5 Tips to Breastfeed Your Child Beyond their First Birthday

extended breastfeeding

extended breastfeedingBreastfeeding Wasn’t Easy at First

If you’ve visited Fresh Milk Mama before, you already know that breastfeeding was a struggle for me. Those challenges are what inspired me to start this site with the hope of helping other moms breastfeed successfully. If this is your first time here, you can read a bit about the breastfeeding challenges I faced.

I wanted to quit breastfeeding many times, and I’m still surprised sometimes that I managed to make it well beyond 12 months breastfeeding my son. Very early on, it was often my stubborn personality that kept me going another day when I wanted to quit. As my son and I developed a better breastfeeding relationship we still had our challenges, but a few key things beyond being stubborn really helped me keep going. Read on for my suggestions if you are struggling but want to continue breastfeeding.  

 

5 Things that Helped me Breastfeed my Son into Toddlerhood

1) Learning to Breastfeed Lying Down

After the first few weeks of night feedings I was very eager to figure out how to breastfeed lying down so I could get more rest. While it works very early on for some mamas, it wasn’t until my son was about 3 months old that I mastered this skill.

Once I could breastfeed lying down, it changed everything! Night wakings were much easier to handle because I didn’t wake up as much from being in a sitting position, so I got more sleep in total. We could also have restful breastfeeding sessions during the day. And, this alleviated the arm and shoulder cramps I would get from breastfeeding sitting up.

Ultimately, my doula had to show me in person how to breastfeed lying down. The best tip she gave me was to position my son so he was eye-level with my nipple. I had been positioning him much too high so he couldn’t latch. The other tip was that I could breastfeed him from both breasts without flipping over to my other side! She recommend feeding first from the breast that was on the bottom. Then lean forward slightly to offer the second breast! This was much easier than turning over and re-positioning my son.

If you are struggling to breastfeeding your child while laying down, see this page from the Australian Breastfeeding Association for guidance.

2) Learning to breastfeed in a carrier

This was another thing I was desperate to learn. I like to go for walks with my son for exercise, and I also mostly carry him when we go out since we don’t have a car. Again, some mamas master this somewhat early, but we couldn’t manage it until my son was over 6 months old. Once we could do it, though, it was another game changer. I was free to breastfeed on the go!

I think this was difficult for us for so long because my son had trouble latching and also I couldn’t seem to manage putting on a nipple shield and then getting him latched in the carrier. I have had the most success now feeding him in my ergo – I just loosen the straps a bit so his head is level with my breasts and he helps himself. When he was younger I would hold my breast in place for him to latch and support the side of his head while he was feeding.

how to breastfeed in ergo carrier
Breastfeeding in the Ergo Carrier

There are a lot of great tutorials out there about feeding in a carrier. Here is one that I like. Also, I generally feed my son in the ergo, but this works with a lot of carriers/ woven wraps/ ring slings, etc.

3) Joining Breastfeeding Support Groups (Online and In Person)

Outside of La Leche League, I had no idea breastfeeding groups existed. However, I found several really supportive group on Facebook as well as a local group of breastfeeding moms with a chat group. These were amazing resources – anytime I had a question I could be guaranteed an answer within minutes thanks to facebook and the chat group. Plus, monthly La Leche League meetings let me connect with other moms and realize I wasn’t the only one faced with breastfeeding challenges. It was hugely motivating to know other women struggled like I did and also to have access to so much helpful advice whenever I needed it.

If you are looking for a breastfeeding support group, you can search for your local La Leche League chapter as a start. Also check with your hospital as they may be associated with a support group. Facebook is another place to search for online support. You can also see my article about breastfeeding support resources.

breastfeeding support group

4) My own sense of stubbornness (didn’t want to ‘quit’) + cheapness (didn’t want to pay for formula)

Early on, I cried daily over the pain and unexpected difficulty of breastfeeding. My family was supportive but reminded breastfeeding was not something I had to do. To this day I’m not sure exactly what drove me so hard to stick with it. I am stubborn by nature but I clung to the idea that I could successfully breastfeed very fiercely.

A secondary thing was the cost of formula and bottles. While this was only a small piece of my decision making, I did keep wondering why I would pay for formula if I had perfectly good breastmilk available. I don’t have anything against formula and I did buy a canister when I thought I would supplement a bit to give my aching nipples a rest. I never did use the formula because I opted to express some milk and cup feed instead when I needed a break from direct feeding. That allowed my nipples to heal and helped my vasospasm pain reduce a bit.  

breastfeeding beyond one year
My Back-up Formula Canister

5) A supportive employer so I could pump at work

I returned to work full time when my son was three months old. He was exclusively breastfed so I had to pump enough milk each day for the feeds we missed while I was working. My employer was very supportive and I was able to spend as much time as I needed to pump each day.

Without their support I’m not sure if I would have had the will to fight to pump because I was exhausted between motherhood and working. I eventually developed a good routine and came to look forward to pumping each day. See my tips for pumping at work here. You can read about the best breast pumps for working moms here

If you are living in the USA, your employer must provide you with the time and a place to pump. I was living abroad but working for a company headquartered in the USA, so I was able to take advantage and pump in a private room. What worked for me was to bring my laptop with me so I could do work while pumping. This wasn’t necessary but it kept me from getting bored and also helped me leave work punctually each day. I also had a tendency to eat lunch while I pumped. This was a little lonely but it helped me make sure I finished my work each day because my priority was leaving work on time.

I’m grateful to be breastfeeding in toddlerhood

I’m so glad now that I’ve continued breastfeeding my son. For example, it has been an excellent comfort for him while he’s sick. And it’s reassuring to me to know he’s getting good nutrients from breastmilk when he won’t eat his meals. Plus, we travel a lot, and breastfeeding him on the plane is a great way to either keep him quiet or help him fall asleep.

extended breastfeeding
Breastfeeding my 17 month old on the train

I do still get frustrated some days and feel like it’s time to think about weaning, but my goal is to breastfeed him to natural term when he weans on his own.

How long have you been breastfeeding? Do you plan to go longer than a year or until natural term? Share your experiences in the comments below.

See my other tips on breastfeeding older babies:

toddler breastfeeding tips    breastfeeding and teething tips to prevent biting

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11 Easy & Healthy Snacks for Breastfeeding Moms

snacks for breastfeeding

breastfeeding snacks

Breastfeeding Makes you Hungry!

I was so hungry after my son was born and I was getting started with breastfeeding. So hungry. Breastfeeding hunger made my pregnancy appetite feel like nothing. I became obsessed with breastfeeding snacks. 

Aside from huge meals, I snacked at regular intervals. I tried to be healthy with my snacking because I wanted to lose my baby weight quickly (and I did! Read about it here).

Of course, it was also important to be able to eat things one handed and quietly, so these breastfeeding snacks also fit this criteria. Here is a list of my favorite snacks to satisfy my ravenous appetite in the early days of breastfeeding. (Disclosure, this post contains affiliate links – all opinions are 100% my own)

11 Easy & Healthy Snacks for Breastfeeding Moms

    1. Trail Mix – possibilities are endless here. Make your own, buy a bag at Costco, etc. I kept a ziploc baggie full of trail mix in bed with me for the first couple of months because I would wake up so hungry in the middle of the night. One note – especially if you’re going to be eating trail mix in the middle of the night like me, try to choose one without chocolate since the caffeine and sugar might mess with your sleep.

    2. Cottage cheese with fruit – another great source of calcium along with protein. I don’t like cottage cheese that much but I was so hungry that it tasted delicious. Plus, you can dress it up with virtually any kind of fruit so it tastes even better and you get extra vitamins and fiber.
    3. Hard boiled eggs – maybe this isn’t for everyone, but I love hardboiled eggs and they were really easy for me to snack on if I peeled them ahead of time. I would boil them up a dozen at a time because they keep for a while in the fridge.
    4. Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches – easy to make ahead and for me these are somehow a total comfort food. It is easy to add variety with different types of bread and jam flavors, or you can experiment with different nut butters (almond butter is amazing).
    5. Lactation smoothies – I would mix one of these up after breakfast so I could sip on it during one of my son’s morning feeds. Check out my berry smoothie and green smoothie recipes for ideas. Do note the recipes contain galactagogues – foods that can help maintain or increase your milk supply.
      very berry lactation smoothie                 green lactation smoothie
    6. Yogurt – Calcium and probiotics. Lots of flavors for variety. It was easy for me to eat yogurt with one hand (ok, I occasionally dripped some on my son but he didn’t mind). Yogurt is also a good snack because you can add toppings (fruits, nuts, etc) for more options and also to make it more filling.
    7. Hummus with vegetables – I tried to avoid chips because they are salty and generally unhealthy. Plus the chip was really just a vehicle for me to eat more hummus. So I switched to dipping carrots and cucumbers in hummus and felt very satisfied. Chickpeas are packed with nutrients and protein… great for lactating women.
    8. Frozen grapes – super easy to prepare! My son was born in the summer so these were very refreshing to snack on. They also helped quenched that crazy breastfeeding thirst a little bit.
    9. Lactation cake – yes, it was hard to find time to make this in the postpartum haze. My very kind mother made me this for me, sliced it up, and froze each portion so I could pull out a piece to snack on whenever I needed it. Click below for the recipe.
      lactation cake recipe
    10. Bananas and peanut butter – this works with other nut butters, too! The sweetness of the banana tamed my sweet tooth a bit and helped boost my energy. You can also try peanut butter on an apple… might sound odd but it is SO delicious.
    11. Lactation cookies – ok, not the healthiest item on this list, but when I was struggling with breastfeeding there was nothing like a delicious cookie to lift my spirits. I ordered from a local baker because I was too stressed to make my own. You can also find lactation cookies online.

Have Fun Snacking!

I hope this list of breastfeeding snacks inspires you a little and helps you satisfy that crazy breastfeeding hunger. Your body needs a lot of extra calories each day so you can nourish your little one. Don’t be afraid to eat! 

Let me know your favorite snacks while breastfeeding in the comments below.

You might like these lactation recipes:

Lactation granola recipe Lactation Granola Bar recipe no bake lactation energy balls


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Galactagogue Foods to Boost Breast Milk Supply

galactagogue foods to boost breast milk supply

galactagogue foods to boost milk supply

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links. All opinions are 100% my own.

Galactagogues and Breast Milk Supply

Like many newly minted mothers, I worried about boosting my milk supply, especially once I returned to work and pumped daily. Enter the galactagogue, which sounds like the word for an alien spacecraft, but actually refers to foods, beverages, or supplements that can aid you in maintaining or increasing your milk supply.

I tried a lot of galactagogue foods and drinks with relatively limited levels of success. As you’ll see below, the common denominator in what did help boost my production was brewer’s yeast. However, over the time I spent pumping, I realized the best way to maintain my milk production was to eat enough. In stressful weeks if I skipped meals or ate too little, my milk production suffered significantly!

What are Some Common Galactagogues?

A galactagogue is a food that can help maintain or even increase a lactating woman’s breast milk supply. This infographic highlights some of the most common foods to boost breast milk supply. Herbal supplements to aid in breast milk production are also available – the most common being fenugreek capsules.

foods to boost breast milk supply

Galactagogues – A Warning

One other note – while most of these foods didn’t have a noticeable impact on my milk production, the brewer’s yeast items did, but not in the most desirable way. Let’s say I had a lactation smoothie for breakfast and a lactation cookie after dinner. I would wake up the next morning uncomfortably engorged, despite feeding my little one 1-3 times at night.  I learned the hard way that I needed to take care not to create a temporary (and very uncomfortable) over supply, so use galactogogues with caution!

It is also important to remember that the vast majority of nursing mothers have enough milk for their babies. I chose to eat some lactation-boosting foods because I found it really difficult to keep my supply up when pumping, even if I pumped as often as my baby nursed. Breast milk production works based on supply and demand. You need to breastfeed directly or pump to maintain your milk supply – galactagogue foods help give a boost to your milk production, but it will not last without regular feeding and/or pumping.

Galactagogue foods that boosted my milk production (measured by what I pumped at work)

  1. Lactation breakfast smoothie (with rolled oats and brewer’s yeast)
  2. Lactation granola bars (with rolled oats, brewer’s yeast, flaxseed meal, and wheat germ)
  3. Lactation energy bites (with rolled oats, brewer’s yeast, and flaxseed meal)
  4. Lactation Berry cake (with rolled oats and brewer’s yeast)
  5. Oatmeal (made from rolled oats) with brewer’s yeast, nuts, and raisins
  6. Greek yogurt with fresh fruit and a bit of brewer’s yeast mixed in
  7. Spinach quiche with brewer’s yeast in the crust
  8. Lactation cookies (with brewer’s yeast and wheat germ)
lactation energy bites
Lactation Energy Bites (No-Bake Recipe!)

Galactagogue foods that did not impact my milk production (measured by what I pumped at work)

  1. Oatmeal (I only saw a boost from oatmeal if I mixed in brewer’s yeast)  
  2. Almonds (Rich in calcium, but didn’t impact how much I pumped)
  3. Spirulina (High in protein and anti-oxidants)
  4. Gatorade (not even the blue one!)
  5. Quinoa (High in protein)
  6. Calcium supplements
  7. Oatmeal cookies (delicious, but not helpful without brewer’s yeast)
  8. Ginger tea (Soothing and hydrating, but didn’t impact supply)
  9. Barley water (Nourishing, but no help to how much I pumped)
  10. Chia seeds (I love chia seeds, but never saw a supply boost)

How much extra milk did I produce with galactagogues?

galactagogue foods
On an average day I would pump about 350ml at work. When I ate or drank foods with brewer’s yeast, I’d usually pump an additional 50-60ml, which doesn’t sound like much but is quite a lot relative to how much I was normally pumping.

I found that I usually had more milk on Monday and Tuesday each week, I assume because I had been nursing my son directly all weekend. So, I would try a galactogogue on Wednesday or Thursday to help keep up my supply through to the weekend.

lactation granola bars
Lactation Granola Bars

Experiment to see what works for you

As you can see, a lot of foods known to be galactagogues didn’t impact my milk supply. Take oatmeal, for example. A girlfriend of mine tells me that each time she has a bowl she wakes up leaking milk in the middle of the night. However, I don’t see any change from oatmeal!

If you feel your supply needs a boost, you may need to experiment with different foods to see which will work for you. But remember, milk supply is based on supply and demand. If your supply is dwindling, check that you are nursing and pumping frequently enough. Also, check your diet. I would pump less than 300ml on stressful days when I hadn’t eaten enough. And finally, remember to stay hydrated.

Let me know in the comments which galactagogues work for you!

You might be interested in these lactation recipes:

green lactation smoothie lactation cake recipe very berry lactation smoothie

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Breastfeeding and Teething: 5 Tips to Prevent Biting

Breastfeeding and teething

breastfeeding and teething tips to prevent bitingWhat’s it like to breastfeed a baby with teeth?

A baby with teeth can put off a lot of breastfeeding moms. Before my son was born I would often say that I would breastfeed until his teeth came in. Once his teeth did come in and I continued breastfeeding, more than a few people looked at me with a mix of wonder and disgust when they realized I was breastfeeding a baby with teeth.

When a baby/child is actively nursing, they can’t actually bite you because of the position of their tongue. Once I realized this I felt a lot better about breastfeeding! A baby may bite during a breastfeeding session, but they physically cannot bite you while they are actively drinking milk. 

Biting can be quite painful!

Aside from the occasional (extremely painful) bite, breastfeeding my son after he started teething was no different than breastfeeding him before. My son also teethed relatively early, with his first two teeth coming in just as he reached 5 months. By then our breastfeeding relationship was pretty well established and I also wanted to exclusively breastfeed him until he started solids, so we chugged away with nursing as he teethed.

Having your nipple bitten while breastfeeding is incredibly painful. Much like I wasn’t prepared for the initial pain of breastfeeding, I was also not prepared for the pain of a bite! There are a few tactics to teach your child biting is not okay and to prevent future bites.

How can you prevent biting while breastfeeding? 5 Tips:

1. Unlatch him or her. If your nursling bites you, unlatch and gently but firmly say something like ‘Biting is not okay. Biting hurts mommy.’ If they don’t understand your language, they will understand that biting means no milk and they will generally learn quite quickly.

2. Pay close attention. If you think your child is about to bite, slip your finger into his or her mouth so your finger gets bitten instead. Since a baby can’t bite while actively nursing, pay close attention so you can be prepared if they try to bite.

3. Avoid yelling or other dramatic reactions. This will be hard when you’re in pain, but dramatic reactions can actually encourage your child to repeat the biting behaviour to see the same big reaction again.

4. Remember, while actively feeding, it is impossible for your child to bite.  This is because of the position of their tongue. If you have been experiencing biting, pay attention as they finish a feed and unlatch them before they can bite.

5. Check the cause of biting. Your son or daughter may bite if the milk flow is too fast – if you have an overactive or fast let down, you can unlatch your nursling as your milk starts to flow and then allow them to latch back on once the flow is a bit slower.

When I look back now, I laugh at how I was intimidated about breastfeeding my son after his teeth came in. Teething did add a bit of a challenge, but it has been very manageable and I would encourage anyone who is hesitating to continue breastfeeding after teething to try it!

You might also be interested in these articles:

toddler breastfeeding tips snacks for breastfeeding quit breastfeeding

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5 Tips for Breastfeeding an Active Toddler

Breastfeeding a Toddler

Breastfeeding a Toddler

Breastfeeding Can Be a Challenge…

My tiny newborn has become a rambunctious toddler in what seems like the blink of an eye. Our breastfeeding relationship is still going strong, but it has certainly changed. I’ve compiled my top tips for breastfeeding a toddler based on our recent experience. 

Breastfeeding my son as a newborn went something like this:

Cry. Breastfeed. Sleep. Poop. Cry. Breastfeed. Sleep. Poop. Cry. Breastfeed. Sleep. Poop. (To be clear, he was the one crying… most of the time)

Once we’d introduced solids and actually had him eating 2-3 times a day, we breastfed like this:

Breastfeed several times at night. Wake and breastfeed. Breakfast – solids. Play. Breastfeed. Nap. Wake and breastfeed. Play. Breastfeed. Play. Breastfeed. Play. Dinner – solids. Breastfeed and sleep.

And now that we are at the toddler stage, it is mostly the same as the above, just picture it with a child that Never. Stops. Moving.

Now that I’m trying to feed a child who mostly resembles a hyperactive chimpanzee, these are tips I’ll share with anyone trying to do the same.

toddler breastfeeding tips

5 Tips for Breastfeeding an Active Toddler

1) Be prepared for rejection

For the first 9 or so months, if I offered to nurse, my son accepted. Without even realizing it, I became accustomed to the gratification of always being wanted when I offered to nurse. As my son gained a bit of independence and ate more solid foods, he didn’t always want the breast. It is still hard for me to accept that even when i know he’s hungry and thirsty, he chooses playing the dirty tissue he found under the couch over my milk.

2) Be prepared for distractions

I heard that it could be challenging to nurse a distractible toddler but didn’t understand how hard it would be. Even when my son wants to nurse, he is so easily distracted. Anything distracts him. The sound of the washing machine entering the spin cycle. The feather poking out of the sofa pillow. The clasp on my nursing bra, which he has literally seen 8-20 times a day since he was born. Something different will work for everyone, but the best way for me to keep my distractible toddler focused while nursing is to sing to him. This way he can’t hear random ambient noise and he tends to maintain eye contact with me. This only works at home, though. If we’re out and about, I nurse him in the carrier.

3) Remember it is more than physical nutrition – nursing has emotional benefits for your toddler

Of course, by breastfeeding your toddler you are providing an excellent nutritional benefit, but your toddler won’t always nurse purely out of hunger. I’ve been grateful that I breastfeed as my son has started to throw small tantrums or stumbles and hurts himself. Nursing is like a magical reset button – it soothes him quickly and lets me get in a cuddle since otherwise he’s always on the move.

4) Don’t worry about shorter feeding times

As my son grew his marathon nursing sessions became shorter and shorter. For us, a full feed became 7 minutes per breast. However, the more active he became, the shorter his nursing sessions. 2-3 minute breastfeeding sessions throughout the day have become the norm for us, with slightly more time spent during his night feeds or if he nurses to sleep.

5) Mind your latch

After months of blissful pain-free breastfeeding, my son’s latch became shallower and suddenly I was running for my lanolin and silverettes. I am not sure what changed his latch – it could have been his molars, confusion with his sippy cup and straw bottle, or even a bit of laziness. I have often had to relatch him several times in one feeding to make it more comfortable.

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