Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Adventures in Parenting - How We Made it Through 12 Months of Breastfeeding

Baby E just turned one and this means we hit the one-year mark on breastfeeding. I feel very lucky and blessed that I have been able to provide her with both milk and the closeness nursing provides for the past year. A few months ago I discussed the first 6 months of our nursing journey, and while overall, the second 6 months was easier it did present different challenges.

One of the big problems over the past few months was Baby E would get distracted. Starting at about 9 months, Baby E would pull off at the slightest noise or movement. This made it more difficult to nurse her when we were out and next to impossible to nurse her in the car (not while driving). She also stared occasionally doing what I call yoga nursing when we were home. The urge to stand up would hit her and she would end up in something that looked like downward dog while latched. That was always interesting.

Around 9 months is also when I started to get really sick of pumping. Not just, oh this is a pain sick of pumping, but wanting to poke my eyeballs out sick of pumping. The constant 5:30 a.m. wake ups and building my day around the pump sucked. I don't miss the pumping at all. That said, it was worth every minute I spent attached to that horrible machine to be able to still nurse Baby E when I am around.

Several people have asked me how we made it so long and there are several things that helped.
  1. Pump early. I started pumping very early on and started pumping with some regularity beginning at about 4 weeks. This meant that by the time I went back to work we had almost two months of milk in the freezer. Knowing we had extra gave me comfort in the beginning and allowed us to go longer without supplementing.
  2. Pump often. For me to keep my supply up I had to pump a lot. On days when I worked it was sometimes as many as 7 times a day. I was lucky in that Baby E slept through the night very early on. However, the early morning hours were when my supply was highest, so for the first 8 months of Baby E's life I pumped at 1:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. every day. At 8 months I stared to drop the 1:30 a.m. pumping session. While they completely sucked, without these pumping sessions, I wouldn't have had enough milk for daycare.
  3. Rotate your stock. When I went back to work, I started sending a combination of part fresh and part previously frozen milk. I would then freeze the additional fresh milk. Another step that took some time, but this kept my freezer stock fresh and made sure that none of the milk went bad. I think I would have cried if I would have had to throw any milk out. It was bad enough the couple of times I split some.
  4. Make friends with the letdown feature. This girl turned me on to this trick and it helped me increase my output. About halfway through each session, I would run the letdown cycle again. I was all about more milk in the same amount of time.
  5. Take it one day at a time. Over the course of the last year there have been days when I wanted to give up. It may have been a day when my output dropped or a day when I had to do every pumping session in the car or a day when I missed something because I was stuck pumping, but whatever it was, I was over it. Each time I took a deep breath and said to myself, "try one more day and see how it goes." The next day was always better and that gave me the momentum I needed to keep going.
My supply dropped pretty significantly when Baby E was a little over 9 months. I continued to pump and get as much as I could, but I was only pumping about half of what she was taking. Luckily Baby E was pretty well established on solids when this happened. Additionally, because of the amount of milk we had in the freezer we were able to give her exclusively breast milk until around 10.5 months and then started to give her small amounts of organic whole cows milk. Deciding what to use as a supplement was an agonizing decision, but in the end, we decided that cows milk would work best for us.

At this point I plan on continuing to nurse Baby E until she is done with it. Sometimes I worry that is right around the corner, and other times I think she will want to nurse forever. Right now Baby E gets cows milk at daycare and she nurses in the morning and the evening. Without having to pump, I am enjoying the nursing sessions more. It is a good way to welcome the day and reconnect after work. It is bittersweet to be closer to the end of this journey than the beginning.