Breastfeeding. Upon seeing that word (as a mother) you probably felt one of two things; "ah breastfeeding" or "ugh, breastfeeding". Its an experience many moms and moms to be look forward to but it comes with so many questions and challenges.
I had the privilege of chatting with Evian Granitz, Co-founder + Owner at MilkSource.
"being able to offer support ..
and lean on someone.."
Photo by: The Motherhood Story
So lets dive right into it!
What was the inspiration behind The MilkSource?
Hello! My name is Evian Granitz, I am the owner of the milksource, a breastfeeding mama to a 2.5 year old, and a woman passionate about simplifying breastfeeding with evidence-based education. I have my masters in psychology and public healthy policy, I am a lactation educator and counselor (CLEC), and a La Leche League leader. After I gave birth to my son, I began to experience the many challenges breastfeeding moms experience and realized how overconfident and ill-prepared I really was. How much I didn’t know and the lacking support and misinformation that existed was just astonishing and at times, so frustrating. The milksource was created amidst all the conflicting, confusing, and simply inaccurate information that exists out there in regards to breastfeeding. I had just finished my thesis on breastfeeding and mental health for my graduate program and I felt like the research could be written in a way that others could access and understand. And here we are! Breastfeeding has become so foreign to many of us who are the first in our families or friends to breastfeed - we've lost that social and cultural connection. We've lost the education from those before us and it is taking a toll on our ability to confidently breastfeed and reach our goals. The milksource became a platform to educate and share evidence-based information with families in a way that could be easily understood and help parents make the best decisions for their families when it comes to feeding their babies.
What is the first thought that comes to mind when you encounter the term "breastfeeding"?
Breastfeeding is a journey. That is my first thought. It has its ups and downs, days where you love breastfeeding, days where you feel completely clueless or on the verge of calling it quits and days where you never want to stop because it is so special. I think many first time moms expect breastfeeding to just come naturally and be easy and when it isn't natural or easy it can be overwhelming, disappointing and frustrating. But we overcome those hard days, we find support and sisterhood, we ask for help and we make it through the hurdles because the journey is worth it and being able to nourish your baby with your body, its pretty remarkable. It helps to remember that breastfeeding is not always natural and easy but many of the challenges we run into are ones we could have avoided if only we knew how to ahead of time and had the right support. In other words, we often can make the journey a little (or a lot) easier and smoother with some prep and support which is empowering to be able to take things into our own hands!
Expectation vs Reality can take two very different forms when it comes to breastfeeding, what expectations are often shared amongst women?
Ah yes, expectations. Misaligned expectations can certainly impact your experience of breastfeeding and whether you reach your goals. One of the most common expectation vs reality conflicts I see is that breastfeeding will be easy because its what our bodies were meant to do. And while that may be accurate (you are biologically built to do this), that does not mean it will come naturally. Expectation: Breastfeeding is what my body was meant to do, it'll be easy. Reality: Baby is born. Hormones rushing. Exhaustion kicks in. Baby is crying and won't latch and you're thinking what in the world am I doing? This is hard. Truth: Yes, we are hard-wired to breastfeed and our babies have certain instincts from birth that help them breastfeed. However. You and your baby have never breastfed before. You're both brand new at this and it takes some practice. It takes preparation to learn how to position yourself and baby, how to achieve that deep latch which is important for milk removal and comfort. The biggest thing you can do to avoid misaligned expectations is to get informed prenatally. Take a breastfeeding class. Talk to other moms. Visit a local La Leche League meeting while pregnant to connect with other breastfeeding moms and supporters and hear their realities. Try to be flexible, everyone will experience breastfeeding differently even from baby to baby and your journey does not have to look like your friends or family.
Our bodies are created to provide nourishment for our babes, what seems to be the most common road-block or fear to attempting breastfeeding amongst first-time mothers?
The most common fears I've seen are not having enough milk and pain. We are constantly doubting that our babies are getting enough because, unlike a bottle, we cannot easily measure out how much milk they're getting from our breasts. It's that inability to see under the skin and count the ounces that gets a lot of parents very anxious about breastfeeding and causes many to introduce formula even when everything is going okay. This is where that prenatal prep of knowing to look for key signs like diaper output and weight gain to gauge how much baby is getting is very beneficial. With pain, we hear the horror stories about how our friend's nipple was cracked and bleeding or how much pain someone was in so they stopped breastfeeding. The truth is, breastfeeding will be uncomfortable and for some it can be very uncomfortable in the first few weeks and we have to remember this is the first time a baby is constantly sucking on our breasts and it can take some practice to get baby to latch on deep enough. Early soreness is expected and can be reduced by practicing latch and proper nipple care. But breastfeeding should never be painful. The cracking and bleeding is not what breastfeeding should feel like and in those situations, professional help by a lactation consultant can save the breastfeeding relationship.
How does a mother know she is nursing her child correctly?
Three indicators that things are going well - no pain, sufficient weight gain and diaper output.
1. Breastfeeding should be pain free. If baby is latched on properly and deep enough, your nipple will hit the soft palate and you should not feel any discomfort or pain. If you're feeling pain, check the latch as this is usually the cause. If latch looks good an IBCLC can help you navigate what else could be causing the pain.
2. Watch baby's weight. All babies will lose weight after birth, around 7% is the norm but this can be slightly higher if you've had a lot of fluids (i.e. epidural or cesarean) during delivery. Around 3-5 days your milk increases in volume and baby's weight should start climbing back up. By 2 weeks, baby should be back to birth weight and after this you're aiming for a minimum of .5 oz / day gained but many babies will gain around .7 oz or more when breastfeeding is going well. Make sure you're measuring baby using the World Health Organization (WHO) growth chart as breastfed babies do grow differently from formula fed babies so we want to measure them on the chart that applies.
3. Diapers should be age appropriate. Day 1, baby should have 1 wet / 1 dirty. Day 2, 2 wet/ 2 dirty. Etc. By day 6 and onwards you're looking for a minimum of 6 wet and 3-5 dirty diapers. After 6 weeks, their stooling patterns may change a bit and they may poop less often - this is normal.
What are 5 "breastfeeding survival"items you would recommend?
1. Nipple balm. This can be one like Earth Mama Angel Baby made for nipples specifically or can be as simple as some coconut oil. Many do not need to be wiped off so use regularly (ideally after every feeding).
2. Heating/Cooling pad. This can be as simple as a sock filled with rice and some ice wrapped in a towel but they also make pads specifically for breastfeeding. Cold is great for engorgement. Warmth is great for helping soften any clogs, increasing stimulation and encouraging a let down (milk release).
3. Hydrogels. Thin little silicone sheets you can place in the fridge and then on your nipple between feedings to soothe soreness in the early weeks.
4. Pillows/swaddles. Pillows will help support your body and bring baby up to breast level so you're not straining to feed and baby isn't struggling to stay attached while feeding. You do not need a special nursing-specific pillow. A normal pillow will do if you turn it on its side so its taller. If you do use a nursing pillow, you may even want an additional pillow underneath as many nursing pillows may still be too low to feed comfortably on. Swaddles is my secondary tool for support. Roll up a swaddle. Place it under your breast if you have large breasts, place it under your wrists if you have soreness, place it behind baby's back when side lying or cradle for extra support.
5. Plenty of food and water. While you do not need any special foods or excessive amounts of water to breastfeed, ensuring we take care of ourselves allows us to have the fuel we need to continue making milk. We burn 500+ calories extra a day, milk making is hard work so don't forget to eat (minimum of 1800 calories a day) and drink to fuel yourself.
I have a 1 year old, he eats solids, (when he feels like it) but no where close to enough to survive without me nursing him, what are your thoughts on nursing past the first year?
Breastfeeding never stops being beneficial to a developing child! Research tells us that by a year, the child's immune system is only 60% developed and by 3 years old their brain is only 80% developed - so all of those amazing components in breastmilk, well, they're still pretty important beyond a year. Organizations like the World Health Organization recommend exclusive breastfeeding for six months and complementary breastfeeding (with solids) for two years and as long as mom and baby desire. Culturally, weaning ages in traditional societies range from 2-4 years old and this can be even longer in some cultures. So my point - It is completely normal for majority of calories and nutrients to still come from breast milk at this age and they're incredibly beneficial even beyond a year. Our breastmilk continues to protect their body, their immune system and help their body and brain grow.
What resources do you offer to help mothers?
At the milksource, moms can find education both prenatally and postpartum to help navigate each stage of the breastfeeding journey. Classes are currently being updated and simplified to make the learning experience even smoother - a lot of exciting new things coming to milksource soon!
This was incredibly insightful and as a mother who is still on a breastfeeding journey I am so grateful to have resources like the milksource
I hope this was helpful for you as well, please share with a mommy friend, or two!
I'd love to hear your breastfeeding experiences- how was it for you and did you nurse passed one year?