I’ve been asked quite a bit about breastfeeding, what pump I use, what my pumping schedule looks like, and how it’s all going. If you’re curious read on! Aaaand well, if you’re not I’d say skip this post in its entirety- you probably have more productive things to do than to read a post that isn’t interesting or going to benefit you in any way!
I say that because well, this is a pretty uninteresting post for me to write quite honestly so throwing that little disclaimer out there makes me feel better about it. So now, here we go.
I am exclusively breastfeeding and have been since the day Avery was born. I’m very lucky and proud to say that it’s going so well and that my body is able to provide for her everyday. Before giving birth, I went into the whole breastfeeding thing pretty open minded because I’d read so much about how difficult it is, how some women just can’t breastfeed, don’t make enough milk so their babies are put on formula right away, babies that have difficulty latching, etc. So I was hopeful I’d be able to breastfeed but knew that I was going to be okay either way. I know some women experience quite a mind f#$% when they find out the can’t and/or struggle with breastfeeding, but to me a fed and thriving baby is really all that matters, no matter what that looks like.
I also have no timeline for how long I am going to breastfeed. I’d like to continue breastfeeding for the entire first year of her life, of course with the introduction of other foods when age appropriate (which is what the CDC and my pediatrician recommend) but we will see how it goes! As a baby, my mom lasted 6 months with me and then 3 months with my younger sister- so fingers crossed! Breastfeeding definitely isn’t easy and we’ll get into that later.
Avery latched right away and I was honestly shocked at how easily it came for us both. We never had any issues- other than the fact that for the first 2 weeks postpartum I struggled with my strength so Joey would literally have to position her on my boob for me and then of course he did the burping. But while in the hospital (I was there for 2 days) the lactation consultants were pretty impressed that I didn’t have any questions and that Avery was able to latch and stay latched as well as she did. I’ll never forget the first time she latched, with her mouth all wide open like she already knew what to do (it was a pretty funny thing to see).
For the first month and a half of Avery’s life, we fed on demand. Anytime she was hungry, I would feed her. Looking at my tracking app, this ended up on average being about every hour/hour and a half. You can imagine how difficult this made our nights that first month! Overnight, she would also fall asleep while eating but then freak out if I pulled her off my chest and start eating again, so I’d have to tickle her feet or rub her chin to keep her awake and eating until I knew she was done, i.e. when she would pull herself off my chest.
About a month in, I started to notice that Avery would choke on my breast and arch her back and pull away and then (pretty violently) throw herself back into my chest to latch. I called my lactation consultant to ask what was going on and after discussing the signs- we realized I had a fast let-down and oversupply. So Avery was essentially chugging a lot of fluid very quickly which was making her uncomfortable but she knew she was still hungry so she wouldn’t stop eating. This was also causing quite a bit of spit up as well because she was eating more than her stomach could handle at such a young age.
Before solving the issue with my lactation consultant, this stressed me out quite a bit. I was worried that she was allergic to something I was eating, worried about whether or not she was eating enough because there was so much spit up, worried that because she was spitting up so much that maybe her stomach was hurting, could she be causing pain to her throat with all this spit up, what if she started spitting up blood, what if she became dehydrated (a medical emergency in infants); I was obsessively worried, stressed, and constantly anxious over it. Thank goodness this was a phase/issue that was quickly remedied. All I had to do, when I felt the let-down (and ladies- you do feel it! Feels like a mini electric shock when it happens) was pull her off, put the Haaka on my breast or a spit up rag and let the let-down pass. When it did, I’d put Avery back on to latch. Doing this very quickly decreased the amount of spit up that was happening and Avery was much more comfortable and able to control the flow of milk that she was getting.Now that she’s older, her stomach can hold more and she is better at recognizing when she’s full so she takes herself off and no longer chokes at all. But for that week, it was definitely rough on me mentally!
When she was about a month and a half old, the feedings started to space out to about every 2/2.5 hours during the day and started sleeping longer stretches at night- about 3-4 hour windows. She was able to eat more and stay fuller longer which was definitely nice for us!
I started to pump at 7 weeks. I opened my pump that my insurance sent me and it was just the worst- a separate post coming on that since I’ve gotten quite a few questions on that! I bought an Elvie and it’s the absolute best thing ever. So at 7 weeks, after talking to my lactation consultant I started to pump. I only pumped twice a day for the first week- I would pump for 10 minutes in the mornings after feeding Avery and then I would pump in the evenings for 10 minutes after feeding her and before her longest stretch of sleep- which would be when we put her down around 8/9 pm. Because I had an over supply in those 10 minutes, I was pumping around 6-8 ounces (majority usually coming from the side Avery did not nurse on).
At 8 weeks, Avery consistently started sleeping 4-5 hour stretches, so I had to add in an overnight pumping session because the pain of engorgement would literally wake me up. So I started pumping overnight for 3 total pumping sessions a day. The timing of when I would pump overnight has never been consistent, I just looked at the clock and I knew she’d be up around 4/5 am so if it was 3 am I wouldn’t pump and I’d just go back to sleep since I knew she’d be up soon. If I woke up and it was 1/2 am, I’d get out of bed and go pump before going back to sleep. After about a week of pumping and freezing to build a good stock pile up for when I go back to work (which is next week, eeekk), we started to introduce the bottle. Instead of freezing, I just started putting one sessions’ contents into a bottle and then stored that in the fridge for Joey to feed her the next day. This is what we’re still currently doing.
So now, when he’s feeding from the bottle, I’ll pump. Avery is currently 13 weeks old and goes about 3/3.5 hours between feeds during the day and then we let her sleep as long as she’ll go overnight and then feed when she wakes up. This is now only once a night or not at all! Last night she went 9 hours before waking up and was quite hungry when she did at 7 am. Sometimes she does cluster feed in the evenings before bed but we’ve gotten to know each other pretty well so we both know when she’s full, when she needs more, when she’s sucking for comfort (which we immediately swap out mom’s boob for a pacifier now) and when she’s playing (because they do that, and it is super cute but not a good habit to form at all).
My milk supply regulated at 11 weeks and my boobs no longer get engorged- which has been such a relief! I’m still pumping between 5-8 ounces per a session, for 3 sessions a day. Avery is getting a bottle of breastmilk for one feeding a day and is breastfeeding for all other meals. Next week, she’ll be taking the bottle for 3 meals while I’m at work and then she’ll be breastfeed in the mornings before I leave and in the evenings once I’m home.
So far, breastfeeding has been a pretty magical journey. I love the quality time and bonding I get to experience with Avery every day. And the fact that my body is giving her everything she needs to exist is just a very awesome, mind bending thing. I definitely think I’m going to miss it when it ends but can definitely understand how hard and difficult it is. In the beginning breastfeeding was very painful– I was icing and using lanolin cream pretty religiously. And I had to really mentally prepare myself for that first latch of every feeding because OUCH. I’m definitely glad that pain has gone away!
When I go back to work, I will be pumping throughout the day. I’m planning on pumping in the mornings after feeding Avery, then at/around lunch time, and then towards the end of the day- probably around 4/5 pm before heading home from work (which usually ends up being around 6 pm). I’ll keep you posted on how all that goes!
All in all, I’m grateful for the journey and am yet again, constantly in awe of women’s bodies and all that we can do.