Wednesday, January 29, 2014

6 Months of Breastfeeding

Note: This post is about breastfeeding. That means that I will be talking about my breasts. If I work with you or you would otherwise be uncomfortable thinking about my boobs, please leave and come back another day. My 6 month Baby E update should be up in a couple of days.

This post has been rolling around in my head for a while. Partly because I want to document my breastfeeding journey before I forget what it was all about and partly because I want to add to the library of breastfeeding posts out on the Internet. I read a ton about breastfeeding before Baby E was born and during the early weeks. That community of mothers sharing their experiences, both the good and the bad, helped me more than I can really verbalize.

As I mentioned, Baby E's delivery did not go well and because of that Baby E and I were apart for much longer than I wanted after delivery. It was probably about a half hour or so, but I started skin to skin with Baby E and nursing her as soon as I was allowed. That first attempt was much harder than I had ever anticipated for something that everyone says is so natural. I think part of it was that we were both struggling from some of the challenges of the birth itself.

We spent lots of time like this.
Baby E was getting something from me, but her latch on one side was not great and she really struggled to latch on the other side at all. Since Baby E was born in the late afternoon we were not able to see a lactation consultant until almost 18 hours after she was born. This was something I had not anticipated. The hospital told me that they had lactation consultants always available, so I didn't have a backup plan on this. It would have been nice to see someone a little sooner.

When I got to see the lactation consultant, she gave us some tips to try and help, but it really was a struggle. I also had limited mobility and was in a lot of pain, neither of which helped with the nursing situation. Even though is was really hard, nursing was something that was very important to me and I was determined to make it work.

On our second day after delivery, the lactation consultant brought in a pump to help make sure that my milk would come in and that we could get the colostrum for Baby E. I would pump after she ate and we used a syringe to feed the colostrum to Baby E. That was not easy and I think she ended up wearing more than she ate. The lactation consultant also suggested that a nipple shield may help, but the hospital did not have any, so that would have to wait until I was discharged.

The third night with Baby E was pretty rough. By that point my right nipple was incredibly sore and she was having an even harder time latching on the left. This was also the night that she wanted to be held and nurse constantly. That evening she managed to nurse so much that the skin on her little cheeks rubbed off. We joke that she nursed her face off that night, and my nipples pretty much matched.

It took what seemed like forever for my milk to come in. In reality it came in between days 4 and 5. This was the about the same time I was released from the hospital. I started pumping at least once a day as soon as I came home. One of my biggest fears was that I wouldn't be able to make enough milk for Baby E.

The first 2 weeks of breastfeeding were really really hard. Baby E wanted to nurse constantly and I was constantly worried she wasn't getting enough to eat. During this time I was on an emotional roller coaster. I think that was as much about the post postpartum hormones as it was about nursing. Her behavior was completely normal, but it is hard to think that she was getting enough when she wanted to eat for 45 minutes to an hour every hour or so.

Those first few weeks were also really messy. My boobs would leak as they figured out how much milk to make. Baby E also needed to use a nipple shield to latch. There was always a little milk in the shield and it was pretty much impossible switch sides with both Baby E and I being covered in milk. She ate pretty frequently, so we spent a lot of time covered in milk.

Weeks 2 to 4 got a little easier. We got better at using the shield without making a complete mess. We also started to go out of the house from time to time. At first we would try and go out in between feedings or we would go out to baby stores. They always have a comfortable place to sit and nurse. During this time Baby E continued to want to eat frequently and would often spend 45 minutes or longer eating. During those early weeks there were times I spent over 6 hours of a day feeding Baby E (we tracked everything from her early days in the Baby Connect ap). While I wouldn't change it for the world, this was really hard. I am not used to sitting in one place for that long and we had a move looming.

A post nursing snooze
Over the next couple of weeks things continued to get easier. While Baby E still needed the nipple shield and took a while to eat, she began to go a little longer between feedings. It is amazing the difference that having an additional 30 minutes can give you. I also got better at feeding her in public without making a complete mess. One thing that helped me was giving up the nursing cover. She hated it and it was one more thing to manage. Yeah, I am a whip it out kind of mom...something I never thought I would say.

At about 8 weeks something just clicked. Baby E still wanted to feed a lot, but all of a sudden she was able to latch without the nipple shield. This was particularly helpful because it was the week we moved. Not needing any additional accessories made feeding her on the go much easier and since I spent a lot of time going between the two houses that week I was very thankful.

Soon after she began latching without a nipple shield, I figured out how to feed her in the Ergo carrier. This has been particularly helpful in our trips to Disney, but sometimes it even makes grocery shopping easier.

I went back to work when Baby E was about 11.5 weeks. She gets bottles of breast milk while I am away. Figuring out how much to send with her was a bit of a challenge, but after a few weeks it seemed to work out. I am also lucky to have a position that is flexible enough to allow me to go and feed her during my lunch break on most days. While it has been great, I need to stop this soon because I need the time to work.

Pumping has been a mixed bag. As a whole I don't pump enough for Baby E while I am at work. She started sleeping through the night pretty early on and this meant I would wake up about 2 a.m. feeling full. I started pumping then to protect my milk supply and make myself more comfortable, but once I went back to work, I realized I needed that milk to have enough for her daycare bottles. Now I set my alarm for about 1:30 a.m. so I can get up and pump. Getting up sucks and I look forward to someday getting more than 5 hours of sleep at a time, but for right now it works. I would do just about anything to make sure she gets the breast milk she needs.

I have also had several pump problems. My pump came through my insurance, so the options I had to choose from were a single hand pump or a double electric. Obviously, I chose the double electric. I was excited when my pump showed up and it was the Medela Freestyle (the things you get excited about when you have a kid). This is their newest, lightest and most expensive pump. Unfortunately, I have had the motor on the pump go out twice in the past 6 months. Medela has great customer service, and  they always replaced it in a day. I also borrowed a friend's pump to hold me over, but being without a pump about a week after I went back to work was not fun.

For us breastfeeding has worked well. It was not always easy, but it has been worth it. Now that Baby E is getting a little older, more and more people are asking me how long I plan on breastfeeding. The easy answer is a year, because that is what is recommended by the CDC. In reality, I don't know what we are going to do. Baby E will drive that decision. For now I am just going to enjoy the ride.

What was your breastfeeding experience? Any tips for pumping more during the daytime hours?