Breastfeeding is the healthiest and most natural way to feed our babies, a fact even printed on the side of formula packaging, yet the best way in which to breastfeed seems to be an area of some debate. When, for how long, and in what manner you feed has become a confusing bundle of mixed advice, leaving new mothers struggling to feel like they are doing the right thing.

But why does it have to be so complicated? Surely other mammals are not following a carefully thought out formula, taught to them by others, to feed their babies. Their little ones are hungry, so they feed them; end of story.

Here are some of the breastfeeding “rules” I’ve heard of and why I DON’T listen to them:

“Your baby should feed every X hours.” Have you ever heard the expression “don’t wake a sleeping baby”? Babies don’t like being woken up, so why force them?  Your Baby knows when they are hungry and they will tell you when they are. As long as they look and act like a healthy, growing child, than that should be enough to let you know they are getting enough nourishment.

“It’s bad to let your baby feed for comfort.” I believe this instinct is there for a reason. Perhaps to make sure mom is there in times of danger, or perhaps to help keep mom’s milk supply at the right level. Either way, I trust evolution. As long as you’re eating healthy, your baby is too. So relax, your baby will regulate their amount of intake to what’s best for them.

“Baby should feed for X minutes each feed.” When I first heard this rule I heard something like 30 to 40 minutes is what should be expected, and with a newborn baby who took about that long, everything seemed grand. Then as time went on, suddenly my daughter started feeding for only 5 minutes at a time. I would try to coax her back on, but this would only upset her. I was worried she wasn’t getting enough! So I asked an adviser at the local breastfeeding group about it, and she cleared things up. Apparently some babies just get really efficient at it, and only need to feed 5 minutes at a time. I stopped pressuring Jade to eat more, she was happy, so I was happy. This was yet another reminder in baby knows best!

“You should try to get baby to drain both breasts at each feed.” Different babies feed differently. Some will want to go on to the next breast as soon as they’ve drained the first, some will be full off of one. It’s best to listen to your individual baby’s needs. For my Jade, she’s happy with just the one at most feeds.

“Switch which breast you use each time you feed.” This rule is to prevent you from losing the ability to feed from one breast or the other from lack of use, which can happen. However, don’t panic! Yes, you should make sure you are not forming habits that leave you only feeding from one breast all the time, but at the same time, think of this more like the ‘don’t always carry your bag on the same shoulder’ rule. If it makes sense to feed twice from the same side for whatever reason, that’s ok. You don’t need a mobile phone app or a bracelet or anything fancy like that to track what side you last fed on and rule your life. Let yourself relax and feel free to wing it a bit! Also, if you need an idea which breast you haven’t been using the last feed or two, just give them a squeeze!

Real Concerns of Breastfeeding

Sore nipples. Ok, so sore nipples are not fun. I’ve been there. When Jade was a newborn she was what my baby book called a “barracuda baby”, meaning when she fed she meant business. Blisters plagued my new-to-breastfeeding nipples, and I got to the point where I wasn’t sure I could take much more.

Some use shields to fix the problem, but these are controversial and I would mark them as a last resort, because feeding too much with nipple shields can inhibit your baby’s ability to feed straight off of the nipple. So what is a good solution? A midwife I talked to suggested Lanolin.

Lanolin is the oily wax in sheep’s wool which protects their coat from water. It’s all natural, and is fine to go through baby’s digestive system, making it a perfect soother for abused nipples. It made all the difference for me, and I would recommend buying a tube before baby arrives just in case.

For peace of mind though know that sore nipples, if you get them, are temporary! As long as your baby is latching on correctly (baby’s top lip right above the nipple, their lower lip a good mouthful below), the soreness will only be from your nipples adjusting to the new situation and will pass. Hang in there; any breastfeeding mom will tell you it’s worth it!

Milk Leakage. This problem is pretty much gone for me now but it was quite an annoying issue when Jade was a newborn. So, how to best solve it? For me, I purchased several pairs of organic cotton and hemp breast pads which work great during the day and are quite comfortable. They can also be easily thrown in the wash. You just have to make sure to switch them out for new ones whenever one starts to get damp, which I found usually happened on the breast that wasn’t being used during a feed.

As for night time, since I don’t wear a bra while I’m sleeping, I found having a small muslin against my breast and one to exchange it with within reaching distance was the best solution, especially for night time feeds while bed sharing.

Diet. You’ve probably heard there are things you should consume, and things you shouldn’t, while breastfeeding. However, there are some varying opinions in terms of do’s and don’ts. Here’s my take on it:

Do’s – Eat as much of a natural diet as possible to give baby the best energy possible.

Don’ts – Junk food, processed sugar, caffeine, alcohol. If you shouldn’t be eating it, neither should baby!

I think a lot of women don’t realise how much of what they eat actually gets into their breast milk, but let me assure you, it does. I made all natural lemon squares the other day and the next day Jade’s poo smelled like lemons!

Finally, note that I did not put raw meat or eggs on my “don’ts” list. As long as ingredients are carefully sourced from healthy, naturally raised stock and are eaten fresh, I consider these ingredients to be more of a gain rather than a loss. There are, after all, added nutrients to raw foods that are cooked away otherwise.

The Benefits of Breastfeeding

Why breastfeed? Because the list of benefits is beyond anything else!

Breastfed babies have better immunity, less allergies, are less prone to obesity, often grow to be more intelligent, and have a lesser chance of SIDS.

Moms who breastfeed are less vulnerable to postpartum depression, more relaxed, naturally lose weight, have a lower chance of breast cancer, and are able to form a tight bond with their baby through breastfeeding.

And to top it all off, breast milk is available free and on-demand! No heating or mixing up formula with a crying baby in the background, no worrying about transporting milk and keeping it refrigerated, less mess while baby eats, no sterilising bottles, and no worrying about baby getting too much or not enough.

Why breastfeed? Because breast milk is nature’s (w)hole-in-one!

 

I find it surprising how “normal” being on medication has become. People are constantly swallowing these chemical compounds during everyday life for headaches, heartburn, depression, ADD, trouble sleeping, stuffiness, etc. etc. In fact, I’ve had plenty of times when people have asked me what I take and when I say “nothing”, they seem surprised. The “more natural” route of vitamins has the same sort of following, with people taking them for everything from more energy to better skin. So what’s wrong with this picture? Here’s what I think.

Medicines

Let’s start with medicines. Now don’t get me wrong, I do think there is a time and place for them especially when it comes to medical emergencies. The issue here is that they have become the crutch that people lean on to avoid facing the real problem. ‘Have a headache? Take a pill and keep going!’ Says the ads, but did that person ever stop to think that maybe they have a headache because their body needs to slow down, de-stress, and get more hydrated?

Even when people do realise that, for example, they need to rest even after they have taken something, they often don’t rest as long as they should, because their body’s way of communicating how it’s doing has been muted.

Ever hear of the rare disorder where a person is born without the ability to feel pain? Sounds great, right? Not really. That same person is in risk of serious injury all their life, because their body will not warn them if they start to accidentally damage themselves.

Medicines often treat symptoms rather than causes. Which means relying on them often means not giving the body what it really needs to get healthy. Continually doing this means not only are you risking more long term damage, but you are also creating a continual cycle of needing more medicine.

More because you are still doing what caused the problem in the first place, and because the body is smart. If you start giving it strange substances that mess with it’s system, it doesn’t like it, so it adjusts. This is why, for example, you shouldn’t take sleeping pills. At first it will work great, but then over time your body will work to counteract the effect until you’re not much better off then where you started. So, you have to take more to get the same effect or you can stop. However if you stop, you will now have even more trouble sleeping than when you started, because you’re body is now compensating for the medication it’s expecting, yay!

Finally my last concern with medicine, it’s unpredictable! Yes, it will most likely do what’s advertised on the box, but did you ever read the list of potential side affects, or hear of other disastrous health issues that have cropped up from taking x drug? This is because the body is complicated. And while we like to pretend we understand it, there is a lot about it we still don’t know. Then of course, there’s that fact that everyone’s body is different!

Vitamins

So what about vitamins? Surely taking vitamins, which we need in everyday life anyways, couldn’t be bad? This is the way I thought until I met my husband. He doesn’t trust vitamins. ‘Why?’ I asked, puzzled. To which he answered, ‘because they come out of a factory.’

This got me thinking. What exactly are these pills I’m taking? They’re not exactly natural. I did a bit of research and realised that for one thing, vitamins are not pure. They’re mixed and encapsulated in various other components in an attempt to make them go down well, taste right, and be digested in the right manner. Some of these ingredients have been listed as harmless, others untested, and still others have been marked for concern. Then of course there is the vitamin itself.

When I was pregnant I got a lot of pressure to take the right balance of vitamins. Take folic acid they said, but avoid vitamin A. Why avoid vitamin A? Because it can cause birth defects! Eek!

So, being the natural person that I am, I started looking up what foods had vitamin A in them so that I could avoid an overdose. The answer? A lot. Dairy, fruit, vegetables, and meat; foods from all of these groups have significant amounts of vitamin A in them. With few healthy foods left in the list, I felt like there must be something missing to this picture, and there was.

Vitamin A is actually quite important for your body. It helps with eyesight among other things. Upon digging a little deeper I found that what doctors are actually concerned about is pregnant women taking too much vitamin A in the form of supplements.

Eating foods with vitamin A naturally in them is for the most part (excepting say, liver), just fine, since in these natural food sources the body is accustomed to taking just what it needs and leaving the rest. Vitamins in the form of food supplements are given in a much more concentrated form and digested differently, so an overdose is much more possible. Moral of the story? If at all possible, get vitamins in the way they were meant to be acquired: through food!

Besides, if you aim to get the vitamins you need in food, then you are also giving your body lots of other good stuff you might be low on otherwise – minerals, antioxidants, fiber, etc., and you’ll be leaving less room for those empty calorie foods which add other problems.

Ironically, when I asked my midwife what foods I could eat to make sure I got enough folic acid for the baby, she didn’t have an answer for me. (The answer, by the way, is a lot of green leafy vegetables, among other whole foods.)

It’s sad to me how the natural solution seems to be often not even mentioned in modern medical teachings. Which brings me to a word of warning I have said before: learn what you are eating!

There have been various government policies put in place, at least in the US, to encourage various types of food manufacturers to add supplements to their products, for example iodized salt, and vitamin D in milk. This is an unfortunate solution to the problem that too many unhealthy food items are being sold to the public in the first place, leaving citizens vitamin deficient.

Unfortunately for us, this means things like overdosing on vitamin A or other fat-soluble vitamins can happen much more easily, so do watch for ingredient labels for what supplements might be added.

The More Natural Way

Vitamin deficient? Unfortunately to date there is no magical gruel like they have in The Matrix that has everything the body needs all perfectly balanced. But really, who wants that? Personally I would much prefer a nice energizing salad that tastes great and leaves me feeling great.

And medicine? Give your body rest, nutrients, exercise, and emotional boosts in self confidence and relaxation, and the rewards will be much greater and more long lasting.

So this is my recommendation to you, next time something isn’t right in your body, ask this, “what is my body asking for? What does it really need to fix the balance?” You’re body will reward you for listening.

 

When I was a preteen I took my first dive into the world of healthy but unpopular choices. I gave up all processed sugars, sugar substitutes, and caffeine, along with foods that had unusually long lists of unrecognizable ingredients in them.

Why? Well, as is a common motivating factor for dietary changes, I was overweight.

Luckily I had some guidance. My mom, like many members of my family, has struggled with weight her whole life. As a result of this and her love of reading, she has read probably every book out there on nutrition, diets, and everything in between. And luckily for me, she loves talking about it.

There are many diets out there. In fact, in my opinion it’s the new religion because everyone out there has their own opinion of what people should be eating. The choice for me felt obvious though. Eat food that the body was evolved to eat, in a form that your system already knows how to deal with, and your body will take care of the rest.

Sugar for example, eat sugar in the form of fruit and the body is happy and healthy. Eat it in the form of table sugar and you run into all sorts of problems.

‘Oh I’m not eating that much,’ you might say, but a word of warning for sugar and all food additives: READ LABELS. When I first gave up sugar etc. and started reading labels, I was shocked at what they put sugar in. Bread? Canned vegetables? Salt?? All yes. What a joke. If there is anything you take away from this post, it must be this: Learn what you are eating. Reading labels has been a godsend for me, even when I went back on sugar etc. for a while, because it meant I was in control of the quantity of those substances.

Anyways, so what happened when I gave up eating food that had been through a lab and back? I lost 55 pounds in a matter of months. I was very skinny then, and over time 10 pounds of that came back to leave me at the nice healthy weight of 135 pounds at the height of 5′ 7″, but I was fine with that, because that was where my body was most comfortable.

Where to Compromise

I did my diet for 10 years before taking a few years off, and now I’m back on it again with my daughter. Whenever making a change to your diet, I recommend making changes for the long haul, because fast fixes are temporary.

I actually feel lucky that I have genes that cause me to gain weight at any slight slip in routine, because it’s a reminder to me that I’m doing something that will affect me negatively in the long run. For all you never-gain-weight people, remember, there are many worse problems that come from eating poorly than weight gain.

That said, just because I’ve chosen a life of no processed sugar doesn’t mean I haven’t found ways to enjoy a wide range of foods and sweets. I totally recommend learning how to cook/bake if you don’t already, because being able to make things like BBQ sauce, muffins, and even chocolate (well, carob) éclairs with all natural ingredients makes life amazing.

For those wanting to join me, a few notes to help you get started:

  • Sweeteners I trust: Maple syrup, maple sugar, honey, stevia (pure green powder form preferably!), date syrup, date sugar, fruit juice.
  • Sweeteners to stay away from: sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, brown sugar, dextrose, maltodextrin, aspartame.

Note: This is by no means a complete list. When in doubt, look it up. I recommend checking out both how they make or acquire said sweetener, and the sweetener’s GI (Glycemic Index).