Sheryl Jesin


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Top 10 Ways to Get Breastfeeding Off To a Good Start

Welcome to the March Carnival of Natural Parenting: Natural Parenting Top 10 Lists

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared Top 10 lists on a wide variety of aspects of attachment parenting and natural living. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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I am often asked by moms-to-be what they can do to prepare for breastfeeding during pregnancy and what they can do during the early days and weeks to ensure that they are able to breastfeed.   While breastfeeding is certainly natural, it is not always easy.   Here are my top 10 tips to help breastfeeding get off to a good start:

  1. Attend a La Leche League (LLL) meeting (or two, or three or four!) during pregnancy – Going to a meeting can be a great way to meet other breastfeeding moms who live near you.   You will hear what it’s really like in the early weeks, and you will learn from the experiences of other moms.  Your group leaders can also be a great resource to you once your baby is born – either via email or phone.
  2. Buy a good baby care or breastfeeding book – Two great books are Dr. Sears’ The Baby Book or LLL’s Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. I found both books full of really useful information about breastfeeding specifically and about taking care of a baby in general.  What I like best about both books is that they empower moms to trust their own mothering instincts and listen to their babies.
  3. Have minimal medical interventions during labour and delivery – Interventions such as c-sections, forceps or vacuum delivery, episiotimies, epidurals and IV lines can all lead to a more difficult recovery during the postnatal period for a mom.   In addition, a natural birth reduces the likelihood that the baby will have to be separated from the mom after birth.  This is very important, as immediate skin to skin contact for an hour after birth has been shown to increase the likelihood of successful breastfeeding.
  4. Hire a birth and/or post-partum doula – Having a doula at birth can enhance bonding between a mother and her baby. This can lead to more positive interactions between mom and baby and can assist in establishing a strong milk supply.   A post natal doula can assist with things that need to get done around the house so that a mom can rest and focus on feeding her baby.   Some doulas also have breastfeeding experience and can help if problems arise.
  5. Know where to go for help –  After birth, have phone numbers handy for your LLL leaders or an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant).
  6. Keep your baby skin to skin for the first hour and delay the new born exam – Babies are quietly alert during the first hour after birth.  Babies who are kept skin to skin for the first hour are likely to latch on, and likely to latch on well.  They also are more likely to have stable and normal heart rates, blood pressure and temperatures.  Studies have shown that babies who are kept skin to skin for the first hour are more likely to breastfeed exclusively longer.
  7. Keep visitors to a minimum during the first couple of weeks – Everyone wants to see a newborn, especially well-meaning family members.   However,  moms need their rest so that they can recover from birth and meet the demands of a new baby.  It’s best to keep visitors to a minimum so mom can focus on two things:  getting sleep and feeding the baby.   If visitors do come over, let them bring over a meal or two, or help around the house.
  8. Keep your baby close during the early weeks and feed often – Feeding your baby on demand is crucial during the first few weeks to establish a strong milk supply.  By keeping your baby close at all times, you can respond to early cues of hunger, rather than waiting for full out crying.  You can’t feed your baby too often, and the more you breastfeed, the more milk you will make for your baby.    C0-sleeping can be a great way to ensure your baby feeds often at night without disturbing your own sleep too much.
  9. Surround yourself with other moms that breastfeed – It’s great to have friends who are currently breastfeeding their babies, or who have breastfed in the past.   They can be a wonderful source of information and encouragement. Sometimes just hearing how someone else is dealing with an obstacle or problem can provide you with enough inspiration to overcome your own difficulties, should they arise.
  10. Don’t give up! The first few months are hard.  I think of the first three months as breastfeeding boot camp where you put in the hard work, and then after that you reap the benefits.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:


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Benjamin’s birth story

This post is part of Lamaze’s Giving Birth With Confidence Blog Carnival.  Lamaze promotes 6 healthy birth practices:

  • Let labor begin on its own
  • Walk, move around, and change positions during labor
  • Bring a loved one, or doula for continuous labor support
  • Avoid interventions that are not medically necessary
  • Avoid giving birth on your back and follow your bodies urges to push
  • Keep mother and baby together post birth

My second son Benjamin was born about 3 weeks ago.  He arrived approximately 5 days after my due date.  For about two weeks before he was born, I was feeling Braxton Hicks contractions on and off.   Everyday I’d wake up and wonder if this was it!  I went to a midwife appointment at around noon on the day he was born.   Before the appointment, I went for a long walk and experienced a number of contractions that felt more “real” than any others – instead of just feeling tight, they also caused some painful cramping in my lower abdomen.    At my appointment, my midwife asked me if I wanted her to do a stretch and sweep.   I said yes.   I was ready to meet my baby!

When she did the stretch and sweep, she told me that I was already 3 cm dilated and that she could stretch me to almost 5.   She said that I may start to feel contractions after I left the appointment and that if they lasted for a couple hours and were increasing in intensity that I should call her.

As we walked to our car after the appointment, I started to feel contractions.   We decided to go for lunch and as I sat eating my pizza I felt more contractions.   When we got home, at around 2pm, we started timing them.   They were about 3 minutes apart at the point and they definitely didn’t feel like Braxton Hicks contractions anymore.   After about an hour, I was reaching the point where it was hard for me to talk during the contractions and at that point I called my midwife and she suggested that we head down to the hospital.  I also called my doula so that she could meet us there too.

My mom was at our house already because she had joined us for lunch, so we said goodbye to her and Dylan and Jake and I drove to the hospital at around 3:30 pm.   It was hard to believe it was happening!

My contractions slowed down when I reached the hospital and the intensity lessened also.   I second guessed myself and wondered if we had gone to the hospital too early.   Jake and I walked the halls for a while, which helped the contractions pick up again.   At around 5:30 pm, Jake and I, my midwife and my doula all went downstairs to the hospital lobby to get a bite to eat.   At that point my contractions really picked up.  When we got back up to the room, my contractions felt quite intense.   It felt best for me to be standing during them.  My doula suggested raising the hospital bed so that I would have something to lean against during the contractions.   That turned out to be my favorite position to manage the contractions!  When a contraction would come, I would stand up, bend over, bury my face in a pillow on top of the bed, and hold Jake’s hands.  When the contraction would stop, I would sit on a chair directly behind me and rest.   It worked great!

This went on for a while.   Around 7pm, my midwife checked me and I was already 8 cm.   She then called the second midwife and started setting up for the birth.  I could hardly believe things were happening so quickly and going so well!  When my second midwife arrived, probably around 7:30 or so, my midwives suggested breaking my water.   They felt that if they did so, right after I would probably be ready to push.  So I lay down on the bed for for my midwife to break my water and I felt a contraction.  It felt HORRIBLE to experience a contraction lying down.  I could barely handle it!   Made me realize how important it is to be upright and mobile during labour.   The actually breaking of my water was painless.   My midwife asked me if I was feeling an urge to push.  I wasn’t.  She suggested that I go to the bathroom and sit on the toilet as that could help open up my pelvis and bring the baby down.   So Jake and I and our doula spent some time in the bathroom.  In between contractions I sat on the toilet and during contractions I leaned against Jake who was sitting on the edge of the bathtub.  I’m not quite sure how long we were in the bathroom – maybe half an hour or so?  My midwife came to check in on us a few times and asked me if I felt the urge to push.  I still didn’t feel a strong urge to push but I was definitely feeling some pressure in my bottom.   She suggested checking me again to see how far I was dilated and to check if the baby has moved down.

So we left the bathroom and I lay down again on the bed.   At that point I was 10 cm and she said the baby was far down and that I could start pushing.  I couldn’t believe it!  The head of the bed was raised so that I was in a semi upright position.   It was about 8:30 at this point.    A contraction came and I pushed!  My midwives told me that they could see the head.  I still could hardly believe it!  My contractions at this point were probably 2-3 minutes apart, which allowed me to rest between them.   It was great to be able to rest between contractions and gather my strength for the pushing.  At about 8:45 my midwife told me that this baby would be born between 9pm.   I was getting really excited at this point to meet my baby.  A few more pushes and the head came out.   Then another push and the shoulders.   Then a little push and my baby was out.  He was born just before 9pm.

Earlier, I had told Jake and my midwives and my doula that I didn’t want them to announce the gender of the baby – I wanted to take a look myself.   My baby was placed on my chest right after he was born.   I was so happy and excited that this moment had come that I forgot at first to check if the baby was a boy or a girl!  A minute or so later I remember and saw that he was a boy!  I was so thrilled that my son Dylan would have a brother and I was so ecstatic to have a healthy baby.

Benjamin stayed on my chest for the first hour of his life.  He latched on like a pro within minutes and I fed him on and off for that first hour.  It was so incredible that he just knew what to do.   My midwives knew that it was really important to me to have that first hour of skin to skin and waited to do the newborn exams.

It was my plan to go home from the hospital within 3-4 hours after Benjamin was born.   Thankfully, everything went really smoothly and both Benjamin and I were doing really well and my midwife discharged us at around 11:30 pm.   We were home just before midnight.  It was so incredible to be back home in my own bed with my husband and my new baby boy!

I couldn’t have asked for a better birth experience.  I feel so lucky that everything went smoothly and that I was able to do it drug free!  It was an incredible experience and I am so thankful for the support of my midwives, my doula and of course of my wonderful husband Jake.