Author: Jessica Moffitt, BS, CHES
Okay, so after the basics? Where do you go from here? All the other questions you start asking as a new mom, especially when comparing your milk to others. Also, I love this quote. “Comparison is the enemy of Happiness”. Love that. My doc said this to me at 20 weeks pregnant, as I had a best friend and a sister-in-law due within a few weeks of me. At that moment, I took it a step further. We established the term “healthy” in our appointments and used that to represent EVERYTHING. I didn’t ask how far I was measuring, how big the baby was, etc. We just silently took the measurements as I listened to our little’s heartbeat, and I knew all was well when the doc said “Healthy”. Now, this could have been a bite in the rear for me, seeing as how I delivered a bowling ball at 41 weeks, 1 day of 9lbs 3.5 ounces. But, I love her just the same! We still follow this lack-of-comparison strategy in our check-ups. Rather than hearing how our daughter compares to others in her age for weight, head circumference, etc., we just identify good values as healthy. Disclaimer: we did ask about her head at one point, and it was in the 99th percentile. That explains a LOT. Lol.
Okay, more comparison.
If you have been google searching already, you’ve probably seen images of “foremilk” and “hindmilk”. The idea that the milk you produce is different at the beginning of a feeding from the end of a feeding. Most of these articles are hinting that you should feed for a set period of time to ensure your baby gets both types of milk and is fully nourished. This is also what will show up if you google why your breastmilk is a different color than what you saw in your childbirth class. Do. Not. Panic. Seriously! I called the advice nurse at 10 o’clock at night one night after I realized my child only ate 7 instead of 8 times that day, and it led me into a QUICK spiral of mom-panic. Breathe. Its okay. The amazing thing about breastfeeding is your body will talk to your little and figure out was is best. And your pediatrician will give you markers for making sure your baby is healthy. If you meet those markers, then all is well. Regardless of your milk color.
Duration. UGH. If you are OCD, as I am, I feel your pain. You are going to try and come up with a beautiful schedule or way of tracking exactly how much your baby fed and for how long and how far apart and every other comforting statistic you can come up with. They say 8-12 times in 24 hours, but do not specify volume, time spent at the “tap”, or exactly how much recoil your breasts will have from the milk that is causing them to stretch our your bras (IF you chose to wear one today). Breathe. Again, your baby and your breasts were MADE FOR THIS.
But then here is the catch- eventually, that 8-12 becomes 7-9, then 5-7, AND THEY DON’T FRICKIN TELL YOU THIS AT THE HOSPITAL. No ones says “oh, btw, your baby is going just wake up one day and decide that after 3.5 months of eating EXACTLY 8 times a day, they will only eat 6. And there is no amount of calm in the world that will prevent you from calling the advice nurse again (by the way, this is totally okay to do! That’s what they are there for).
If you are worried about volume, or duration, or timing, reach out to a lactation specialist. They have glorified postal scales (seriously! Heated and padded and everything fancy!) that you can use to measure exactly how much your baby is eating during a feeding and will make you feel 100% better about your breastfeeding journey. If they don’t, fire them as your provider, and find a new one. No one has the right to make you feel inferior about motherhood.
Working closely with your baby, your support network, and maybe even a lactation specialist, you will find a rhythm that works for you. You’ll get in the groove of pumping and feeding. Your freezer may end up overflowing with breastmilk, in which case you can donate to local milk banks. Or it may not. And that’s totally okay, too. You may need to supplement with formula. You may decide breastfeeding isn’t for you at all, and you would like to bottle feed breastmilk. That’s cool, too! You do you, Mamma. You and only you are the only one who can decide what is best for you and your baby. There are THOUSANDS of resources of there for help if you would like it, many wonderful people ready to answer questions, and of course, tons of moms willing to share their stories as well. But at the end of the day, it’s your choice.