Hi everyone! My name is Jenny and I blog over at The Sensible Shopaholic. I've been married to my hubby, Kurt, for 9 years and we have two amazing little kids named Carter (3) and Mackenzie (14 months). I usually write about all things fashion, trends and sales on my blog, but today I'm going a completely different direction on Julie's Breastfeeding Diaries series.
I'm going to start out by saying I am no expert on the topic. However, I weaned my daughter last month when she was 13 months old and I nursed my son till right around the same age. That means in the last 3 years, I've spent 26 months nursing. TWENTY-SIX MONTHS!!! To me, that's insane. I never in a million years would have thought I would have stuck with it that long. I never gave either of my kids formula and I can honestly say it is one of my biggest parenting accomplishments.
Before I found out I was pregnant, I really hadn't given breastfeeding a ton of thought. I personally was formula-fed and I didn't have a lot of close friends who had babies yet. However, my sister nursed her kids and there was one comment she made about it that always stuck in my head: It's free. Since I'm a self-proclaimed shopaholic, she had me at free. After all, I'd rather buy shoes or jewelry than formula if I had the option. #honestymoment
Once I found out I was pregnant with my son, I did what most first-time moms do and read every baby book ever published, did countless hours of internet research and enrolled in hospital classes, including a breastfeeding class. I learned about the health benefits of breastfeeding for the baby as well as for the mom, so it seemed like a no-brainer to give it a shot. I planned to take an extended 5-month maternity leave after my son was born, so I decided 5 months was my goal, but if it didn't work out, I wouldn't be too hard on myself. I figured I never received breast milk and I think I turned out alright (my husband would probably disagree at moments given some of my irrational shopping purchases, but I can always justify those by how much I saved).
I had my son when I was 38 weeks pregnant after a stressful couple weeks on bed rest with atypical preeclampsia. Carter was born on July 30, 2012 and he was huge (8 lbs 12 oz), adorable and as healthy as can be. I can't explain how excited and blessed we were to have him join our family. We attempted nursing shortly after birth and after awkwardly getting him into position, he latched on for a few short minutes. Over the next 24 hours, I could consistently get him to nurse for about 5 minutes at a time, which stressed me out since they typically say most newborn nursing sessions last anywhere from 20-45 minutes. He also screamed his head off the entire first night of his life (welcome to parenthood), which led me to think he might be hungry. One nurse said I might not be making enough colostrum and suggested supplementing with formula because he wasn't eating for long periods of time. He also lost right around 10% of his body weight in the hospital, but I was determined to do it on my own. I figured until my pediatrician told me I needed to try something else, I really wanted to stick to breastfeeding. I'm so glad I didn't listen to that nurse because when my milk came in, it came in with a vengeance. My son continued to grow like crazy and has never been below the 90th percentile on the growth charts. My pediatrician also told me I was lucky because he was an efficient nurser since his feeding sessions continued to only last around 5 minutes.
Not everything at the beginning was easy. I learned the hard way why applying lanolin after each feeding is essential, I struggled with getting my floppy newborn into a comfortable position, dealt with late afternoon cluster feedings, cried when I was engorged, and was exhausted since it was up to me to handle nighttime feedings. This whole nursing thing was no joke, but I've never been one to give up easily.
After I got through the first couple weeks and we settled into a pretty good routine, I found myself with a new problem: oversupply. I know every nursing mom out there who struggles to pump more than an ounce or two will now hate me, but I produced massive amounts of milk. I started pumping once a day after my baby's first feeding and would usually pump about 10 ounces. I know, most people think this was a good problem to have, but it was also met with a lot gassiness, colicky behavior, gagging and other challenges out of my son. It took me a very long time to regulate my supply, but it did allow me to build an amazing freezer stash. We could no longer buy frozen foods since we had no space, but again, I suppose this is a good problem to have.
Once I hit the 5 month mark, I went back to work part-time. I was so nervous about being able to keep up pumping while away from my son, but I decided I've made it this far, I'm going to keep going. My sister's comment about nursing being free constantly went through my head. I'll fully admit, I justified buying a new Tory Burch bag because of how much money I was saving from not having to buy formula. #shopaholicproblems. I also knew I wasn't ready to stop. I loved the bonding time with my son and felt like there was really no downside to trying to continue.
My company was amazingly supportive of nursing moms, even offering a wellness room at the office. The very first day back at work, I went into the wellness room to pump and shortly after I got all hooked up, someone else walked in. I was totally embarrassed, but I was relieved to find it was only another mom going to do the exact same thing. I also learned the hard way how to lock the door correctly. #sodumb
I found after my son started solids at 6 months old, nursing was actually pretty easy. I didn't love pumping during the work day, but since I was only working three days a week, it wasn't that big of a deal. After my son was comfortable on solids, I actually quit pumping during the work day, but continued to nurse exclusively at home. I wouldn't recommend this approach for everyone, but somehow it never impacted my supply (I have oversupply to thank for that one). My son also had no issues with taking a bottle while I was away. Even though I was counting the days till I could chuck the pump out the window, I continued on until my son was 13 months old when I weaned him. I transitioned him directly to whole milk and found I was actually sad our nursing experience was over. I wasn't sad for long because less than 2 months later, I found out I was pregnant again and immediately thought, here we go again.
Mackenzie was born on July 22, 2014 and she was exactly what our little family was missing. She was sweet and sassy from day one. Since I nursed my son for so long, it never even crossed my mind I wouldn't nurse Kenz for the same length of time. Thankfully, I was much, much more confident this time around and she latched right on. Since I felt I was successful with nursing my son, I followed the same plan and never looked back. I also was lucky enough to have another efficient eater on my hands.
When I weaned her last month, I'll admit, I was sad. I never thought I'd be the one to nurse my kids for so long or be the one my friends come to with breastfeeding questions. I loved all those quiet moments with my kids, bonding and being their sole food source for a very long period of time. While there were definitely challenging moments, it was such a rewarding experience.
Like I said, I don't consider myself a pro, but here are the tips I'd provide to new moms out there thinking about breastfeeding:
- Get a good pump. Health insurance policies are now required to offer a free breast pump, and many companies offer free ones for working moms. Who doesn't like free?? Remember, this post is coming from a total sale shopper, so free is like music coming down from the heavens for me. My company strongly supported nursing moms and offered the top-of-the-line Medela Freestyle pump as one of the free options. The Freestyle is the little portable one with the rechargeable battery and it was amazing. The battery lasted me about a month for each charge and never lost suction. Even if you have to foot the cost and pay for it yourself, in my opinion, you get what you pay for when it comes to breast pumps (I know, I'm bringing my shopping mantra over to breastfeeding again).
- Get extra pump parts. I personally recommend having 3 sets (one set comes with your pump when you buy it). I realized after my first that my biggest hatred of pumping had to do with washing pump parts. At the time I didn't run the dishwasher everyday (that has since changed since both my kids now easily go through 5 sippy cups a day), I felt like I never had the parts ready to go when I needed them. Having the extra parts really reduced my stress with baby #2. Also, if your company offers a flexible spending account, you can use those funds towards breastfeeding supplies, including pump parts and freezer bags.
- Get a manual hand pump. I know you are asking, what??? I know I just said to get a good pump, so why would I also recommend a cheapo manual hand pump? Well, this tip was a genius recommendation made by a friend shortly I planned to attend one of my BFF's bachelorette party when my daughter was 8 weeks old. We had events planned where we would be away from the house for more than 8 hours with no quiet or private place to pump. I knew I had to keep up the pumping at that stage to avoid my supply dropping and the hand pump was portable, quiet and fit in a small purse. Easy peasy for ducking in a bathroom and getting out a few ounces (don't worry, I always dumped milk pumped in a bathroom). No one wants to hear the crazy loud roah-roah-roah-roah noise in public, so this was my sneaky way to keep things flowing.
- Pump extra milk. And do it every.single.day. I strongly believe pumping a little extra helped me keep up my supply when I couldn't pump right on schedule at work. It also let me build up a giant freezer stash. I love a good routine and I would always pump one extra time after my kid's first feeding of the day.
- Use your resources. If you are having problems, ask the hospital nurses for help, call the lactation support line, ask your friends for pointers, read the books or phone apps (some are free), or attend hospital classes. Knowledge is power.
- Find the gear that works for you. I loved the twins version of the My Brest Friend nursing pillow, the Udder Cover (free as long as you pay shipping, just Google it for the free code), and the Lansinoh freezer bags. Destination Maternity was great for buying nursing bras and tanks.
- Lanolin. Enough said. I found I didn't need it after the first few weeks, but it was a game-changer once I figured out how important it was at the beginning.
- Don't skip any feedings during the first 2 months. When my daughter was 4 weeks old, I skipped one feeding when I went to my first post-baby dinner with friends. I ended up with mastitis about 2 days later. Just take it from me, don't make this mistake.
- The last tip I will leave you with is probably the hardest to learn; have no shame. While at the beginning you will be incredibly self-conscious about every element of breast feeding, remember we are talking about about feeding our babies. What is more important than that in the world? If you need a place to pump at work, just ask. You aren't the first and certainly won't be the last. If your baby is hungry in public, toss a blanket (or a high chair cover, scarf or whatever else is in your trunk) over your shoulder and go for it. Breastfeeding usually isn't convenient, but it is so rewarding.