for her baby, even if her baby is growing happily! Just last week, I talked with a brand new mom who was afraid that she wasn't doing things correctly because she only had around 50 ounces of milk stored up so far. That's actually more than enough, and her baby is growing perfectly! 

Now, let's talk about what might be a more balanced approach to pumping and saving breastmilk. 

Disclaimer: the tips below only apply when nursing is going really well and there are no concerns about sufficient supply or the baby's growth. If you have concerns, please contact an IBCLC or breastfeeding counselor. I have lots of recommended care providers, so please feel free to reach out if you need a breastfeeding specialist.

For the first week or two, if all is going well and the baby is nursing and growing fine, there is no need to pump. Sometime around week 3 would be an ideal time to start a pumping routine. Once or twice a day, choose a time to add a pumping session. You can choose to pump after your baby nurses, or at a time when they're sleeping and won't wake up to eat for at least an hour or two.

Pump for around 10-20 minutes at each sitting. If your milk is still flowing after that point, you don't need to keep going until empty! This would just trigger your body to produce more and more milk, thinking it has two or more babies to feed. 

After a few days, you should have plenty of milk saved up in order to be able to leave the baby with a sitter for several hours so you can get a massage, go for a solo walk, or spend time with your partner. Just remember to pump close to the same time that the baby is having a bottle so that you don't go more than 3 hours between pumping or nursing sessions.

If your goal is to return to work and be able to feed your baby pumped breastmilk, you only need 1-1.5 ounces for every hour you'll be away from your baby. Then while you're at work, pump the milk for the next day's bottles. 

If your goal is to be able to take a weekend trip away from the baby, you can figure for an average of 20-30 ounces per day. Then, again, pump while you're away to maintain your supply and replenish your stored milk.

 

I hope this has helped shed some light on why it's not necessary to have thousands of ounces stored up in order for someone to successfully feed their baby. For the first few weeks, relax and get comfortable with breastfeeding. It should get easier and easier, especially after the first 6 weeks. Then you can focus on adding to your stored milk!

Top 10 nice-to-have items for baby

Top 10 nice-to-have items for baby

You might remember my recent post on the top 5 must-have baby items, which listed the 5 categories of things you actually need for a baby. While a baby doesn't truly NEED much, there are some things that are super nice to have.

Here are my top 10 picks for items that make those early parenting days a little easier:

1. Baby seats, swings, and bouncers

True, a baby doesn't need a seat in every single room in your home, but it is really really nice to have somewhere the baby can hang out and be entertained while you shower, prepare dinner, or exercise. Consider having at least one of these items be something that is easily carried from room to room (not while the baby is in it, please!) like a Rock 'n Play or bouncy seat.

2. Bathtub with newborn insert

There's not much in this world that is sweeter than a freshly bathed baby. However, newborns are notoriously wobbly and slippery at bathtime, so a newborn-specific tub insert can make those first baths a little less daunting. I've seen some really clever infant tubs that are designed to fit into a sink, which can be game-changing for a parent who is recovering from vaginal or cesarean birth - no bending, kneeling, squatting, or carrying a heavy tub full of water!

3. Hooded towels and soft washcloths

Yes, you can use normal washcloths and towels to bathe and dry a baby, but there are some pretty amazingly soft baby washcloths out there! Bonus: if you have too many, they can be repurposed into reusable wipes if you're using cloth diapers. After your baby is all clean and sweet-smelling, they will love to be wrapped up in a soft hooded towel. I prefer towels that are the same thick, absorbent terry cloth as normal towels; extra points if it has teddy bear ears on the hood :)

4. Bottle and nipple cleaning supplies

Cleaning bottles, nipples, pump parts, and pacifiers can be a real pain. Bottle and nipple brushes make it a little easier, as do those clever drying racks with spots for all the tiny parts. For sterilization, many parents find that microwave sterilizers work beautifully - just remember to add enough water or you might melt your parts!

5. Diaper bag

Whether you want your diaper bag to double as a purse, or you want it to be a little more dad-friendly, a well-stocked diaper bag makes outings a breeze. You'll want lots of pockets for things like pacifiers, several changes of clothes for the baby, burp rags, blankets, a portable changing pad, toys, and of course diapers and wipes. Some diaper bag models even have an insulated section to keep bottles cool! Other things to have in the bag include bottled water (for rinsing soiled clothes), hand sanitizer, baby powder, diaper cream, a wet bag for wet and dirty diapers, another wet bag for soiled clothes, and sunscreen or a hat. 

6. Swaddle blankets

Most newborn babies love a good, snug swaddle. Keep in mind the environment they just came from: they were hugged securely from all angles in the womb. We can mimic that sensation with a good swaddle blanket! My favorite are muslin swaddle blankets; for example, the swaddle blankets from Aden + Anais are light enough so the baby won't overheat, but large enough to get a really secure wrap. Halo also sells a combo sleep sack/swaddle that is very easy to use.

7. Stroller

You're going to want to look for a stroller system that is easy to set up and collapse, has ample room for carrying the diaper bag and the parent's drink, phone, and keys, and has a decent tray for when the baby gets older. Many stroller systems have compatible infant car seats that can easily click in, which is lovely when you don't want to have to unstrap a sleeping baby. It's best if you can actually test the stroller before buying since the handling can vary widely between brands.

8. Baby carrier

Wearing one's baby(ies) is a centuries-old tradition, but it has recently gained lots of popularity in modern cultures. Parents love that they can hold their babies and keep them close while still having their hands free to work on other things. The two most accessible and popular options I've seen with my clients are ring slings and soft-structured carriers, such as the Tula or Ergobaby. Both of these options can be used from the newborn stage all the way into toddlerhood. There are so many instructional videos, babywearing instructors, and support groups if you'd like to give it a try!

9. Changing table

While not a true "necessity" since a baby can be changed on basically any flat surface, it's helpful to have a dedicated place for diaper duty. It's very convenient for a changing area to have a contoured changing pad and organization containers like baskets or drawers for items like diapers, wipes, diaper cream, burp cloths, lotion, changes of clothes, and anything else you want to have within arm's reach during diaper and outfit changes. If you have a multi-level home, make sure you have a changing station on each level, or you could assemble a portable diaper changing caddy that goes where the baby goes. You really don't want to have to traipse up and down the stairs with a baby who just had a massive blowout!

10. Rocking chair/glider

Generations upon generations of parents have used rocking chairs as a place to feed, soothe, and bond with their babies. It doesn't have to come with all of the bells and whistles to get the job done, but most parents appreciate some well-placed padding to make feeding more comfortable for everyone. It's also handy to have a side table nearby with items like breast pads, burp rags, snacks, and water bottles to make your sit more enjoyable. 

With all of the various baby products and advertisements out there today, it's hard to know what items are actually helpful. I hope this gives you an idea about how to build out your baby registry! 

 

Postpartum doulas do that!

Postpartum doulas do that!

I didn't always want to be a postpartum doula.

I thought that birth was where it was at. Birth is exciting. Birth is unpredictable. I feel very useful at a birth. I was afraid that postpartum work would be mostly comprised of doing dishes and changing diapers. However, I took a leap and got myself to a training. 

I learned SO MUCH about what postpartum doulas do and don't do at that training! My first shift serving a client sealed the deal for me. I fell in love with postpartum care. To give you a taste, I'd like to walk you through what a typical day with a postpartum doula might look like, from a parent's perspective.

8:50 a.m.

The doula arrives at your home, a little early for her 9:00 shift. You are thankful because you just finished nursing the baby and are STARVING! She brought your favorite drink from Starbucks, per your request, and as soon as she arrives, she asks, "Have you eaten? Do you need me to refill your water cup?"

9:30 a.m.

You hand your baby to the doula so you can sit down and eat the breakfast she prepared for you. The doula admires your baby and makes sure their diaper is clean and dry. You two chat about how last night went (you didn't get any sleep because the baby was up every hour nursing!) and about your goals for the day. 

10:00 a.m.

Your doula notices and points out some subtle signs that your baby might be ready to settle for a nap. You are filled with dread, because the baby has been refusing to sleep in the crib, and you do NOT want to spend an hour trapped on the couch with nothing but your phone to keep you company. No worries! The doula remembers that you've been wanting to see if the baby will tolerate being worn in your ring sling. She puts on the ring sling, expertly and safely snuggling your baby into the pouch. Your baby is soothed by the movement and warmth, and drifts easily to sleep. 

You decide to take a nap while the doula does some vacuuming and other light housekeeping tasks while wearing your baby.

11:15 a.m.

You awaken from your nap to the doula gently rousing you. The baby has woken up and is showing some hunger cues! She helps you get settled with your pillows just how you like them, refills your water cup, and hands you the baby, who is in a fresh diaper. Breastfeeding has been going relatively well, and the baby is gaining weight adequately, but your nipples have been so sore! The doula helps you to slightly adjust how you're holding your baby, and helps you get a better latch. You are delighted to find your nipple completely comfortable! 

While your baby eats, you tell the doula about how you're so afraid of going back to work. You're not sure if you'll be able to keep up breastfeeding, and you're worried because you haven't even tried pumping yet. Your doula validates your concerns and helps you come up with a plan to begin pumping a little every day in order to build a small stash for when you return to work. She gets your breast pump out of the closet, shows you how to assemble the parts and what all the buttons and knobs do. Since you haven't even opened it yet, she cleans and sterilizes the pieces so that it will be ready to use when you need it.

12:00 p.m.

You've been wanting to get out of the house for a short walk. The weather has been so nice, but you cannot figure out how to put your stroller together! Again, your doula fairy godmother lays your worries to rest. She helps you read through the instructional booklet and assemble the stroller while the baby happily plays on the tummy time mat. 

12:40 p.m.

By now, you're ready for lunch. The doula re-heats the leftovers from the amazing freezer meal you had for dinner last night (she helped you batch cook a month's worth of meals last week!) and again holds and talks to the baby while you eat. After you finish, you are ready for your walk, but the baby is showing some sleepy cues again. You talk through the options and decide to let the doula try to get the baby to nap in the crib. The doula helps you get all set and ready to go. During your leisurely stroll, your doula somehow, magically gets the baby to sleep soundly in the crib! She then washes, folds, and puts away a load of baby laundry, and sets out a freezer meal to thaw for dinner.

1:15 p.m.

You return from your walk, invigorated by the fresh air. The doula is leaving at 2, and she's already completed all of the tasks you had on the to-do list. The baby is still napping. You suddenly remember that you haven't yet mailed your birth announcements! The doula stamps and stuffs the envelopes while you address them. 

1:45 p.m.

The baby is awake and hungry! Your doula helps you get all settled into your nursing nook, grabs you a snack and refills your water before getting ready to leave. 


Of course, every baby and family is unique, so this is just one example of how a postpartum doula might be of help to you. Your postpartum doula is an expert in attuning to your needs and meeting you where you are that day. Sometimes the shift is as simple as helping you and the baby to just sleep, eat, and bathe, and that's perfectly normal too! At Louisiana Baby Company, our postpartum doulas are experts in infant care, normal recovery from vaginal or cesarean births, and helping the whole family adjust to the new normal of having a brand new baby in the home. It's an investment you won't regret!

Top 5 must-have items for baby (a minimalist-approved list)

Top 5 must-have items for baby (a minimalist-approved list)

There are SO MANY baby products on the market right now! As a doula, many of my clients come to me for product recommendations and help with building their baby registry. Often, they ask, "How much of this stuff does a baby really NEED?" My answer? Not much! There are basically five categories of things you really, really need before bringing a baby home. The rest is lagniappe (I'll be listing some nice-to-have items in a future blog!) 

Here is the short list of things a newborn absolutely needs in their early days:

1. A safe place to sleep 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently announced updated recommendations for safe sleep. Included in these recommendations is a firm, flat, bare sleep space for the baby (not in the parents' bed). The crib or bassinet doesn't need to be anything fancy, but beware of buying these items used since some discontinued items are no longer approved by regulatory agencies. Buying new also allows you to sign up for alerts in case of a product recall. 

My personal favorite cribs are the simple, economical, sleek cribs from IKEA. Ours has gone through 4.5 years and 2 energetic boys and shows no signs of wear! Just to compare, our first crib we got was actually more expensive and started to chip paint after just over a year. 

2. Clothes

Sooooo many cute clothes. But what does a baby really use on a daily basis? Comfort is key; you can't beat cotton onesies and button-up footed sleepers. White is excellent because it can be cleaned easily! Depending on how often you want to do laundry, you'd want anywhere from 6-12 of each style and size. It's too easy to go overboard and buy so many outfits that the baby doesn't have a chance to wear each outfit before it's outgrown. Also keep in mind that grandparents LOVE to buy baby clothes, so it's highly unlikely that your baby won't have enough, haha!

3. Diapers

Babies poop and pee. A lot. After the first week, you can expect your baby to wet and/or soil 8-12 (or more) diapers daily. You'll need a good stockpile of diapers to avoid middle of the night grocery store runs! I would figure about 100 disposable diapers a week when calculating how many you need. When it comes to deciding how many to buy in each size, bigger (size) is usually better. Babies usually only stay in newborn size diapers for a maximum of a couple of weeks and some babies are born too big for size N. Size 1 diapers generally fit babies from 8-14 pounds. What age your baby will reach 14 pounds is widely variable, but it's generally safe to say that a baby won't double their birth weight until 4-6 months. 

For cloth diapers, you'll probably want disposable liners to catch those first meconium poops so they don't stain. You can buy specially sized newborn cloth diapers, or go with a one-size model. Keep in mind that most "one-size" cloth diapers don't fit babies really well until they reach around 10 pounds, but I have had wonderful luck getting Lil' Helpers one-size diapers to fit down to 7 or 8 pound babies! There are many websites that serve as resources for information about cloth diapers, plus FaceBook support groups. So don't be intimidated!

4. Food

Whether you are breastfeeding, bottle feeding, or a combination of the two, the baby needs to eat. The only foods that are appropriate for a newborn baby are breastmilk and infant formula. For breastfeeding, some supplies you might want to have on hand are comfortable nursing bras, a breast pump, and possibly a nursing pillow. For bottle feeding, you'll want to make sure you have bottles and an easy way to clean and sterilize them. Some dishwashers clean and sterilize, or you could simply wash them in hot soapy water and rinse, boiling clean bottles periodically to sterilize them. 

5. Car Seat

You'll need an infant car seat installed correctly before you leave your birthplace to take your baby home. The nurses and hospital staff cannot install the seat for you, nor can they buckle the baby in due to liability concerns. Therefore, you'll need to ensure that your seat is properly installed and ready to go by 36 weeks of pregnancy at the latest. Also, make sure you understand how to properly buckle a baby into the seat. A CPST can help you with both of these tasks. Lauren Standridge of Baton Rouge Birth Services recommends the Chicco KeyFit 30 and Britax B-Safe infant car seats.

 

I hope this list helps you decipher what items you really really must have from those that are just nice to have. Happy shopping!

I am not the mother I wanted to be

I am not the mother I wanted to be

There is a saying that goes something like, "Everyone is a perfect parent until they actually have kids."

Man, I used to be an amazing mom. I was in peak physical condition. I was endlessly patient and never had angry outbursts. My five imaginary children were dressed in smart, quirky, dapper clothes; they were quiet, polite, and well-behaved. They picked up after themselves, never pitched fits in public, and never ate McDonald's. Our house was not perfectly immaculate, but there was a place for everything and everything was usually in its place. We were always doing fun crafts and projects. I didn't have a job; instead, I stayed home and cooked them every single meal and snack. (I was also overly judgmental of other parents, but I'll save that for another post)

In reality, my house is a mess. There are dishes in the sink consistently. My three rowdy, spunky, pizza-loving boys live mostly in hand-me-down clothing. I work a lot. I yell sometimes. I haven't lost the baby weight.

But our messy house teaches them that there are more important things to us than making sure all the dust bunnies die. The used clothing helps us to be less attached to material possessions. My work enriches our family in SO many ways. After I yell, I have an opportunity to talk to them about how my brain is easily overstimulated and that it's ok to apologize when we've messed up. My softer body is a great excuse to plant the values of body positivity.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that trying to be the mother I always imagined I would be was making me (and everyone else in our family) completely miserable. I surrendered to the deeper knowledge of my own identity and began to recognize that for me, being something else (like a business owner, doula, and childbirth educator) didn't mean that I was less of a mom. 

I adapted. I grew. Our family adjusted. And we are all better off for it.

No, I'm not the mother I wanted to be. But I'm the very best mom for our kids.