Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Adventures in breastfeeding…

***Disclaimer, if you aren’t currently nursing, or planning to nurse in the near future, you will find this post entirely too long and boring and quite frankly, a huge waste of your time. I’d recommend stopping right here. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Oh, and I am by no means an expert in this category. I’m certainly not a lactation consultant either so always check with your pediatrician when in doubt, pleaseandthankyou**
With that said, here’s to the blind leading the blind, ha! I kid, I kid! (Well sorta). And since this is a loooong post (sorry) I thought I’d throw some random Eli pics in here to break up the monotony Smile. You’re welcome, mom.
So I like to think I’ve learned a lot in the short time I’ve been nursing my son. I am by no means an expert but I would like to share the wisdom I’ve gleaned over the past 9 months. Now as you read yesterday, I mentioned how I was bummed by my noticeably diminishing milk supply and that I had a talk with my son’s pediatrician about it. Well for you to understand where I’m coming from, I think I ought to give you a little background first:
Eli's 9 months old 004
Look at that head rounding out nicely. Thanks helmet
So during the day, I nurse on demand, roughly every 2-4 hours depending on if he’s had big boys foods and what we are doing at the moment. What I have always done from the moment he slept longer than 4 hour stretches at night (after putting him to bed at 7pm) was pump right before I went to bed. This was the only time I’d pump while I was at home with him to build up a freezer supply for when I returned to work. (I know some moms who pump in the morning after nursing their babies since we produce the most milk first thing in the morning, but I tried it once knowing I’d get nothing because this kid can SUCK! Sure enough, that never worked for me. He seems to get every last drop Winking smile). In the beginning, I’d be able to pump a bottles worth each night (4oz), and then over time I’d only pump 2-3oz and it would take a few nights of pumping to be able to freeze a bottles worth (which I had heard was normal because we “dry up” by the end of the day), until very recently I was lucky if I’d get even an ounce. Just last week I wasn’t getting anything because my pump wasn’t able to stimulate my let-down Sad smile. I was alarmed because I rely on these nightly pumping sessions to provide me with the 2 bottles he drinks each day now that I am back at work 2 days a week. Lately, pumping during the day at work, I’ve only been getting like 1-2oz at a time (I used to pump 4-5 oz each time when he was 3 months old and I had first gone back to work.) At this point, I’m starting to get upset thinking I’m unintentionally starving my child because I’m not ready to give up nursing yet and that maybe I should be supplementing him with formula (because after all, that’s all HE must be getting at the boob while nursing too, since the pumping measurement is all I have to go off of. Forget the fact that he has never NOT seemed full/satisfied after a nursing session. But, alas, this is what we do. We worry.) So many doubts! So many questions! Ahhhh! Why can’t I just freakin’ KNOW how much he drinks while he’s nursing???
Eli's 9 months old 022
I’m his personal jungle gym
This brings me to my doc appointment. You know what she said? She said “most woman give up pumping by 10 months because this decrease in pumped milk is normal. It no longer is needed. As long as he eats well during the day, if you wanted to, you could just nurse him before you go to work and then right when you get home and that would be fine too. He wouldn’t even need the bottles in between. You can give him water in a sippy cup but you don’t have to.” Seriously?? I was shocked! Here I was thinking he was unknowingly being starved by me when all along this is a natural progression as he starts eating solids. Phew! She said it’s mainly a problem for babies that don’t eat solids due to being picky--then they NEED the breast milk. Why do we doubt ourselves?? Then we pick our fellow mommy’s brains and compare our stories with theirs and think since they aren’t identical something must be wrong.
Mmmm, hmmmm.
**Just an FYI, our pediatrician is super pro-nursing and is a certified lactation consultant so she’s very knowledgeable. I feel very confident in her recommendations and judgments. I KNOW that if my supply really and truly was an issue, she’d help me do what I needed to do to increase it.
So MY lessons learned so far:
1.) Babies eat a lot in the beginning, hence the ton of milk we produce in the first 3 months.
2.) By 4 months, babies can go longer in between feedings because they are more effective and efficient suckers and they still get what they need. Our bodies are in the process of learning their needs and regulating it’s milk production—aka, no more breast pads because we’re leaking! Woo hoo! (I thought I’d be buying these things until I dried up!)
3.) At 6 months, our bodies have our babies schedule down. This means our boobs “learn” they don’t need to go into overdrive producing milk during the hours the baby sleeps. They aren’t hard as rocks if we go longer than normal in between feedings. (This also means we can’t gauge how much milk is in there based on how full they feel. They will start to feel softer more often now). We also start to pump less because our babies are better at stimulating milk production and sucking it out of us than the pump now is. And they nurse much quicker, 5 minutes each side can be completely normal, again they’re efficient!
4.) After 7 months, when they start taking in solids regularly like us with 3 solid meals or more a day, their demand for milk has lessened significantly. Our bodies just keep adjusting. Our breast pumps just don’t compare to the hoovers our babies have become in the sucking department. This is ALL OKAY! This is how its SUPPOSED to go!
His new summer kicks!
I suppose if I had gone to the la leche league meetings like my mother-in-law insisted I do (Sorry Shay!) then I may have known this before I let worry wreck havoc on me :/ I hope this post saves you the trouble.
Oh and if you want to know when you should be worried about your milk supply, it’s more likely to show up or be an issue in the first few months and you’ll know it because your baby isn’t having very many wet diapers, the urine might be dark yellow/orange instead of clear or straw colored, s/he isn’t gaining weight (after the 3 month mark it’s normal for the baby’s growth to start slowing down and not being so dramatic as it was in the begining) and you may notice s/he gets frustrated, fussy and/or starts crying at the breast or right after because s/he isn’t getting enough and is still hungry. If the baby is older than 6 months, eating solids, and you still feel like you may have “completely dried up”, use the last criteria just mentioned to determine if your baby is getting enough. Is s/he fussy or frustrated after nursing? Does s/he still seem hungry and is a poor solids eater? Then I’d worry.
Just remember you have resources out there, starting with the le leche league and your nearest lactation consultant. YOU nurse however long suits YOU and your baby, don’t base it on when other woman in your life have stopped for whatever their reason was.
We’ve ALL doubted our supply at one point or another, I hoped this relieves those doubts and gives you renewed confidence in your ability to nourish your baby adequately Smile.
That is all. You still with me??? You deserve a treat.


Anonymous said...

Ok...that does it..........I'm not nursing. I'm exhausted reading your blog.


Auntie Glenna

Linds said...

Yes Auntie Glenna but they're SOOOO worth it! :D

Anonymous said...

Wow that was long, but very informative. Kind of wish you had Eli before I had Jacob, so you can give me the knowledge I lacked. But I was lucky enough to make it to 11 months of nursing him.

Great post!

Ps This is Stacey =)

Bella JoV said...

You have to remember, you're still coming from the one child perspective. Each child, each pregnancy, each nursing experience is unique. With both of my kids, I nursed EXCLUSIVELY for a full year. That means no solids. No baby food. No cereal. Nada, nothing. It wasn't out of some super-mommy drive. It was just so dang easy to nurse rather than mess with the messies. I had a fabulous let down with a fabulous hand pump and could pull off 8 oz. in under 2 minutes. Easy peasy. And that was up until they were a year old. I have no recollection (keeping in mind this WAS 16-20 years ago) of my milk supply decreasing...My pediatrician, who was the esteemed and beloved Dr. Hanson, believed that babies that were exclusively breast fed didn't require any other nutrition (other than iron drops, yeah, we learned that in nursing school didn't we?) So all good tips, Linds, but the most important one is to remember each baby is unique.