July 20, 2011

A Mother's Milk: Overcoming the "Not Enough Milk" Hurdle

Umm Layth is an American mother of one, currently living in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. She is a WHO/UNICEF Breastfeeding Counselor. Note: This post has been reviewed by a group of practicing and certified Breastfeeding Counselors before being published to help ensure the accuracy and usefulness of the information. 

Hurdle #1: "Not Enough Milk"
It's true that a woman may not be able to produce enough breastmilk to effectively breastfeed her child. But the likelihood of this happening is rare. For the vast majority of moms the right education, a strong commitment to breastfeeding, and a little faith can keep our bodies producing plenty of milk not just for one child, but for two, three, and even four or more.

Since the vast majority of us are able to produce enough milk, the reality of our supply concerns isn't so much about "am I making enough?" as it is about "is my baby getting enough?"

Here's a few common reasons moms give for believing that their babies may not be getting enough breastmilk:
1. He/she cries a lot
2. He/she wants to eat all the time
3. My breasts don't feel full
4. I tried pumping, but nothing (or very little) came out
5. Some days, he/she just doesn't want to feed

Although experiences like these can be frustrating and exhausting for any mother, they are not accurate indications of whether or not a child is getting enough breastmilk. Here's why:

1. Babies cry for lots of reasons. Hunger, boredom, illness, upset from a recent change, and being tired are just a few.
2. It's not uncommon for newborns to want to eat all the time. Some newborns feed as often as every hour for the first week or more. Older infants want to feed often usually due to an oncoming growth spurt.
3. As your body regulates its milk supply to suit the nutritional needs of your child, your breasts won't feel as full as they did when your milk first came in.
4. A baby's ability to extract milk from our breasts is FAR more effective than a pump. Pumps are cold, hard, and emotionless. They do nothing to stimulate to our milk flow, so more effort needs to be exerted to get milk out than when baby is on the breast. Even expressing by hand can do a better job!
5. Babies refuse breastfeeding for lots of reasons, usually because they're ill, distracted, or a recent change upset him or her.

Signs That Your Baby May Not be Getting Enough Milk
When it comes down to it, there are only two, surefire signs that a baby may not be getting enough milk.

Sign #1: Poor Weight Gain
As moms know, every child is unique and every child grows differently. So when I say "poor" weight gain, it doesn't mean compare your child's weight to the plump Gerber baby look-a-like next door. It means compare your child's current weight to his own weight in the past. If he's gained less than 500g per month or weighs less after two weeks than he did when he was born, then he may not be getting enough milk.

Sign #2: Small Amounts of Concentrated Urine
When a baby is getting enough breastmilk, he will produce 6-8 wet diapers a day where the urine is pale and odorless. On the other hand, when he's not getting enough milk, the wet diapers will be few, the urine will be yellow, and it will smell badly.

Getting Mom and Baby Back on Track
When a baby shows surefire signs of not getting enough milk, it almost always comes back to one of the following root problems:

1. Ineffective Drainage of Milk
When a baby is not latched properly to his mother's breast while feeding, he will not be able to get enough breastmilk to meet his needs. This can lead to baby wanting to suckle frequently, mother getting sore or damaged nipples, baby showing frustration (through crying or refusal) at the breast, and mother getting blocked ducts. Ensuring that you and baby have a correct latch is vital to baby's growth and nutrition as well as to your health and comfort. Check out Dr. Jack Newman's latching videos to make sure the latch is correct and baby is feeding effectively. (Warning: videos contain partial nudity)

Until you and your baby have mastered the latch, it's important to offer baby expressed milk so that his nutritional needs can still be met and you can maintain your supply.

2. Restrictive Feeding Habits
Limiting our children's feeds by either overall frequency or individual length can cause serious problems, among which are baby not getting enough milk. The easiest way to remedy this is to feed him on demand.

On-demand feeding simply means allowing your baby to breastfeed when he/she wants, for as long as he/she wants. This will help ensure that baby is getting his fill at each feed. There is no need to force babies into switching breasts. Instead, allow your baby to determine how long he wants to stay on one breast. You'll know he's finished when he detaches himself in contentment.

3. Suckling Problems
Baby suckling problems can be complex and have a wide range of causes, including illness or mouth injuries (sores or scratches), breathing difficulties (blocked nose or airways), and physical complications (tongue tie). It's important that the cause be identified and treated early on, so breastfeeding can stay on track.

I recommend first seeing an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant). He or she will be able to address and help remedy the first two root problems if needed, as well as identify any concerns with baby's suckling abilities. If, after that, you are still concerned about baby's physical ability to suckle, feel free to take him to see a medical doctor. When you do, make sure that your commitment to breastfeeding is known up front so that any procedures or medications that could interfere with the breastfeeding process can be avoided. Find a lactation consultant near you.

In the meantime, express your milk and cup-feed it to baby. Cup feeding your expressed milk is an easy way to avoid giving unnecessary supplements to baby, which can further complicate breastfeeding. Read more about cup-feeding here. Hand expression is easy, effective, and can be done anywhere you have privacy. Medela offers easy-to-understand instructions on how to express milk by hand.

Ways to Maintain and/or Increase Your Milk Supply
If you still have concerns about a low milk supply, try the following:

1. Breastfeed at Night
The hormone that keeps your body making milk for future feeds is secreted more at night, so feeding at night helps ensure that your body produces enough milk for the next day. Co-sleeping with your baby is the easiest way to do this. To co-sleep is to have baby sleeping next to you, in the same bed as you sleep. With baby right next to you, the feeding process won't disturb his or your routine as much as it would if you had to wake up, walk to the next room, and wake him from his crib.

2. Feed on Demand
Breastmilk production is a supply and demand system. The more you feed, the more milk your body will make. Regularly feeding on demand helps maintain a healthy supply.

3. Fenugreek
The herb fenugreek is the only herbal remedy proven to increase milk supply. It's available as supplements or tea. Visit Kelly Mom to read more about the benefits of Fenugreek and how to use it.

July 16, 2011

Umm Hernan on Accepting Dawah from Our Children

Umm Hernan is an Ecuadorian mother of two, currently living in New Jersey, U.S.A. She is the owner and manager of Modasty Designs, an online Islamic clothing company.

Question 1: What was your spiritual life like before learning about Islam?
There was a time I wanted to be a nun because I wanted to serve God. My parents refused to help me, believing that I had not yet lived the life that I was just beginning. Like any human being, I made mistakes and wondered why I’m here. I wandered aimlessly, doing as my parents pleased. I was young, so perhaps they thought it was best for me.

The priest to whom I confessed told me that if I couldn’t be a nun, I could serve God by marrying, having children, and raising a family. At the age of 25 I married and had two beautiful children. I was pleased with God because my wish for my sons to finish college was fulfilled. I was happy when my children were young because they needed me all the time, but when they grew up and didn’t need me as much and I lost energy. Naturally, I started to feel alone and asked God to guide me.

I was constantly trying to better myself by attending seminars and reading books, but nothing filled my heart. There was no response to my pleas and I continued to drift. My children stopped going to church and I didn’t have the drive to force them into something they didn’t want to do.

I stopped thinking that I was Catholic. I didn’t like to go to church anymore. It was just a custom. I still believed in God as One and I believed in Jesus as well. Not Jesus as God, but Jesus as the son of God.

Question 2: Tell me the story of how your children exposed you to Islam.
One day my oldest son came and said, “Mom, Dad! I accepted Islam!” At that moment we were watching the news on TV of 9/11. I asked my son, “And what is that?” He told us Islam is the religion of Allah (God). I asked him if he was sure and he said “yes”. So I told him, “Son, any way that takes you to God, then God bless.” But we were in fear. It was a time of terrorists and we were afraid that something would happen to my son. But in the end I had peace of mind and was confident that God would take care of him.

Then he began to talk to me about Islam and told me what would happen on the Day of Judgment. I became afraid and my skin bristled when I heard the stories. But I was glad to hear him speak of it. His face and eyes held something different, something clean, and I liked it.

A month later my second son accepted Islam and they both began talking more and more about the religion. They told me I had to accept Islam and told me about the Prophet Muhammad. I thought Jesus was the last prophet but I was wrong. My sons brought me books and I read them and I asked God to guide me. As we prepared for Christmas and made our arrangements as Catholics to pray to Jesus, I realized I was doing wrong. If realized that if God was going to guide me, I had to change and stop praying to Jesus.

One day before Christmas, I sat with my children in the direction of the Ka’bah, discussing why I wasn’t accepting Islam. I told them then that I would accept because I believed in Allah as One and I believed in the Prophet Muhammad as His last and final Messenger. My sons said, “You did it! You said the words to become a Muslim!” I said, “Really?!” They took me to the bathroom and showed me how to make wudu so I could pray with them.

Question 3: How did you adjust as a new Muslim and how do feel now being Muslim for eight years?
The situation was difficult in the beginning. I didn’t know how to pray or say the prayers in Arabic. I wasn’t wearing hijab all the time. Even my sons were still learning. I thought that being a Muslim was too hard with too many rules.

I started reading the Qur’an and Islamic books. I attended conferences, especially when my sons were giving lectures to the students in the University. I learned a lot from them, mashaAllah.

I still have my faults; I’m human and make mistakes. I ask Allah’s forgiveness all the time. My faith is great, but not yet completed. The greatest satisfaction of all is that I found the truth of why I’m in this world and what my purpose is. I got married, built a family, came to the U.S., and had two children who, in time, became Muslims and returned to teach me the way of truth, alhamdulilah.

Question 4: Do you still believe that being a mother and raising a family is a good way to serve God?
Yes, alhamdulilah. God created us to worship Him. Being a good mother, loving our husband, raising our children and teaching them the right way to worship Allah are all ways of serving Allah. It’s important for us to be there for our families and children and set good examples and teach them the right way.

Question 5: Was it difficult for you to take knowledge and advice from your children, when it’s usually the other way around?
It wasn’t difficult at all because my sons explained everything in a clear way. When my son started with the Day of Judgment, it gave me strength to accept the rest of the religion easier because I was afraid to go to Hell.

Question 6: How did your experience accepting Islam through your sons affect your relationship with them?
When I accepted Islam, my sons and I were finally on the same path, alhamdulilah. But it didn’t change our relationship because we always had a strong bond. It did, however, change my relationship with my husband. Accepting Islam made me a better person and allowed me to be pleased with whatever my husband gave me. It made me a better wife.  

Question 7: Do the three of you try to give dawah to your non-Muslim family members?
We tried to give dawah many times. At first, my sons pushed too much, especially with their father. But when they learned that pushing was not the right way, they eased up. We continue to give dawah to our family, but now it’s mainly through our actions. It’s difficult for family members to change their thoughts and ways through conversation, but when they see how we behave as Muslims it stays with them.

Question 8: What advice would you give to parents whose children try to encourage them to accept Islam?
I would advise the parents to inform themselves about Islam so they can learn why it’s good for themselves and their children.

Question 9: Is there anything else you would like to add?
I'm happy being Muslim because I  have Allah in my life. Accepting Islam is the best thing I ever did, Alhamdulilah. I’m proud of my sons, my daughters-in-law and my grandchildren. Alhamdulilah, Allah blessed me with this wonderful family and I encourage everyone who isn’t Muslim to learn about this beautiful religion and accept Islam, inshaAllah.