Everything No One Told Me About Postpartum

Lyla is six weeks old and I finally feel like I’m emerging from the postpartum fog. I expected birthing her to be hard but I was not prepared for the unique and unexpected trials of postpartum life. Of course, I’m so happy to have my sweet daughter but I’m not enjoying the challenges postpartum has brought to me personally. Everyone’s recovery and experiences are different but I want to share my experience in the hope that if you are pregnant or postpartum we can support each other in our journeys.

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Breastfeeding: learning to breastfeed, engorgement, leaky breasts…

Breastfeeding is natural, yes but it’s a skill that both you and baby have to learn. I thought I was prepared to breastfeed, I took a class and read a giant book on the subject. Yet I still struggled to get a good latch (I had to stay at the hospital and work on breastfeeding before being discharged) and to keep my baby alert enough to feed (we had to strip her down to her diaper to feed and use a cold cloth and tickle her to keep her focused). I ended up having to hand express colostrum and feed it through a syringe. Couple these challenges with the afterpains of birth, lack of sleep and a small crowded hospital room-not fun!

I also wasn’t prepared for the seemingly endless hours of feeding known as cluster feeding. Usually, this occurs at night when you are exhausted and wondering how you can stay awake enough to keep nursing. One consolation is that when baby is done you both can finally sleep…for a short few hours.

A few days after finding out what cluster feeding was my milk came in. I was not prepared for how engorged, heavy and lumpy I felt. Not to mention the pain of being so full. However, I was advised to take a hot shower, try some hand expression to relieve some of the engorgement and firmly push down and out on the ducts while nursing to release some pressure.

Finally, don’t forget those breast pads because one look at your baby and the milk can come “pouring” out of your breasts. I was astounded at first by how much milk I was leaking.

Helpful Breastfeeding Supports:

  • My Brest Friend pillow
  • towels, burp cloths, swaddle blankets-anything to wipe up milk dripping on you and the baby
  • co-sleeping + lay down feeding
  • a supportive partner
  • Netflix
  • inexpensive nursing bra’s + bralettes (trust me you’re going to be leaking a lot of milk all over your bra’s)
  • Milkies Milk Saver-this is worn on the breast not used for feeding to catch any milk, it works great and surprisingly catches a lot of milk! It also prevents the mess from leaking.

I’m very thankful for the ability to breastfeed my baby. However, there have been many times where I’ve wanted to give up, partly to get a break from being the sole, on-demand feeder. According to the parenting forums around month, three things will get easier so I’m holding out for that.

Baby Blues

I thought pregnancy messed with my emotions. Well, postpartum really messed things up. Physiologically your progesterone drops (which affects one’s mood) and prolactin increase in order to breastfeed which is good. However, these changes can really affect one’s mental state. For example, I cry when I don’t want to. I’ll be talking to my husband trying to explain something that’s bothering me and I’ll well up with tears. Which make the issue seem way bigger than it really is. In reality, I can’t help the tears from falling out. I’m not trying to get a reaction out of him, my body is just taking over my tear ducts.

Aside from crying are the feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and fear. At times I feel incapable of my role or that I’m doing it wrong. I especially feel this way when I have to get up in the middle of the night and lift her out of her bed to feed or change her. I love my daughter but sometimes I just can’t extend myself any more than I have. This leads to thoughts of “If this is so hard, how could I ever going to care for multiple children?”. I do have a lot of support and encouragement around me but obviously, we are our own worst critic.

Finally, self-care is so important during this period. This is something I discussed with my midwife and she noted how if I take care of myself I will be a better mom. Although I knew this it was a reminder I needed to hear. I try to get out for a daily walk at 2pm each day, I make a point to shower at least every other day, I keep ingredients on hand to make a filling, protein-rich smoothie that I can drink while nursing and somedays I’ll quickly do my makeup while the baby is in her swing and I try to wear something that I feel cute in.

Even though things have gotten better over the last few weeks, my midwife noted that postpartum depression can occur anytime up to two years after giving birth. It’s not always easy to address mental health issues but it is so important to make sure you are taking care of yourself and get support when you need it. Finally, one thing I appreciated was at each of our appointments my midwife would ask how my mood was. Being that I trusted my health care provider I could be open to her about my concerns and she was able to provide any resources I might need.

Bleeding + Padsicles

After giving birth you bleed a lot. Especially in the first few days. This is known as lochia and is due to the placenta being removed. The body has to heal the place where the placenta was attached and until that occurs you bleed. This makes sense because the placenta transferred everything baby needed through blood vessels and when the placenta came out at birth the area has to heal.

Lochia is just another fun thing to deal with after giving birth. Thankfully I have a few tips that can make this time more bearable!

First use disposable type underwear (think Depends, you can get a free sample on their website) for the first few days when the flow is the heaviest (so much better coverage than what the hospital provides). For the rest of the days Always Overnight pads (the purple ones) are great. They have two wings and are super long which provides a lot of coverage. Also, buy some throwaway larger pairs of underwear for the postpartum period. Finally padsicles. Basically, take your pads pour some witch hazel (to help with healing) over them, aloe vera and if you want lavender oil, fold them back up in the wrapper and using a large Ziploc bag store them in the freezer until needed. You can wear them straight from the freezer or thaw them out for a few minutes. Either way the coolness feels amazing, especially during those first very sore weeks.

4th Trimester

Understanding the 4th-trimester concept has changed the way I view my baby’s needs during this newborn period and has allowed me to not feel guilty for putting other things on hold.

The idea of a fourth trimester is about seeing the first three months as baby’s adjustment to the world. They spent the last 9 months in utero, all cozy, warm and constantly fed. On the outside babies still have the same needs to be near to mom, lots of cuddles, feeling secure, eating on demand, sleeping…

With this view in mind, I’ve tried to put less pressure on myself in regards to anything that would take me away from the baby. If I’m stuck on the couch cluster feeding for a few hours and just watching Netflix I don’t feel guilty.

Especially in the first few weeks when you’re healing, in pain and can barely walk it’s best to just lay low. Your family, visitors and friends should understand and will most likely be willing to help out with meals, dishes, cleaning or anything else you need.

Remember babies are only babies for such a short time so savour each moment!

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Everything No One Told Me About Pospartum


The Christian Postpartum Course by Angie Tolpin

Nothing in this post is sponsored. However, I did want to share one final resource I stumbled upon thanks to Audrey Rollofs Instagram story about a postpartum course offered by her friend Angie Tolpin of the blog Courageous Mom. Audrey herself struggled a lot postpartum (her sweet daughter Ember is 2 months old), she had troubles breastfeeding and mastitis twice. Since Angie was a personal friend she was able to reach out to her for support. Unfortunately not everyone has a friend like Angie. That is why she created the Christian Postpartum Course.

Who is Angie Tolpin? 

Angie is a mom of 7 with a heart for helping moms in all areas of pregnancy, birth, postpartum and parenting. She created a course that combines practical advice and tips along with a biblical perspective. She even addresses intimacy after having a baby.

Angie shares that:

Unfortunately, many women are not willing to talk about postpartum and those who do, are shining God’s glory in ministering to their sisters in humanity through sharing what God has taught them, but many times they either cannot offer Biblical insight ALONG WITH PRACTICAL TEACHING THAT HELPS or they are not offering that teaching from a Biblical perspective at all.

To find out more about the course click here.


For more on my pregnancy and postpartum journey read:
1st Trimester Update
2nd Trimester Update (21W2D)
3rd Trimester Update
Everything No One Tells You About Your First Pregnancy (Part 1)
Everything No One Tells You About You’re First Pregnancy (Part 2)
Baby K’s Birth Story + Baby K’s Birth Story Part 2
Everything No One Told Me About Postpartum
What to Eat While Breastfeeding

 

What to Eat While Breastfeeding

A few posts back I wrote about Healthy Pregnancy Snacks and some general guidelines of what and how much to eat during pregnancy based on recommendations from Health Canada and Registered Dieticians.

In response to that post, I was asked to create a followup post on what to eat while breastfeeding. Like pregnancy, lactation requires increased calories + nutrients to support milk production. Since I am planning to breastfeed Baby K I thought this would be a great opportunity to share some insight on how I plan to stay nourished while lactating.

How Long Should I Breastfeed?

First, off Dieticians of Canada recommends that breastmilk alone be given until six months of age and then in concert with other foods till at least 12 months of age (although Health Canada and the World Health Organization recommend breastfeeding until age 2). As mom is the primary food source for at least the first six months it is imperative that her diet contains an adequate amount of calcium, healthful fat, fibre, fruits, vegetables, and water. No matter what type of diet one is on, such as vegan it is still possible to fortify the body with these nutrients. If you are having trouble planning an adequate diet be sure to speak to a Registered Dietician. EatRight Ontario is a great place to get started in contacting a dietician or to ask a question by email.

You may not be aware of this but breastfed babies also require a daily vitamin D supplement in order to prevent a deficiency which could lead to rickets. Formula fed babies are exempt from this recommendation because their food is fortified with this vitamin. Vitamin D drops for infants can be found in the vitamin section of the pharmacy.

What Should I Eat While Breastfeeding?

One recommendation for lactating mothers is to consume about 500 more calories per day than pre-pregnancy. Although for some women this may be too much or insufficient. One’s caloric intake depends on how active they are and how much body fat is present.

As more calories are consumed more nutrients are provided to the body. Furthermore as one breastfeeds the metabolism becomes more efficient. Plus the extra pounds on a new mom will also be used to supply nutrients while breastfeeding.

Overall eating a balanced and varied diet is essential to providing one’s body with the proper nutrients.

Balanced diet: eating an adequate amount of protein, carbohydrate + fat, each macronutrient plays a different role in the body, brain, and metabolism.

Protein: meat, fish, eggs

Protein can increase metabolism and is needed for neurotransmitters in the brain

Carbohydrate: fruit + vegetables

Carbohydrates provide quick energy by raising blood sugar levels

Fat: olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, seeds

Fats keep us full, help with brain function and impair carbohydrates from entering the bloodstream too quickly. 

Varied diet: eating different types of food or trying a new food each week

Try these easy substitutions to add more variety to your diet:

  • using quinoa in a casserole instead of rice

  • making lasagne with zucchini strips instead of pasta

  • subbing in roasted sweet potato for regular potatoes

  • making muffins with half whole wheat flour and half regular flour

  • trying plain yogurt in your smoothie over flavoured

What if I’m not Eating Enough?

The milk produced for baby is made from nutrients within the mother’s body and the food she consumes. If for some reason the mother is not well nourished her body will provide the needed nutrients to produce milk for the infant. In fact in scenarios where mothers were close to malnutrition the milk produced was adequate enough to supply the child and allow proper growth.

Furthermore feeding when baby initially shows signs of hunger (rooting, rapid eye movement, flexing arms or closed fists, sucking on hand) or feeding on cue is imperative to establishing not only an adequate milk supply but to give baby enough food throughout the day. However, each baby is different and as time goes on parents will begin to recognize their own child’s feeding cues.

Crying is a late sign of hunger and could make latching more difficult.

Are There Foods to Avoid While Breastfeeding?

Besides the obvious of alcohol and smoking, there are not any specific foods to avoid.

Caffeine intake may or may not affect the baby. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding notes that “the amount of caffeine in five or fewer five-ounce cups of coffee (less than 750 ml) will not cause a problem for most mothers and babies.”  One must also consider the size of their mug (8oz or 12 oz) and all sources of caffeine such as carbonated drinks, some pain medication, some cold medication and other medications.

A baby that is alert, wide-eyed or fussy may be overstimulated by caffeine. However, in about one cup of coffee, the amount of caffeine transferred to the breastmilk is about 1%. Although it is important to note caffeine does accumulate in the baby.

Breastfeeding moms shouldn’t feel pressure to eat certain foods for their nutrient content. Other foods will also contain the same nutrients.

Additionally, milk consumption in the mother is not essential to producing milk. In fact, calcium can be received from many other sources. Such as chicken broth, where the chicken is cooked for an extended time to soften the bones. Other sources include canned fish (salmon or mackerel) that contain the softened bones due to processing, whole grains,  green leafy vegetable, tahini, almonds.

How Much Fluid Should I Consume?

According to La Leche Leauge drinking till thirst is a good guideline to follow. Most new moms find it helpful to have a water bottle nearby while feeding. As long as one’s urine is light coloured fluid intake is sufficient.

Furthermore drinking more than needed or drinking herbs does not help increase milk supply. Only the baby fully emptying the breast regularly and on cue will tell the body to produce more milk.

I’m Vegetarian or Vegan is My Baby Still Getting Enough Nutrients?

A vegetarian diet containing some animal products like eggs or dairy is usually adequate. although when these foods are eliminated as in the case of a vegan diet vitamin B12 must be incorporated somehow, usually through a supplement.

One benefit of eating a vegetarian diet is lower levels of PCB’s (environmental contaminants) within the body as these are stored in the fatty tissue. Vegetarians tend to consume less fatty foods than an animal product based diet.

What About Losing Weight, Is it Safe to Diet?

Generally, it can take up to a year to lose the extra weight accumulated during pregnancy. Part of the weight gained during pregnancy is used to meet the nutrient and calorie needs of breastfeeding. Therefore it is recommended to wait at least 2 months before trying to lose weight. During these first few months, the milk supply is established and the mom’s body is healing from birth. Finally, weight loss should be gradual, about 1-2 pounds per week.


For more information on breastfeeding in general and tips and advice on breastfeeding be sure to check out the La Leche League Website or the book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (I found this to be really helpful in preparing to breastfeed).


Breast-Feeding Success. (2017). Todaysdietitian.com. Retrieved 17 October 2017, from http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/100112p52.shtml

Canada, P. (2014). Breastfeeding & Infant Nutrition – Canada.caCanada.ca. Retrieved 17 October 2017, from https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/health-promotion/childhood-adolescence/stages-childhood/infancy-birth-two-years/breastfeeding-infant-nutrition.html

LLLI | NB Maternal Nutrition during Breastfeeding. (2016). Llli.org. Retrieved 17 October 2017, from http://www.llli.org/nb/nbmarapr04p44.html

LLLI | What effect does the mother’s consumption of caffeine have on the breastfeeding infant?. (2016). Llli.org. Retrieved 17 October 2017, from http://www.llli.org/faq/caffeine.html

PFC Balanced Eating Part 1: What is PFC? – Dietitian Cassie. (2014). Dietitian Cassie. Retrieved 17 October 2017, from https://www.dietitiancassie.com/pfc-balanced-eating-part-1-what-is-pfc/

What to Eat While Breastfeeding


To read more pregnancy updates check out the following posts:

2nd Trimester Update (21W2D)
3rd Trimester Update
Everything No One Tells You About Your First Pregnancy (Part 1)
Everything No One Tells You About You’re First Pregnancy (Part 2)
Baby K’s Birth Story + Baby K’s Birth Story Part 2
Everything No One Told Me About Postpartum
What to Eat While Breastfeeding