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Breastfeeding

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Depression at weaning?

Experiencing trauma after birth?Feeling sad, even depressed, during or after weaning?  You’re probably not alone.

Hormonal changes at weaning, coupled with the loss of the breastfeeding relationship, theoretically may heighten the risk of feelings of sadness, even leading to depression in some women.

While there is no research examining exactly this question, it is “certainly plausible that losing [these hormones] is going to make people feel physically bad, independent of any cognitive sadness they’re experiencing,” says Dr. Alison Stuebe, assistant professor of maternal and child health at the University of North Carolina.

Two key hormones of breastfeeding, prolactin and oxytocin, both affect mood.  Prolactin is a calming hormone, and oxytocin both calms and instills a feeling of closeness (hence its nickname “the love hormone”).  Theoretically, reductions in the levels of these hormones, especially when weaning is abrupt, may contribute to mood changes in some women.

One hypothesis, explained in this article, suggests that shared hormonal mechanisms may contribute to both breastfeeding problems and mood disorders. And some women, even those for whom breastfeeding has gone well and is ending in a satisfactory way, feel sadness at the loss of this relationship.

What can you do?  If possible, wean gradually to avoid a “crash” in your hormone levels.  If this isn’t possible or doesn’t work (even mothers who wean gradually may experience these feelings), check out this page of comfort measures for moms during weaning.  If possible, consider doing some skin-to-skin or extra snuggling time with your child – this kind of closeness can raise your prolactin and oxytocin levels even if you aren’t nursing.

And if you are concerned that your mood may be  depressive or otherwise troubling, be sure to seek help from a health care provider.

U.S. maternity leave policy and its effect on families: A podcast interview with Moms Rising

Businesswoman Holding a BabyDid you know that the U.S. is one of only a handful of countries that does not offer new mothers paid family leave?   The other countries:  Papua New Guinea, Lesotho, and Swaziland.

In this podcast interview we spoke with Charlie Rose, associate campaign director for MomsRising.org, a national organization with over a million members advocating for family economic security.

Charlie spoke about how few moms have paid parental leave, how much leave moms actually take, the health and economic costs of our current policy, how current policy affects the role of partners, and what Moms Rising is doing to advocate for better policies.

You can listen to this podcast with the player below, listen with Quicktime, or download the podcast from our free iTunes store.

Family-Centered Cesarean: A podcast interview with Robin Elise Weiss

Newborn baby girlHave you heard about a new trend in cesarean birth?  It goes by a number of different names:  family centered cesarean, natural cesarean, gentle cesarean.

Whatever you call it, if you’re pregnant and want a more satisfying cesarean experience should one be necessary, you’ll want to learn more about it.

In this podcast interview we talked with Robin Elise Weiss, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, doula trainer, and lactation counselor.  Robin is the Pregnancy and Childbirth expert on About.com and is the author of numerous books, including The About.com Guides to Having a Baby and Baby Care, The Everything New Mother’s guides to The First Year, Pregnancy Fitness, and Getting Pregnant.

We discussed what a family-centered cesarean looks like, what it means to moms and for birth outcomes, how moms can advocate for a family-centered cesarean, and whether this new trend will harm efforts to reduce the historic high cesarean rates of recent years.

You can listen to this interview using the player below, listen with Quicktime, or download it from our free iTunes store.

Suddenly up all night nursing? Welcome to reverse cycling.

asleepHave a consistently sleeping baby who suddenly wants to nurse all night?

It’s a common scenario for babies whose moms have returned to work, babies who are too busy or distracted to eat during the day, and teething babies.  And it has a name: reverse cycling.

Why does reverse cycling happen?  There is usually a reason.  Babies want food, comfort, or both at night, often because they aren’t getting as much as they want or need during the day.

A typical case is a baby who doesn’t like to take a bottle at day care, who “sips” enough during the day to make it the reunion with her mom at the end of the workday – when the all night feast starts.  Or a baby who is adjusting to having less frequent contact with his mom during the day now that she’s gone back to work, and so wants more comforting at night.  Occasionally, it’s the mom who is so busy juggling multiple kids during the day that feedings are not frequent enough, or not long enough.

So if your baby is reverse cycling, what can you do?

First, identify a possible reason why he has adopted this pattern.  Is he not eating enough during the day?  Too distracted to eat much during waking hours?

Then, address look for ways to address her needs.  Our favorite resource page is at kellymom.com, where you’ll find lots of tips for different situations.    You’ll also find some tips for making reverse cycling work (and why some moms even encourage it) on this page.  You may also want to check out our podcast interview with Nancy Mohrbacher on night nursing.

And whatever you decide to do, take heart in the knowledge that this pattern will pass in time!

Pumping at work? Print out these free door hangers

door hangerIf you’re pumping at work and lucky enough to have a door to close at work, what signage do you use to keep people from barging in?

There are all kinds of ways of indicating that you’d would like some privacy, but we thought we’d share several free door hangers you can print out, cut out, and post!

Texas WIC program:  Breastmilk – Every Ounce Counts

New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force:  Doorhanger includes information about state law on pumping at work

Bellabama:  Uses the International Breastfeeding Symbol

Code Name Mama:  Pumping Pixie (donations requested to purchase pumping bustiers for women in domestic violence shelters).

These doorhangers from a company local to us are not free, but we love them!

Or create your own with this free door hanger template.

And check out these hilarious ones (not printable, but worth a look!).

Herbal poultices for engorgement

406px-Kamomillasaunio_(Matricaria_recutita)There are many remedies for breast engorgement, ranging from massage, to cold packs, to cabbage.

But did you know that herbs – in the form of a poultice – can also help reduce swelling and inflammation associated with engorgement?

What’s a poultice?  It’s an age-old way of treating soreness and inflammation, using moist herbs applied directly to the skin, usually held in place with a cloth.

Herbs that work well in a breast compress are anti-inflammatory and reduce swelling (comfrey, chamomile, calendula, lavender), increase lymph circulation and drainage (cleavers, burdock root, yarrow), and draw out infection (slippery elm, marshmallow root).  Mullein leaf relieves pain.

To prepare, pour boiling water over the herbs and steep for 10-15 minutes.  When cool enough to touch, apply herbs as a poultice directly to skin.  You can also dip a cotton cloth in the warm infusion, wring it out and wrap around the breast and under the armpit.  Keep the poultice on until it cools.  Reapply throughout the day.  If infection is present, a clean poultice or cloth should be used every time.

For a comprehensive discussion of engorgement, including prevention, treatment, and when to seek help, see this page on Kellymom.com.

Image credit:  Chamomile, Wikimedia Commons

African American moms and breastfeeding: A podcast interview with Kathi Barber

African American women breastfeedingAfrican American women have the lowest breastfeeding rates in the U.S.  But it wasn’t always that way.

In this podcast interview, Kathi Barber, author of The Black Woman’s Guide to Breastfeeding and Lactation Management: Strategies for Working with African American Moms, discusses the history of breastfeeding in the black community, from a strong African breastfeeding tradition, through slavery and wet nursing, to the present day.  She also provides guidance for breastfeeding support people working with African American mothers.

You can listen to this podcast using the player below, through Quicktime, or download it from our free iTunes store.

Common breastfeeding concerns? There’s an app for that.

breastfeeding solutions appPain.  Milk supply worries.  Sleep (and lack thereof).  A fussy baby.  Pumping.

These are common concerns during breastfeeding, and they’re perennial hot topics at breastfeeding and new mom support groups.  Of course, there are many books that cover these issues, too.

But what if you want quick, reliable information from a trusted source in your purse and on your nightstand any time of day or night?

Nancy Mohrbacher, author of many of the best books on breastfeeding money can buy, like Breastfeeding Made Simple, Breastfeeding Answers Made Simple, and Breastfeeding Solutions, has produced a new app for iPhone and Android devices that covers all the basics.  We spoke with Nancy last year in a podcast interview about night nursing.

Based on her book Breastfeeding Solutions, this app providing straightforward solutions to the 30 most common breastfeeding problems, from birth to weaning.  There is a “Solutions” section to help you pinpoint a problem’s cause, and for for answers to common concerns there is a comprehensive “Articles” section.  It’s ad free and not sponsored by a formula or other company.  Its creator is a board certified lactation consultant and is one of the most knowledgeable individuals on breastfeeding on the planet.

The Breastfeeding Solutions app sells for $6.99 and we think it’s one of the best investments you could make to ensure that you meet your breastfeeding goals.  You can find it at the iTunes and Amazon (for Android) and Google Play stores.

Ten important ways partners can support breastfeeding moms

USMC-091029-M-6037K-001Support from partners can make breastfeeding go much more smoothly for nursing moms.  But some partners find themselves feeling unsure how to help and sometimes a bit left out.

Here are ten important ways partners can help make breastfeeding a good experience for the whole family:

Learn about breastfeeding.  During pregnancy, attending a breastfeeding class with the mom-to-be helps partners understand what’s involved and how to prepare.  Or if a class isn’t available, partners can read a breastfeeding book to get the basics down.

Help to develop a breastfeeding-friendly birth and newborn care plan.  There are many decisions to be made regarding both labor and birth and also the newborn care period, and these decisions can have a big impact on breastfeeding.  Partners can read up on breastfeeding-friendly birth and newborn care plans, and work with the mom to develop one that sets her up for success.

Help prepare for a lower intervention labor and birth.  Research has shown that lower intervention birth makes breastfeeding easier.  So a partner can learn ways of helping a mom cope with the discomfort of labor, including learning non-drug means of pain relief such as partner massage, hiring a doula, and choosing a practice and hospital with a record of lower intervention births.

Help her find breastfeeding help.  Many nursing moms need help getting breastfeeding going well in the early days and weeks, but it’s hard to seek out help while caring for a new baby and recovering from birth.  Partners can take off some of the burden of finding help by identifying sources of support such as lactation consultants, WIC, La Leche League, and Breastfeeding USA, making appointments if necessary, and getting everyone out of the house.

Take over other responsibilities.  Breastfeeding and recovering from birth are big jobs, leaving little energy or time for much else.  So partners can take over other responsibilities – diapering, cooking, shopping, caring for older children, even returning well wishers’ phone calls.

Help her get comfortable while feeding.  Since moms clock many hours sitting or lying down to breastfeed, partners can make them comfortable by arranging pillows, stocking snacks and drinks – even finding the remote control!

Cheer her on.  For nursing moms, there’s nothing like hearing “great job!” and encouragement like this is priceless.  Pointing out how a baby is growing on her milk helps a mom step back from the daily routine and appreciate the big picture.

Listen.  There are a lot of emotions swirling around birth and breastfeeding, and simply stopping to listen to a mom talk about her feelings can be very powerful.  If her emotional state has you concerned, help her find help from a health care provider or other postpartum resource.

If planning to introduce bottle, take over those feedings.  If your family is planning to have your baby fed by bottle – as part of a return to work, for example – a partner is probably best positioned to introduce a bottle and regularly do bottle feedings.

If feeling left out, do skin-to-skin and wear your baby.  Finally, if a partner is feeling left out of the feeding equation and is craving the closeness that breastfeeding provides, regular skin-t0-skin can do wonders!   Babywearing can also be a great source of connection.

And one extra:  Document!  Nursing moms often treasure pictures of the experience, but it’s hard to be both nursing and behind the camera.  So take pictures and video to help preserve the memories.

Image credit:  Wikimedia Commons

Podcast: Birth and breastfeeding in prison

Prison-Birth-Project85% of women in prison are mothers, and the same percentage of women in prison are pregnant as on the outside.

What is birth like for them?  How long do they have with their babies before they’re separated?  Why do some birth in shackles?  And is it possible for incarcerated mothers to breastfeed?

To answer these questions we spoke with Marianne Bullock, co-founder of The Prison Birth Project, a non profit organization providing support, education, advocacy, and activism training to women at the intersection of the criminal justice system and motherhood.

You can listen to this podcast using the player below, through Quicktime, or download it from our free iTunes store.

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