What to feed baby, Part 1: A breastfeeding journey

What to feed baby? 

Part 1: A breastfeeding journey 

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There is a lot of information, notion and cultural history out there to tell you what and when to feed your baby. I’m here to share our experiences -- living a whole food lifestyle, with simple approaches to food, and avoiding over-processed and pre-packaged foods as much as possible. We like options. To not over-complicate things. To explore the wide world of foods and exposing our children to variety when it is safe and appropriate to do so. This blog is for information and inspiration only -- not meant as medical advice. 

For starters, I believe that breastfeeding is a paramount start to a baby’s nutrition journey.

However, I realize it isn't for everyone. Before you throw in the towel on your breastfeeding journey -- I implore you MOMS and DADS to seek “alternative” opinions -- a true lactation consultant, an ENT or pediatric dentist who specializes in tethered oral conditions (lip tie and tongue tie) and surround yourself with providers who are committed to help you make a breastfeeding journey a success (doulas, midwives, experienced family members or friends). Baby does need to be fed -- but parents need options and support before turning to formula or shaming mom for not being able to feed her child. The relationship is worth the fight, I promise. 

Baby Tristan within his first hour of life. So awake and alert!

Baby Tristan within his first hour of life. So awake and alert!

As a chiropractor, I’m all about all things natural. I was ready and prepared to love pregnancy, maintain a healthy diet, exercise and have an unmedicated water birth. Well, things don’t always turn out as you envision. I was sick. So sick. The ENTIRE pregnancy. All day, not just morning. When did it end? About 5 minutes after baby was born. So, I ate what I could -- no restriction. One time, I went to the hospital for IVs since I couldn’t even keep water down for 4 days straight. So, I took medicine. A medicine with side effects (known and unknown) -- in order to hold some food down and grow a baby, a worthy sacrifice, but still not how I intended. PB&Js, MacNCheese, and eventually Thai food was what grew my baby belly. 

I did get my water birth -- but had taken some antihistamines on the advice of a student nurse midwife, which I regret. She offered them as a means to allow me to sleep -- problem was (which I couldn’t reason with in my mental state during labor), I wasn’t not sleeping because I wasn’t sleepy -- it was because I was having contractions every 7-10 minutes since midnight (enter 4pm the next day). So, about the time the meds kicked in, I was full-on sleeping between 3 minute contractions and pushes. Fun. At least I was calm? The antihistamines also caused a delay in my milk production -- so once we were home (the next morning -- thank you birth center for only a 6 hour stay after an uncomplicated birth), breastfeeding proved to be a challenge. I didn’t want to give up. I KNEW my body was made to do this -- grow, feed and nourish a baby. So why was it so painful? Why didn’t he get full? Why did he want milk constantly? Thankfully, our birth center staffed wonderful lactation consultants -- and at just a few days old, Tristan was diagnosed with a lip and tongue tie that needed to be surgically clipped to release -- to allow his mouth to function and suction optimally. It was a scary procedure, and he was NOT happy -- until we got to the car, and he was able to try again. To learn how to use his tongue and lips all over again. 

I am so glad we didn’t give up. My husband and I sat on the couch in our house -- reading the ingredients of the samples of formula mysteriously mailed to our house (thanks to baby registries, I’m sure) -- and I couldn’t do it. Not my baby. We went on to successfully breastfeed until he was 25 months old. For some reason, he wasn’t interested in food until about 1 year old -- despite trying around 8 and 10 months. More on that in the next blog post, Baby’s First Foods. 

Baby Noah, within an hour of birth - with mom and dad’s hands to comfort him

Baby Noah, within an hour of birth - with mom and dad’s hands to comfort him

With my second baby -- nearly the same experience, but to a lesser intensity (this time I knew what I was getting into). Sickness was more manageable, but still all day for 40 weeks. I took less meds and more rest time, probably. I refused medication at birth, and had another beautiful, uncomplicated water birth surrounded by an amazing team -- my chiro husband, my doula (also midwife certified), my midwife, a nurse and two birth photographers (also pretty close friends). 

Since I knew what to look for -- I was prepared for another frenectomy procedure if indicated. My second son did latch better, but had a click during feeding. The nipple pain wasn’t that bad the first week -- but I also didn’t want it to get out of hand. We opted for a dental provider to surgically release the ties. This approach (without cauterization like the first), was again, traumatic and much more bloody -- but he healed fine. He nursed for about 30 months along with solid foods after 1. 

With my morning/all-day sickness behind me, my goal in nursing my boys was to eat a variety of ethnic and whole foods to potentially expose their palette to many different flavors. Fast forward, they are now 3 and 6 years old -- and VERY adventurous eaters. I attribute this to their strong foundation in breastfeeding and exploring whole foods, similar to a “Baby Led Weaning” approach -- creating a safe, nurturing environment to explore foods while continuing to breastfeed for primary nutrition. 

A photo to mark our 1 year of breastfeeding

A photo to mark our 1 year of breastfeeding

Some moms & newborns do experience issues besides those mentioned above. Aversion, food sensitivities, supply issues (over/under), mastitis and clogged ducts are all very common in the journey of breastfeeding. Alternative treatments, including nutrition, manual therapies and acupuncture can play a role in these conditions, when provided by an experienced professional.

The benefits of breastfeeding are many: immune support, establishment of a healthy digestive system, less risk of chronic disease later in life, bonding, convenience, and healing from pregnancy and birth. These are crucial foundations that impact the future health of children. 

Up on next week’s Blog I’ll discuss our “Baby’s First Foods” -- replete with messy highchair pictures. You’ve been warned!

Dr. Holly Tucker