Let me start by saying that when it comes to feeding your baby... Fed is best!! This is a blog post to discuss my feeding journey with both of my kids. I was an exclusive pumper for most of the time. I dealt with issues like cracked nipples and clogged ducts galore! I quickly learned what products I liked, how to store and rotate a freezer full of milk, and pumping schedules that worked for me.
So first things first, building up your milk supply. So important! Breast feeding is supply and demand. In the beginning, your newborn is feeding so frequently, which helps to get your milk supply to come in. After that, you may be able to get on feeding schedule, like feeding every 3 hours for example. Your body will adjust to that schedule and make milk for those times. If your child drops a middle of the night feed and you are no longer breast feeding or pumping at that time, then your body will learn to stop producing milk at that time. Essentially, you can train your body to make milk at the times you want it to (most of the time). Now, this is not always easy or possible for some women. Some may not produce enough despite their efforts to try to increase their supply.
Things that I did to help maintain a good supply; I kept a well balanced diet, I tried to eat 500 extra calories daily, and bumped my water intake up to 100oz every single day. That's it. On the rare occasion that I didn't drink enough water, I could tell my milk supply was a little short. I also want to mention that I worked out 5 days a week on average and this never interfered with my milk supply.
One thing that I highly recommend to anyone breast feeding... get a haakaa. It's a small manual "pump" that you suction on to the breast that your child is not feeding on, and it draws and collects milk from that breast’s let downs. It helps you to get a little extra stash going, and I think it works well in telling your body to produce a little more milk, therefore helping with supply.
In the beginning, feeding on demand is recommended. So you will be feeding often at first. After a while, I find that it works well to go to a schedule where you feed your child every 2.5-3 hours during the day, plus night feeds. This works great for the entire first year. If pumping, you will have to find out what works for you. The benefit to pumping is that you can see exactly how many ounces you are producing, so you know if you need to pump more or if you can pump less.
My Pumping Journey
With both of my kids I started off breast feeding, but by two weeks postpartum I started one pump a day at night time. I did this for a couple of reasons. First, to make sure I was completely emptying both breasts since my kids only fed from one side per breast feeding session. Second, this allowed me to start practicing one bottle feed a day with each child, in preparation for returning to work part time. As a side note, babies are more receptive to accepting bottles if introduced by 4 weeks old, so it is good to practice that early on if you ever plan on giving pumped milk or formula in the future. When my daughter was 4 months old, I officially switched to exclusive pumping and when my son was 2 months old I switched to exclusive pumping.
Why did I switch to pumping? Because I found it more convenient. People give pumping a bad name, but it was easier in my opinion. For me, it was hard when my first child would get so distracted during breast feeding that she wouldn't take a full feed. I also preferred feeding her from a bottle because then I knew exactly how many ounces she was getting in the day. And last, it was much quicker to get a bottle feed down then a breast feed. With pumping you can also have your partner help with some of the feedings, which is great when your baby is still feeding in the night.
In my case, I produced a good amount of milk. So I was able to pump 5 times during the day (645am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm, 830pm), and made enough to give a bottle in the night plus store extra in the freezer. Once I had a good freezer stash going, I dropped down to 4 pumps a day for a little while (645am, 12pm, 4pm, 830pm), then slowly dropped a pump every couple of months. During that time, I would rotate milk. So every day, I'd make bottles with a mix of fresh milk and a mix of frozen milk. With both kids, I was able to stop pumping all together at 11 months postpartum and had a enough frozen milk for one final month.
With my first child, I used the Spectra S2 pump and thought it was great. I had no issues with it. It was very efficient, fairly quiet, and pink! But when baby #2 came around, I knew I wanted something portable, cord free, and less bulky because this time I’d be chasing a two year old around too. This led me to the baby buddha pump, which I paired with the legendariy milk collection cups. The pump is small, powerful, and cord free. And with the collection cups, they slip right in your bra, so you don’t have any flanges and bottles sticking out. Just what I needed for pumping while taking care of a baby and a toddler.
Another product that I liked were these breastmilk storage bags. They are the best because they lay flat for freezing and I didn't have too many problems with bags leaking. If you work and don’t have time to clean your pump supplies while at work, you need these; medela quick clean wipes and medela micro steam bags. Big time savers and so convenient. I've even used those wipes to clean bottles and pump parts while traveling on planes and at airports.
The Not So Fun Parts
If you've ever had a clogged duct then you know what a pain in the butt it is! I cant even count the number of times that I got one, but probably 30+, not even kidding. It was primarily on one side. So what can be done to get rid of them? Apply heat ( I used hand warmers) and massage the heck out of it. I also started hand expressing after every pump to make sure that every drop of milk was out. And last, I used a sunflower lecithin supplement daily.
Another not so fun issue, cracked nipples. I have gotten cracked nipples from both breast feeding and pumping. Ouch ouch ouch. The best thing you can do for this is prevention; make sure that your baby has a proper latch and if you are pumping make sure you have a flange that fits properly. All purpose nipple ointment (APNO) is a life saver though. You need a prescription from your OBGYN for this. With a correct adjustment in the babies latch or the flange size, along with the APNO, cracked nipples can heal in no time.
Supplying breast milk, whether through breast feeding or pumping is a huge learning curve! If breast feeding is not your thing, then I encourage you to try pumping because like me, you may find that its easier and more convenient. I applaud anyone who has supplied breast milk even for the shortest period of time because it can be quite a big chore and cause a lot of mental stress at times! Good luck in your milk journey!
Your Sleep BFF,