Cluster Feeding and Comfort Nursing: What New Moms Need To Know About Breastfeeding

The minute I found out I was pregnant, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed. It’s “free”, helps you lose weight, and provides the best nutrition. Plus it’s great bonding time with your baby. Why wouldn’t I do it? It seemed like a no brainer!

I took two breastfeeding classes, and some of the other child care classes went over it too. They talked about the various holding positions and how to get the baby to latch on properly. And how often to feed them so they gain weight. Seemed pretty basic and easy to follow. Boy was I wrong…

My mom told me that it is harder than you think. She said her mom helped her when she really struggled with it, so I knew it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. I knew your nipples will be sore and you may have painful blocked ducts. Also that your uterus contracts when you nurse and you may leak milk when it’s close to feeding time. And that you need to be near your baby most of the time to feed on demand. But all that seemed reasonable, I wasn’t too scared.

Then the time came. Jack was born and he started rooting for my nipple the minute they put him on my chest. The nurse sat me up and told me offer him my breast. Jack took it instantly—and OH MY GOD DID IT HURT!! But I looked at him happily sucking away and just tried to ignore it. Later when he came back from the nursery, I tried to feed him again and he wouldn’t latch. I started to feel overwhelmed—not to mention that was I exhausted too. My mom helped me get him on but it still really hurt (he had already bruised my nipple).

My nurse called the lactation consultant and she really helped. Jack wasn’t latching on wide enough and I needed to wake him up more so he eat enough before falling asleep. I thought it was all good after that. Wrong. That night he cried every hour to be fed and I didn’t know what to do. The nurse came in and explain it was all normal, and showed me how to massage my boob while nursing to get more out. The feedings in the hospital went a lot better after that.

Then once I got him home he cried to be fed all the time, which once again totally overwhelmed me and I started to doubt myself. I am not making enough milk? Is there something wrong with my milk or my breasts? Is he still not latching right again? Maybe I should just give him formula, maybe it will make him happier?

Then I turned to the internet, I needed more information. If I was doing something wrong I needed to find out how to fix it. To my surprise, I was actually doing things right. Turns out breastfeeding is actually that hard in the beginning. But I found there were a few things I could do to make it easier.

So the following list is things I found out the hard way. But I wish they advertised these better to new moms so they don’t get overwhelmed and give up breastfeeding.

  • It will hurt for the first few weeks. Seriously, it will hurt a lot. A combination of sore/burning/stinging/throbbing. If your baby bruises your nipples like Jack did to me, it will be even worse. And for the first few weeks your uterus will contract as you nurse, it’s like mini labor all over again. Not mention you are exhausted and hormonal, making all the pain a hundred times worse. You may cry as you nurse. It’s okay, let it out.
  • But the pain does go away. I promise. I am 3.5 weeks postpartum now and it just barely stings when he latches and throbs a little bit after. It may piss you off when people tell you to just nurse through the pain, but it seriously works. The more you nurse, the more your nipples toughen up and begin to heal. As you are crying through the pain, look at your sweet angel’s face and remember why it’s worth it.
  • Make sure the is latch correct. Jack bruised my nipples because I let him latch incorrectly the first time and he kept doing it. The lactation consultant showed me to open his mouth wide, put my nipple in bottom first, and gently push his head so his mouth takes in most of the areola. Once I had him on correctly, it was a million times better and I didn’t dread feeding him. Check out this link for more info on the proper latch.
  • Soothe your nipple in between feedings. Put a heating pad on before you nurse if possible. It opens up the ducts so the milk will flow easier and your baby won’t have to suck as hard. After you nurse, put lanolin on your nipples. It’s not vegan, but it’s all natural and works very well. I tried coconut oil but it wasn’t the same. This is one time I am fine with a non-vegan product because I know it is for the okay for my son. Also, if your nipples are still throbbing, put an ice pack on.
  • You won’t have much milk you at first. But you don’t need that much at first.You’ve probably been told that your baby’s stomach is small and so you don’t need a lot of milk at first. So don’t be concerned if when you try to express milk from your breast only a few drops comes out.  It’s totally normal (Ameda)
  • But your supply will increase.  As your baby gets bigger, so will their little stomach. And your body will up your supply with the increasing demand. Keep nursing (despite the pain) and it will stimulate your body to make more (Ameda)
The next two are the most important things I wish someone told me beforehand. But first you need to understand growth spurts. Your baby will go growth major growth spurts several times during their first year of life. During this time they will need to eat more, probably want more snuggles, and sleep more. The first few will be around 3 days, the next around 7-10 days, then 2-3 weeks, and 4-6 weeks. These first few ones will be a major struggle since you still exhausted and recovering from birth.
  • Cluster feeding. I thought something was wrong with my milk supply at the hospital. However, when I pumped between feedings when I got home, I discovered I was making plenty. I didn’t understand why Jack was eating all the time. Then I Googled it and cluster feeding came up instantly. When your baby is going through a growth spurt, your baby may need to eat more frequently, like every hour instead of every 2-3 hours. And they may want to nurse for a longer period of time. Then suddenly they will sleep for longer than normal, like 4-5 hours instead of 2-3 hours. Then wake up and want to start the cluster feeding/sleep cycle all over again. This is all normal—though it will drive you mad. You will feel like you are nursing back-to-back for hours. Your nipples will be throbbing and all you can think about is a nap. Then suddenly the baby is out in a milk coma and stays asleep for hours. As much as you enjoyed your much needed 4 hours nap, now you are all worried something is wrong. I kept thinking, “Why did he sleep so long? Is he okay?”  Then suddenly they are wide-awake and eating their hand because they are so hungry! Now you feel like a horrible mom for letting them sleep so long between feedings. Then the back-to-back feeding starts all over again, stressing you out more. Like I said, it all sucks, but it’s normal. (Sources: Kelly Mom, La Leche)
  • Comfort nursing. I have no problem rocking Jack to sleep and comforting him whenever he wakes up. But I wanted him to get used to falling asleep on his own (trying to avoid co-sleeping because I have insomnia issues and it’s not safe for him to be in our bed if I take a sleep aid on occasion). But sometimes he would be so insanely fussing when I tried to put him to sleep. The only way I could calm him was by nursing him until he fell asleep. Sometimes this can takes 30 minutes. He doesn’t actively suck the whole time, maybe only 10-15 minutes. Then he just gently sucks as he dozes off to sleep. Then he would gently unlatch himself and be sound asleep on my chest. Only then I could transfer him to his bed without him waking up screaming. I was worried I was starting him on bad habit that would lead to him only sleeping in peoples arms or co-sleeping. So I Googled it again and discovered he was comfort nursing—and that it is normal. And it won’t last forever. I like how they phrased it, do you honestly think your child will need to comfort nurse the rest of his life? That they will never outgrow it and be an independent person? That’s ridiculous to believe, he just needs my nurturing and affection right now. So, if I nurse Jack to sleep right now I will not need to go with him to college to nurse him to sleep. (La Leche, Kelly Mom)
If you are truly struggling, ask for help. Contact a lactation consultant at the hospital where you delivered. Talk to  friend or family member who nursed before. Even your doctor or pediatrician can help. Breastfeeding is hard at first, but you don’t have to suffer alone. And eventually you won’t suffer at all, just keep going!

Check out these links for my information and encouragement:

Why I Don’t Want a Big Stroller

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My shower invitations went out recently (thanks Kamille!).  Right away some of my close friends and family who want to buy the more expensive items asked why I didn’t have a travel system or a car seat combo stroller. I politely told them we already have a umbrella stroller for when he can hold himself up, and until then we are just going to carry him. Then they tried to explain how much easier it will be to take him places and let him sleep. I politely tell them again we do not want one, but thank you for your concern. They have been nice and understood, but still think we should get one.

These gigantic things. source

I am not some masochist who wants her torture herself by carrying around a baby until my arms are totally dead. I have two logical reasons for not wanting a travel system stroller.

Yes they do. source

First of all, they are public  nuisance . Have you ever been in a public place, like a mall or just walking down the street, and suddenly been plowed over by some lady with a double-wide stroller? And of course you can’t say anything because you know she is struggling to keep it together under the stress of taking a screaming baby out in public. But you give her a little glare as she continues to plow down the crowd as she makes her way through. Oh look, she just took out an old lady with a walker, who then fell on a 5-year-old. Or even at a restaurant–you are trying to simply walk to the bathroom and back, but are blockaded by gigantic strollers. And if you accidentally bump one while trying to navigate through, the parents angrily yell at you for disturbing their baby. I know parenting is hard and it’s nice to have your arms free to do stuff, but pushing a giant stroller around in public is rude. In fact, I think it’s very rude. There is a difference between the world becoming more kid-friendly (which I love) and parents just being selfish. Your baby does not need the giant stroller packed full of stuff. You don’t need it either—you just want it. You want to have everything stowed away for your convenience. The world should not revolve around you just because you had a baby. Have some consideration for others. I refuse to be this rude of a person ever, so this is my number one reason for not wanting a travel system stroller. They are just too big and impractical. Also, I have more compassion for the women who has a screaming baby in public if she hasn’t run me over with her stupid stroller. In fact, I would probably let her cut in line or something when it looks like she is about to burst into tears with her baby.

My senitments exactly. source
And I know someone is going to say, “But I got invited out to a friend’s birthday dinner at this great restaurant. If I don’t take the big stroller where she can sleep, I don’t get to go!” I know it sucks, but you are a parent now. Either hire a sitter for the night or tell your friend sorry, but you can’t go because your baby needs to sleep in her own bed. You have a greater responsibility to your child’s healthy and safety than to having dinner with your friend.
*I would just like to note, if you have multiples, a bigger stroller may be necessary. I understand and got no problem with that. But it doesn’t need to be GIGANTIC and you don’t need to take into a crowded place.

Secondly, it’s not good for your baby it be laying down all the time. I was browsing on Pinterest one day and came across an article with a Youtube Video about why/how you should carry your baby. Sadly, I cannot find that original Pin :-/ So I will link some similar ones below.  But essentially, a newborn’s spine is C-shaped. It’s weak and not very flexible. Your baby has been squished up inside you for nine months. Laying your baby flat on it’s back in a carseat for an extended period of time is bad. Their muscles are not strong enough to be uncurled and stretched out yet. This places too much stress on their delicate spine. As the baby grows, their muscles eventually get stronger. Then they can support their own heads and their spines to begin to develop a slight curve. And only when they learn to walk do they have the full standard spinal curvature. Until then, laying your baby down with it’s legs and spine spread flat often puts too much stress on the muscles and spine. It will interfere with the natural unraveling and strengthening of the spine.
Carrying either in your arms or in a sling properly does not cause such spinal stress. Newborns and older infants should be carried facing towards you so they are not leaning backwards (stretching out the spine) for support. The carrier should support the entire length of the back—shoulders down the back of the knees. They should be snug but not pinned in place. Their legs should be allowed to curl naturally and freely, to prevent hip displacement. Check the height and weight limits of your sling, and make sure your baby isn’t too big for it, which can cause spine issues as well.

Why wouldn’t you want to snuggle your baby? source

See, there is logic to not wanting a travel system stroller, both a societal issue and development concerns. These reasons are not based purely on research though, I have some practical experience too. I babysat for different families that have used travel systems, slings, or both. I found the big stroller annoying to luge around. And it bothered me that the baby was isolated down and away from me. I liked most of the slings (one family had a weird homemade one that hurt my shoulder). I liked the baby being close against me so I could make sure they were okay. My hands were free and my movements were not impeded that much at all.

Our stroller. Simple, light weight, and folds easily. source

And when he does gets too big or it’s impractical to take him in the sling, we did get an umbrella stroller. He can’t go in it until he can support himself upright though. It’s small enough that if we do need to take it in a crowded place, we won’t take out any old ladies. It’s collapsible so if we need to eat in a crowded restaurant, we can fold it up and tuck it out of the way. And it’s probably not comfortable for him to sleep at night, but that’s not a problem. He will not be staying out late just because we want to. I firmly believe that babies need a set bedtime routine in their regular bed. So if want to go out out, we will hire a sitter. Or sadly we might not be able to go out. That is something you have to accept as a parent.

Also, I actually want to hold my baby. I spent all this time and effort making him, I want to see his cute little face and rock him in my arms! And who knows, maybe after a month I will be calling my mom crying and saying I was stupid for not wanting travel system.

More info on proper baby carrying:
Strollers, Baby Carriers, and Infant Stress, Boba
How to Practice Safe Babywearing, Imperfect Homemaker
Benefits of Babywearing, Babywearing International

Babies Names And Heritages

When I was 11 weeks, I had an appointment with a counselor at my OB/GYN clinic. It’s a part of their complete care program, just to make sure you are ready/are getting ready emotionally and physically for the baby. She asked me basic questions about my husband and myself. Nothing seemed odd until she asked for the babies primary ethnicity. I told her there this no dominant one, just American I guess. She looked at me funny so  I explained. I am all white—Polish, Italian, French Canadian, and a little German. And my husband is half Fijian-Indian and half Hispanic, with a little Caribbean-Indian and Native American. So she checked every box but African-American. And before she could say anything I said, “We already know we made an American mutt.” She just laughed.

When it came time to pick names for our baby, we wanted to incorporated both our heritages in there somehow. I wanted to get relatives names in if possible. My dad did not allow any relatives’ names for my brother’s or my first name. He said that everyone deserves the right to be their own identity and not have to live up to someone else’s name. I think that argument is only valid if you force your child to grow up exactly where you did and live the same life you did. My dad knew that we were going to live completely lives in completely places than him and my mom, so it was never going to be a problem. I know that my son will have a completely different life than my husband or me, so I am not worried about him needing to live up to something either.

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To honor both our heritages and families, we decided to name our son Jack-Avinash Miguel.

I picked a girl’s name years ago, Terrie, after my amazing aunt who passed away 8 years ago. I told Michael that it was really important to me, as a way for my mom and I heal from her passing. He respected my wishes and agreed. As much as I dream of having a sweet little girl one day, I always wanted a boy first. I told Michael he could have final say on a boy’s name to be fair. So I told him all the names I liked, all of which he rejected. He said I was picking “too white” names. I reminded the baby is half white….but I understood his point. He wants his son’s name to reflect something special to him too. So I pulled up babynames.com and started reading off names.

After about an hour of him saying no to everything and me about to lose my temper, I saw the name Jack. Jack is the male version of my mom’s name, so I would honor my family. And Michael always speaks fondly of his dad’s best friend Jack who passed away several years ago. So I suggested Jack and he finally said yes!

As for the hyphen name thing, it’s something my in-laws started. My husband’s hyphen name is also Avinash (Hindi for indestructible) and his middle name is his dad’s name. I liked this idea, so we decided to continue the tradition. We both love the name Avinash so decided to use that as Jack’s hyphen name. Then obvious middle name was Michael (which also happens to be my Dad’s name). But we decided to let him be his own Michael and get his Hispanic heritage in by doing Miguel.

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We know that is a long and complicated name, but we put a lot of thought and love into it. Hopefully one day he will understand and respect all the names we chose for him. We had some people try to convince us to change one or more of the names, but at the end of the day we know he is our baby. If you and your partner settle on a name, that is all that matters. When that baby is born, everyone will be so in love with him or her they wont even care if you call them Mud. There is the trend of not revealing the name until the baby is born, that way no one can disrespect your choice or taint your opinion of a name you love. I don’t think it’s a bad idea actually. What you chose for your baby is your own business, so there is no need to involve anyone else really. We told everyone the name because honestly, I am pretty stubborn and no one can tell me what to do 🙂 If I want to name my baby Mud, you better believe I would.

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I think it’s fascinating why people are named the thing they are. I am named after Elizabeth Montgomery’s character on Bewitched. My husband was name after Saint Michael. My grandpa and all his brothers have the initials RJB. All my paternal cousins have family names or variations of them. I know someone named after a Vietnamese comic book character their dad liked. My friend even named her daughter Diamonte, because she is her precious gem. It takes all kinds to make the world go round.

Check out the Most Popular Baby names for 2013 according to Babynames.com, nothing crazy but some of the spellings are a bit of stretch for me (Rhys/Reece?)

Or try these Unusual (But Cool) Boy Names, not sure how I feel about Lockwood…

And these 3 Hot Trends in Baby Names, the Valedictorian of the class of 2032 could be Charlie and her quarterback boyfriend is Wolfgang!

If you have a interesting story behind your name or a crazy heritage, let me know in the comments. I really do find it all fascinating!

Will Your Baby Be Vegan?

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I fell in love with an amazing man—who loves meat. I do cook him meat, dairy, and eggs. Why would a vegan do such a thing? Well, because I love him and want him to be happy. And he doesn’t get meat every day, and he is a good sport about it. He eats vegans things quite often. What person would ever turn down a delicious home cooked meal in general?

So the most common question I have been asked since I announced I was pregnant is “Will the baby be raised vegan or not vegan?” The answer is both I guess. I want to respect Michael’s wishes, and he wants to respect mine. So we made the compromise to let the baby try all kinds of healthy foods, and when he’s old enough, he can decided for himself…..but let’s be honest here. I am the one who will be taking care of him most of the time (my choice), so he is going to end up eating a lot more vegan food.

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And for the most part, babies are meant to be vegan from the start. Their digestive systems are not ready for complex things right away. Hence why babies nurse first , then try cereals and veggies, then move on to other proteins and fats. As long as you ensure that your baby gets enough fats, protein, and vitamins from the plant-based diet, there is nothing wrong with it. Check out the post from my other blog about Vegan Myth Busting, it explains how you can have a balance diet as a vegan.

Then there is the annoying question…. usually from someone who is a major meat eater. The kind of person who feels the need to rub it everyone’s face and insult your lifestyle choice despite the fact you never said anything about it. “Are you going to breastfeed? That’s milk and milk isn’t vegan!!!”
First of all, there is a difference between cow’s milk and human milk. We are designed to drink human milk! It’s the whole reason we are mammals! We have boobs for a reason. We produce milk when we have children for a reason. I am willingly giving my milk to my baby, no one is forcing me. And when it dries up, he will eat solid food.
That ain’t natural…source

People are not really meant to drink cow’s milk. Yes, over time and out of necessity our ancestors began to consume it as a means of survival. That was their choice, and a very understandable one. But we have better nutrition and access to food now, we now have the ability to consume whatever we want. And if cow’s milk is not really meant for us, I have the choice to not drink it. Plus, cows are not willingly giving us their milk. They are pumped full of hormones and forced to be milked even though they don’t have calves (and will most likely never be pregnant). That’s not natural. Me making my own milk for my child is extremely natural.

*By the way, I am not judging women who can’t or chose not the breastfeed. I understand everyone has different circumstances, I am just stating what I believe work for me.