Becoming a mom can be a very challenging time for new moms. Not only because it’s a new life stage, but because it’s an identity shifting moment.
How do you take care of yourself when there seems to be so much that needs to be done and there never seems to be enough time (nor have you slept enough) to do it all? In the midst of the new responsibilities, how do you connect with your baby and feel at ease with breastfeeding, pumping, bottle-feeding and everything in between?
That’s what we’ve set out to answer in this Summer Self-Care Series with Beaugen. We’ve put together a series of interviews with other fellow moms and experts in their fields in hopes of shining light on what it means to be a mom today and how to ditch the mom guilt and enjoy our parenting journey.
For our second interview we connected with Nicole Butera, from @themilknest, fellow mom and certified breastfeeding specialist, who helps moms in their exclusively breastfeeding and exclusively pumping journeys to help us understand the importance of being able to establish a connection with our babies and the impact it can have on our overall well-being.
Establishing a connection with your baby is really important, especially trying to establish a nursing relationship. Sometimes it’s not easy. Is this something that comes instinctively to everyone or are there ways to enhance or encourage this?
Whether nursing or exclusively pumping, I would always say that holding your baby is the very first thing that connects mom and baby. That skin to skin, that time with mom and baby, even playing with a newborn (because it is possible to play with a newborn) and doing things you enjoy with baby helps establish that connection.
If having a Starbucks drink and going to the mall is something that you enjoy, take the baby with you!
That is something that you can enjoy while being a mom and being with your baby. Those things really help.
How does building that connection impact the feeding relationship, especially if you are not necessarily nursing?
The feeding aspect, the evidence and research is there to prove that even with exclusive pumping or bottle-feeding, just by doing that skin to skin and holding your baby, you do pass antibodies to your baby. The breastmilk connection, no matter if the baby is getting it straight from the breast or pumped from a bottle, it still has such amazing immunological factors.
No matter what you choose, nursing or pumping, there is always, always a chance to bond with your baby.
What are some of the challenges moms face when breastfeeding or establishing that breastfeeding relationship and bond?
Some of the troubles that I see often are supply and latch.
Supply is commonly a concern. A lot of moms think they have low supply, but sometimes with the right flange and the right pump and the right accessories that can definitely help. And another thing that moms also have issues with is latch. With that too we try to find solutions specific to mom and baby’s situation. Because these concerns can hinder the bond, because it’s hard to bond when there is stress.
No matter if it’s a baby-mom relationship, marriage, children… anything. When stress is involved we want to dilute and completely get rid of the source of that stress and work towards our goal. Whatever that goal may be, it’s always about trying to find a balance with every mom, because every situation is unique and different, that's where we come in as breastfeeding specialists to identify that goal and help moms bond with their babies while working towards that goal.
What are some of the common tips and tricks that you give moms to overcome the challenges that they find in reaching their goals?
To overcome the challenges I always have to preface by saying that it’s ok to take 2 steps forward and three steps back, because lactation is full of ups and downs, no matter what you do.
Tips really depend on each mom’s specific situation, but if it comes to supply, let’s look at the flange size. If it comes to your pump, let’s look at that or add different accessories. When it comes to nursing, it comes down to what about it is stressing you out? Does it hurt? Even with a video chat, so much can be done and resolved.
As a breastfeeding specialist it’s all about connecting and getting to mom, so that she can really get that one-on-one connection with baby.
I always tell moms, and this is easier said than done, try not to stress. And what does that mean? Again, this is where we come in to understand mom. If not stressing for you means leaving the house, the chores, the dishes alone, then you need to leave the house, the chores, the dishes alone and focus on that one-on-one time.
It doesn’t matter if you are a first, second, or third time mom, with lactation you can’t always know what’s going to happen.
How early should a mom introduce a bottle? And by doing that how are you impacting the connection with your baby?
I would say, if you are going back to work or you want to give yourself a break, and you want to pump, I always suggest introducing a bottle around the 3-4 week mark, because that is the magic time. And incorporate paced feeding into that.
As far as the bonding, it's really individualized and it’ll come down to what the mom’s goal is. If the mom simply wants a break, it’s going to benefit the bond in the long run versus being all stressed out all the time about nursing. Stress never helps with anything.
Does exclusive pumping hinder the bond with your baby?
We do find with research that sometimes that suckling effect at the breast can help with antibodies and the building of the immune system, but we also have research that supports that just skin to skin does that, too. So to say bottle feeding isn’t breastfeeding I just wouldn’t agree with that, because no matter if you are nursing or pumping, you are supporting, you are nourishing and you are sacrificing. And that’s breastfeeding for sure.
What if my newborn is refusing to breastfeed? How do you reverse that?
Skin to skin is going to be your #1 best friend in that situation. Knowing that this isn’t going to be an overnight thing and it’s going to take some time.
You can also bottle feed first, then mid-feed offer the breast or you can do a bait and switch, where you have the baby propped up as if you were nursing, make sure you are still feeding with the bottle, and as the baby is bottle feeding switch them on to the breast.
And again trying and inviting the baby to the breast, but never forcing the baby to the breast.
My baby has a tongue tie, I’m exclusively pumping and my supply is low. What do you recommend in that situation?
Depending how old the baby is, if they’re under 3 months, I would say, keep pumping. 6-8 times in a 24 hour period. I know that’s difficult, but again we are trying to establish and protect that supply in the beginning.
Other factors you want to consider, and I’m going to shout this out, is your flange size and the pump you are using.
Why is it that the pump can impact supply, when one would think that pumps are generally the same?
Not all pumps are the same.
The intention here is not to discredit or praise any particular pump or brand, but as an example, Medela, the one in 2016 that pump was like a chef’s kiss, that’s a pump that you could use to exclusively pump. The new one, unfortunately, is not living up to its predecessor or the expectation. Even though it’s a closed system and the vacuum pressure should suffice in theory, a lot of us in the lactation space are finding that for a lot of moms we’re not seeing a great output as what we would expect from Medela.
With pumps like that we get comments like “my hands-free pump is emptying me better than my regular pump,” and to me that’s a red flag.
The pump you use does matter. Everyone is going to respond differently to a pump, and the pump your friend got isn't necessarily going to be the pump that works for you. It’s going to depend on your lifestyle and your situation.
I switched my pump to another more powerful pump, and it’s making pumping painful. Am I doing something wrong?
Each pump is very different and the way it interacts with each mom’s body is different, even if you use the same flanges. The Baby Buddha, for example, has that very strong suction, so that can be an issue for some moms.
So breast pump selection consults with lactation professionals are really important to understand which pump may be better suited for each mom. We’ll ask questions like, which pumps have you used, what did you hate about it, what did you love? And first baby, second, baby or third baby, you must always ask what your lifestyle is going to look like and find a pump that fits into that. Not one size fits all when it comes to pumps.
If my supply is low, which is better: an electric or manual pump?
Just from that information alone, electric. Manual pumps are good, but if you have a low supply it’s possible that you are supplementing and you may or may not be expressing enough milk in a day to meet your baby’s needs, it means that you’ll need to pump quite a bit, and you can get physically tired. Whereas electric pumps allow you to optimize your pumping.
Is it a must to empty your breasts using hand expression after pumping? If I don’t feel empty after pumping.
If you don’t feel your breasts are empty after pumping, and some moms have that feeling, make sure you have the right flange size.
If after you have been properly fitted for flange size you still feel empty or suction alone does not provide enough stimuli to empty your breasts, you can try the Lilu Massager + Bra, which massages your breasts for you and helps empty the breast more fully in less time while pumping.
What is some of the most important advice that you give moms when they are starting on their breastfeeding journeys?
Seek help when you need it, not when you are already there or far into it. It’s tempting to go to a mommy-Facebook group, but with everything changing and the research constantly being updated, it becomes increasingly important that you seek help from a professional that has both professional, educational and personal experience, that can really guide you to get on the right track and keep encouraging you, within your unique needs and situation.
Lilu is a Women’s Health company building tech-enabled devices to empower new moms. Our first product, the Lilu Massage Bra, mimics compression massage, so you can empty your breasts fully to establish, increase and maintain your milk supply. Pump up to 50% more milk each session, all while going hands-free.
Introducing the revolutionary Lilu Lactation Massager Bra - designed to make your pumping sessions more efficient and comfortable than ever before. With our lactation massage cushions, you can experience the benefits of hands-on compression motions recommended by lactation experts, without using your hands. Our bra holds the cushions securely in place, massaging both breasts while you pump, helping to increase milk flow and maintain your milk supply.