How We Do – Breastfeeding
To be totally honest, I was really scared to breastfeed Gavin. I had heard such horror stories of mastitis, clogged ducts, and hospital stays, but I was most worried about not producing enough milk for him. I so badly wanted to be able to nurse him, so you can imagine my relief when he latched on right away after birth and continued to be a wonderful eater during his first 24 hours of life. All the nurses kept saying how lucky I was and that we were both naturals at it. I was over the moon!
Then we learned that Gavin had really elevated jaundice levels that were continuing to rapidly climb and got admitted to the NICU for a few very long days. When we got there, the (wonderful, amazing, best ever) nurses asked my permission on a lot of different things, including if they could use any donor breastmilk or formula for Gavin. The fastest way to get rid of jaundice is through pee and poop, and since my real milk hadn’t come in yet, Gavin wouldn’t have a lot of that just yet. I told them they could of course do anything they needed to in order to help my little boy, so next thing I knew an IV was in his arm (so sad to see) and he was getting bottles every two hours. I was so worried that nursing him was now ruined since he was getting someone else’s milk from a bottle, but the nurses ensured me that wouldn’t happen and they were so supportive, helping me nurse him every 2-3 hours before he got his bottle – even waking me up when it came time to nurse him at my request. Although our stay in the NICU was by no means fun, I am really grateful to all the nurses there for being so helpful in giving me tips on feeding Gavin and just how to care for him in general.
Once we finally got home from the hospital Gavin continued to eat great. He wanted to nurse pretty constantly the first few weeks, and I definitely had sore nipples and one night of super painful engorgement, but other than that we seemed to be doing really well. Those first few weeks of being a mom were so hard, but at least I felt like I had feeding my baby under control. I also really loved (and still do!) being the only one who can produce food for my boy and the closeness I felt to him while he was eating. And this kid sure does love to eat – he is at the top of the growth charts and has been since he was born.
Once we were past the first month or so of Gavin’s life, I really felt like we had a rhythm down with nursing. He was eating every 1.5-2.5 hours during the day and about 3 times during the night. That’s why I was so surprised when I woke up one morning to the most painful breast I could imagine. I had done everything the books and my friends said to avoid mastitis, but the pain just got worse throughout the day so I got a last minute appointment at my doctor’s office right before they closed, and sure enough I was prescribed antibiotics for mastitis. UGH. The next few days were quite miserable, with me feeling so sick and the intense pain that came every time I nursed Gavin. But the pain did go away and I am so grateful it never got any worse.
Now that Gavin is three months old, I feel like I can confidently say that we totally have breastfeeding under control. For me, it’s probably the easiest part about being a mom, and I totally attribute that to how natural of an eater Gavin was from the start. Here’s what our days pretty much look like in regards to his eating schedule:
Gavin wakes up between 7-8 and nurses a few minutes after he wakes up.
We try to follow the eat, play, sleep routine throughout the day with 2.5-3.5 hour cycles. For example, Gavin eats at 7am, plays until 8:15am, sleeps until 9:30am, and then does it all over again all day long.
Sometimes he eats on each side for 5ish minutes during a feeding session, and other times he only eats on one side for 7-10ish minutes.
I was pumping two times during the day to produce enough milk for Chris to feed Gavin one bottle each night for his late night feeding so I get a more solid block of sleep, but now I am able to get even more milk by just using the Haakaa hand pump on the side Gavin isn’t eating from at each nursing session. So at night, I nurse Gavin around 6:45pm right before bed, he sleeps for a few hours, Chris gives him a bottle around 11:00pm, he sleeps, I nurse him anytime between 2-3am, sometimes he wakes up again for a feeding between 5-5:30, and other times he makes it all the way until morning. That’s a “normal” night, but it is definitely subject to change at any time!
I don’t experience any pain whatsoever anymore while nursing him and feel like my milk supply has really evened out with what he needs/is eating. I can definitely tell when he is going through a growth spurt, because he will nurse for like, 15 minutes on each side for a couple days and then go back to normal.
I’m really not sure how long I will breastfeed Gavin. I feel like everybody I talk to about it had “goals” set for themselves of a certain length of time they wanted to reach, but I don’t necessarily have that. As of now, I guess I plan to do it for as long as I can/he wants to, simply because we both enjoy it, and also because I don’t want to have to make bottles/buy formula!
Some of the items that really helped me out (mostly in the first couple of weeks) with breastfeeding are:
My Medela pump, received through my health insurance (+ extra pump parts – you will want them since you have to wash parts after each use)
Lansinoh lanolin nipple cream (I really only had to use this the first three weeks or so, but it was a lifesaver during that time)
Medela soothing gel pads (Only used them when the pain was really bad, but they were so helpful)
Washable breast pads (I still wear these every day)
Tons of burp cloths (Gavin has always been a messy eater, and we usually end up with milk dripping down his face and my stomach)
Nursing tank tops (I just got a couple of cheap 3-packs on Amazon – pretty sure I have lived in them the last three months)
Haakaa pump (so useful and easy to use – get more than one!)
Like I said, I am so grateful that breastfeeding has been really easy for us, because I know that definitely isn’t the case for everybody. Being a mom is so hard and confusing, and it is so such a blessing to feel like I have at least one area under control!
If I could give any kind of advice on this topic it would be:
Don’t read any books on it prior to having your baby if you are a first time mom. Everything you need to know, the nurses will teach/tell you in the hospital. Just ask them all your questions!
Make sure you see a lactation consultant before you leave the hospital. They are so helpful with seeing if your baby’s latch is correct and can even provide support after you are released to go home.
Be patient. It hurts like hell in the beginning, but one day very soon it won’t feel like anything.
Don’t try to go too long in the night without feeding your baby or pumping! It is SO tempting when your baby sleeps a longer stretch than usual, but the pain just isn’t worth it.
Don’t stress about your milk supply. Unless you have an actual imbalance one way or the other, your baby really will do a great job at helping you to produce what he or she needs.
Introduce a bottle a month or so in. It’s such a weight off your shoulders to know that someone else can feed your baby if they need to or if you just want a break.
Just accept the fact that you will basicallly live in nursing tank tops and bras. It’s the easiest way. Just do it.
I use the Sprout app to track feedings (and sleep and diapers), and it has been super helpful to me to see patterns in Gavin’s eating habits and to know how long it is been since the last feeding.