I’ve been exclusively breastfeeding Teddy for a little over five weeks now and enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. I feel lucky that I’ve had a good supply, Teddy has taken to it pretty easily, and the two of us have settled into a nice little routine that works for us right now. I can’t say I always look forward to waking up in the middle of the night, but I love having this one-on-one bonding time with him and the feeling of giving him something only I can provide.
(Pausing to say I don’t think breastfeeding is the be-all-end-all and 1000% support any mom’s choice on the best way to feed her baby. Neither my mom nor Will’s mom was able to breastfeed for very long and we both turned out fine! I knew breastfeeding was something I wanted to try, but I was determined to move on quickly and not beat myself up if it just wasn’t working for one reason or another.)
I got a lot of feedback on this post saying that many of you were similarly overwhelmed by all the conflicting advice out there on breastfeeding, pumping, and pacifiers. I personally wish I’d been able to find more accounts of how real moms are feeding their babies vs. seeing the same official recommendations over and over and not understanding why those guidelines felt so stringent and unattainable to me. I’d love if some of you shared what’s worked for you in the comments!
Conventional wisdom is to breastfeed on demand every 2-3 hours (8-12 times a day) around the clock, with varied answers as to how long each feeding session should last. The day after I gave birth, a nurse in the hospital coached me through breastfeeding Teddy for an hour and 40 minutes straight and I was so exhausted by the end of it I was tempted to throw in the towel right then and there. I spent our first week home partially dreading each subsequent feed because my nipples were so sore even taking a shower felt painful.
I started pumping at the end of that first week so Will could give Teddy a bottle for his first nighttime feed. At first we thought I’d be able to sleep through and skip this feed, but our pediatrician warned that my supply might drop if I went five or six hours every night without either breastfeeding or pumping. So as soon as our pediatrician confirmed that Teddy was gaining a healthy amount of weight and we could afford to go from 8-12 down to seven feeds a day, our schedule since then has been:
- Breastfeed sometime between 5 and 7 a.m. (whenever Teddy wakes up)
- Breastfeed at 9 a.m.
- Breastfeed at 12 p.m.
- Breastfeed at 3 p.m.
- Breastfeed at 6 p.m.
- Breastfeed at 9 p.m.
- Pump while Teddy gets a bottle of breast milk sometime between 1 and 3 a.m. (whenever he wakes up)
It usually takes me 30-40 minutes to breastfeed Teddy (including at least one diaper change, not including however long it takes him to fall back asleep) and then we follow the daytime feeds with 30 minutes of playtime before his next nap. Even though I’m awake while Will is giving Teddy a bottle for the feed that falls sometime between midnight and 2 a.m., I can be finished pumping and back to bed in 15-20 minutes. In the first couple weeks, this felt life-changing just to give my body a bit of a break; now that Teddy has a better latch and I’m no longer sore after every feed, it’s nice to get a little extra sleep while Will gets one-on-one time with Teddy and handles changing his diaper and getting him back to sleep. It may not sound like much, but I swear just this one pumping session and bottle have made breastfeeding feel so much more manageable! I can’t say I always spring out of bed at 5 a.m. feeling chipper and ready to go, but I do think I have an easier time falling asleep at night (sometime between 10 and 11 p.m.) knowing that the first time I have to be up is just for 15-20 minutes. It’s not what the schedule the pregnancy apps and breastfeeding classes and hospital handouts recommend, but it’s working for us!
As I mentioned in this post, we were also cautioned against pacifier use by a lactation consultant in the hospital who said it would cause nipple confusion and keep Teddy from successfully breastfeeding. Thankfully common sense kicked in after our second entirely sleepless night with Teddy and we offered him a pacifier in a moment of desperation — he instantly calmed down, quickly fell asleep, and has used one daily ever since. He usually spits it out shortly after falling asleep, but it’s a godsend for transition times (like putting him in his bassinet before he’s asleep) when he might otherwise be screaming his head off. I ordered a few different brands to try out and this one seems to be his current favorite.
A first-time mom-to-be asked if I would share any products that have made breastfeeding easier for me, so here’s a list of what I consider my breastfeeding essentials:
Nursing bras: Similar to my quest for the perfect maternity jeans, I ordered and returned a bunch of options until I found the best of the best. Some of the nursing bras out there are so intense there’s no chance I could fall sleep in them (and no bra would mean I’d be leaking all over my pajamas), so I was grateful to find this one that’s comfy enough to wear day and night. I’m also in love with these bras, which are not technically nursing bras but can be pulled down for easy access (I figure I’ll wear them as sports bras once I’m no longer breastfeeding). I ordered a size up in both styles.
Nursing tanks: I lived in these nursing tanks and leggings or pajama pants the first couple weeks home from the hospital and felt perfectly comfortable wearing them in front of visitors when I wasn’t breastfeeding. Again I ordered a size up from my usual (I’m still getting used to how huge my boobs are right now!).
Nursing pads: An extra layer of protection to slip into a bra or tank. I haven’t used these as much as I thought I would but a must if you’re heading back to work or have longer plans outside the house.
Spectra S1 Plus breast pump: I followed a bunch of your recommendations and bought mine through Aeroflow so our insurance would cover part of it. I haven’t tried any others so I have no point of comparison but I honestly love this pump! It has multiple settings for speed and suction and I can pump each side in less than ten minutes. The parts are also easy to clean and the charge lasts forever so you don’t have to be plugged into the wall all the time. I pump into these bottles and Will will transfer milk into one of these bottles to give to Teddy.
Breast milk storage bags: I’ve been fortunate to produce a little more milk than Teddy needs so after a couple weeks, we started freezing milk in these storage bags. We use this online calculator to figure out how much to put in Teddy’s nightly bottle based on his most recent weight from the pediatrician. For reference, he started out drinking 2.5 ounces and is now closer to 4 and I’ve gone from being able to pump 2-3 ounces each night to 5-6. So we take the Spectra bottle from the pump, put 4 ounces in the Comotomo bottle, and put any leftover milk in a freezer bag labeled with the date. We haven’t tapped into the frozen milk stash yet but I imagine it will come in handy once we start being more social or once we’re ready to spend a night away from him (which still seems pretty far off at the moment!).
Burp cloths: We use these cloth diapers as burp cloths (another popular reader recommendation!) and there’s no such thing as too many!
Water bottle: I’ve found hydration has major impact on my milk production and keeping a full water bottle next to me at every feed is a must! I resisted this water bottle because of the price (which I still recognize is pretty steep for a water bottle) but now I honestly can’t imagine using anything else. I love that it has a lid I can open with one hand (I think anything you can do one-handed is basically the love language of all new moms?), has a straw that’s easy to clean, keeps water cold literally all night, and holds 32 ounces so I only have to refill it a couple times a day.
Protein bars: I have a box of these protein bars in my bedside table because they’re a filling snack I can eat with one hand while propping Teddy up with the other. I sometimes find myself starving at that 5 a.m. feed and it’s nice to have something quick, easy, and filling that doesn’t require a trip to the kitchen.
Glider: Sometimes I nurse Teddy propped up with pillows on the sofa or in bed (I know I’m in the minority of moms who didn’t love using a dedicated nursing pillow!) but having a glider in his nursery is ideal for nighttime feeds. I’ll be sharing photos of his finished nursery on the blog next week and I can’t wait!
I’d love to hear from any of you who feel comfortable sharing how you feed your babies in the comments! I’ve already learned so much from all of you and it brings me great joy to think that reading our collective experiences could make life a tiny bit easier for another mom-to-be!
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