So I figured it was about time to go ahead and dedicate a post to breastfeeding. Cooper is 11 weeks old and still exclusively breastfed :)
For us, it works. I realize that for others, it may not - and I definitely don't judge people one way or another. But I feel very blessed I can breastfeed, despite my feelings on it pre-baby.
I'm ashamed to admit it, but I'd hoped (while still pregnant) that something would come up and I would be unable to continue breastfeeding. Honestly, I didn't see myself going much past two months. Around one month, I figured I would aim to do it for six months. Now, I'm thinking that it would be awesome to go a full year. And I constantly freak out about supply issues, although I haven't had to dip into my freezer supply yet, and typically freeze at least one five-ounce bag a week. It's not a lot, but it helps
Honestly, I wouldn't have even breastfed in the first place if it weren't for hubby's urging. We were both formula babies and turned out yet fine. I didn't want to be attached to my kid at all times. It just plain grossed me out. In the beginning, it hurt.
But I'm a good wifey and promised hubby I would try. Right on, I LOVED the bond/connection I had with Cooper. I still get a great feeling when someone else is holding him and he's hungry because only I can calm him in that way. It's actually kind of a mischevious feeling, haha.
I had Cooper on a Wednesday and we came home on Friday. We didn't seem to have any issues in the hospital. There, they gave me some soothies and had me begin wearing them early on (mamas, you must get these! They are expensive if you buy them, but worth it!). He was a very good, efficient nurser and really only went every four or so hours. I was a bit concerned about this because "they" say babies should eat eight to 12 times a day, but the doctors said he was gaining just fine, so keep doing what we were doing.
As luck would have it, my milk came in on Saturday, our first day without the help of nurses. Holy crap, that was bad. I had no idea what to do. Of course, that's also when my n*pples began to hurt. Seriously, every time Cooper latched on, it felt like a million or so needles were being stuck. The cream didn't even seem to work (later on, it did - and I quit using it between two and three weeks.)
Our hospital really encourages breastfeeding. A lactation consultant visited with us both days in the hospital, and actually sent me home with a pad full of pads, more soothies, etc. (Tip on the soothies - have two sets to alternate and keep one in the fridge!) Anyhow, the LCs have a cell phone they encourage you to call at any time. So I call, in tears. And end up getting the voicemail. I was in so much pain, so frustrated and so hormonal, I was about to begin pumping only.
While I waiting for her to call back, I pulled out the pump and got busy. Only to realize later I should have sterilized everything first so I had to pour about 8 ounces down the drain. Yeah, that was bad.
Once the LC called back, she gave me awesome advice. She encouraged me to wait another week and promised it would get better soon - probably in just a few days. She also told me that if I only pumped, I would in no way be able to produce enough and would have to start supplementing soon.
So that's what I did - toughed it out. And it did get better. Soon, the only issue was the cluster feeding in the evening, but that went away around four weeks. It was tough though - I would feed and burp, and in no time he wanted to eat again. No matter what time I went to take a bath, he'd decide he was starving and wanted to eat RIGHT NOW.
I also pumped A LOT during those first couple weeks, figuring it would never hurt to have extra in the freezer.
We introduced a bottle when Cooper was just over one month old. I was nervous but he did GREAT and has no problems swapping between boob and bottle. Until I went back to work, he just had a bottle of pumped milk at bedtime every night, which was a great way to make sure he was getting enough to eat and getting him used to the bottle.
By about four weeks, my supply leveled off a bit. Then the week before I went back to work, I realized I needed to make sure I would continue to make enough, since it seemed Coop was a pretty big eater - right now, people are shocked I'm able to keep up with him when they hear how much he takes in a bottle.
I did some research (and my LC later confirmed this was the best process) to see what I should do. Basically, it recommended pumping after EVERY feeding, even if it was only an ounce or less. Breastfeeding is such a supply and demand thing, and by emptying, you tell your body you are out and to make more.
So here's our loose schedule:
Morning - nurse (typically 6:30 a.m., but whenever he woke. Sometimes twice if he woke in middle of nice.) Pump after feeding.
Pump 3 times while at work. Usually 9:30, noon and 2:30. Up to this week, he would typically finish three 5 oz. bottles while at the sitters - around 9:30-10 a.m.; 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Luckily, I seem to produce 4 to 5 ounces at each feeding so I can keep up. This week, however, we bumped him up to 6 ounce bottles because he was getting fussy about a half hour later. I'm taking three 6 ounce bottles but it seems he is only finishing two and then maybe another 3 ounces as a snack.
Nurse at home (usually around 6-7 p.m.)
Nurse for bedtime feeding - typically 9 - 10 p.m., as we wait three hours between this feeding. For the past couple weeks, I've been empty but he's still been hungry, so I've also been giving him 2-3 ounces from a bottle which seems to do the trick - he's full and happy and sleeps eight to nine hours.
Weekends are a bit different, as Coop seems to like to eat more often when he's around me. It's often every 2-3 hours.
When we began adding the bottle of pumped milk in addition to nursing at bedtime, it seemed Cooper was consuming more than I was pumping most days. So I began taking Fenugreek (two pills three times a day) and that has really helped. I'd say that now I'm pumping an extra 4 to 5 oz. per day now. I know I could have gotten up around 2 a.m. to pump as well and I would if I had to, but it's hard to get up just to pump when your baby is sleeping through the night. And now, I think I pump as much after he eats in the morning as I would in another session anyhow.
Breastfeeding definitely isn't all sunshine and daisies though. I constantly worry whether he is getting enough, whether I am eating healthy, if something I eat will upset his tummy, etc. I felt horrible at his two week checkup when he was still 2 ounces below birth weight. The doctor tried to reassure me, but still... Even now, that I see he is growing, I'm still concerned. We know a baby born two days after Coop who weighed about two lbs. less who is now 1 lb. more! But, this other child is a formula baby and I'm told they gain faster. So I'm trying to let it go and be more confident.
In terms of food, I actually eat pretty much whatever I want, but still stay away from fish that may contain mercury. I down at least four bottles of water daily. I do drink alcohol, but only about one drink every three hours. A blog friend sent me an article and I have the link somewhere, if anyone is interested, that backs up why this is OK.
But there are so many plusses. I mean, first off, you don't have to worry about contamination. Next off, it's great for postpartum weight loss - I totally credit breastfeeding for me losing all the baby weight in 1.5 weeks and being back in my regular jeans in two weeks. It's easy too - I know how much I hate washing those damn bottles and all their parts every night (we use Dr. Browns) so I'd really hate doing more - not to mention how, if he does need a middle-of-the-night feeding, I can have him fed in less time than it would take to heat a bottle. (Thanks for bringing me to reality on this, Ashley.)
And, uh, what about the fact that it's FREE? So happy we aren't spending 100 bucks a month just on formula. Most of all I know, without a doubt, that it's the best thing for my son and formulated to his needs - it really is amazing that our bodies can not only make milk, but how it changes over time.
I've been working on this post for awhile. I will indicate that last week, I believe I had a clogged duct. Once again, our LC came to the rescue and simply ordered me to pump more often (if possible) so I could keep things moving.
Oh, did I mention how GREAT my employer is when it comes to breastfeeding? Luckily, I am in an office with no windows, so I can simply close the door. And, I have a fridge in my office. But our employee handbook states that nursing mothers will not only be given the time to pump, without penalty, but also the space to do so if they don't have office space like mine. My LC says to consider myself very fortunate for this.
I always wanted to know what others used, so here's my rundown:
- Nursing bras. I bought two sleep bras and one "real" one that was kinda stretchy before he arrived. About a week before I went back to work, I bought two more. All from JC Penney and I like all of them.
- 2 nursing camis - one black, one white, and I'm constantly febreezing them :) I LOVE these. But now that I'm a bit more experienced, I can do the regular camis with a nursing bra beneath.
- I have a Medela double electric breast pump. Our LCs recommend these most. I can't find a link to my specific model because I actually ordered it through our local health department's WIC office. Here, those in a lower income class can "rent" pumps for however long they need and simply have to repay the deposit. Well we made too much money to qualify, but they said they would order me a pump and I would just have to pay the cost! Mine is similar to the Medela Pump In Style Advanced, it just has the cooler in the big bag and is khaki, not black. And I paid less than half of what the similar pump cost at Target! I will note that other pharmacies in our area rent pumps and while they are the commercial-grade ones, it would have cost me as much to rent one for 12 weeks as I paid for mine. And I would have had to buy new tubing, etc. So I'm already ahead :)
- Medela pump and save bags. I was one of those who thought if I had a Medela pump, everything should be! So far, I like these, although I have heard complaints. I think before I buy more, I'm going to thaw a couple bags to make sure they do OK. If not, I've heard great things about Lansinoh and Honeysuckle-brand bags.
- N*pple cream. The hospital gave me samples of Lansinoh and Medela and I preferred the Medela.
- Nursing pads. I got several samples. Guess what? I didn't like the Medela. I prefer the Lansinoh. They stick in place and stay much smoother. Although nowdays I don't really leak so I don't wear them anymore. I looked into getting washable, reusable pads, but a friend advised me against that, as they have been linked to thrush.
If you have any questions, PLEASE feel free to email me. I'm pretty sure I am the most understanding when it comes to concerns considering I never saw myself on this path.