I know, I know. Why only black mamas?
The contents within this post won’t only apply to black mothers. I think all parents (yes including you, dads!) can benefit from these tips. However, it is of no surprise that I am a black mother (of two now- might I add) ; and my audience is majority black women anyway. Furthermore, a quick google search of black breastfeeding women will show you alarming disparities in the rates- 85% of white mothers breastfeed vs. 69% of black women breastfeed.
I’m not well versed on the reason for this 16% racial disparity- please reference this CDC article. But what I do know is that black mothers need far more help in the breastfeeding department than mothers of any other race. I can also only speak about my own experiences breastfeeding. In this article with the Happiest Baby, I shared how difficult it was for me to breastfeed Chloe; and why I chose to give up in less than one month.
With my second pregnancy, I made it a goal to ‘redeem’ myself, so-to-speak, and pursue exclusive breastfeeding. I was under the impression that the birth of my second child would go according to plan, and I’d be with my baby immediately after delivery, giving me time to bond and introduce the breast immediately.
Those plans did not come to fruition ( Romans 8:28; more on my 2nd child’s birth story later), but that didn’t stop me from doing everything I needed to do to ensure my daughter had a fighting chance at the breasteses! (Yes pronounce it just as it was spelled lol).
This list is 7 things I’ve done and have been doing to be successful at exclusively breastfeeding.
- Hand Express Breast Milk
While at the hospital, one of my patient care associates asked if I had plans to breast feed. When I told her that I did but was not producing milk yet, she suggested I watch a video by Dr. Jane Morton. This video is essentially a tutorial on how to hand express the colostrum that your breasts produce during the first few days of birth.
I was able to hand express a few drops of colostrum and bring it up to my baby in the NICU because of what I learned from Dr. Morton’s video. And in doing so, although I couldn’t breastfeed, I at least felt like I was involved in my daughter’s nutrition and health!
2. See a Lactation Specialist
You should take advantage of the lactation specialists available to you at the hospital and/or at your practice. Even if you think you know how to breastfeed and are unlikely to have any issues, you should still hear what they have to say! I made sure I met with every lactation specialist from each shift while admitted at the hospital. I’m sure the lactation department knew me on a first name basis. But I didn’t care because I was so determined to breastfeed my second born.
3. Contact/ Pick up all follow up calls from Lactation Department
Not every hospital does a great job following up with mothers to see how she and baby are doing. I know with my first born nobody called me to follow up. But with my second daughter, someone from the lactation department called me to check on me and breastfeeding. I shared some latching struggles I was having and she was able to encourage and support me over the phone. That 15 minute conversation really helped me with my issues. I encourage all mothers to respond to follow up calls or reach out to lactation specialists if you have any issues.
4. Hydrate and Eat
This time may be a no-brainer but it isn’t until you’re recovering from labor and birth that you realize how difficult it is to really drink water and eat often. For starters, you may not even have the energy or time to eat and drink. And you also may not have the appetite. But without hydrating and eating, you’ll never see an increase in milk production. I recommend getting a flask/ water bottle and leaving it by your night stand. You can drink water with every feed and try to eat healthy snacks throughout the day if you’re not up for a full meal!
5. Make sure you’re using your pumps properly
During the first week home, I preferred using my manual pump over my electric pump because I was able to pump more with the manual pump. But one conversation with my doula made me realize I wasn’t using my electric pump effectively. I decided to watch tutorials on Youtube and they helped me a great deal. I highly suggest doing the same and ensuring your settings and flanges are accurate.
6. Drink Body Armor Drinks
My hairstylist suggested I drink body armor which is great for increasing milk supply. I checked out the reviews and ordered on Amazon! After two days, I went from pumping 3-4 ounces each session to 5-8 ounces! These drinks are packed with electrolytes, vitamins and natural flavors. I love the peach mango flavor; and it seems most people do as well!
7. Pump With Every Feed If Possible
It is pretty difficult to determine how much milk your baby is getting and how much you’re producing while nursing. I suggest pumping after every nursing session. In doing so, your body is assuming your baby needs more milk so it will produce more milk. You can also store the milk you get from pumping in the freezer, creating a reserve for the time you might return back to work!
If these tips are helpful to you, make sure to share this article on social media or with friends and loved ones!