Breastfeeding: The Beautiful, The Bad and The Balance

I’ll be honest, i’ve always considered myself one of those mums that doesn’t enjoy breastfeeding. I’ve been fairly outspoken in the past about how exhausting I find both the physical and emotional demands, however I recently went through a week where my milk supply reduced considerably and at only 7 weeks postpartum with my second child, I realised how much I would miss it if I wasn't able to continue. Have I been taking it all for granted? Or is breastfeeding really just outdated and over-rated?

 

This prompted me to write this blog post, covering everything! The Bad, The Beautiful and how to find the right balance. 

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The Beautiful 

Let’s start with the positives. Aside from the numerous nutritional benefits of breastfeeding ( of which there are soooooo many) studies have shown that breastfeeding has many more positive OUTCOMES too. 

 

Immunity 

Did you know that as a breastfeeding mother you are actually able to pass on anti-bodies from yourself to your newborn baby, helping them stay protected from any viruses they may encounter before their first set of immunisations. All babies received some coverage during pregnancy, however breastmilk assists in passing more antibodies, enzymes and white blood cells to further protect your little ones. This comes in particularly handy if you’re living in a household with other small children, who are notorious for bringing home the latest germs from nursery and pre-school! 

 

Mother's immunity 

Although there aren’t any studies to prove that breastfeeding helps to boost the mothers immunity, in an interview with Romper, Danielle Downs Spradlin, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and founder of Oasis Lactation Services, is quoted as saying that it would make evolutionary sense. 

Downs says that breastfeeding does contribute to a mother’s health, as it can help to protect mums against developing metabolic syndrome, a bundle of conditions, including high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and unhealthy cholesterol levels. In addition, studies have suggested that as breastfeeding produces oxytocin, it can help to  reduce your risk of developing postpartum depression, decrease your stress levels, and make you feel happier.

As high levels of stress or depression can lower your immune response, it can be suggested that breastfeeding can in fact help to boost a mothers immunity to a certain degree. 

 

Mum & Baby Bond

This is an age old debate that continues to go round in circles. With some studies suggesting that breastfeeding creates a strong bond between mum and baby, however others showcasing that bottle feeding families are equally as bonded. Whether there is a ‘stronger’ bond is difficult to assess, however what is certain, is that breastfeeding is a great way for a mum and baby to bond, although undoubtable it's not the ONLY way. 

My personal experience is that although breastfeeding has it challenges, it is also a time when I get to know my baby on a much deeper level. I learn his ‘habits’ and his noises in a time reserved just for the two of us. Alongside this, skin-to-skin contact is known to release oxytocin. This creates a level of closeness that has a soothing effect on both mum and baby, helping to promote a positive and happy parenting process. 

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The 'Bad' 

 

 

 

Ok, so ‘Bad’ might be a bit extreme. That’s just me trying to stick with a catchy title, but breastfeeding certaily has it’s challenges and I’ve experienced quite a few. 

The demand 

This goes for the physical and emotional demands. After breatfeeding my first son exclusively for 6 months and combination for a further 4, I wrote my first article on this topic called, ‘Bullied into Breastfeeding’. I felt so much pressure to breastfeed from not only medical professionals but also family and friends and was overwhelmed with the demanding nature of the ‘task’. I won’t lie, it sent me into a really negative spiral and I found it so hard to see the positives of what I was doing. 

This second time however I am more prepared and with all the below tips I have managed to have a much more positive experince. I think it’s important to realise that when it comes to those long demanding moments where your baby cluster feeds continuously, or you nipples feel sore because the latch was wrong on the last feed, it’s temporary! If your struggling with latch, seek help! It really can make all the difference! 

Mental adjustment 

Creating a positive mental relationship with breastfeeding has made all the difference to me. Understanding that there are challenges but that they can be over-come is so important. The first time I breastfed with my oldest son, I didn’t expect to struggle and physically I was producing more then enough milk. But mentally I was not prepared. 

In all honesty I wasn’t able to really create a positive mental approach to breastfeeding until this second time round with my next son. Being prepared for how demanding it can be, enabled me to relax a bit more and actually, this time the ‘demand’ doesn’t seem so great. I know now that it will be temporary. PLUS, After switching to bottle feeding at 6 months the first time, I realised that the demand is no less great. Actually, the serialising and water boiling and cooling etc was much more time consuming and less convenient. 

Exhaustion

Sleep deprivation gets to everyone and as a new mum this is par for the course. As I’m currently nursing my second child, I don’t have time to catch up on sleep during the day, as I’m usually having to run around after a very energetic toddler! Never-the-less it’s so true what they say, REST WHEN YOU CAN! If you can get a few power naps during the day to help sustain you through the nights then do. Failing that you might need to resign yourself to a few early bed times to begin with. Fianlly, make sure you stay hydrated as this can help to improve alertness and lower feelings of exhaustion and anxiety. 

 

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The Balance 

So as a breastfeeding mother myself, and currently going through it for the second time. I’ve found a few tips and tricks that I really want to share. Ultimately if you chose to breastfeed is totally up  to you and however you decide, we are all equally as maternal! I don’t believe breastfeeding makes you any better a mother, however, it’s a pretty incredible and rewarding experience all the same if you do decide it's for you. here's a few things that helped me stay on track! Hopefully it can help you too! 

Milk Supply Support

A few of these might seem like simple solutions but seriously all of these aspects of natural health are great ways to improve your milk supply! 

Diet: Calories in general are great for maintaining a healthy milk supply. Listen to your body and eat to appetite. Excessive dieting can affect milk supply so be sure to maintain healthy and well balanced diet. 

Fenugreek: Fenugreek seeds have been suggested to increase a mothers milk supply and from my personal experience this is true. You can add a teaspoon of the seeds to hot water to make tea or buy the tablets which can be taken daily. This should help to boost mil supply within 24 - 72 hours. 

Hydration:  Breastmilk is made up of 90% water so it's important to consume plenty of fluids each day. Drinking enough will help to keep you hydrated and healthy and support a good balance of breastmilk. 

Sleep & Stress: Physical and Emotional stress can reduce breastmilk supply so it's important to get enough rest to help maintain a good flow. Making sure you are well rested and getting enough sleep is imperative. 

Expressing: This can take some commitment especially if you have a baby that likes to feed pretty much round the clock. It’s well known that the more you nurse, the more milk your body produces. The human body is super smart, and will adjust itself to produce exactly the amount of milk your baby is demanding. If you feel a little ‘empty’ it’s suggested that expressing during any ‘free’ moments can help to stimulate further ilk production, there by increasing your supply over-all! 

 

Exercise and Breastfeeding 

There has been no scientific evidence to suggest that moderate exercise negatively affects breastmilk supply. In fact, regular exercise has been proven to not only improve blood lipid profiles and insulin response (both vital for maintaining a healthy lifestyle), but also reduce stress levels and alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety for new mothers. Exercising to exhaustion may have a slight impact on the content of breast milk but this is purely short term, has no harmful effects to the baby and will be replenished within 90 minutes.

Make the night feeds fun 

Yes, we all love that breastfeeding creates a warm snuggly bind with our baby. However, personally I’m less excited about that at 2am when it;s cold and dark… so I decided to give myself something else to look forward too. Try an audio book, podcast or even kindle to give you something else to focus on during those late night feeds. I found it helped to wake me up and stay more positive at those times. 

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Pregnancy Self-Defence

Pregnancy Self-Defence

Prenatal women are being encouraged to love their bodies and celebrate it's incredible strength and natural ability during the trimesters. Staying active during this time is being embraced, with many women approaching labour feeling confident and strong. However, as much as being pregnant certainly does NOT mean being powerless, it's important to remember that when it comes to being a target of assault, a pregnant woman could still be considered 'vulnerable'. 

StrongLikeMum teamed up with the incredible Eve Torres-Gracie, Head Instructor at Gracie Women Empowered self-defense program, 3x WWE Divas Champion, actress, wife and mother! 

Prenatal Smoothie Ingredients

Prenatal Smoothie Ingredients

Getting a healthy balance of nutrients, vitamins and minerals is always important especially during pregnancy. Smoothies are brilliant as they can be adapted to meet all increased fluid and nutrient needs, prevent any unwanted symptoms and cure a sweet craving all at the same time! 

But not just any ingredients will do the trick and what you put into your smoothie to get the correct balance is so important!

Running During Pregnancy

Running During Pregnancy

If you’re active pre-pregnancy, chances are you’ll be hoping to continue an active lifestyle during the three trimesters. Once the morning sickness wears off ( woooohoooo)! you may find you have enough energy to lace up rather the rest up. But how to adapt your training during this time? 

Here’s a few things you can expect from running when you’re expecting. 

Running on empty? Here's 5 Energy Boosting Tips!

Running on empty? Here's 5 Energy Boosting Tips!

Ever feel like you’re running on empty? I certainly have days like that... where you wake up and from the minute your feet touch the floor you feel like you’re chasing your tail. There just aren’t enough hours to get everything done, but in the same moment time drags and you feel exhausted and slow? 

Well, I’ve had enough of those days and earlier this year made it my focus to find 5 ‘set me free’ tricks to combat this! 

I hope they help you like they have me!! 

5 tips to Pre-Race Prep

I’m running 10km tomorrow. That’s the longest I’ve ever run in my life. People usually stare at me in disbelief when I say this as I'm generally considered a 'runner', but running events aren't all the same... and I promise, I am NOT a natural long distance runner. 

In my opinion, long distance runners are a little crazy. Why draw out the uncomfortable ache of running for hours when you could be done in seconds? 

Anyway, somehow I find myself on the eve of what I consider to be a marathon. 

Now, I can't say how real long distance athlete's prepare but here are my five MUST DO activities before race day! 

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1. Mentally Prepare

As a sprinter, many people think you're lazy. While long distance runners can be seen going endlessly round the track, you’ll often find sprint groups huddled indoors resting for 10-15 minutes after a quick 300 sprint. 

But this ‘lazy’ nature is not why I put 'mentally prepare' at the top of the list. Ok ok, I’ll admit it, physically preparing for a 10km scares me and although serious endurance athletes will of course train for an event I decided to skip that stage this time and just ‘wing it’… ( tune in tomorrow to see how that goes)! 

Anyway, mentally preparing for a race is so important! Getting yourself in a positive mindset. Replace nerves with anticipation and excitement! Enjoy the thrill of testing your physical abilities. Know that you’ll give it the best you’ve got and that’s the perfect amount! 

RELAXED RUNNING is hammered in to you as a sprinter and I plan to adopt that mindset for tomorrows adventure too! 

 

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2. Muscular Prep

I’ve talked about foam rolling before on this blog and that is key before race day. To put it plainly tight muscles won’t perform efficiently so get out your foam roller! For more reason’s on why and HOW check out my previous post here

My second tip for physical prep is all about Human Tecar. This is my go-to pre-race treatment. They have a great sports massage cream but if that’s not for you then grab a bottle of Arnica oil ( oil, not cream) and gently massage those tights spots in your quads or calves! 

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3. Actually Prepare

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The ‘boring’ bit as far as I’m concerned! But honestly nothing kills race-day like panicking about a lost train ticket or missing sports kit! Get it all laid out the day before. I write list's of all the food I’ll need to take and prep everything in the fridge. Remember to pack your race kit and water bottle, as well as planning out your travel journey and give yourself plenty of time!

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4. Nutrition Tips

 

 

Carb loading. You’ll here marathn runners talking about this and as it feels like that distance to me I’ll be doing the same. Carbohydrates are crucial for long lasting energy so make sure to maintain a healthy diet pre-race day! Similarly, lean protein and healthy fibre is also key!

In addition, don’t forget to HYDRATE! Dry mouth is a bugger for 400 meters let alone 10km!

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5. A Proper playlist

 

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Now some people choose not to run to music but I generally don’t associate with them. They’re crazy. For me Music is a motivator so spend some time planning out a killer playlist for the event. And if music isn't your thing maybe download a good podcast ( or perhaps a Harry Potter audio tape… which is definitely not on my playlist… ahem….. I wonder what happens after Dolorous Umbrage ban's Potter from quidditch)…..

 

Well that's it, my 5 top tips for pre-race prep. Let me caviet this all by reiterating that I've never actually run a 10km before, so follow this advice at your own risk. 😂😳

I'll let you know tomorrow how it goes. 

Skip Ropes | Not Breakfast

Skip Ropes | Not Breakfast

We’ve all had those mornings where we’ve been sooooooo rushed off our feet that the idea of sitting down for a bowl of cereal is far from our minds. It’s 2017 and that means everything is  ‘on demand’ or ‘instant’ and breakfast just doesn’t seem to fit the mould!

People seem eager to slim down but amongst the diets fads and protein shakes no one seems to be stating the obvious; Eat well and exercise more. 

Family Fun

Family Fun

‘Playing’ is a word often associated with kids but did you know that according to leading psychiatrists, Playtime is just as crucial for adults as it is for children! Dr Stuart Brown is quoted as saying ‘Nothing light’s up the brain like play’! and it seem’s he’s not alone. Einstein in his own words stated that ‘Play is the highest form of research’ and, if historical theory’s are correct, there's a reason that Archimedes shouted ‘Eureka’ in his bath, not the laboratory! 

#FTSummit, Munich with Adidas UK

#FTSummit, Munich with Adidas UK

One of the best things about working with Adidas, since joining the team earlier this year, is undoubtably the incredible people I get to meet along the way. I’m drawn to creativity and as the Adidas hashtag suggest’s, everyone embracing this brand is #heretocreate! This weekend was all about creation and I can't wait to share the event with you now! 

 

Foam Rolling Facts

Foam Rolling Facts

Foam Rolling and I have a love/hate relationship. I know it's good for me and I secretly love the benefits but I also moan about it a lot. 😂 

If I'm honest though, It is a really great tool and crucial for anyone active. Whether you're working-out a lot, jogging, walking or just generally looking to get a little more active, this is a must have. Here's a few tips on how to get started and Why you should be foam rolling regularly... 

The StrongLikeMum Method

The StrongLikeMum Method

Yey, it’s here! I’m so excited to FINALLY be writing a blog post on my new site! This is a big deal for me because, although I’ve been masquerading as a blogger for about a year now... (whispers quietly)...I have never actually written a personal blog post! 😳 Don't get me wrong I've been writing articles for years, but now it's official, I have my own personal blog! So welcome to The StrongLikeMum Method.