Breastfeeding

Top Five Breastfeeding Essentials for the First Two Weeks

 photo credit: Meredith Westin

photo credit: Meredith Westin

Breastfeeding is a journey, both beautiful and challenging at times. To help ease the first two weeks of your postpartum we have put together a list of items that will hopefully make things easier!

Motherlove Nipple Cream: Nipple cream is essential, especially in the early days. Your baby will want to nurse very frequently. Even with a great latch, it takes some time for your nipples to get used to this. Put nipple cream on your nipples after each feeding. No need to wipe it off before feeding your baby.

Nursing Bra / Tank: You will want to have these before your baby is born. It can be helpful to get sized; after 36 weeks is a good time for this. During the first two weeks of postpartum you will find yourself living in your nursing tank!  It is easy and you don't have to put anything else on. Nursing tanks are supportive to your breasts and you can find ones that also support your postpartum tummy. I recommend having 2-3 of both nursing tanks and nursing bras.

Medela Hydrogel Pads: Hydrogel pads are a serious life saver for sore, cracked nipples. After about 24 hours your nipples will feel much better if they are cracked or very sore. In saying this, if you find yourself with very sore, cracked or bleeding nipples, be sure to contact a lactation specialist. It is normal for a little bit of soreness. If you are wincing in pain when it is time for a feeding, this is not normal.

Nursing Pads: Once your milk is in, you may find that your breasts are leaking milk. Whether you are nursing on one side and the other side begins to leak or if you have a let down when your baby is not feeding, you will want nursing pads in your bra at all times. There are washable and disposable options; get both.

Resources: I cannot stress how important good resources are during the early days of breastfeeding. Maybe it is your mom, sister or a good friend, someone to talk to on rough days, and someone with breastfeeding experience. Choose one or two people to reach out to for advice otherwise too much advice can be overwhelming. Never hesitate to reach out to a lactation consultant if you need help with latch or have production issues. A great website to turn to is www.kellymom.com

A nursing station can be very helpful as well. You can prepare this before your baby arrives so it will be ready to go when you get home. Get a basket to set next to your bed and fill with snacks, water, a couple of diapers, wipes and a good book!

 

Top Five Breastmilk Boosting Nutrients

 photo credit: Laura Robinson

photo credit: Laura Robinson

Breastfeeding your baby is rewarding in many ways, from bonding, health benefits for you and baby, cost effectiveness, and much more! But what happens when your milk supply starts off low or lessens after a few months or when you return to work? Our top five recommended breastmilk boosting nutrients are goats rue, fenugreek, blessed thistle, fennel and malunggay. Here are a couple of ways to get these nutrients into your diet.

Motherlove More Milk Special Blend: This supplement is an all-time favorite. It contains goats rue, fenugreek, blessed thistle and fennel seed. Goats rue is one of the most potent herbs to support lactation in women who have difficulty breastfeeding. The leaves stimulate development of mammary tissue to increase breast size. Fenugreek seeds are the most recommended herb in the United States for increasing breast milk. Blessed thistle supports lactation and is considered an emotional ally to uplift spirits and reduce anxiety. Fennel seed is the most commonly used herb to support lactation in the world.

Go-Lacta: Go-Lacta is an all natural plant-based galactagogue, made from premium Malunggay (Moringa oleifera Lam) leaves, which assists in increasing mom's breast milk supply. It is traditionally used in Asia. A unique quality of Go-Lacta is that is focuses on mom and baby. This supplement can be taken antepartum and postpartum. Studies have found that malunggay leaf powder prevents malnutrition in pregnancy or breastfeeding women and their children. Pregnant women recovered quickly from anemia and had babies with higher birth weights.

Aside from supplements, a fun and yummy way to boost your milk supply is with lactation cookies! 

Lactation Cookies: There are many lactation cookie recipes out there. The main ingredients to focus on when making lactation cookies are oats, flax seed, fennel and brewers yeast

If you are having trouble with breastfeeding, Health Foundations Birth Center has a full-time lactation consultant that you can meet with. You can request an appointment or give us a call. The two supplements mentioned above can be found on our on-line store for purchase.

 

 

A Mothers Gift: Donor Breast Milk

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There are two beautiful sides to donor breast milk, the mother that donates the milk and the babies that receive it.  There are many reasons that mothers choose to donate their milk and there are many reasons that babies need this liquid gold. Donated breast milk can be vital to babies are that in the NICU, underweight due to low milk supply, babies with low blood sugar before the mother’s milk supply is established and more.

The mamas that are able to provide this gift are able to for different reasons but they all have the same selfless quality and that is extending their milk to another. For some mothers, they have an over supply and rather than trying to lessen it, they pump after feedings and are able to produce freezer-fulls to donate.  Some will continue to pump and donate after their child is finished breastfeeding. Then there are the stories of loss, mothers that pump their milk during their grieving process. Some find this as a connection to their child that passed. In all of these unique scenarios, the end result is a priceless gift.

Health Foundations Birth Center is a full lactation center, which means we accept donor milk at our location for the Mother's Milk Bank of Ohio. We also have breast milk available for purchase.

If you would like to give the gift of breast milk, here are the steps to take:

  • Call the Mother's Milk Bank of Ohio at 614-566-0630. They will do an over-the-phone screening first. After the screening they will ship you a kit that includes the basic lab supplies, your donor ID and some containers for your milk. You can use your own containers as well.
  • Once you receive your kit, call Health Foundations and make a quick lab appointment. When your labs have been drawn, we will ship them to Ohio for you. The reason for this is to confirm that it would be safe for you donate milk. They check for certain diseases such as HIV, HTLV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Syphilis.
  • After the full screening process, you can bring in your containers of milk to Health Foundations. The containers must be labeled with your Donor ID. We will ship them for you to the Ohio Milk Bank.

The following are some resources for families looking for donor milk:

  • You can purchase donor milk from Health Foundations Birth Center. We ask that you call ahead to ensure that we have the milk in stock. You do not need a prescription or doctor's order. The cost is $13.53 for three ounces. The milk is frozen. Our staff ensures that you understand how to thaw and handle the donor milk.
  • You can also purchase donor milk directly from the Mothers Milk Bank of Ohio 614-566-0630. If you are purchasing direct you will need a prescription from your pediatrician.
  • There are local organizations that help coordinate mom-to-mom milk sharing which can be useful for long-term donor milk supplementation.

At Health Foundations Birth Center, our lactation consultants and postpartum nurses are here to assist you with any and all questions or lactation concerns you have related to breastfeeding your new baby. 

We also have a group, Mama's Milk Hour, led by Jan Kaste, IBCLC. This group meets every Thursday at 2:30. It is free and open to the public. You have a chance to weigh your baby, nurse and weigh your baby again to get an idea of how much your baby is eating at each feeding. Jan is there for basic questions and advice.

Breastfeeding? Going Back to Work? Here is What You Need to Know

If you’re like most working moms, you might be feeling anxious about returning to work after the birth of your little one. Adding pumping and bottles into the mix can seem downright overwhelming. You might be wondering how you will fit pumping sessions into your schedule or maybe you are concerned about maintaining your breast milk supply. Although it may be a challenge to adjust to your new routine, you can be successful and find balance with a little pre-planning. The following are some basic tips to get you started.

Supplies: There are some very handy supplies available to pumping moms. Try and stock up on these things ahead of time to relieve some stress when going back work.

  • Electric Breast Pump: Most insurance plans cover breast pumps. Call your insurance company and find out where to get yours. This can be done before you have your baby.
  • Easy Expression Bustier Hands-Free Pumping Bra by Medela: This bra is very convenient whether you are pumping at home or at work. It allows you to easily pump both breasts at the same time while giving you time to read a book, browse the internet or take a little "me" time while you pump.
  • Extra Breast Pump Supplies: Supplies can get lost or broken which is inconvenient when you need to pump, keep a few extras on hand:
    • Replacement Membranes
    • Connectors
    • Breast Shields
  • Breast Milk Storage Bags: You will want to keep a box of these on hand in your breast pump bag.

Maintaining Your Milk Supply: Are you concerned about your milk supply decreasing when you head back to work?  The following are ways to increase and keep your supply strong.

  • Eat good protein rich meals and snacks.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Try a supplement such as Motherlove More Milk Plus.  Take 2 capsules, three times a day.
  • On working days, make time to pump approximately every three hours.
  • During evenings, nights and weekends breastfeed your baby on demand.
  • Eliminate other things that could decrease your milk supply, such as:
    • Peppermint or Sage Tea
    • Decongestants
    • Parsley

Storing and Thawing: It is important that you know how to safely store and thaw your breast milk and that the person taking care of your baby knows too.

  • When pumping at work keep your bags of milk in the storage section of your breast pump bag with an ice-pack. If you do not have that kind of pump, bring a small cooler with you to store your milk.
  • Once home, place milk in the fridge. It is okay to keep in the fridge for 72 hours. If the milk hasn’t been used by then, put it in the freezer. Breast milk is safe to store in the freezer for 6 months.
  • Remember to always label each bag with the date, time and quantity.
  • When thawing or warming up the milk, never microwave it. This destroys the nutrients. Put the bag or bottle of milk into a bowl of very warm water.

If you would like to learn more about pumping and returning to work, come to our class PumpTalk 101 with Jan Kaste, IBCLC. This class is taught every first Thursday of the month at 3:30pm. It is $10. To sign up, contact our office 651-895-2520. Health Foundations Birth Center also offers lactation visits during the week and many other services to help with your breastfeeding needs.

The supplies mentioned above can be found on our on-line store, as well as our PumpTalk 101 Kit. This kit contains the pumping essentials at a great price! Get yours here.

Cold and Flu Fighting Ginger Soup

This ginger soup in a great way to fight colds and the flu this season! It is a safe way to fight sickness during breastfeeding and pregnancy. 

Ingredients:

  • 2 inch piece of fresh garlic, sliced thin
  • 4 green onions, sliced thin
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 3/4 cup of mushrooms, sliced
  • 6 cups of chicken bone broth or chicken stock

Instructions to Prepare:

Combine ginger, garlic and mushrooms in a pot with a small amount of the broth or stock. Simmer until the ingredients are softened. Add the rest of the broth or stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for 20-30 minutes. 

This soup can be stored in the fridge for a few days.

Enjoy and be well!

 

Banana Bread for Healthy Lactation

This banana bread recipe promotes healthy lactation in nursing mamas. Some of these ingredients are known for increasing milk supply.  The milk boosting ingredients are highlighted. Enjoy warm with some butter!

Ingredients

  • 2 TBS Flaxseed Meal
  • 4 TBS Water
  • 1 ¾ C Flour
  • 1 ¼ C Oats
  • Dash of Salt
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 4 TBS Brewer’s Yeast
  • 1 tsp Ground Fenugreek
  • ½ tsp Cinnamon
  • ½ C Softened Butter
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 C Sugar or ¾ C Maple Syrup
  • 3 Medium Mashed Bananas (the riper the better!)
  • 2 TBS Milk
  • 1 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • ½ C Chopped Pecans or Walnuts (optional)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a 10-inch loaf pan. Mix dry ingredients together first then blend in all other ingredients. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the bread. Let cool and remove from pan.

Breastfeeding: How Do I Know My Baby is Getting Enough?

Breastfeeding a newborn is an incredible boding experience between a mother and her baby. One of the common worries for a mom is whether or not her baby is getting enough to eat. Unlike bottle feeding, the actual amount is unknown. This can feel concerning. Especially is the baby is fussy or not sleeping. Occasionally, due to milk supply or a poor latch, the baby may not be getting as much as they need. Thankfully there are things you can do to help if that is the case!

 Comforting Signs That Your Baby is Getting Plenty to Eat:

Wet / Dirty Diapers: Your baby should have on average 6 wet diapers and 4 stools per day. The urine should be light in color and mild smelling. By about day 5, your baby’s stool should have transitioned from meconium to yellow and loose.

Alert / Satisfied Baby: When your baby is hungry he will be active and alert, giving you cues to demand feeding. Afterwards, your baby should appear satisfied and probably sleepy.

Breasts Feeling Empty: Once your milk is in and your baby nurses, your breasts should feel empty at the end of the feeding. They may feel harder and full at the beginning and soft at the end.

Your Baby is Gaining Weight: Although there typically is slight weight loss in your baby before your milk fully comes in, around day 5-6 your baby’s weight should slowly start creeping up on the scales. Every baby is different but the goal is to have your baby at least back to birth weight by two weeks of age.

If your baby shows any of the above signs that he is not getting enough to eat, it is important to see a pediatrician and a lactation consultant.

At Health Foundations Birth Center, our lactation consultants and postpartum nurses are here to assist you with any and all questions you have related to breastfeeding your new baby. 

We also have a group, Mama's Milk Hour, led by Jan Kaste, IBCLC. This group meets every Thursday at 2:30. It is free and open to the public. You have a chance to weigh your baby, nurse and weigh your baby again to get an idea of how much your baby is eating at each feeding. Jan is there for basic questions and advice.

 

Super Purple Lactation Smoothie

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Start your day with this yummy Lactation Smoothie! The ingredients chosen for this recipe are great for boosting your milk supply! If you are dairy free, you can add some almond milk or coconut milk instead of greek yogurt. 

1 Large Banana

1 Cup of Blueberries

1 Cup of Strawberries

1 Tsp of Flax Meal

1 Tsp of Brewer's Yeast

Drizzle of Honey

Handful of Spinach

1 Heaping Tablespoon of Plain Greek Yogurt

Combine all ingredients in your favorite blender, blend until smooth and ENJOY!

Boobs, Breastfeeding & Lactation

Breastfeeding a newborn is a beautiful way to bond, connect and nourish your baby. There are many benefits of breastfeeding. What aren’t often talked about are the struggles that can happen during the first few weeks postpartum. As you learn about your baby and your baby learns about you, there are some things that can ease the difficulties that may arise. Collecting these items and organizing support before your baby arrives is ideal.

Create a Breastfeeding Station

There are things we have found helpful for the breastfeeding mama to easily have on hand. This can be a basket that has the following items available and easy to access when you nurse your baby.

Good Nipple Cream: A good nipple cream is essential to help relieve discomfort of sore, cracked nursing nipples. This can be applied before and after breastfeeding and anytime in between. We love Motherlove Nipple Cream.  

Nursing Pads: No nursing mom wants to face the embarrassment of wet spots on her shirt from milk leakage, but it can happen to even the most prepared woman. The chances are reduced if you use breast pads, which when used properly can prevent uncomfortably soaked clothing. Choose from washable or disposable types, both of which can keep you comfortable and dry. 

Gel Pads: Medela makes a wonderful product called Tender Care Hydrogel Pads. They quickly soothe sore nipples and act as a barrier between your clothes and your skin so they don't rub and irritate further.

Water Bottle: Staying hydrated is important while breastfeeding.  Keeping water nearby during breastfeeding is a must! Becoming dehydrated can decrease your milk supply and also make you feel tired. It is estimated that over 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. 

Easy Snacks: While breastfeeding you need about an additional 400 to 500 calories a day — to keep up your energy.

To get these extra calories, opt for nutrient-rich choices, such as a slice of whole-grain bread with a tablespoon of peanut butter, a medium banana or apple, and 8 ounces of greek yogurt. Try to have protein with each snack to help balance your blood sugar which in turn will help maintain your energy and mood.

Cloth or Small Towel: Have this handy for when your baby spits up or you need to catch milk leaking.

A Good Book: Reading is one of my favorite things to do while nursing. With my first baby, I finished many books in our marathon nursing sessions from the rocking chair. Clever pillow arrangement allows your hands to be free, or think about a book holder. Set up a little table right next to your rocking chair, have a basket of snacks on hand, set the book in a book holder, and you only need one hand to turn the page! You can also read in the side-lying nursing position – just prop the book on a pillow behind baby.

Support System – Good Support is Essential

Educate Your Partner: It is important for your partner to be educated about the ins and outs of breastfeeding so that he or she can help you in your breastfeeding journry.

Breastfeeding Friends: If you have friends that are breastfeeding, surround yourself with them. Keep their phone numbers handy for questions and encouragement.

Your Mom: Sometimes mothers can be a great support during breastfeeding, especially if they breastfed themselves. However, don’t feel guilty if you need to tell your mom that you would rather not talk about the subject if you find it stressful. 

At Health Foundations, our lactation consultants and postpartum nurses are here to assist you with any and all questions you have related to breastfeeding your new baby. We also have a group called Mama’s Milk Hour that meets every Thursday at 2:30. Our group is led by a lactation consultant and is a wonderful way to connect with other moms. This group is free and open to the public. 

If you are pregnant and just beginning your search for prenatal care, contact Health Foundations to schedule a free consultation with a midwife and a tour of our beautiful Birth Center. We are here to serve you at every stage.

Boost Your Milk Supply With No-Bake Lactation Oatmeal Bites

No oven required for this delicious unbaked treat. Full of galactagogues, which are known for increasing milk supply, these yummy No-Bake Lactation bites are sure to be a quick and easy snack that the whole family will enjoy. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of oats (old fashioned or instant)
  • ½ cup of peanut butter or other nut butter of choice
  • ½ cup of honey
  • 1 cup of coconut flakes
  • ½ cup of ground flax seed
  • ½ cup of mini chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons of brewer’s yeast
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together
  2. Refrigerate for one half hour
  3. Roll into bite-sized balls
  4. Roll balls in coconut flakes 
  5. Enjoy!
  6. (Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator)

Recipe transcribed from: TeenToddlerNewborn.com

Introducing Your Breastfed Baby to the Bottle

Baby Feeding on Bottle

Whether you will be returning to work after your maternity leave or would like to get your partner more involved in feeding your new babe, introducing a bottle to your breastfed baby can be a helpful, and sometimes tricky, endeavor. Many women like to have the option to have pumped milk available that a family member or caregiver can give the baby should they need a break, some extra sleep or happen to be away for more than a couple hours. Here are 5 helpful tips to introducing your breastfed baby to the bottle so that it’s a smooth and gentle transition for you both.

5 Tips to Introduce Your Breastfed Baby to the Bottle

  1. Timing is everything: Your midwife or lactation consultant will likely tell you that introducing any sort of bottle or artificial soother must be well-timed. Too early, and you run the risk of disrupting your newly established breastfeeding routine and too late, your babe may reject the bottle all together. The ideal time to introduce a bottle is between 4-6 weeks. That way, you will have already found your groove with breastfeeding and your baby will likely not experience any nipple confusion. 
  2. Choose a slow flow nipple: When picking out a bottle and nipple for your baby, choose one that most closely mimics the breast and allows for a slow flow of milk. Sucking from a bottle requires a different latch and tongue movement than suckling from the breast. A slow flow nipple will most closely replicate the experience of breastfeeding and allow baby to take his time eating. 
  3. Have your partner give the bottle: Getting a bottle from mom who usually breastfeeds can be confusing and frustrating for a little one. If possible, have your partner be the bottle aficionado. Even better yet, take the time that your partner is learning to bottle feed your baby and do something for yourself. Take a shower, take a nap, go for a walk or run an errand. Your baby is more likely to have a successful bottle feeding experience if they can’t smell mom and her milk nearby. 
  4. Take baby steps: Rather than having your partner or family member offer the bottle when your baby is hungry, try introducing it after they have breastfed. This way, they will not be frustrated as easily with the process and can explore the feel of the bottle without the pressure of needing to satiate their appetite. You don’t need to put a lot of breastmilk in the bottle, even starting with a half an ounce should suffice. If the milk is not freshly pumped, place the bottle in warm water to heat it prior to feeding. Baby may be more likely to accept a warm bottle versus milk that is directly from the refrigerator. 
  5. Encourage paced feeding: One of the challenges with bottle feeding is that we decide how much baby should drink rather than baby deciding. To most closely simulate the experience of breastfeeding, never force the nipple into baby’s mouth and simply allow him to decide how much he wishes to drink. Give baby breaks for burping and rest and switch sides from which you feed him as he would when breastfeeding. It’s also important to make sure your partner or the caregiver is able to recognize baby’s hungers cues so that he or she can feed baby when he’s hungry versus on a set schedule. 

Introducing bottle feeding does not have to be a stressful process if approached slowly, gently and with plenty of time for practice. If you have questions about the process of introducing a bottle to your breastfed baby or are pregnant and considering a natural birth in a homelike setting, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center. We are here to support you throughout your journey of motherhood.

What You Need to Know About Breastfeeding During Pregnancy

Breastfeeding While Pregnant

If you are pregnant with your second (or third or fourth) or are considering becoming pregnant, you may be wondering about the safety of continuing to breastfeed your baby or toddler throughout your pregnancy. There’s a lot of misinformation about the risks associated with breastfeeding during pregnancy and we want you to have the necessary information to make an informed decision for you, your child and your baby-to-be. Here are the most commonly asked questions about breastfeeding during pregnancy. 

Is it safe for my baby-to-be?

In most normal, healthy pregnancies there is no risk to your unborn baby if you choose to continue breastfeeding your toddler (or baby). A common misconception is that breastfeeding during pregnancy will lead to preterm labor or miscarriage. In actuality, the uterine contractions caused by the release of the hormone oxytocin from breastfeeding are quite mild and no different than the contractions you might experience following sexual intercourse. If you have not been placed on pelvic rest and have a normal, healthy pregnancy, there is no reason why you cannot continue to safely breastfeed as there should be no harm to your developing fetus.

Under what circumstances is it not safe to continue breastfeeding during pregnancy?

It may be advisable to wean your current nursling if you have a high-risk pregnancy for any of the following reasons:

  • You are carrying multiples
  • You have a history of, or are at risk for, preterm labor
  • You have bleeding or pain in your uterus
  • You have been placed on pelvic rest
  • You have been identified as high-risk for any other reason that may make breastfeeding dangerous for you or your developing baby

These reasons alone do not mean you must stop breastfeeding at once but it is important that you discuss it with your healthcare provider who may advise that weaning is the safest option for you and your baby.

Are there any risks to my current nursling if I continue to breastfeed during pregnancy?

Fortunately, the amount of pregnancy hormones released into your milk is minimal and pose no risk to your current breastfeeding child. You toddler may find that you milk supply begins to decrease by the fourth or fifth month of your pregnancy or that the taste of the milk begins to change. Because of this, some toddlers and babies who are nursing while mom is pregnant will naturally self-wean. It is important to ensure that your current nursling is receiving adequate nutrition once you experience a drop in your milk supply. Particularly if your baby is under six months and has not begun eating solids or if they are over six months and breastmilk is still their primary source of nutrition, you will want to make sure they are receiving sufficient daily caloric intake.

What will breastfeeding while pregnant be like for me?

While many women go on to successfully breastfeed their baby or toddler through subsequent pregnancies and beyond, there can be some discomfort due to your rising pregnancy hormones. Up to 75 percent of women report having sore nipples during pregnancy which can consequently make breastfeeding painful at times. Some women also report feeling some nausea when their milk lets down but keeping light snacks on hand while nursing can help prevent this discomfort. In addition to making sure your nursling is getting adequate nutrition, it is vital to make sure you are also getting plenty of nutritive calories per day. During the second trimester of pregnancy, the average woman needs to consume an additional 350 calories per day. By the third trimester, it is recommended that you consume an additional 450 calories per day. When you are breastfeeding during pregnancy, in addition to those extra calories, you need to add an additional 500 calories per day for a nursing baby over six months and an additional 650 calories for a nursling under six months of age. A nutritious diet is important during any pregnancy but even more imperative while also breastfeeding your baby or toddler. Aside from a healthy diet, you’ll want to make sure you drink plenty of water and get as much rest as possible. Try laying on your side to nurse your toddler for naps and you may even be able to catch a few zzz’s yourself.

Deciding whether or not to continue breastfeeding during pregnancy is a personal decision that you should make based on your own comfort level and your toddler’s current nursing habits and physical and emotional needs. It also doesn’t have to be an all or nothing decision and you can decide to cut back the number of nursing sessions per day or to limit the amount of time your toddler spends at the breast during each feeding. This may be a good option if you want to continue nursing but are experiencing any discomfort such as sore nipples or nausea.

For questions about breastfeeding during pregnancy, prenatal care, natural birth, and other women’s services, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife or for a tour of our Birth Center. We are here to help you make decisions that work for you and your baby.

Five Things to Expect During Your Postpartum Recovery

As mothers and mothers to be, we typically spend a great deal of time planning and preparing for our child’s birth. We read books, take prenatal classes, write birth plans, pack bags, wash, fold and organize baby laundry and so much more in preparation for the big day. Very few of us however, give much thought to what the postpartum period will be like for OUR bodies. Consumed with the excitement of our baby to be, we may forget that once we bring home our bundle of joy we too will need care, rest and healing as we recover from the amazing feat of giving birth. Here are 5 things to expect from your postpartum recovery.

  1. Heavy bleeding: As your body sheds the uterine lining and also bleeds from where the placenta was attached, you will experience heavy bleeding known as lochia. You may see blood clots in this bleeding and it will likely appear bright red at first. The intensity of the bleeding should subside with time and gradually turn to spotting before it stops. Typically, this should last approximately 2-6 weeks after you give birth. To prepare, stock up on heavy duty overnight strength sanitary pads, mesh panties and even adult diapers can be a great option. This applies whether you had a vaginal delivery or a C-section.
  2. Some pain and discomfort: Take a moment to consider what an incredible thing it is that your body is going to birth a 6-10 pound baby. With this incredible miracle comes hard work and its fair share of aches and pains. Whether you have a natural birth or a C-section, you can expect to experience some cramping, soreness, muscle aches and joint pains. With a vaginal delivery you may also experience some burning and soreness of the perineum and with a C-section, pain at the incision site and abdominal pain as you recover from major surgery.
  3. Hormonal side effects: As your body seeks to adjust hormonally after giving birth, you will likely experience a few unpleasant side effects. These may include fluctuating emotions and weepiness, hot flashes, night sweats and chills, and continued feelings of clumsiness from the production of the hormone relaxin. Give yourself some grace during this period as you may not feel like yourself despite your excitement over your new baby. If you are concerned that the baby blues may be developing into something more serious like postpartum depression, contact your midwife, doctor or a counselor for support. There are many wonderful resources available for women suffering from postpartum depression. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. 
  4. Breast changes: As your milk comes in after baby is born, you may experience some engorgement and sore nipples and breasts as your supply adjusts to meet baby’s needs. You may also notice that your nipples appear darker. If you are recovering from a C-section, breastfeeding can initially be more challenging due to pain from your surgery and having to find a position that is comfortable for you and your newborn while you heal. Fear not though, it will get easier with time and your milk supply will adjust as you and your baby find your rhythm. Consider having nipple pads on hand for leaking breasts, cooling pads or ice packs for sore breasts and a nipple cream for aching and cracking nipples. Be sure to signup for our next Pumptalk 101 class if you have extra questions or would like some more suggestions.
  5. Constipation, incontinence, and frequent trips to the bathroom: Depending on how you delivered and your own personal recovery, you may experience a period of constipation following giving birth and/or urinary or fecal incontinence. A vaginal delivery can cause temporary nerve damage around the bladder making it more difficult to sense when you need to go to the bathroom. You may also have weakened bladder muscles, hemorrhoids and though less common, tears to the anal sphincter causing fecal leakage. Conversely, you may also experience constipation due to the slowing of your metabolism and digestive tract. Talk to your doctor or midwife for effective ways to manage these various side effects.

It’s not uncommon for the postpartum period to be filled with excitement, exhaustion, trepidation and feeling a bit overwhelmed. Make sure that amidst all the emotions and adjustments, you allow time for your own care and recovery. Your body has just undergone the incredible journey of childbirth and needs time to rest and heal so that you can focus on caring for your new, beautiful baby. 

What to Expect from Your First Postpartum Period

Photo by Piotr Marcinski/iStock / Getty Images

One of the many great perks of pregnancy is that you get a minimum of nine months sans menstrual cycle. No pads, tampons, monthly cramping or moodiness (okay, so those last two can happen in pregnancy too). At some point however, after your little one is born and your hormones settle back into a rhythm, your monthly visitor shall return. Many women wonder when this will happen and if it will be the same, worse or better than their pre-pregnancy periods. Here’s all you need to know about your first postpartum period and the factors that may impact how long it stays away.

If you are not breastfeeding your baby, you can anticipate the return of your cycle sometime around two months postpartum. There is a wide range of normal for that first postpartum period that can range from light to heavy, more or less cramping than you previously had, small blood clots and a consistent or inconsistent flow. Your period may be totally different than your pre-pregnancy period or exactly the same and it can differ after each child birth, as well. Whether breastfeeding or not, if your period returns soon after your delivery, avoid using tampons while your body is healing.

Breastfeeding your baby can be a game changer in the return of your menstrual cycle and fertility. Breastfeeding releases the hormone prolactin into the body which is necessary to produce breastmilk but consequently suppresses your reproductive hormones. The effect that breastfeeding has on the body will vary from woman to woman with some getting their cycle back a few months postpartum and others needing to ween entirely before their period returns. For women who practice ecological breastfeeding and natural child spacing, the average return of menses is 14.6 months.

Because breastfeeding suppresses fertility hormones and the return of your menstrual cycle, it can be used as a form of birth control for the first six months of baby’s life and possibly beyond. Learn more about maximizing your period of infertility following your baby’s birth and how to use breastfeeding as an effective means of contraception.

Although you can get pregnant before your first period because ovulation may occur, the chances are slim—about 6 percent. Because of this, some women who are eager to grow their family start to feel concerned about when their period will return. If you are breastfeeding around the clock and your body is continuously releasing prolactin and suppressing fertility hormones, it may begin to feel like your fertility will never return. If you are concerned about the return of your fertility because of age or your child spacing plans, there are usually ways to continue breastfeeding and still get your period back. Here are a few tips if your baby is over six months of age and you are concerned that breastfeeding is suppressing your cycle:

  • Start introducing solids: Once your baby is eating more solids, he may not need to nurse as often. Learn more about starting solids with baby.
  • Try cutting out a session and offering a bottle: Sometimes making abrupt changes to your pattern of breastfeeding can bring back your cycle.
  • Work on night weening: Research suggests that reducing time spent suckling at the breast between the hours of 12 and 6 AM may be most effective for bringing back fertility.
  • Be patient. Lactational amenorrhea may be your body’s way of telling you that it’s not ready for the next pregnancy yet and your child’s nursing habits may be indicating the same. In MOST cases, your period and fertility will return eventually despite continuing to breastfeed.

You may feel as though you have PMS symptoms for months preceding the return of your period as your body gears up for ovulation. It’s not uncommon to have some cramping, cervical mucus and other menstrual cycle indicators well before you get your actual period. Then once your cycle returns, it may take a few months for it to regulate back to a reliable schedule (if you’re lucky enough to have one). Although most women will begin to ovulate after their first period, it’s not uncommon to have one or more anovulatory cycle before returning to full fertility.

Whether you are welcoming the extended vacation from your monthly visitor or are anxious for its return, your period will return when your body is ready. If you have not had your first period due to breastfeeding and have concerns about the return of your fertility, talk to your midwife or OB to come up with a plan that works for you and your baby to aid in the return of your cycle. For questions about pregnancy, natural birth or your postpartum period, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center.

Most Commonly Asked Questions about Birth Control after Baby

Birth Control after Birth

When should I start birth control again after giving birth?

Once you are cleared for sex at your six-week postpartum check-up, you can start a new birth control regimen. This check-up is a great opportunity to discuss your plans for birth control, what has and has not worked for you in the past, and any plans for future pregnancies. It’s important to wait until your doctor or midwife gives you the OK as certain birth control medications can increase your risk for a blood clot in the weeks immediately following your delivery. This is particularly true of birth controls that contain estrogen such as combination pills, the patch and the vaginal ring. 

Is birth control safe while breastfeeding?

Yes, absolutely. The hormones that are secreted into your breastmilk are minimal and are not harmful to your baby. You will want to avoid options that include estrogen though as it can cause your supply to drop. The best birth control options while breastfeeding are the progestin only mini-pill, hormonal or hormone-free IUDs and the progestin-only subdermal implant.

What are my options for birth control post baby?

Once your doctor or midwife gives you the OK to begin a birth control regimen, you will want to decide which option makes the most sense for you. Some factors to consider include whether or not you are breastfeeding your baby, plans for future children, hormone sensitivity and convenience. Here are several of the most common birth control options and whether or not they are recommended while breastfeeding.

  • Combination pills: These pills contain a combination of estrogen and progestin designed to suppressed ovulation. They are NOT recommended while breastfeeding because of the estrogen content. 
  • Mini pill: The mini pill contains progestin only and is intended for use by breastfeeding moms.
  • IUDs:  An IUD is an intrauterine contraceptive device that is inserted into the uterus to prevent pregnancy by disabling the sperm. There are hormonal and non-hormonal options that can be used from 3-12 years, depending on the type. They are considered to be one of the most effective forms of birth control and are safe to use while breastfeeding.
  • Vaginal ring: The vaginal ring releases hormones that suppress ovulation. It is removed during the week of menstruation and then a new one is placed. While the vaginal ring is a good option for those who have trouble remembering to take the pill, it is NOT recommended for breastfeeding moms due to the estrogen content. 
  • Subdermal implant: A newer option to the contraceptive market is the subdermal rod implant that is inserted under the arm skin. With high efficacy rates and no estrogen, this is a safe and effective option for nursing moms.
  • Injectable birth control: Depo Provera is the most commonly known injectable contraceptive and has a 99 percent efficacy rate. This progestin only injection is given every 12 weeks and is safe for breastfeeding moms. However, there is some speculation that it may cause a drop in your supply. 
  • Tubal litigation: This is a surgical procedure in which the fallopian tubes are cut or sealed to create a permanent block preventing the egg from reaching the uterus for fertilization. This option should only be considered if there is NO chance that you may want to become pregnant again. There are some concerns about the procedure affecting supply but it is generally safe while breastfeeding.
  • Non-surgical sterilization: Similar to tubal litigation, non-surgical sterilization should ONLY be considered if you are done having children. With this method of contraceptive, a device is vaginally inserted into the fallopian tube that causes scarring to create a barrier that prevents the sperm and egg from meeting. This is a PERMANENT form of birth control and should not be considered if there is a possibility you may want more children in the future. This procedure is considered to be safe while breastfeeding.

Do I need to be done having kids to get an IUD?

No. An IUD is a completely reversible form of birth control. As soon as your IUD is removed, you can become pregnant. Many women worry that an IUD will affect their future fertility because it CAN be used as a long term option. However, research actually shows high rates of pregnancy following the removal of intrauterine devices.

I’ve heard exclusive breastfeeding is great birth control. Is that true?

Yes, it is true--WHEN and IF you meet all the criteria. The Lactational Amenorrhea Method is endorsed by the World Health Organization as being up to 98 percent effective. In order to rely on LAM for birth control you must meet the following conditions:

  • No period since your baby’s birth
  • Baby is under 6 months of age
  • You practice ecological breastfeeding, nursing baby at least every 4 hours during the day and every 6 hours at night. 

Learn more about about breastfeeding as birth control

Who should I talk to to learn more about my options?

Talk to your midwife or doctor to learn more about contraceptive options and for help choosing the best method for you. Consider having this conversation even before you deliver so that there is a plan in place once you receive the green light for sex and birth control. Health experts recommend waiting at least 18 months between pregnancies to allow your body to heal and reduce chances for future pregnancy complications. 

To learn more about birth control options after baby and for any and all questions related to pregnancy and natural birth, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife and for a tour of our Birth Center.