BREASTFEEDING — I am committed!
***Please note, I do talk a lot about breasts, nipples and infection in this post. If you are uncomfortable with those topics, please skip this post.
In several previous posts, I alluded to having some challenges in the breastfeeding domain. Well, I want to explain a bit more about the challenges we have been facing. Thankfully, we are already on a much better road. Things are looking up for Winter and I’s feeding relationship! So let’s dive in….
First of all, can I please say…. “WHY DIDN’T I KNOW HOW HARD BREASTFEEDING WAS GOING TO BE?!?!”
I don’t mean that statement in a negative way, whatsoever. I mean it as an honest question. Why don’t people really tell us that it’s not only going to be a commitment (ie, your entire 24 hour day is consumed by a baby attached to your boob in the first months of life), but that it also can have a lot of big challenges (painful nipples, possible infections, improper latching issues, etc)?? Many times before have I heard other moms talk about “breastfeeding is a commitment” or “breastfeeding will challenge you,” but I didn’t know what those statements truly meant. Now I do. 🙂
When I was pregnant, I made it known that I was planning to breastfeed after Winter was born. I have always felt that breastfeeding my baby (and future babies) was the best choice for me and my family. I am a very stubborn person, so no one can change my mind about this! I know there are so many health benefits for both the baby as well as the mom. I was bound and determined to make the choice to dedicate the first year (approximately…give or take a month or two) of my child’s life to feeding her via breastfeeding. With that being said, I had no clue HOW much dedication and commitment to that choice it was going to take. Let me explain our journey…
IMMEDIATELY AFTER BIRTH. In the hospital right after birth Winter started breastfeeding like a champion. In fact, the lactation consultant gave us praises upon praises for what an awesome job we were doing. She seemed to have a fairly good latch, and at that early stage, she would eat for about 10 minutes on each breast and be completely satisfied. As a very sleepy newborn, I would have to wake her up at the 3 hour mark to feed her. She never cried or seemed to be dissatisfied from hunger in those early days. While in the hospital, I did feel a bit of discomfort in my nipples, and they seemed to be very irritated. But lanolin cream was my friend and gave me relief. Winter left the hospital with only a 2% weightloss, which is very good. The pediatrician said a normal weight loss upon discharge from the hospital is around 5-10%. So we were “ahead of the game” at that stage.
FIRST WEEK AT HOME. In that first week, I really had to keep waking Winter up for her feedings. She was content as could be. Unfortunately during that first week was when I somehow developed a nipple infection on both sides. I also started getting a fever like clockwork every night for 4-5 nights in a row (between 100-102 degree fevers). I had the severe chills that caused violent shaking. Thankfully my mom was in town staying with us to help out that week, and boy was she a huge help! She is a nurse and a very experienced mom (I’m one of 8 kids), so I appreciated her so much. We called my doctor and I started my first round of antibiotics. This really helped my fevers go away, but my nipples were still in terrible shape. Because my nipples were in such a rough shape, my mom recommended I start using a nipple shield to help Winter latch better and also protect my infected nipples.
WEEKS 2 & 3 – NO WEIGHT GAIN. Despite my infection (which I ended up doing 3 rounds of antibiotics — 4 weeks worth — and nothing really ever helped), I was still very committed to breastfeeding. At all costs, I did not want to switch to formula. (**There is NOTHING wrong with formula, and I know a lot of moms choose that for their babies. That is great if you have decided to use formula. I just personally feel that breastfeeding is the best option for me and my baby and know there are great health benefits for both she and I.) Even though I was breastfeeding 9-10 times per day, I found out that 3-week-old Winter wasn’t gaining any weight, STILL! She wasn’t losing weight (thankfully!), but she was maintaining right above birth weight. Not good. Something was wrong. The lactation consultant recommended I start pumping every 2 hours to increase my milk supply and feed her the bottles (she suspected that Winter wasn’t eating much while at the breast). The LC was very concerned and wanted to get us on a better road. Not gaining weight is not good for a 3 week old baby. She also recommended I see an Ears, Nose, Throat specialist to see if Winter had a tongue tie issue. Tongue tie is a medical condition that doesn’t allow for a baby to get a good latch. An ENT doctor can fix tongue tie with a very easy and quick procedure.
Finding out that Winter wasn’t gaining weight and thinking she might have a medical issue really freaked me out. I got VERY stressed. For several days/that 3rd week of life, I was completely overwhelmed and felt out of control. My emotions were all over the place. I felt like a failure and felt that I was doing terribly at my job as a mom. It didn’t help that I was all alone at this time because Eric was out of town on business for several days to a week at a time. I got a referral to see the ENT specialist at Children’s Hospital. If indeed Winter did have this “tongue tie” medical condition, it would be a simple fix and would allow all of our problems to be resolved quickly. Well, no tongue tie issue. The doctor said her mouth looked healthy and strong. We were back to square 1. So I continued to pump every 2 hours and feed her the bottles.
In addition to pumping, I was recommended to take herbal supplements for increasing my milk supply. I take Fenugreek (found at Whole Foods or other natural food stores). This has made a HUGE difference in milk supply!! It really works! I almost instantly saw an improvement in the number of ounces I produced. I also started eating old fashioned oats on a daily basis. This is also supposed to help stimulate milk production.
ONE MONTH OLD – FINALLY WEIGHT GAIN BEGINS! When Winter was 4 weeks old, I had been pumping religiously every 2 hours for just over a week. I go to a breastfeeding group at the hospital every Wednesday. We weigh the baby to get a pre-weight, then breastfeed, and then weigh the baby after to get a post-feed weight to see how many ounces the baby ate. Really helpful group and I go every single week!! Well, at this particular time, after pumping around the clock, I was DELIGHTED to find out that she had gained 10 ounces in one week! Finally we found something that worked for her to gain weight!
Weight gain!!! At one month she was 8 lbs 8 oz.
Talk about major relief! I finally could relax and get a deep breath in for the first time. I finally felt like I was a good mom. What I was doing was working and helping Winter to thrive. I still felt unsure about pumping 100% of the time. I didn’t want to be a pumping mom. I wanted to breastfeed. So I started adding in one breastfeeding session per day using the nipple shield (still infected nipples). I really struggled with the idea of pumping so much, but as time progressed, I started to like some of the perks of pumping. I still am battling the fact that I am pumping as much as I do, but I am choosing to look at the bright side of things:
Some perks of pumping:
– I like being able to count the number of ounces she eats. I like totaling up at the end of the day to see that she ate even MORE than the recommended amount of ounces for her on the chart. I’m totally a numbers person, so I love this.
– I also like being able to see my milk supply going up. Because I pump, I can see my number of ounces I produce increasing. In the early stages, I was only pumping 1-3 ounces at a time, totaling less than 20 ounces per day. Now, at 7.5 weeks, I am pumping at least 3-5 ounces per time (sometimes even 7-8 ounces in the early mornings!), totaling 35-40 ounces per day. I LOVE seeing that number go up!
-Sometimes I feel uncomfortable nursing out in public or in front of others. Pumping and giving a bottle makes it a bit easier to feed in front of others. There is absolutely nothing wrong with nursing in front of others, but I just feel more at ease when I am able to give her a bottle of breast milk when I’m out and about.
-Eric gets to partake in the bonding experience of feeding the baby. He enjoys feeding Winter her bottles when he is home. I must say I also appreciate the help.
Now for a few negatives:
-It’s a nuisance to have to wash pump parts and bottles all day, everyday. I found that putting the parts in the fridge helps. But in general, when I nurse her, I am saving myself so many EXTRA steps.
-Pumping & bottle feeding is no faster than breastfeeding. I used to think that it was (when it used to take her 45 minutes to nurse), but now it’s about equal amount of time. When she nurses now, she is at the breast a max of 30 minutes. Pumping & bottle-feeding takes just as long, or longer because.
-My breasts get a tad engorged if I go a bit longer than usual because I’ve been out and about. Sometimes I bring a bottle along when I’m away from home so I can still feed her on schedule. But then I don’t get to pump again until I get home, so my breasts get very full and uncomfortable.
My pump: Medela Pump In Style.
ONE MONTH OLD UNTIL CURRENT. Winter is now 7.5 weeks old. She has been gaining an average of 10 ounces per week, and is doing fantastic! She weighed 10 pounds last week at her weigh in. I’m so happy! My infection is still there, but ever so slowly it is healing. I’m no longer on antibiotics because they didn’t really help anyway. My doctors said to just keep doing what I’m doing and hopefully they will eventually get better. Seems to be working now.
We have modified our feeding system a few times in the past few weeks. I still pump a high percentage of the time, but I have also been incorporating more and more breastfeeding sessions. I struggle to know what I’d eventually like to do when it comes to how much pumping vs. breastfeeding I’m doing. There are pros and cons of both breastfeeding and pumping. I think I like the flexibility that I can do both. I like counting the number of ounces she eats from pumping (definitely a numbers person!), but I like the simplicity and easy-factor of nursing. For now I’m just “going with the flow” (pun intended!) and doing whatever I feel like at the moment.
I follow Baby Wise principles, feeding on a 3 hour routine throughout the day (followed by waketime and then naptime). My current daily routine looks like this: I usually pump during the middle of the night and early morning feedings because this is when I produce the most milk. I know Winter can’t eat all of those ounces at once, so I’d rather pump and be done with it rather than pumping after she finishes nursing anyway (talk about extra work!). Then I find throughout the day I either breastfeed or pump/bottle feed every 3 hours depending on “what I feel like doing” at that time. I’m currently feeding her 7-8 times per day (including her middle of the night feed), and I usually breastfeed 2-3 times per day and pump all of the rest of the feeding times. (I could see myself transitioning to 50-50 with nursing and pumping in the near future. We shall see!) At night, our last feeding before bedtime is 10pm, and I always pump at that feeding because I want to make sure my breasts are completely drained before Winter’s long stretch of sleep (which is currently 5-5.5 hours, wahoo!).
When it comes to pumping/bottle-feeding, Eric really loves to help out! He the bonding he gets with Winter from feeding her. I know for sure I will always try to pump at least once a day no matter what so I don’t take that away from him.
JUST A FEW TIPS ON FEEDING.
1. Be committed. Don’t stray from your commitment, because eventually it does start to get easier. And it’s so WORTH IT! Stay positive…your attitude is totally key.
2. Ask for help. I have been seeing the lactation consultant regularly. Her knowledge and expertise have been tremendously helpful.
3. If you have to pump, it’s ok! Your baby and you are still going to get the same health benefits from pumping! I have had to keep telling myself this over and over so I don’t feel like a failure. It’s OKAY!
4. Use your resources. Learn, learn, learn….whether it’s reading a breastfeeding book, reading articles online, or asking experienced friends for help…use them all! Don’t go blindly into it…use every tool you have.
5. Find a system that works for YOU. Don’t worry about comparing yourself to others. If you demand-feed, great! If you routine/schedule feed, great! I have found that routine feeding is the system that works best for us. Whatever you do, just make sure it works with your lifestyle.
6. Don’t cut calories too much. When breastfeeding, it’s so important to eat and drink enough! I eat 2100 calories per day, and I use MyFitnessPal app to track my daily calories. Try to keep your foods nutritious, not junk! Plus, water, water, water. I drink 10 full glasses per day.
7. If you pump frequently, store your pump parts (flanges & bottles) in the fridge between pumping sessions. It will save a few minutes of dish washing each time. Wash and sterilize parts at the end of the day.
8. Find a breastfeeding group. I mentioned I go to a group once per week. It’s so helpful to find out baby’s weekly weight and also find out how many ounces she eats during a nursing session. There are groups all over….just find one and GO!
9. If you have complications (mastitis, infection, plugged ducts, bleeding nipples, etc), please seek medical counsel. Don’t just “deal with it.” Go to your doctor and get some real help.
10. When you sit down to nurse, make sure you have everything you need BEFORE you begin….for me that’s a nipple shield, burp cloth, glass of water, my phone, and sometimes the TV remote (and a nursing cover if I’m in public or others are around). Have everything ready rather than wishing you had it and now you are stuck. 🙂
I am so grateful that throughout all of our hiccups that we have a system that works for us. My doctor made a great point, she said, “Whether you are nursing her or giving her bottles of pumped breast milk, the benefits are still the same for both you and her!” As time goes on, I am noticing my infection is healing. Ever so SLOWWWWWLY. Because of this, I am starting to do more nursing rather than so much pumping. Who knows where we will end up?!? But I do know this: I plan to keep on keeping on. We are on such a much easier road now than we were a month ago. I feel so blessed to be where we are.
To those of you who have any thoughts or ideas (or tips) about breastfeeding or pumping, please do share!