** Okay, so this post is about nursing and well, boobs. If you have a problem with that or you are a dude, you might want to stop right here... **
Lila will be 8 months next week and as of now we are totally done nursing! My pump is now in the top of the closet for baby #2. Breastfeeding has been quite an experience for me and I wanted to share some thoughts as I reflect back!
My pre-baby expectations/goals/mindset:
I knew all along that I wanted to nurse. I'd read all the books and statistics and knew I wanted to try. I also knew that formula is fine too, but I wanted to breastfeed if it was possible and my goal was 6 months. My secret goal was one year, but since I knew I was going back to work I didn't know how pumping would go.
Trouble in the beginning:
Even though I talked to the lactation consultants multiple times a day in the hospital, we had a lot of issues with getting Lila to latch in the beginning. She was losing too much weight so we supplemented with formula in the hospital and then I started pumping with a rented pump as soon as I got home. We fed her with a syringe with pumped milk until a nurse came to the house and told me about nipple shields. We used a shield for every nursing session until Lila was 3 months old. They were super inconvenient but I'm so glad I had them so we could nurse. Each feeding session was 30-45 mins total with the shield. One day, I tried without the shield and she did just fine! We stopped using them cold turkey and feedings went down to 10 minutes or so.
Pump it up:
I pumped and we gave Lila bottles occasionally starting when she was a month old or so. She did well with bottles for the most part unless we stopped for a while. My first day back to work when she was 4 months old she did not like the bottle and didn't eat very much when I was gone. She slowly did better and over the next few months had 2-3 bottles of pumped milk a day at daycare. Luckily I respond VERY well to the pump and when I pumped 2-3x a day I would make more than enough for her to eat the next day.
Pumping multiple times a day at work was becoming too much so I eventually got down to once a day. I would pump about 5 oz which was enough for one feeding. So we started doing one breastmilk bottle and one formula bottle per day at daycare. Lila will NOT drink frozen then thawed breastmilk, so anytime we had to supplement and I had no fresh milk we used formula. She did fine with it and didn't really seem to care either way. I was nursing for every feeding I was with her including full time on the weekends.
Pumping essentials and favorites:
- A good pump. I used the Medela Pump in Style Advanced.
- A pumping bra. I cut slits in a sports bra at first but for work I invested in a good bra to use with the pump. This is the Simple Wishes Hands Free Pumping Bra. It was great. This is not a picture of me, as you can tell by the lack of stretch marks.
- Medela and Lansinoh pads are fine but use SO much packaging. I really like Johnson's nursing pads. They are easy to grab and use while running out the door and you don't need two hands to open them.
- For a quick supply boost I ate a bowl of oatmeal or drank Mother's Milk Tea.
- Pacifer wipes are good to use to wipe down pump parts in between uses.
- Other essentials included a supportive workplace and boss, curtains for my office and my handy dandy sign. You can click to see it larger but it says.. "Privacy Please. Pumping in Progress. I'm still working and available on email, IM or phone or will be free in 15 minutes."
The decision to wean:
There were many reasons we decided to stop nursing and pumping.
1. I hated pumping. It was annoying, time consuming and very distracting to my workday. I was tired of being late to meetings because I had to pump or eating lunch while pumping. The worst was dealing with engorgement if I couldn't find 15 minutes to pump or those wonderful days when I forgot my pump parts or the pump itself.
2. Lila was becoming super distracted while nursing, even in a dark quiet room. It would take her forever to get her to focus and eat. She was fine with a bottle but with nursing she just wanted to look around and play (ie pull my hair and grab my face).
3. Supply issues. Because we started supplementing more with formula and I was pumping less, of course my supply went down. The bedtime feeding especially I could tell that I was not satisfying her. Neil would feed her after I did and sometimes she would eat 6 oz! It was like I had no milk by the end of the day. A few weeks ago I had a cold and I was taking a ton of Sudafed. This KILLED my supply. I didn't know it could do that, but that helped make the decision easier. I went from pumping 5 oz to 1-2oz per session.
The weaning process:
Weaning was physically and emotionally SO much easier than I ever thought. I imagined a crying baby who wanted to nurse, painful engorgement or worse - mastitis or a breast infection. None of these things happened! When we finally decided to move to just formula I pumped just enough to relieve pressure when I needed to. One day the pump just didn't seem to be helping much so I came home and breastfed her. Within a few days I stopped pumping completely and breastfed her once a day or so just to relieve pressure. She didn't mind a few minutes of nursing and it didn't interfere with her normal bottle feedings.
Last week I realized that I wasn't feeling "full" anymore so I didn't even take my pump to work. I haven't nursed her or pumped in like 3 days. So I think we can safely say we are DONE.
Formula and bottle preferences:
Lila loves her bottle! She uses Avent bottles now, but she also likes the Medela ones that you can use with the pump but 5 oz bottles are too small now. We've also tried The First Years Breast Flow and Playtex nursers. Avent bottles are the best! She started with the lowest flow nipple and we've found that a 2 is still good for her. We have some 4s and she makes the biggest mess. 2s are good. The first time I ever bottle-fed her was like 2 weeks ago! I never wanted to make her confused when I was nursing so I always had someone else do it.
Lila eats 4 times a day around 7:30, 11:30, 3:30 and 7 right before bed. She eats 6-8 oz each feeding.
We started with Enfamil formula (because we had free samples) and now we've moved to Up&up Target brand formula. It's half the price of Enfamil! She does fine with it with no belly issues at all - no gas or spitting up. A big reason we wanted to breastfeed as long as possible was financial - so I'm fine with a cheap formula since she seems to like it and it's perfectly safe and healthy.
Final thoughts on breastfeeding:
Well, I'm super proud to have breastfed Lila for 7 months. I gave her the best nutrition possible for the first part of her life and I'm so glad I stuck it out. It was hard at times, but for the most part I found it easier than bottles. Especially when she was eating like 8 times per day (including overnight). I can't imagine making and cleaning that many bottles or dealing with formula in the middle of the night. It was so easy to just breastfeed her when I was home with her on maternity leave or to just put her in bed with me and nurse her lying down. If I was a stay at home mom I would definitely keep breastfeeding until a year or beyond because it is so much easier and I really hate washing bottles.
As far as breastfeeding being a bonding thing, I didn't really "get" that. I bonded with her of course, but so did Neil! Lila looks up at me more now when I feed her a bottle than she ever did when nursing. I really don't think she even knew there was someone connected to the boob. When she was done, she'd often look up at me like "Oh, you're here too!" So I liked breastfeeding, but not because it made me feel particularly "bonded" to her. I guess I did like in the beginning that I could give her something that no one else could.
But now, I love that Neil and I are total equals in this parenting thing. We are all about equality and fairness in our marriage - so I like that he and I have equal responsibility now that I'm not the sole source of food. He can feed her a bottle and put her to bed or we can *gasp* leave her overnight!
Speaking of leaving her overnight... we have a 4 day trip coming up to the Bahamas and the grandparents are taking care of her when we are gone - my parents for 2 nights and his parents for 2. I love the freedom of not having to worry about pumping! I also love that I can have caffeine if I want, or go on a REAL diet or have a drink or whatever! It's so freeing!
So, that's it. We are done breastfeeding! It was great and it was hard and now it's done!