10 Common Breastfeeding Questions, Answered

Common breastfeeding Questions

Common breastfeeding QuestionsSupport for Breastfeeding Moms

When my son was born I sought support for my breastfeeding struggles and found excellent groups on Facebook and in person through La Leche League. After participating in these groups for well over a year, I’ve seen the common breastfeeding questions come up time and again. While answers to these questions are readily available on other sites like the fantastic and all-knowing Kelly Mom, I’d like to share my perspective here along with my personal experience.

Please note I am not a medical professional, and my goal here is to share my personal experiences rather than the scientific answers that are available elsewhere. In sharing my experience I hope other women can relate and perhaps have a more successful breastfeeding experience after learning what worked for me.

So, without further ado, let’s look at the typical concerns among breastfeeding moms…

10 Common Breastfeeding Questions, Answered

Do I have enough milk?

This question plagued me early on, although nearly all women do have enough milk. The best way to measure if your baby is drinking enough is to monitor their diaper output. At first I recorded each wet and dirty diaper on paper, and then started using an app to track it. This might seem obsessive to some, but it was easy to do and gave me huge peace of mind when I could easily look and see that his diaper output was normal. Find out about normal diaper output here.

do i have enough milkMy young baby is feeding constantly! Why is he always hungry?

This is a worry I hear from so many new moms, and I was concerned myself. I called my lactation consultant because my son was feeding so frequently. And then I learned about cluster feeding. His behaviour was totally normal! Cluster feeding is actually what helps build up your milk supply and it does not mean you don’t have enough milk.

My best advice is to get comfortable in your favorite breastfeeding position and just enjoy the quiet time with your baby. I didn’t think I would miss cluster feeding, but once he was older and feeding sessions were quick 5 minute affairs I did miss the longer stretches we’d spend together when he was cluster feeding. Since he tended to cluster feed every evening, I used it as a time to watch some tv. 

I have cold/ flu/ upset stomach. Can I still breastfeed?

Yes, and you should! I am writing this while recovering from the flu, and I didn’t change our breastfeeding habits at all. Breast milk is an amazing liquid – by feeding during an illness you will actually share antibodies with your baby so if they do catch your ailment, the intensity and duration should be less. You cannot transfer a cold or flu through your breastmilk! (And yes, I wrote this while recovering from a flu that only I had – my son didn’t get sick).

What medicine is safe to take while breastfeeding?

This is another question I hear all the time. And, it is an important one to ask because many physicians don’t know which medications are safe during breastfeeding so it is important to be self-informed. There is an excellent database to check – Lact Med. You can also look up over the counter drugs to see if a painkiller or other medicine you’d like to take is safe while breastfeeding.

breastfeeding safe drugs

Can I drink alcohol and breastfeed?

There are huge myths around drinking alcohol around breastfeeding and ‘pump and dump’ is a common term as a result. Good news… you do not need to pump and dump! While drinking to excess will mean it is not safe to breastfeed your baby while you are intoxicated, you do not need to pump and dump because as the alcohol is metabolized out of your bloodstream it is also metabolized out of your milk.

In addition, a drink or two while breastfeeding is perfectly safe. A rule of thumb is, if you are sober enough to drive, you are sober enough to breastfeed. I found great peace of mind by having a glass of wine during an evening feed. This way my son was fed before I had consumed even a whole glass and then I knew I had a pretty long stretch of time to digest before he would need to be fed again. Check out these myths about breastfeeding and alcohol on Slate.

should i pump and dump

My nipples are chapped/ cracked/ bleeding. How can I treat them?

I want to share my top three favorite items for nipple pain, with affiliate links for easy shopping. First, lanolin cream. Lanolin helped heal and protect my nipples when they were chapped and cracked. It is perfectly safe to apply right before a feed and it offered a lot of protection. Second, hydrogel pads. I wore these between feeds and they were incredibly soothing, plus I think they helped my nipples heal faster.  Third, Silverettes. I didn’t learn about these until I had been breastfeeding for over a year. Once I heard about them I thought they sounded like an interesting product but didn’t think I needed them. However, when my period returned my nipples became incredibly sensitive so I invested in a pair and they are wonderful to wear.

Silverette Nipple Protector

Silver has antibacterial and healing properties so they can be used in place of hydrogel pads. It is a bit of up front investment, but since I wear them at least a couple weeks each month it is totally worth it. They are also a product I can use for as long as I am breastfeeding, so I don’t have any qualms about the price. I strongly recommend Silverettes for any kind of nipple pain. Interesting note about them, they are pure sterling silver and made in Italy.

How can I get started with pumping so I have mik stored for when I return to work?

Many women are comforted by a larger freezer stash. My doula pointed out that when I returned to work all I really needed was enough milk for that day’s feed, since I’d pump enough for the next day at work. I didn’t want to cut it quite that close, but her words were reassuring and I only had about two bottles worth of milk stored in the freezer.

Breast Milk Storage Bags

Going back to when to start pumping, I am personally very cautions about creating an oversupply by pumping too much or too early. I pumped a bit early on, but only to replace a direct feeding session. To start storing milk for my return to work, I would pump first thing in the morning when my breasts were fullest. I only stored about 2 ounces a day, but this added up over a couple of weeks to enough milk for my son while I was at work, with some to spare in the freezer.

What do the acronyms EBM and EBF mean? What’s an EPer?

This is a simple but useful one! EMB is expressed breast milk. EBF is exclusively breastfed. EP stands for exclusively pumping, so an EPer is someone who pumps exclusively to feed breastmilk to their child. This might be due to personal choice or latch issues that prevent direct breastfeeding.

What is typical breastfed baby weight gain?

My son has always been on the smaller side. He gained weight quickly at first but then his growth tapered off and even started dipping down below his growth curve. I realized that the best growth chart to follow for breastfed babies is the WHO chart. Once his growth was compared to the WHO charts I realized it was quite normal!

My baby won’t nurse! Is he weaning or is it a nursing strike?

I have dealt with several nursing strikes, mostly when my son was sick and it hurt to swallow (or at least I assume that was the reason because he had tonsilitis). A nursing strike might also come up if your baby develops a preference for the bottle. In most cases, especially before 1 year of age, but also well past that point, your child is most likely not weaning.

Nursing strikes are frightening and can be frustrating. My first happened before my son was on solids so I was panicked about him not getting any nutrition. My doctor eventually gave advice that helped get him back to the breast – skin-to-skin. In the meantime I pumped to keep supply and managed to get him to swallow a bit of milk by cup feeding. The skin-to-skin was almost like a reset and he resumed nursing after a few sessions. The other tip that worked wonderfully was to nurse him when he was very drowsy. I would nurse him just as he was waking up or falling asleep from a nap, and in this semi-conscious state he would feed, even if he had refused 15 minutes earlier while awake.

breastfeeding baby

I hope these notes are helpful in answering common breastfeeding questions. What other questions do you have about breastfeeding, or how did you find solutions to some of these common issues? Leave a note in the comments below!

Interested in natural term breastfeeding, or breastfeeding longer than 6 months or a year? You might like…

extended breastfeeding toddler breastfeeding tips breastfeeding and teething tips to prevent biting

Looking for a milk-supply boost? Check out my most popular lactation recipes…

very berry lactation smoothie no bake lactation energy balls Lactation Granola Bar recipe

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What to Expect from Your First Period After Giving Birth

period after pregnancy

First Period After Pregnancy

Moms who breastfeed might not see their first period for some time after giving birth. (Mine returned when my son was about 15 months old). However, I started seeing signs that I might be getting my period soon when he was only 12 months.

The symptoms that I might start menstruating again were very similar to signs of pregnancy. I didn’t think I could be pregnant but I took a pregnancy test to check anyway!

period after giving birth

Signs Your Period is Returning After Giving Birth

  1. Acne – I am not prone to a lot of acne, but I do tend to break out before my period. That means I was acne-free all the way up until I started returning to a monthly cycle. I got my first pimple in over a year about two months before I actually got my period. I also dealt with acne on and off for those two months.getting period after pregnancy
  2. Cramping – This is a pretty typical event when you have your period, but in the past I never experienced cramping beforehand. Post partum, I now have cramps on and off for a couple of weeks before my period.
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  3. Bloating – I was unpleasantly bloated for almost two months before my period actually arrived. Pre-pregnancy, bloating was something that lasted a couple of days before my period. Postpartum it goes on much longer!return of period after pregnancy
  4. Tender nipples – This was the thing that most made me think I might be pregnant before my period returned. Breastfeeding suddenly became incredibly painful, as I’ve heard it can be for pregnant women. I blamed my son at first but he was latching on wonderfully. My nipples were just incredibly sensitive. Once my period came and went, the nipple sensitivity went away.
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  5. Dip in milk supply – I wasn’t sure I would notice this since I was not pumping at the time that my period finally returned. However, a couple of weeks before my period finally arrived I noticed that my breasts didn’t feel as full and my son nursed more often and for longer than usual. I have noticed this again in subsequent months and I seem to have a supply dip when I’m ovulating. My supply bounces back before my period (and then dips again – see below).

period after giving birth

What to Expect from Your Period After Giving Birth

  1. Heavy flow – Ok, this is not the most pleasant thing to write about but I’m going to be honest here. My periods postpartum have been much heavier than they ever were before I had my son.  In the past, super tampons were accidentally acquired in multipacks and they sat in my medicine cabinet unused. Now I have to actively buy and use the super tampons...

    first period after pregnancy

  2. Cramping – I mentioned this above – not only do I get cramps well before my period now, but cramping during my period is worse than it was before I gave birth. I was always lucky to have very light cramps. Now at least one day per cycle is spent in a lot of pain!
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  3. Lower back pain – This is closely related to cramping, but it was something I never experienced before giving birth. Now, my period brings be bad cramps and lower back pain. Having my period just makes me want to curl up around a hot water bottle for days on end.

    first period after pregnancy

  4. Tender nipples – This was a sign my period might be returning – I later realized my nipples are very sensitive around the time I am ovulating. Unfortunately, the pain returns again when my period arrives. This means I spend about two weeks of every month with a lot of discomfort when I breastfeed my son.
    .
  5. Dip in milk supply – I wasn’t sure I would notice this since I was not pumping at the time that my period finally returned. However, during my period I notice that my breasts don’t feel as full and my son nurses more often and for longer than usual. Once my period ends my supply seems to bounce back – my son nurses less frequently and my breasts feel fuller at the start of each feed.

I have only had my period a few times now since giving birth – I am curious to see if some of these symptoms dissipate as my body readjusts. For example, I could really do without the nipple pain! I will be sure to update this post in the future once I have more experience.

How did your body react to its first period after pregnancy? Did your period take ages to return or was it back after only a couple of months?

Thanks for reading! You may also like these articles:

breastfeeding benefits very berry lactation smoothie quit breastfeeding

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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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Why I Wanted to Quit Breastfeeding

quit breastfeeding

Never Quit Breastfeeding on a Bad Day

Before I started breastfeeding, I heard “never quit breastfeeding on a bad day”. I filed this advice away, not because I thought I would need it, but because I thought it was odd so it stuck out in my mind.

You see, pre-baby, my knowledge of breastfeeding was really limited. I’d only ever really seen breastfeeding in pictures. And of course, in those pictures the baby was snug at his mother’s breast as she looked down at him in peace.

I had a pretty harsh wake up call when my son was born and I started breastfeeding. I had so many misconceptions, the biggest of all being that it would be very easy! It turns out my vision of breastfeeding was really idealized. I didn’t grow up around breastfeeding women and not many of my friends breastfed, so I didn’t know any better.

quit breastfeeding

Breastfeeding isn’t Easy!

Breastfeeding is a learned skill for moms, and for many, it is not easy to learn. I struggled a lot with latch issues and pain. Beyond that, since my expectations were so out of line with breastfeeding reality, I also struggled with behaviors that are actually normal, like prolonged cluster feeding, difficulty with overactive letdown, or frequent night wakings. 

But Don’t be Discouraged….

I don’t want to discourage anyone from breastfeeding by writing this list – and I don’t want to be interpreted just as a complainer (but maybe that’s a fair assessment). My aim here is to share a real perspective on breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is on the rise and I hope it returns to being the norm so we can be better prepared to breastfeed our offspring. Had I understood breastfeeding and had realistic expectations, nursing my son up to this point would have been more pleasant and saved me a lot of tears. (If you haven’t begun breastfeeding, I recommend reading 5 Things I’d Wish I’d Known Before I Started Breastfeeding.)

Following is the list of my toughest times with breastfeeding. As I look at the list I realize each item sounds pretty inconsequential, but in the moment I was thisclose to giving up breastfeeding. I was struggling with pain and latch issues on top of the typical sleep-deprived-new-parent feeling so each of these difficulties merited a very teary call to my doula or a sob on my husband’s shoulder. I’m lucky I was surrounded by supportive people.  

quit breastfeeding

11 Reasons I Almost Quit Breastfeeding

  1. When it felt like he was feeding for hours on end, and he actually was
  2. When the pain was so bad I cried each and everytime time he latched on for a feed
  3. When two different lactation consultants told me our latch ‘looked good’ but the pain was still unbearable
  4. When I would wake up in the middle of the night so hungry I would eat an entire pizza (see my healthy snack alternatives)
  5. When I sweat uncontrollably and experienced hot flashes at the start of each feeding
  6. When we went through the phase where he’d claw at my breasts while feeding and actually draw blood
  7. When I pumped at 3am, got enough milk for a whole bottle, and then spilled it all on my bed
  8. When I was frustrated with pumping daily at work
  9. When he started teething and bit my nipple for the first time (and second, and third)
  10. When he continued to wake up several times per night to nurse after his 1st birthday 
  11. When I had to be sure I was wearing clothes that I could breastfeed in every time we went out together

I Have Continued to Breastfeed!

16 months into breastfeeding my son, I can say the benefits and positive moments certainly outweigh the challenges, but it wasn’t an easy journey. I am amazed at myself sometimes – I’ve gone from actively telling people how much I hate breastfeeding to actively telling them how much I love it.

I am proud of myself for sticking with breastfeeding. My own stubbornness was a big factor, as well as willingness to seek help and learn. But, I truly believe more education and information up front would have set me up for better success, and kept me away from the brink of quitting so many times.

natural term breastfeeding
Breastfeeding my Toddler

This is the main reason I created this website – to help share information on breastfeeding and offer support to anyone else who is struggling. There will always be challenges, but the more we talk about breastfeeding the more we can normalize it and ensure everyone is better informed.

Have you struggled with breastfeeding? What made you want to give up? Share in the comments below!

Just getting started with breastfeeding or working on it long term? These articles may help…

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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.
  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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