I blinked and the baby is 3 months old. When people say “time flies” they really do mean it!
So far, I’ve done a pretty crappy job keeping this blog updated with the latest happenings with our little guy. I took his two month pictures, but they are still hanging out in a folder on the desktop of our home computer. I’ve mentally written his birth story, and I’m hoping to get it typed and posted at some point before the end of the year.
Before I put this off any longer, I want to document our breastfeeding journey… for myself mostly.
I’ve always wanted to be a breastfeeding mama. I knew the benefits (for baby and myself) and knew that I had to do it. I expected cracked and bleeding nipples, pain, difficulty, and all the other horrible stuff you hear about but knew that I would stick with it and tough it out.
I read blogs, like The Breastfeeding Diaries series, and tried to gain as much information from successful and not-so-successful breastfeeding stories. Every mother’s breastfeeding journey is different, whether the mother breastfed for 1 month or 1 year, and I tried to prepare myself for this journey going not-as-planned or being a trainwreck. Prepare for the worst, right?
My husband and I attended an evening breastfeeding class at the hospital. The class, lead by a lactation consultant, reviewed holding positions, baby’s cues, how to get a proper latch, a little bit about pumping/breast pumps, and how the body responds to the cues you give it. We left feeling overwhelmed (normal), but incredibly informed and excited.
I rounded up a support system of breastfeeders (so important) and was as ready as I could be.
Birth & The First Few Days
Just as we planned (not in a typed out and organized document, but a casual conversation with my L&D nurse), after Sammy was born my husband cut the cord and he was put on my chest. I stared in awe at my little boy and soothed him, welcoming him to the world and to our family. We enjoyed snuggles and skin-on-skin time while I was stitched up, and then got the go ahead to try his first feeding.
He latched on easily and starting suckling away. I remember the nurse asking if I could feel a “deep tug”, which I did and thought, “Wow! That wasn’t much work at all. I hope this is the start of something good.”
It was. Sammy did well nursing while in the hospital, however, I still wanted to meet with the lactation consultant to make sure he was doing as well as I thought he was.
The lactation consultant, Patty, was extremely helpful and reminded us of some of the helpful hints covered in the class that I had forgotten. For example, I was holding his head, instead of his neck, making it a little difficult for baby to swallow. I learned what a swallow sounded like and got some tips on positioning.
Patty encouraged a football hold, which I felt uncomfortable with, but with coaching from her and my husband, Sammy and I got into a nice routine.
My husband changed plenty of dirty diapers in the hospital, so we knew little guy was getting food and digesting as he should.
My milk came in on day 3. I remember scrunching up my toes when baby would latch on and the milk let-down. It was a strange stinging feeling that lasted for the first couple of weeks.
At home, we continued to use the football hold and practice skin-on-skin each time I nursed. Yes, every time. Night feedings, too! It was a chore. Hubby would change baby’s diaper and undress him while I rounded up 5 pillows to prop myself up and get as comfortable as possible.
A little man with a full belly | 4 days old
Two weeks in
At this point, we stopped doing skin-on-skin during night time feedings but kept up with it during the day. Sammy latched easily each time and was eating many, many times during the day.
I was at home with Sammy by myself most days and we did well getting into a feeding routine. He ate A LOT… always exceeding the 8 to 12 feedings in a 24 hour period.
At 2 weeks, my lactation consultant recommended I begin pumping once a day. I believe I actually started doing this around 3 weeks postpartum. It was a chore. It put more stress on my nipples than nursing and I could never find a time to do it. I ended up pumping right before bed every night, bagging a total of 3-ish ounces.
I was annoyed at how much work it was to mess with and clean all the parts, for such little return. I froze all the milk and hoped I would be able to pump more soon. Seeing what I thought was so little come out was not encouraging for my return to work at 9 weeks!
Two-and-a-half weeks old, exhausted after nursing
At some point after we hit the one month mark, I remember feeling exhausted. The night time feedings were manageable, but pumping had me feeling exhausted & frustrated. I specifically remember my husband trying to pep me up by saying, 1 month down and 11 to go!
Around this time I started pumping in the late morning, versus right before bed. It was amazing how much more I was able to pump. My breasts felt full in the morning, even after nursing, and I started to like pumping because I felt nice and empty when I was done. I propped up Sammy in the Boppy pillow on the floor next to me and we talked (more of him staring at the ceiling fan) while I had my late morning pumping sessions.
I quickly noticed that the volume I was pumping became greater and greater – and soon I was able to fill a 5 ounce pump bottle on just one side!
I learned that when my breast were emptied, my body was cued to make more milk. And it certainly did.
At one month we also introduced the pacifier for the first time when Sammy was upset and wasn’t interested in our normal soothing tricks. Not even nursing. I was worried to death – of him not being interested in my breast any more, not latching properly, … all the stuff that could lead him away from breastfeeding.
My husband and I discussed only using it in emergency situations (like crying in the car) and doing our best to try other tactics before resorting to the pacifier. (This plan is still working well at 3 months!)
Another headliner from the first month – I got mastitis in my right breast. It’s a bitch. I felt like I had the flu. I had a fever of 102 degrees and felt awful. Luckily, my doctor called in an antibiotic without requiring an office visit. Once I started the pills, I started to feel better pretty quickly and felt mostly normal in 3 days.
One of my favorite selfies from maternity leave. My shirt is inside out – probably didn’t know, didn’t care.
First bottle feeding
Per Patty’s recommendation, we gave Sammy his first bottle at 5 weeks old. My husband gave him a 3 ounce bottle of breastmilk, while doing skin-on-skin with him in a quiet room – no momma around. He did great!
We chose to use Tommee Tippee’s Closer to Nature bottles, with #1 slow flow nipples. (Shout out to Sydney for doing bottle research. It’s nice to trust your friends so much that you can take their recommendations without doing research for yourself.)
Sammy was given a bottle by his dad every evening while mom pumped. At this point, I was still pumping in the morning and would try to pump while he gave Sam a bottle in order to tell my body to produce more milk.
Our freezer started filling up with baggies of yellowish breastmilk. Score!
6 weeks into our breastfeeding journey, and Sammy is starting to get some chubby arms.
Two months in
Sammy started taking bottles from his grandmas and even great-grandma and did so well. He latched on and usually downed whatever amount we gave him. Hungry boy!
Before I knew it he was taking 5 ounce bottles like a champ. We tried to do one bottle with daddy in the evening while I did dishes, pumped, and did whatever else I could squeeze in during that 15 minutes or so.
This is what Saturday morning looks like in my house… everybody lay on mommy! 6 and a half weeks here, and what a head of hair.
Going back to work
Sammy was 9 and a half weeks old when I went back to work. I was very worried about how he would transition from bottle to breast having more than one bottle a day.
I shouldn’t have worried, because he did wonderful!
My first day back at work I pumped when I felt “full”, which was twice. That night when I came home, I felt feverish, had sore hips and knees, and could hardly function. I knew it was the flu. I popped some ibuprofen and prayed for a magic healing…
When my husband got home, he was frustrated with me for only pumping twice. He reminded me that my body was used to nursing SEVERAL times a day and that I only pumped TWO times. He made me pump.
I can’t explain how quickly I felt better. It must have been mastitis showing its face again!
Day two back at work I pumped three times – 9:20 a.m., noon, and 3:00 p.m. I had no chills, aches, or headache.
This schedule has stuck and works well for me! The first week I pumped 17-18 oz. per day and now I’m up to 21-23 oz. per day. My morning pump is my highest producing one of the day, yielding 9 to 11 oz. My afternoon pumps are typically 4-6 oz. each, depending on how well I’ve stayed hydrated and what I have eaten.
For the first 3 weeks back a work, Sammy took 12-or-so ounces, split between 3 bottles per day. My mother-in-law is his babysitter and she gives him larger bottles in the morning and shoots for a smaller one in the afternoon so he is ready to nurse when I pick him up at 5 o’clock.
The past week or so, his appetite has grown and he has had 8 oz. bottles in the morning, followed by a 4-6 oz. bottle mid-day. If he wants an afternoon bottle, that’s fine because chances are he will still be wanting to nurse shortly after I pick him up. She follows his cues, and it works well.
Nursing when he’s at home
He latches on without any issues- praise Jesus – and knows that when he is with mommy he nurses! On a couple occasions, he has shown some odd behavior with nursing… such as trying to turn his head completely while latched on. Ouch! Or pulling on my nipple. Super ouch! When he did those things I broke his latch immediately by slipping my finger in his mouth to break the suction. It must have been a phase or he learned because he only did it a few times. I assume he was just being silly and curious.
He nurses quite a bit most evenings, and usually falls asleep doing so at some point in the evening and takes a short nap (20-30 minutes). We do quite a bit of playing when we get home and I know the little guy gets worn out!
I nurse him to help him fall asleep for bedtime. He often pulls off of my nipple when he is finished, even though his little eyes are shut.
We are hopefully in a transition period right now and getting closer to sleeping through the night on a regular basis. For now, I can count on him waking to nurse once during the night. He doesn’t nurse for too long and always falls back asleep.
Over the weekends he nurses 100% of the time and I pump only if I feel overly full. If he does take a bottle, I pump at the same time to keep my body on track and producing.
I know I’m not an expert and am still a new mom, but I am proud of how well our breastfeeding journey has gone thus far. I make plenty of milk for my little guy and his chubby thighs show it!
Three months into our 1 year goal, here are my main takeaways:
- Skin-on-skin during feedings is super important in the beginning. Even now, when Sammy is feeling fussy he LOVES a skin-on-skin nursing session.
- Wait to introduce the bottle. When babies nurse exclusively they learn to wait on milk to let-down and they learn that they have to work hard for the milk to flow. With a bottle, milk flows easily and immediately with a little suckling.
- We chose to avoid the pacifier for the first month to avoid nipple confusion. I don’t think it is a make-it-or-break-it, but using a pacifier can be a mute button for some of baby’s hunger cues. With no pacifier, momma is able to feed frequently, meaning more milk is created.
- Milk production is a supply and demand system. Did you know only 1% of women truly do not produce enough milk? Making a point to eat, drink water, and empty your breasts is key for producing lots of milk. I still have days where I don’t produce as much as the day before and I get discouraged. I try not to stress, to increase my water intake and shoot for healthy, filling foods.
- Mastitis is the devil and I don’t wish it upon my worst enemy.
I hope this post has been helpful for a new momma just beginning her breastfeeding journey, for a pregnant woman trying to decide what type of feeding is best for her, and experienced mommas who may have some advice or words of wisdom for me.
Thanks for reading!