Tuesday, 29 September 2015

My First 6 Weeks As A Breastfeeding Mother

Hey everyone! Hope you are all well and enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. Long may it last!

As you know I have been super busy myself with a newborn! My little girl was born on 19/8/2015 and is just perfect. I got my lovely Gentle Birth and had a beautiful drug free birth - exactly as I hoped for. I cant believe she is 6 weeks tomorrow! It has flew by in a haze of Pampers and night feeds and I want time to slow down so I can enjoy my little bundle as long as possible!

I have decided to write this post about my breastfeeding journey to date. Tomorrow marks my 6 week anniversary of our first feed and I felt it was a good thing to post on given that National Breastfeeding Week begins on Thursday next the 1st October 2015.

For me, breastfeeding was always something I was going to do for this baby. I unfortunately did not even attempt breastfeeding my now 12 year old. I was young and it wasn't even on my radar at the time. I did not understand the significance of breastfeeding and assumed formula was the same.  This time around though I knew it was the only way I wanted to feed and I was determined I would do it.

As a Nutritionist I am profoundly aware of the huge importance of breast milk for gut health, the prevention of autoimmune disease, development of healthy immunity and brain. It is one of the first questions I address during consultations with clients, as being breastfed has such long reaching effects on health. As someone who truly credits nutrition as a gateway to health, giving my baby formula was not something I wanted to do. It just wasn't for ME.

In saying that I know that many women struggle with breastfeeding because of lack of support, lack of education and sometimes other issues such as hormonal imbalances. I was acutely aware of the benefits but would I succeed?

The Challenges Of A First Time Breast feeder

My journey has not been plain sailing. I am not going to lie - at one point I did exclaim "If this is natural why is it so hard"?! I wasn't naive about how tough it would be. I had read the books in preparation - I knew about cluster feeds and mastitis. About the milk taking a few days to arrive. I had read about the baby's tiny tummy and the adequacy of colostrum during the initial days. I knew the importance of skin to skin, of taking to my bed and enjoying my baby and trusting my baby and I on this lovely journey of mutual learning. However I still wasn't prepared for the huge task of being the only one able to feed my baby. To having zero nights off in the beginning, despite being absolutely shattered. Of doubting my supply and my ability to persevere. Of painful nipples which seemed like they might never heal. It is hard work!

However that incredible feeling of hearing their weight gain and knowing YOU helped to grow her with your body is amazing. That she has survived every moment from conception to this because YOU exist. That feeling of love as she latches on and looks right into your eyes, her hand stretched out on your breast as if in a whisper "I love you Mam". That pride that you are giving her the best chance at preventing disease and illness through life, nurturing her as nature intended.

And the cracks healed. And the nights become more achievable. And the feeds less difficult. And one day you wake up and you realise you've made it. You got over that initial hurdle and you finally feel you can keep going. You finally feel like you're not a novice any more. You are a breastfeeding mother..

Our journey is only beginning in many ways, I know that. But I often hear that the first weeks are the most difficult and I believe that. Here are the tips I feel helped us in our journey to this point:

1. Preparation is Key

For me, preparation during pregnancy stage for breastfeeding was key to my success to date. I often hear people say that there is nothing to it - "Just latch the baby on". If only that was it! In order to have full knowledge of normal newborn behaviour, understanding cluster feeding, having the confidence to know your body can and will be able to this as well as the knowledge to know when to get help, you need to be prepared BEFORE the birth.

  • Read books - the best one I could recommend is The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding which is written by The La Leche League (LLL), an international league of breastfeeders and support. It really is the bible of breastfeeding and covers everything you need to know
  • Establish Your Support Network - Attend a local meeting while youre still pregnant. They welcome pregnant ladies and will offer you information, guidance and sense of breastfeeding as the norm. I actually attended my local one while in labour! You can find a group in your area on their website here www.lalecheleagueireland.com Talk to other family members who have breastfed.
  • Check out online resources - www.kellymom.com is one I have found great. 
  • Join an online support group - I found a great facebook group for Extended Breastfeeders in Ireland which I joined while still trying to conceive. This allowed me to have lots of time to see the common issues which arise for breastfeeding ladies and how to address them. There is also always someone there who has been through the same as you so you don't feel alone. I also joined an online Mother group and really benefited from the advice of other experienced mothers. 
2. Trust Your Body

Unfortunately we live in a society which is very familiar with formula feeding and often lacks in its knowledge of breastfeeding. Well meaners will often give their tuppence of advice and a common misconception is that because breastfeeding babies feed little and often and not in fixed three hour spurts like formula feeders they are "not getting enough". Do not listen to this! Your body knows what it is doing and it is doing as nature intended. Babies are not designed to go for extended periods without feeds, especially at the beginning so trust yourself. Unless that person has actually breastfed themselves take their advice with a grain of salt. It takes time for both you and your baby to learn this art so do not be hard on yourself. 

3. Get Help Early

There is nothing wrong with needing help. It is better to get help than to struggle and give up. Seek out a lactation consultant in your area while still pregnant and call if you need to. It was the best money I ever spent and meant my painful nipples finally healed. If budgets are tight consider buying less clothes or other unnecessary baby items or asking for the consultation to paid for as a gift. It is money well spent. LLL volunteers are often very helpful too so get their contact details early. 

4. Never Quit On A Bad Day
I have been told this many times and I am glad I listened. I have had days I questioned whether things would ever get easier. Days that the allure of a 3 hour gap between feeds sounds amazing but I am reminded that all babies are hard work. Formula is not the fix all many claim it to be and colic, reflux, constipation and wind are issues many formula fed babies struggle with. Anyone I have spoken too who gave up when things were bad regretted it so stick with it and take it one day at a time! 

5. Invest in a Sling
This is the best advice I got. I purchased a Moby Wrap during pregnancy and it has been a life saver on more than one occassion. While a clingy baby is not a breastfeeding issue per say, keeping baby close supports good milk production and bonding. It also means you get work done with 2 hands! You can buy one here

Update: One Year On (Almost!)

I cannot believe I am updating this post almost a full year later! It has been an amazing year, filled with pride, love and laughter. In typical maternal style I can't quite believe how fast this year has gone, we are just 2 weeks away from Amelia's first birthday and still feeding.

When I wrote the post above at 6 weeks post partum I remember feeling I had turned an important corner, that I could finally envision continuing long term. I still had a lot of journeys to overcome but I am so happy and proud to have got this far.

My new advice?
Keep feeding, ignore the nay sayers and enjoy every milky cuddle. Surround yourself with people who understand and accept you. Avoid those who don't.

Because before you know it those babies will need us less and less and even the cluster feeds will feel nostalgic (seriously!)

Take it one day at a time, don't worry about "when" you are finishing and ignore what society thinks you "should" do.

When will I stop? I don't know. But I DO know it will be when my baby and I are both ready. And not a second before that.

Happy World Breastfeeding Week!

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

My Top 10 Tips To Keeping It Paleo

Struggling with Paleo Nutrition or just curious where to start?

Check out my Top Ten Tips for making the transition to Paleo.

Here they are:

10. Research, Research, Research
Do plenty of reading on Paleo. This is not a do it tomorrow type diet. You need to read into it, understand its foundations and be 100% ready for it. I recommend checking out all the blogs and sites above, as well as possibly buying at least one book. I started with Loren Cordain's "The Paleo Diet" but I found it quite scientific and bland. I wholeheartedly recommend "Practical Paleo" by Diane Sanfillipo. I also recommend "It Starts With Food" from Melissa and Dallas of Whole30 creation! It is an excellent book and explains the whole concept of Paleo and the science behind it, without boring you completely! It is available from Amazon here.
Knowledge is power.

9. This is a lifestyle change not a diet. 
We have all done it or at least seen others so it. You want to lose weight so you embark on a "diet" planning it for X amount of weeks or until Y event. You go hell for leather, telling yourself it is only for a while and then you can eat the way you want again. Right? WRONG!
Unsurprisingly this never works and the weight gradually goes back on over time.
What went wrong? The goal was short term and aesthetic and not directed towards health. You need to view this as a long term goal, a journey for optimum health and well being. Part of a bigger picture. Until you view it that way you will never fully adopt the paleo way. Sure we all slip up sometimes, and very few are 100% paleo - but you have to strive for it.

8. Fat is your friend. 
Yes I know I know, we have all been told for years that fat is bad. That fat kills. That fat causes heart disease...yada yada. Alas we have been fooled. Sure some fats are bad - vegetable oils and margarine kill - but real fats like butter, coconut oil and olive oil are GREAT! They fill you up, they provide energy, they taste good and they are healthy! Do not be afraid of fat. It is truely your friend!

7. Forget everything we have been told about nutrition!

Ok so not everything - we all know we should increase our fruit and veg intake and that we need to drink plenty of water. But the stuff they don't tell you is that grains are not health foods and you should not be eating 6 portions of refined carbs a day! Also as mentioned above, fat is not to be excluded from your diet. Eat healthy fats with relish and enjoy their sustenance. Do yourself a favour and pretty much ignore the entire food pyramid! Fats + Protein + Veggies = Meal. Simples.

6. Get Your Ass (back) In the Kitchen

It still surprises me the number of people who do zero cooking at home. We were always provided with home cooked meals growing up, and I wouldn't even consider takeout for dinner. It is not difficult to cook from scratch. Relying on pre-packed foods and food from a packet is not a recipe for a good meal. Rather it is a recipe for obesity and type 2 diabetes. Get some meat and vegetables, cook it and eat it. You don't need processed junk. You and your children are developing on this food, if you put crap in your not getting the best from your body. Do yourself a favour and eat real food.

5. Plan your meals for the week

I am not saying plan everything with military precision. But it pays to buy your shop weekly and have a rough guide of what you will be eating for the week. Think about your breakfast. Do you have eggs, bacon, fruit etc to ensure you have something to eat or prepare for breakfast all week (or most of). What about lunch? Will you be having leftovers or do you have something handy in the fridge to cook up to bring in a box?
Remember the motto - "Fail To Prepare, Prepare to Fail".

4. Do this for you, and ignore the well meaning comments of others. 

This is probably the toughest part of going Paleo or any healthy eating regime. Other people often do not get it and love to tell you how much they disagree with your way of eating. The fact is people believe what they want to believe. They have been convinced by health "experts" that grains are an essential part of the diet and needed for dietary fibre etc, and they choose to believe it because lets face it - we were all reluctant to give it up right?
The fact is people will be quick to judge your "Atkins style diet" while munching on bagels and cream cheese and wondering why their own "diet" isn't working. Ignore them. Do not try to preach and be happy in the knowledge that they will soon be asking "Have you lost weight"??

3. Start A Blog

I have to say that starting my blog and facebook page were the best thing I ever done. I started it more as a way to keep myself accountable and share information with a small number of people. Little did I think I would ever get any interest, let alone almost 19,000 fans. Sure it is not the thing of literary greatness but all the same in my little world it is pretty darn brilliant. I am so thankful for all the interest and if I can help just one person reach their personal goals I will be happy. Start your own blog. You never know who you may help or befriend and it will help you stay on track.

2. Do a Whole 30. 

You do not have to do this immediately, although it is a great way to begin if you are an "All or nothing" type of person. I didn't do the full Whole 30 thing until a few months after I began Paleo, but I definitely recommend it. It is a great program and really puts you on the straight and narrow. It is especially useful if you have serious sugar or carb cravings. I also run my own 30 Day Challenges.

1. Enjoy your new found health!

Trust me Paleo makes you feel amazing. Before I started Paleo I was constantly bloated and sluggish. I hated my abdominal area and always felt a mid afternoon slump. Now I have far more energy, feel happy in my own skin and above all I feel healthy and happy! Everyday we see sick people and more and more people on diabetic medication or on medication for blood pressure etc. Knowing you are doing everything you can to combat all of modern societies ailments feels great. Why wait until you have a health problem. Prevention is the best cure!

Keep It Paleo,
Denise x