Hi, I'm Stephanie, mom to Alexandra, 10 months and I blog over at Life in the Fasts Lane. I am truly honored to be a part of Julie's breastfeeding diaries and have loved reading all of women's vastly different experiences with breastfeeding their babies. I've learned so much and this think is such a great series.
Alexandra Elizabeth was born on September 24th, 2014. I knew I wanted to breastfeed since before even getting pregnant for a multitude of reasons. I don't think there is anything wrong with formula at all, but both my husband and I knew both the health and financial benefits of breastfeeding were enough to give it a try. I also watched my sister in law breastfeed 4 beautiful little girls and she was an inspiration to me. My mom encouraged me to breastfeed, even though she was was not able to breastfeed me, in the 1980's due to her high blood pressure medicine. Before Alexandra's birth, I read as much as possible and took a breastfeeding class at the hospital where she was delivered. I felt as prepared as possible, but in retrospect, I really learned the most through experience and listening to my baby and body's cues.
I was induced because Alex was several days past her due date and I had a long labor (26 hours), delivered her vaginally and had an epidural. She was finally born at 10:30 pm weighing 6 pounds, 15 ounces and 20 inches long. After birth, I immediately breastfed her, and she latched fairly well. Over the next few days at the hospital, I had nurses and very helpful lactation consultants help me with her latch and positioning. Although I knew how she was supposed to latch and the best positions, these ladies were crucial support and gave me encouragement, reassurance and hands on help. Like most babies, she was sleepy and we had to often wake her to eat. We did the usual things like changing her diaper to wake her gently and she ate often throughout our stay in the hospital.
Once we arrived home, I remember my having a slight soreness on my nipples, but feeling confident that I was going to be able to continue breastfeeding. During the first few days at home, I visited the lactation clinic at our hospital to continue to get guidance and confidence that breastfeeding was going as planned. At our lactation clinic, they weighed the baby before and after eating and were able to tell you how many ounces they were taking, which was comforting. I think every new mom worries in the beginning if your baby is getting enough, and to have an expert tell you that, was reassuring and helpful.
During the next few weeks, it seemed like Alex ate every hour, no joke. She always seemed hungry and I remember people with babies around the same age saying that their baby was on a schedule and didn't eat as often. I sometimes questioned myself and wondered if I should make her go longer stretches between feedings, but in the end I just listened to her cues and fed her completely on demand. My husband even found some schedules online that he said I should try, but they didn't seem to work with our hungry little girl. In his defense, he wasn't telling me what to do, but was trying to help me regain some sanity after breastfeeding around the clock for the first few weeks. In hindsight, this was exactly right for Alex. I think this helped establish a great milk supply and although draining, her nursing so much only lasted a few weeks, and she slowly got into her own rhythm and more predictability. Although, I do remember on Thanksgiving (when she was about 8 weeks old) her having her own "feast", and nursing constantly that day. She was definitely going through a growth spurt at that time but my family and I joked that it was her day to "overeat" as well. The first 6-8 weeks were definitely the hardest and I encourage anyone that is breastfeeding to try and make it to that point, because then it seemed to get easier (at least in my experience). I am also proud that she was able to thrive so much off of exclusively my breastmilk and essentially double her weight by 2 months. Breastfeeding is truly an incredible gift we give our children.
The early days of nursing looked a lot like this.
Fast forward to 16 weeks and my maternity leave was sadly over. I went back to teaching 7th grade full time in January. During this time, I continued to breastfeed and pump while at work. Pumping at work required dedication. My schedule was breastfeed Alex when she woke up around 7, pump at work around 9:30 (my planning period), pump at lunch at 11:30, breastfeed Alex around 3:15 when I got off work, breastfeed at 5 pm and at bedtime (at this time was around 7:30). She also generally woke up at least once a night for a middle of the night feeding, but usually went right back down. On this schedule, I was able to keep up my milk supply and exclusively give her my milk. I was a little worried that my milk supply might plummet when heading back to work, because I had heard of that happening with other moms, but I responded well to the pump and was able to produce usually about the perfect amount of milk for her one day to send to her daycare the next day. I always tried to give fresh milk and not get into my freezer stash since I know the composition of milk changes and produces different antibodies and such as is needed. However, there are some mom's that freeze their current milk and give freezer milk because they didn't want to potentially waste any. I had built up around 300-400 ounces in the freezer before my maternity leave was over and didn't up using a lot of it before having to unfortunately throw it away. I wish I could have donated it, but I waited too long. Also, we had some tough issues with a bottle, because although we did give one to her sporadically from 4 weeks on; we were not consistent. Therefore, she had a period from about 3-4 months (the month before I was going back to work) where she refused the bottle (all different types and anyone who gave them to her). Luckily, she overcame that with her daycare teachers pretty quickly.
My thriving 6 month old :)
I continued this schedule and around 6 months, we started giving Alex pureed foods, but she seemed to still drink just as much milk. At 9 months, we started giving her table foods, and she drank a little less. By 9 months her feeding schedule was breastfeed when she woke up around 6:30, eat a small breakfast of table foods around 7:30, breastfeed or eat 5 ounces of breastmilk in a bottle around 9:30 before her morning nap, eat a lunch of table foods around noon, breastfeed or eat 5 ounces of breastmilk around 1:00, breastfeed around 3:30, eat a dinner of table foods at 5:30, and breastfeed before bed around 6:30 or 7. I originally planned on weaning around 1 year, but now I think I want to just wean the pump around 1 year and continue breastfeeding her twice a day (morning and night) for sometime past a year. She has hardly been sick in her first year of life and went to group child care, and I attribute that to some of the antibodies I am able to pass on to her. But I'm not sure what the future will hold and if she will even want to still breastfeed. She has showed no signs of stopping yet, but only time will tell.
Finally, I wanted to discuss my experience with a couple random things that I always wondered about and loved scouring the internet to find out more about: breastfeeding and exercise, breastfeeding and weight loss and maintaining a good supply. I started exercising around 6 weeks after Alex was born. I ran around 12 miles a week and took Pure Barre maybe twice per week. In no way did either of those activities negatively affect my milk supply. Actually, I found the opposite. After running especially, I almost seemed to make MORE milk. Some people may think this is a lot of exercise and others may think this is minimal. However, this was a "moderate" amount of exercise for me and I did exercise throughout my pregnancy and have really exercised consistently since high school (12 + years), so my body is used to it. I ran until my third trimester and did Pure Barre until a week before I was due. I continued this workout schedule of 12-15 miles a week and a few Pure Barre classes until around 8 months when I really started getting more consistent with my running and increased my mileage to around 30 miles a week to train for a half marathon. Still, my milk supply was not affected. I think the main thing for me was to make sure that I was drinking a TON (like 120+ ounces a day) of water and eating a good amount of healthy foods and fats. I also feel like the old wives tale about oatmeal is definitely true. I LOVE oatmeal and ate it almost everyday and I feel like it really did help my milk supply. As far as weight loss, I think nursing definitely helped me lose a lot of the weight quickly post delivery. I gained 30 pounds and had lost all but 10 pounds by a few weeks post birth. I hung onto an extra 5-8 pounds until around 8 months. Finally at this time, I was at my pre-pregnancy weight I know some women get really skinny when nursing and some women tend to hold onto a few pounds and I was somewhere in the middle. Working out made me more hungry, so I'm not sure if it was the main factor in my weight loss, but it did provide endorphins and a little bit of sanity and "me time". The important thing is to listen to your body, be kind to yourself (you made a LIFE), and take it slowly. Crash dieting is horrible for your body, especially when nursing, so be patient with yourself and know that you can get your body back, even if it does take some time.
9. 5 months
Breastfeeding has been such a positive experience for me, but it has been HARD WORK and I do not take it for granted. I am very grateful for the support I have been given and the ability I have had to breastfeed my daughter. I will hopefully breastfeed potential future children as well and am so thankful to share my experience with all of you!
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