I gave birth to my 15-month old baby boy Landon back in April, 2010. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to breastfeed because I wanted to give my son the best nutrition possible, right from the start of his life. I thought it would be easy since it is a natural thing, which I guess is a common misconception of new mothers. I definitely had my share of trouble starting off. My little boy had latching issues, which caused me so much pain it brought me to tears so frequently that I wanted to just give up. He would latch, but would not open wide enough, so the issue was severe pain and cracking nipples for me. He was still able to get the milk he needed, which was the important part. It lasted about the first 4.5 months, but I stuck with it despite the pain and frustration because I did not feel that giving up was an option. I told myself that as he grew, so would his mouth and it would get better, and gradually it did. To me, this was the only way; the way it is meant to be. I saw it as a sacrifice for my child. The first of many I am sure.
I work full-time and unfortunately only got 7 weeks off before I had to go back. I was able to go back part-time for 3 months, but after that I was full-time again. I was still determined not to supplement with formula or give up completely. I knew I had to do what was necessary to continue to produce the amount of milk I would need to nourish Landon while I was at work. I was fortunate that I did not have much trouble producing milk. At the start I was producing about 4 ounces per side at one pump session, which worked perfectly! After a couple months though my supply started to go down since I was no longer around Landon all the time and I was only getting on average 2 ounces for each side, which is where I am at now. Landon still only eats 4 ounces in a sitting, which surprises me, but I guess the milk is potent because he’s a big boy! I have a Fenugreek supplement on hand in case my supply ever goes lower, which it has here and there for short periods of time, but for the most part is has remained the same. Fenugreek is an herbal supplement that has been known to stimulate milk production and increase milk supply and can be purchased at most health food stores in capsule form.
My Pump Sessions:
So how do I do it? Well, before I went back to work, my lactation consultant recommended that while I am at work I pump whenever Landon is eating at home, which is what I intended to do, but since he was not really on a regular schedule, and with my busy work life, I decided that was too much to try to keep up with. I figured every 4 hours was good because on average he was eating every three and that would be close enough. On days that Landon is home with Grandma, I try to pump in the morning before I leave for work, unless Landon wakes up early and has been nursed within that hour before I have to leave because then I know I will not get much from pumping. I have the luxury of being able to go home for lunch 3 days a week when Grandma is watching Landon, and that is what I have done since the beginning so that I can nurse him halfway through the day. It helps keep the supply up and eliminates the need for a pump session. I usually pump around 11am or 11:30am so that I’ve built up enough for a bottle, and then go home for lunch around 12:30pm. I work until 5pm-5:30pm and I am usually okay through the end of the day, so I really only have to pump once a day if I get to go home for lunch. Although I have found it beneficial to pump once more before I leave work for the day or right when I get home before Landon sees me so that I have one less bottle to pump at night. Lastly, I will pump again before bed. It has become more difficult to pump at home since Landon nurses about every 3 hours still and stays up until at least 10pm. That really makes things difficult on the days that he goes to day care since I do not get to nurse him at lunch on those days and requires an extra pumped bottle. It always works out though. Worst case I have dropped off the bottle I pumped at work to the daycare.
- Pump while you have the supply at the beginning after birth (not before baby is a month at least though). As long as the baby eats on a regular schedule, it should not interfere with your normal milk production. Looking back, I wish I had taken advantage of the extra milk I produced in the first 8 weeks after he was born. I would have pumped and stored more milk for when I had to go back to work. I was so worried about over producing by pumping that I suffered through some painful engorgement (mainly due to not letting Landon nurse on a certain side because of pain from cracking). Had I done that I could be way ahead on milk storage. These days it is difficult to get far ahead. Generally I only have about 6-8 bags in the freezer when I have a good supply, which can be depleted easily in a week if I have missed pumping opportunities at home.
- Also, I think it is important for all mothers, but especially new mothers, to talk to a lactation consultant or a LaLeche League member if you are having any issues. They can help resolve those issues and provide the support and encouragement a frustrated and concerned new mother might have, eliminating the temptation or desire to quit before you would really want to. There are ways to increase milk supply, heal cracking, and deal with bad latching. You just need to know where to ask.
Here are a few things I learned along the way:
- Nipple Butter, available at Target stores is really good for keeping the nipple lubricated so it does not dry out and crack. It also helps with soreness and any cracking you may get. It is safe for baby and does not contain any animal oils like lanolin. Just apply after nursing and showering.
- If you are engorged, apply a warm wash cloth over your breast about 20 minutes before nursing to soften the tissue and ease the pain. You can also massage the breast toward the nipple under warm water while in the shower, or while nursing or pumping. In my experience, nursing works the best for relieving engorgement because the baby is the most efficient at removing the most amount of milk in a short period of time.
- Sore or Cracked Nipples can be soothed by applying a frozen wash cloth over them after nursing for about 10 minutes. Also see Nipple butter above.
- The biggest culprit of bad latching is the method used in getting them to latch. It is really important to assist the baby while latching to ensure they get the best latch. In rare cases like mine, it is the baby’s inability or stubbornness (☺) to open wide enough so that they get enough in their mouth. The key is to rub the nipple across the baby’s lips and as soon as he/she opens, quickly push their face up and into the breast so that they get a large amount of flesh into their mouth (the Cross Cradle hold is best for newborns because you can control their head with your hand while holding the breast where you need it with the other hand). This will ensure that they have more than just the nipple in their mouth. As my lactation consultant told me, “It’s breastfeeding, not nipple feeding.”
I strongly encourage all nursing mothers to stay with it as long as possible because it truly is liquid gold and the best food your baby will have in their entire life. It is the best way to start them off on a path of healthy nutrition and strong immunity.