Even before I got pregnant I knew I would be a breastfeeding mama. I had absolutely no clue what I was doing at the beginning but I have learned so much these past 7 months and I am sure I will learn even more the next 5. Yup you heard me right 7 + 5 = 12 months and 12 months = a year. I never thought I would make it 7 months of pumping/breastfeeding, but I set myself an initial goal of 4 months and once I hit that I told myself I can make it to 6 months, and now that I have made it this far I know I can keep going until the beginning of June when I will start weaning myself and hopefully by the beginning of July when we go to the beach with my family. I want to take my time and make sure I am handling it ok because I foresee weaning being very emotional for me. I recently read this post by Cup Of Joe about her experience weaning and I know myself and how attached I have become to breastfeeding and how hard we have had to work so I don't want my husband to have to counsel me because I weaned too quickly.
I wanted to take a moment and write my experience with breastfeeding. It hasn't been awful, but it also hasn't been super easy. Kinley and I took to nursing right away and we had no major issues in the beginning. My supply was great and she never had any latch issues. I exclusively breastfed Mckinley from birth to about 5 weeks then a few weeks before I returned back to work we started getting her used to taking a bottle. I would still breastfeed her when I got home and on the weekends, but sadly we never seemed to be on the same schedule so I became an exclusive pumper with a few nursing sessions here and there. Sadly things started going downhill around month 5 when Kinley got her first ear infection and couldn't nurse because of the pain and I guess she decided to not go back after that. I knew the day I decided to wean would be really difficult, but I didn't think it would happen so soon and I had no clue how hard I would take it. I always told myself as soon as she started cutting teeth we would wean, but I never got to make that decision which now I believe may have been for the best because it probably would have been much harder if I had to make that choice and we would probably still be nursing when she was 8 (just kidding, but more power to mamas who extended breastfeed). It just sort of happened and we are just rocking and rolling with what we've got. I still try to get her to latch every now and then, but I try not to get my hopes up that she will just magically start nursing again. So now I am an exclusive a pumper which means I pump 6 times a day for around 20-30 minutes at a time with 2 pumping sessions at school. I think I figured out with set up and breakdown I am spending about 3 hours a day pumping which isn't too bad. People look at me crazy when I tell them this, but it has become part of my daily routine and it can honestly be relaxing because I get a moment away from everyone and take a mama timeout. It can get kind of crazy when Mckinley wants to be held, fed, changed, but I have gotten REALLY good at multi tasking and can pump and do almost anything at the same time.
Once Mckinley stopped nursing I soon started noticing a drop in my supply. I also believe me being so stressed out over Christmas break also had an effect on this because ever since then my supply has almost returned to normal. When my supply started going down I started worrying about being able to keep up with Mckinley’s demands and sure enough after getting food poisoning and using up most of my freezer stash we had to start supplementing with 1 bottle of formula a day. This was much harder on me then it was for Mckinly, but it actually helped lessen the burden on me because I wasn’t stressing about making enough to feed baby girl. She hasn’t had any formula in about a week, but if we have to use it we’ve got it just in case. Like I said earlier my supply has almost returned to normal, but I am still drinking my mother’s milk tea and taking my fenugreek just in case. Just recently I started adding Brewers Yeast to my morning smoothies and I even made some
lactation cookies and they were delicious! I need to make a new batch because I saw a big difference in my production on the days I drank my smoothie and ate some cookies. I may have eaten a few too many cookies (8-10) in 1 day, but they were so yummy I couldn't stop myself. Plus I have given up sweets for Lent, but I have to feed my baby and I need to produce more so the cookies really don't count right.
Now onto the things I have learned about nursing/pumping. Nursing and pumping has been an HUGE learning experience for me and I feel like I might know more then more people just starting out on their nursing journey so if anything I ahve learned can help anyone else I am definitely here for them. I feel like I can help and sympathize with someone in all stages of this journey so here is what I have learned from my 7 months of nursing.
1. You do not need a new wardrobe; you just have to find ways to easily access your boobs every 3-4 hours. Button up shirts, flowy tops, dresses are your new best friends. A good shirt dress is my favorite go to nursing mama outfit. As for undergarments nursing tanks and bras are life savers. Right before we had Mckinley I bought myself 2 nursing bras and 1 nursing tank. This my friends was not going to cut it. So I immediately purchased myself 3 more tanks and 1 more bra. Yesterday I had a come to Jesus moment with my boobs and decided that if I was even going to contemplate pumping for 5 more months then I needed some new and more supportive nursing bras. Nursing tanks and most nursing bras do not have much support and you typically do not want an under wire bra because the wire can push on your breast causing plugged milk ducts and it can even affect your supply. Luckily while perusing the nursing undergarment section at Target I found nursing bras that had the support and padding of a "real" bras and had soft under wire support. And it gets even better. They were only $12.99 so I got myself a black and a white one. Now your color choices aren't fantastic in the world of nursing undergarments, but we work with what we've got. At the beginning of my nursing journey I almost always wore a nursing tank under all of my clothing, but as I have lost most of the baby weight and am feeling better about my post baby body and fitting into more clothing I am moving more towards the bras.
2. Now, my number one tip I will give to any mama who will be pumping if you don’t have one yet .Run don’t walk to the store and get a hands free bra. Even if you aren’t an exclusive pumper like me you will be pumping a few times at work and overnight and having your hands free to play with baby, Facebook, and or Pinterest is ah-mahzing and will change your life and quite possibly extend your pumping/nursing goals. I would have bought my own, but a sweet friend let me borrow hers and it has saved me from going nuts and getting carpal tunnel from holding bottles to my boobs all day.
3. Set a goal for yourself. My first goal was 4 months of breastfeeding. When I made it to 4 months I said to myself “self you can do this for 2 more months.” And now that I have passed 6 months by golly I can make it another 6 months. Mckinley’s milk intake is fluctuating now and I am able to keep up with her needs better. I am still pumping the same amount, but she is taking about 7 oz. less because she is now eating pureed veggies.
4. There are SO many things you can do to help support your supply. Here is my short list: Water. Drink lots of water. I already drank a ton of water pre breastfeeding, probably 40-48 oz. a day. Now I probably drink around 60ish oz. per day which equals a lot of potty breaks, but it is the number one thing that helps my production. Eat oatmeal for breakfast. Not the quick oats, but regular oats that you have to cook. Fenugreek has been my go to milk support supplement. It may make me smell like flap jacks, but it works. I just started drinking Mother’s Milk tea and that has also seemed to help a bit. I have also tried a lactation blend from Whole Foods, but that didn’t seem to work as well as my fenugreek. My new love which I talked about earlier is Brewers Yeast. I made lactation cookies and I put some in my moarning smoothies and I have really noticed a supply boost. And I know what you are thinking “Lactation Cookies!?” They do not have breast milk in them so stop being dirty. So before giving up if your supply starts to go down try some or many of these things and see if they help. Also try to find your local LLL group. A good lactation consultant can be your breast Friend (yup breast).
Breast feeding/pumping is definitely a commitment. It takes a lot of preparation, time, skill, but if you are dedicated it can be a wonderful bonding experience. I wish everyone had as much support as I about breastfeeding because that is SO important. My husband is always great at supporting me, but he is been amazing even at my lowest point when I wanted to give up. It would be a wonderful world if every husband cheered their woman on and helped support her and her boobs. My family has also been very supportive of my decision to breastfeed. I love it whenever they would tell Mckinley she is getting so big because of the “booby milk” or how she was “getting the good stuff.” My mom likes to tell people she is all good and chunky and she only gets boob milk (now she is getting food, but that was true when she said it). I also have great support at my job. They always make sure I have somewhere to pump and make accommodations to make sure I am comfortable. I do however wish I had found a lactation consultant at the beginning because I could have probably saved myself time and pain being able to talk to someone who really understands about everything.
I didn't intend this post to get so long, but this has been such a HUGE part of my life these past few months and I feel like I have so much valuable information that could help someone else going through the same things.