Birthing Center Nurses Share Breastfeeding Advice

Published in Birthing Services, Pediatrics, Women's Services Author: CentraCare

They are mothers and they are nurses. And last year they were part of the baby boom that garnered national attention for the CentraCare – St. Cloud Hospital Birthing Center. For World Breastfeeding Week, we turned to these women for their advice on breastfeeding.

What are some of the benefits of breastfeeding for moms?

Kallyne Harren, RN, mother to Kasen: It releases hormones, like oxytocin, which help you to bond with your baby, recover from delivery and assist in your uterus returning to its normal size. Breastfeeding can also assist in decreasing rates of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and type 2 diabetes. It also is way cheaper than formula and always readily available!

Samantha Schwatz, RN, mother to Adalee: There are SO MANY benefits, so I guess I'll start with some lesser-known ones. Breastmilk is one of the first things that “seeds” a baby’s gut flora and starts baby’s immune system out on the right foot. Even a drop of formula can disrupt a baby’s gut. It naturally contains all that a baby needs and also promotes social, emotional and physical development.

What’s your advice for babies who are teething and love to clamp down?

Samantha and her daughter Adalee
Samantha and her daughter, Adalee
Katlin Beckwith, RN, mother to Henrik: I have personally only had my little one do this a few times, and I typically stop him and say “no.” He giggles at me, and then I try to re-latch. If he does it again, I typically just take a break from nursing for a few minutes and then he typically gets mad and wants to latch back on again without biting.

Kallyne: With my first, it took one time of me shrieking and she never did it again. With my second, he thinks it’s a game and would giggle initially. He finally is starting to show remorse when he occasionally does it after I firmly tell him “no.” There’s no one size fits all for this. It will all depend on the parent and the child.

Is there a good diet to follow when breastfeeding?

Samantha: Eat real food and often. Everything you eat, your baby gets to some degree. Avoid processed foods, artificial sugars, colors/dyes and flavors. Avoid stimulants and things that dehydrate you, like caffeine. Drink LOTS of water. Cutting calories and dehydration can hurt your milk supply. Focus on consuming good fats, quality vitamin and mineral supplements. Quality nursing teas, supplements and bars are great as well!

Katlin: Basically, the nutritious foods you tried to incorporate during pregnancy — try to keep it up while breastfeeding.

What kind of foods should I stay away from while breastfeeding?

Samantha: Unless baby starts to show signs of intolerance (gassiness, sore bottom, skin rashes, refusing to eat after tasting milk), eating a wide variety of real food is best. Some babies may develop food reactions to something the mother is eating. If these concerns come up, you should talk to your baby’s health care provider.

Kallyne: There really aren’t foods you should stay away from, but be mindful that some foods can make babies fussier.

Katlin: Limiting caffeine can be helpful for milk supply!

What makes breastmilk so effective?

Katlin: Breastmilk is great because it can provide your baby with all needed nutrients. And did you know, when your little one is sick, your body changes the make of the milk to adapt to what your baby needs? SO cool!

Samantha: Breastmilk is AMAZING. Aside from its immune supporting benefits, it’s composition of nutrients change from the start of a feeding to the end, from the morning to the night, and as the baby grows so baby gets exactly what he or she needs. So there’s more fat when baby needs fat, more protein when they need protein, etc.

The first milk out (foremilk) during a feeding is meant to quench thirst, and as the feeding goes on, the milk gets more filling and nutrient dense (hindmilk). It also has been shown that when a sick baby’s salvia passes to mom through nursing, it tells mom’s body to place antibodies in her breastmilk that will help protect baby from that illness.

How do you juggle breastfeeding and work?

Birthing Center nurses with their babies
Birthing Center nurses and their babies
Kallyne: Breastfeeding is important to me, and it is important to me to be able to support my baby and keep him healthy. I make it a priority to make sure I pump a similar schedule to what he would eat when I am at home to maintain my milk supply. Working in a birthing center helps. My co-workers understand the importance of breastmilk and are always willing to assist or cover for me when I need to pump.

Samantha: Being prepared, establishing a routine, anticipating when I’ll have time to pump, and finding a few buddies has helped. I also try not to compare myself to other pumping mamas who produce more milk than I do. Watching videos, looking at photos of my baby or even FaceTiming with my baby makes it easier for me to pump at work, too.

What are your tips for scheduling your time around breastfeeding vs. other activities, other kids, etc.?

Samantha: Get comfortable breastfeeding in public and make sure your diaper bag has what you need as a breastfeeding mama (breast pads, snacks, water bottle, nursing cover, etc.). Be flexible and allow extra time for last minute pooping and feedings prior to hopping in the car.

Katlin: My oldest loves to help out during feedings. He hands me the things I need. He even prompts me to feed the baby anytime he starts to cry! He was all for Mommy feeding the baby, and we had no jealousy issues — which was something I was worried might happen.

Kallyne: You just learn to make it work. It can be challenging at times, but we ultimately just wing it.

As a nurse, how do you support new mothers when it comes to breastfeeding?

Nurses with babies being filmed
Kallyne, Samantha and Katlin, along with their babies Kasen, Adalee and Henrik, being interviewed for a story on Inside Edition.

Kallyne: I want my patients to know they will be supported no matter what way they choose to feed their baby. If they choose to breastfeed, I tell them any nurse on the floor can assist them with positioning, latching correctly, pointing out good suck/swallow patterns, etc. We also have an in-house lactation consultant (LC) as a resource. Once discharged, your provider can be a resource or you could call our Breastfeeding Help Line at 320-251-2700, ext. 52311.

Katlin: I try to promote breastfeeding as much as possible, but being a mom and having two different feeding journeys with my boys, I know that feeding your baby can be a stressful time if things aren’t going how you thought it would. So ultimately, I try to be supportive of my patients no matter what way they choose to feed their baby.

What do you tell friends who are thinking about breastfeeding?

Kallyne: Try it and if you need or want help, I’m here for you!

Katlin: People need to know that breastfeeding is hard. It takes work and patience, but the reward is great.

Samantha: Learn as much as you can before you deliver. Also, you can hand express after 39 weeks (if your doctor is OK with it) and freeze the colostrum (the initial milk you’ll make) so you can bring it to the hospital in case you need to supplement your milk for any reason. Doing this also can help prevent needing an induction and prompt your milk to come in sooner. Lastly, do as much skin-to-skin as you can in those first few days to weeks — it’s one of the best things you can do for you and your baby, especially as it relates to breastfeeding.

How do you get the dads involved?

Katlin: My husband is usually the “go-getter.” By this, I mean if the baby wakes up and is ready to eat, I tap him on the shoulder to go get the baby from his crib to allow me a minute or two to wake up a little, sit up, grab my Boppy pillow and get ready to feed! He also is good about taking the baby after the feeding to burp him and put him back down to sleep.

Samantha: Dad can help to keep baby awake by tickling during feedings, diapering before a feeding, burping afterwards and grabbing water and/or food for you. He also can do skin-to-skin with baby while you get other things done or just to give you a break or nap.

Katlin: Support and help are crucial. Just because dads don’t have the right “equipment” to feed the baby, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be involved. They can change the diapers beforehand, make sure pump parts are washed (super helpful), or tend to the other kiddos to allow mom some time with just baby.

How do you stay awake/get motivated for any night feedings?

Kallyne: I love to sleep. But when I’m gone all day at work, I cherish the quiet time I get to spend with him in the middle of the night. I always remind myself that this is only going to last for a little while.

Samantha: Be prepared! Have everything you or baby could possibly need (to the point that you don’t have to problem-solve or go get anything during the night). Think: What if I get cold? Hot? Thirsty? Hungry? Baby spits up? Baby pees on everything? Have it all right beside you. Then you can just diaper, feed and go back to bed.

Katlin: This time is uninterrupted and snuggly!

Any recommendations for special equipment or supplies to make the breastfeeding process easier? Special items to have on hand?

Samantha: Disposable breast pads to start, then once you don’t leak as much, reusable ones. Invest in cute nursing tops (at least for me, it’s easier to continue breastfeeding and also to go out and do things when you have tops that look like semi-normal clothes).

Katlin: A pumping bra to be hands free is helpful.

Kallyne: For some, it’s nice to have a cover up in public if you’re not comfortable breastfeeding in front of others, but once your baby is older you might as well toss it to the side, since baby will be pulling it every which way!

Again, everyone is different in what they think they need. It will depend on what is important to you.

Any other advice you’d give a best friend about breastfeeding?

Katlin: Stick with it — it’s going to be hard at first but just get through the first couple weeks and it WILL get better. If you find that breastfeeding just isn’t working for you — IT’S OK! Just do what will work best for you and your baby.

Kallyne: The bond you create through breastfeeding is unlike any other. Also, have a breastfeeding friend or friends for support and utilize them!

Samantha: Do the best you can, and above all, just love on your baby and yourself. There’s much less “right" or “wrong” ways to do everything as a mom — it’s all about what works for you and your babe. The less you can compare your story to others, and go with your gut, the better. Your baby won’t remember how mommy “did everything right” or all the mistakes she made — your baby will remember how much mommy loved them.