This topic seems to be very in demand. Between my exclusive pumping, not showing my boobs, and how much I’m producing, there’s tons of questions around my feeding choices so here is a post alllllll about it. I feel a little hypocritical writing so many baby posts but I’m just here to give you guys what you ask for, so here you go!
While I was pregnant I had every intention of trying to breastfeed. I went into it with an open mind though–if it worked out, great; if not, she will still get fed. There is a lot of controversy around the topic but I kept my eyes and ears shut to all of that. I was going to do what worked for me and my baby.
Since Capri was born SGA (small for gestational age) I had to kickstart my milk production by pumping right after she was born in the hospital. I had not planned to start pumping until around 3ish weeks but I did what I had to do. When I would nurse Capri she was very fussy and frustrated. Being a small newborn she didn’t have the energy to suck or the patience for it to drip-drop into her mouth. Sorry for the graphic image but you asked for it…
Unfortunately nursing her was really challenging. She would cry most of the feeding and for her to get a full 2oz it would take over 30 minutes. Needless to say I was not loving it, either. To keep up her weight & blood sugar levels we decided to supplement with formula on a few feedings since it’s heavier. We discovered pretty much right away that giving her formula, especially at night, was helping her sleep through the night and eventually (after about 5 days) were able to allow her to sleep at night as long as she would go without waking her up to eat.
To stimulate my milk production I decided to nurse her 1-2 times per day. It really helped. However, the process never got easier. Her latch was decent but she would let go frequently and stop sucking. As I said above, the process was incredibly time consuming and stressful, which is not how I wanted my baby’s feedings to be. After about 1 month I decided to stop nursing and exclusively pump.
I started off pumping as often as she needed to eat (6 times a day). It was literally a full-time job. I pumped for about 15-20 minutes each session and would get around 8-10 ounces. Thankfully my production was great so I could freeze some milk to build a supply. Something I learned about breast milk is the difference between foremind and hindmilk. Typically you need to pump a minimum of 15 minutes to reach that hindmind (thicker, yellow-ish milk) that is nutrient-rich. The foremilk (clear, watery looking milk) is what comes out at first and doesn’t really have much nutrition. I needed to pump for 20 minutes to not only get the ounces I needed but to also make sure Capri was getting the healthy breastmilk with substance [hindmilk].
Capri has eaten formula during her night feedings all along. I really believe because it’s heavier it helps her sleep deeply. Sidenote, she has slept through the night pretty much always, so I don’t want to mess with what we have going on.
I was gradually able to cut out pumping sessions as her feeding schedule changed. It was still a serious bitch though, as I would have to pump about every 4-5 hours. Meaning: when I was out all day for work I was bringing my pump, bottles, etc. and have to find private spaces (& time) to pump. Numerous times I forgot a part and would have to either discard the milk or not be able to pump at all because I didn’t have the correct pieces. Ouch.
Speaking of pain, I get clogged ducts about 1-2 times a week. It hurts pretty bad but I’ve learned how to deal with it. I massage my boobs in a SUPER painful way while pumping until it unclogs. Not fun. And another bit of TMI, my nipples are incredibly sensitive to a point where water hitting them is painful. Just one of the many joys, right? I thought sleeping while pregnant was uncomfortable…well, now I can only sleep on my back at a slight side angle because my boobs are always sore and sensitive. I often wake up to them being rock hard and my pajamas drenched, too.
At this point I have about a 1-month supply of frozen milk. It’s less than I wanted to have but honestly I’m done. I decided that in the new year I would start weaning myself off pumping and supplement a couple more feedings with formula. We are using the Hipp (Dutch) formula so I know she is still getting all the nutrients and probiotics she needs in addition to the antibodies in my breastmilk. Many people have asked me if I feel like I’m missing out on the bonding experience with Capri and my answer is no. I love bottle feeding her, I love that others can feed her, I love the relaxing nature of our feedings.
Breastfeeding is incredible and I feel so lucky that my production was adequate to last this long, but I’m ready to slow it down and eventually stop altogether. I feel comfortable with her immune system at this point and know that formula will nourish her. Here is a breakdown of my different pumping schedules prior to weaning:
Month 1: 6:00AM, 10:00AM, 2:00PM, 4:00PM, 8:00PM, 12:00AM
Month 2: 6:30AM, 12:00PM, 5:00PM, 10:00PM
Month 3: 6:30AM, 2:00PM, 6:00PM, 10:30PM
Now: 6:30AM & 10:00PM
-If you want to have a cocktail time it out. I would always do it right after my 4:00PM pump so it would flush out of my system by my next pump. I was also only have 1 glass of wine. Now I can have 2 glasses between pumps since there’s a lot more time in between. If you’re paranoid you can get these litmus tests to see the alcohol content (if any) in your milk. I tested them by dipping it into a spoon of wine and it definitely works. You’d be surprised how much you can actually drink before the alcohol content shows up in your milk.
-Drink lots of water. On days I was bad on my water intake my pumps were shit.
-Eat. If I didn’t have a meal before pumping I could pretty much guarantee the pump would be half as good. I had to get into the habit of eating before pumping to make it worth it.
-Get plenty of rest. I know it sounds kind of ironic with a baby but it’s really important to get some rest for your mil.
-Breastfeeding burns calories so I think that is a big reason I lost weight so fast.
-Breastfeeding also helps your body regulate with your postpartum recovery. So while I wanted Capri to get my antibodies, I was also doing it for myself.I had a great recovery, which you can read all about here.
-We would only leave breastmilk out for about 3 hours. If for whatever reason she wasn’t going to eat it before then we refrigerate it just in case.
-If you use frozen breastmilk, take it out a whole 24 hours before you need it to thaw. Just stick it in the fridge and heat before you need it.
-Keep taking your prenatals. These nutrients are important for your postpartum health and also for breastfeeding mamas.