Well, I’m almost eight months into my breastfeeding journey with baby number two! This means, pretty soon, I’ll have breastfed for two whole years of my life. While I’m always looking forward to reclaiming my body, the journey with my daughters and the bond it encourages is so magical. It is just so unbelievable what the human body is capable of. To be able to create, grow, and feed life out of basically an idea is such a gift to experience. Since my breastfeeding journey with both girls has pretty much been identical to date, I’m confident that I will be able to hang on to my one year goal, just a few months longer. Here is what my last eight months of nursing looked like.
Both of my girls latched right in the delivery room. From there, it was your typical, round-the-clock newborn feedings. I’ve been VERY lucky to have efficient feeders. My nursing sessions rarely exceeded twenty minutes in the very beginning, and are much less now. Sure, I dealt with the early cracked nipples and engorgement (I only use NON-lanolin ointments like this one), but my only real breastfeeding hiccup was a bout of mastitis. This infection landed me in the doctor’s office, on antibiotics, on a regimen of hot showers or hot compresses before nursing, and cold compresses after. It was annoying. It didn’t interrupt feeding my daughter, thank goodness, but, gosh, did it hurt. If you ever feel achy, feverish, and have pain and redness in your breast, visit the doctor right away! I didn’t experience this with my first, but I did have to work through a clogged duct, or two with her. Normal stuff, but no fun.
One Month Mark
Back in the U.K., where I lived during my first daughter’s infancy, it was recommended to wait four weeks before beginning to pump, and introduce a bottle right at that one month mark. This was to allow your supply the chance to regulate by not pumping too early, but also to introduce a bottle early enough so that the baby wouldn’t reject it. I never had a problem with rejection, but neither of our daughters loved our preferred glass bottles and nipples in the beginning. So, to start, we gave the occasional bottles straight from the nipples that attached to our pump’s bottles. I use the Lansinoh SignaturePro Double Electric Pump, with the large flanges, nipples, and bottles that all came in the set. My only regret was buying a double pump. I have NEVER used both. Instead, I would feed off of one side throughout the night, and pump the other in the morning. I still use this method, eight months in.
For me, as a stay-at-home-mom, pumping has not been a necessity, more of a luxury so that I can nip out for an exercise class or a dinner out. If I was working and feeding a baby with pumped bottles during a 9-5 workday, I would probably make use of both pumps and be more concerned with the output. But for me, it’s 30 minutes of pumping in the morning off of the side I reserved, and it gets stored for up to five days in the fridge. I never pump extra to stash in the freezer, I just work off of those five days because I do NOT enjoy pumping and do not do it any longer than I have to.
The Sweet Spot
After the newborn phase, right around when we sleep trained my girls, the feeding schedule became controlled and predictable. This is that sweet spot before solids begin. Solid foods are a nice addition to babyhood because you get to reduce nursing frequency, but it’s a lot of work to make food, and clean a baby up even more times than you already are. So, this second stage is a nice reprieve.
For details on my nursing schedule during this time and beyond, you can view my sample schedule in my post “Let’s Talk About Sleep, Baby.” The biggest change during this time is the 7PM-7AM bedtime with just a controlled dream feed sometime between 10PM-11PM. This means a late bedtime for mama, but no more interrupted sleep! So nursing all day, a dream feed, and quick pump in the morning, and that’s what the sweet spot looks like for me.
Right now we’re ramping up the solids phase. My seven-month-old is just about on a full food schedule of three meals a day, and I’m starting to see the break in nursing. My supply has gone down slightly now that her breastmilk needs have reduced, but I no longer have to breastfeed her around each meal. I offer a half feed which she doesn’t always take. I do, however, pump not only to leave the house these days, but also to add to her food. Breastmilk is great to assist in mashing up bananas or avocados. to thin out leftover foods, and to mix into oatmeal. One major plus with this age and the solids phase: bye-bye sterilizing milk bottles! That chore is almost as painful as pumping itself.
So, once she is fully on three, big meals a day, and snacks, her first year will come to a close with breastmilk when she wakes up, after her second nap, and before bed. After that, the end is near…
This is what the end of my last breastfeeding journey looked like and what I hope to mirror for my baby. At one year, we had the green light to begin cow’s milk as a main drink, so, slowly, I replaced each one of my feeds with a bottle of milk instead. I started with the afternoon feed, then followed with the evening, and lastly, gave up our morning breastfeeding snuggles. I was emotional at first to close that chapter, but after a week of giving her cow’s milk, I couldn’t imagine going back to breastfeeding! It’s like she had tripled in size overnight, and wasn’t my baby anymore. It was a very surreal feeling. Similar to how I felt post-potty training and after she became a big sister.
So, there you have it. My breastfeeding journey that has been a pretty smooth and positive experience. As a stay-at-home-mom, popping my kids on the boob, not dealing with measuring and sterilizing more than I have to, and occasionally pumping for my sanity, worked/works best for me. I understand that it doesn’t come so easy for all, and major hats off to the women who work full-time and still manage to breastfeed for over a year. The effort and dedication is admirable. I also would like to point out that I am very regimented in my sleep and food schedules for my kids, as well as the methods I use to soothe. I have never offered a pacifier to my kids, nor do I breastfeed to soothe past a certain age. Sure, there are exceptions for when my baby is sick or struggling with new teeth, or just having a bad day, but typically I do not attach breastfeeding to soothing after 4 months, or so. For this reason, my nursing frequency and preferences may look a lot different than others, and that’s okay. To each their own.
With baby number one, I really relied on my Boppy pillow, but my new couch has some pretty perfect bolster pillows, so I didn’t need to use it once this time around! I’d still recommend it for the bolster-less, though. My Lansinoh pump, mentioned above, has been straightforward and reliable. Once my kids got used to the bottle, I moved them from the Lansinoh pump bottles to these glass Life Factory bottles. They’re very durable, better to prevent contaminants, and have a nice flow. In terms of nursing, I’ve never used an apron or a special cover, I just tied on some muslins that I had hanging around for spit-up anyway. A special tool to give your hands a break from pumping and to ease clogged ducts or, God forbid, mastitis, is this super-neat Lilu Massage Bra. It actually massages you while pumping, which many women do to increase output manually.
Lastly, get some clothes you’ll feel comfortable in that are very easy to clip and un-clip. Some breastfeeding options are so complicated or bulky. I get my basic tanks from Motherhood Maternity and anything beyond that from Pea in the Pod. It is extremely important to try to feel a little bit good about yourself and your body while devoting it completely to someone else. So go, buy yourself those nursing shirts.
If you’re an expectant mom, I hope this helps you wrap your head around what you might expect in a year of nursing, and maybe even puts you at ease if you have reservations. If you have any questions on my journey, supplies, anything at all, drop a comment or email me at email@example.com. You got this, Mama!