MY BREASTFEEDING EXPERIENCE + ESSENTIALS

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:

design darling breastfeeding essentials

one  //  two  //  three  //  four  //  five  //  six  //  seven

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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27 thoughts on “MY BREASTFEEDING EXPERIENCE + ESSENTIALS

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  1. Nursing! Ahhh I remember it fondly but it is a lot of work and a lot of time. Neither one of my babies would take a bottle until almost 10 months old. Actually Harper never took one at all only a cup and she hated all other milk including formula. No one told me that some babies don’t like bottles. I was like…whaa? So I fed both babies until 15 months. My kids both weaned themselves. One day they were like “nope” and turned away for the morning feed. It was nice that it wasn’t a struggle. If you can make it past the first six months, the rest of nursing is much less frequent and super sweet. We had a pretty great schedule and didn’t demand nurse, either. I loved the predictability of a nap and feeding schedule, even though I’m not usually a “scheduled” person. Most kids go through a 4 month old sleep regression and you can expect some change there with your nursing. Keep on trucking. Ya’ll are doing well. I burned so many calories nursing too. Lost a lot of the baby fat by doing nothing but nursing. I think I was thinner at 9 months post than I was pre-pregnancy. It was hard without the bottles but also saved me the whole washing and cleaning bottles situation and pumping. I wasn’t a huge fan of pumping anyway. I nursed both babies for every feeding and some of them were not easy (THINK: 12 hour wedding days). My husband, we call him Saint Matthew, brought the babies to me for feedings during weddings. Often it was faster and easier than pumping in a room would’ve been. I stopped accepting destination events once we found out we were having a second baby (when Owen was 11 months) but picked destinations back up once my second quit nursing. Every mama has to figure out what works for them and I’m happy you have and will continue to! xoxo

  2. Not a mom but I wanted to pop in to say you are doing an awesome job and I love getting to know you through these posts! I love your lifestyle and home renovation posts, which is how I found you years ago, but I really appreciate this new side of the blog! Teddy is a little bundle of sunshine and your journey into motherhood has been so enjoyable to follow. Keep doing you, you’re doing a great job!!

    1. That means so much to me! I hate to think I’m alienating anyone in this new chapter and I’m so glad you feel like you’re getting to know me better in these more personal posts! Thank you so much for brightening my day 🙂

  3. Hi Mackenzie,
    I’m a relatively new reader of yours, and I’ve never commented yet, but I just wanted to give you a little new mom encouragement. My “babies” are in elementary school now, but I still remember these days. I also had 11 days of painful prodromal labor (no one ever talks about that!!!) but mine ended with a c-section 18 hours after my water finally broke. Breastfeeding wasn’t easy for me at first but I had a friend who encouraged me to make short term goals (like “get through one more week at a time” kind of goals) and said to not quit at a low point because you never know what the next day would bring. Sounds like you are doing a great job easing from one transition point to the next. Anyway, I don’t know what you need to hear today, but know that you’re doing a great job. Hugs from afar.

  4. I was under the impression that this was a blog about fashion and interiors not babies. I have been a long time follower but am going to reconsider if this is going to be a baby blog.

    1. Thanks for your feedback! Right now caring for a newborn is pretty all-consuming (and you wouldn’t be inspired by my current wardrobe or the state of our house!) but I definitely plan to get back to those topics in due time. I appreciate you sticking with me!

  5. I love all of your recent posts. I was a first time mom two years ago and I wish I had followed someone who was so open and candid.
    We had a NICU baby, so I actually started pumping in the hospital and we didn’t get to try out breastfeeding until her feeding tube was removed after a couple days. So my daughter took a bottle from day 3 because I already had milk and colostrum I had pumped for her. We gave her a pacifier but she very rarely took it- she did like bawling on the cloth part of her WubbaNub (which my husband named Martin- our daughter’s name is Aston so he got a kick out of asking if we had Aston’s Martin).
    We did a similar schedule to you- hubby took the 4am feed which got her to 7-8ish in the morning. I did feed her at 12-1am so I didn’t pump on that second wakeup. I never had a breastfeeding goal- I said I’d do it as long as it worked for us. She breastfed til 9 months, I pumped until she was 14 months, and she had frozen breastmilk until she was 20 months (we bought a special deep freeze just for her milk).
    I will say there were maybe 2-3 feeding strikes where she wanted the bottle and not the breast and those strikes normally just lasted a day. I agree with you- fed is best!

  6. I’m so glad that you’re settling in – motherhood looks beautiful on you!

    I nursed all 3 of my kids and had widely different experiences with each but the very best advice given to me 13 years ago was “don’t quit on your worst day”. I thought it was brilliant and so helpful in those tough moments!

  7. I’ve been lucky that breastfeeding went (overall) very easily for me. BUT…I wish someone had told me in detail what the first few weeks would be like! I have always had a good supply, but with my first son I had cracked, bleeding nipples for two weeks. Luckily our hospital has great lactation support so they were able to help, but I could only feed him in the laid-back position, and getting him latched was excruciating. After a couple weeks, things healed up and it was pretty much smooth sailing from there on out. But those first couple weeks, on top of the exhaustion of newborn life, plus the hormone withdrawals, recovering physically from birth, and feeling like a stranger in my own body, were INTENSE. And yeah, he would eat for an hour and a half at a time in the morning, and then cluster feed from 6-10pm every night (and this was on top of the eight million other feedings throughout the day).

    I’ve been super happy with my breastfeeding journey. I’m now breastfeeding our newborn and our toddler (he nurses for a few minutes before bed), and I feel so much more relaxed and confident about it this time around. But looking back, even though I felt like I had amazing support from all the doctors, nurses, lactation consultants, my husband, and my family and friends, it was still HARD and I had to just tell myself “just get through this feeding, and don’t worry about the next one.” I think we need to do better to prep moms for the intensity of those first few weeks, beyond just “you won’t know until you experience it.” It’s a true statement, but not helpful when it comes to the practicality and reality of daily life with a newborn!

    1. I feel similarly about our first week home from the hospital! The pressure of breastfeeding on top of recovering physically, adjusting emotionally, and sleeping very little was extremely challenging. So glad you’ve found a rhythm that works well for you!

  8. Thanks so much for sharing, Mackenzie. How soon did you attempt to implement this schedule vs. just feeding on demand? What you outline seems manageable and reasonable, but this nervous almost mama also has read so much about “nursing on demand” in the early stages. Would love to hear how you navigated the first few weeks of feedings!

  9. I want to start by saying I have been loving your honest sharing of your journey in all things Teddy! We shared the same due date (but my Gus came one week earlier via C-section) and I like being able to follow along with how things are going for you.

    Our feeding journey has been long and strenuous. He was too sleepy to eat for the first 36 hours or so, and then we had a horrible night in the hospital where he showed some interest and I let him clamp over and over on my nipples just hoping he would start getting some food. The bruising that resulted meant we were recommended by the nurses and lactation consultants to take a break and either provide formula or try pumping and expressing. I started to have success with pumping as my milk came in and I was just so grateful he was going to get fed and start to kick his jaundice. After a while I started trying breast feeding again with a nipple shield, but it was still so painful, and I had an allergic rash to the surgical tape on my abdomen that made it even more challenging. I had some AWFUL breast feeding attempts, that made me sink so low mentally. I’m so grateful to my husband who always encouraged Gus snuggles afterwards until I started to feel more like myself. I then got mastitis on one side, and then the other, likely due to varying amounts of expression as my supply was really high but when we tried breast feeding, not enough was expressed. For a few weeks I was attempting breast feeding, offering a bottle to make sure he got enough, then trying to pump after he feel asleep, and then cleaning the pump parts, 8 times a day! So very exhausting. I got some really harmful advice in the middle of this, such as a paediatrician telling me I likely couldn’t breast feed after so much time on the bottle, and a doctor telling me to get breast reduction surgery before I have another child. I am happy to report that after 3 visits to the lactation consultant and Gus learning how to latch a bit better, we are exclusively breast feeding, with two bottles in the evening to help him “top up” for night time.

    I have learned that breast feeding is challenging for everyone, and the books don’t do you any favours by repeating over and over again that it shouldn’t hurt. Because it just does at first and Mom’s should be prepared for that (but don’t sit through and cry through too much pain like I did!) Also, I tell everybody now to take all the help and advice that is offered to you, and then find a path that feels right for you and your baby. The last thing I would tell newer moms than me is : the journey can be really really hard, but it is temporary. Things will get easier, either because you are able to push through some hurdles, or you redirect and find a different way to feed your baby and keep them healthy, which is the only thing that matters!

    I’m looking forward to following along with you and Teddy 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story and congratulations on your new little one! I’m sorry you had such a tough path at first (and shame on the doctors who made it even harder!) but glad that you persevered and found a system that works well for you and your baby. So appreciate you following along!

    2. You may be past this point but wanted to share that you don’t need to wash the pump parts 8 times a day! Throw them in a Ziploc in the fridge between sessions and then wash 1x/day.

  10. Congratulations on making it this far! Truly, breastfeeding full-time is a huge accomplishment. I was able to breastfeed both of my girls, but it was not an easy road. It was extremely painful for me, especially with my first, and we discovered both of my girls had tongue-ties. There was blistering and blood and pain, and most days I wanted to quit! My oldest daughter nursed for 90 minutes (!) when she was first born and my MIL told me to quit. But in my heart and in my head I really wanted to try nursing for as long as I could, and felt lucky to have a medical team that was supportive of that. Honestly, using formula felt like I was a failure; I know “fed is best” but for me it didn’t feel that way when I was producing milk. Once you get into a routine, it seems easier everyday. We did end up supplementing with formula once both my girls were closer to one so that I could wean off pumping! I applaud your efforts and sharing your experiences!

  11. For my first, I was worried about the nipple confusion I had been told about, but this is what we ended up doing:

    Pacifier: We held off for about a week – I am super fortunate to have three sisters-in-law that had 11 babies combined at the time (we will now have 16 grandchildren in the family by February!!), so I went to them for advice. They all followed “the rules” for their first and then realized after that there is no one-size-fits-all approach for their next babies. One sister-in-law introduces a pacifier at the hospital, another waits to see if baby wants it (2/4 did within the first week), the other tries to hold off because her babies get waaaayy too attached. I’m pregnant with my second and plan to have some at the hospital in case we can’t get to sleep (I did not sleep at all the first night with my first) and as long as this one is latching fine.

    Bottles: We knew we wanted to introduce a bottle early-ish, but timing was our question mark. Our daughter was small and slightly jaundice when she was born, so we actually had to feed her formula via finger-feed after each nursing session to help flush the bilirubin and ensure she would gain weight. (Finger feeding involves filling a syringe with formula, attaching one end of a tiny tube to it and the other to your finger, which goes in your babies mouth. As they suck, you release the syringe slowly.) After about a week of this, we switched to giving her a tiny bit of formula from a bottle after each nursing session until we were told we could cut the formula. We tried to keep up with the bottle now and then, but nursing is just so much more convenient (when it’s going well and you’re in a supportive environment) that we ended up not using bottles enough and she rejected them completely around the seven-month mark. For this next baby, we will be more consistent with bottle feeding while nursing (if all goes well).

    Milk supply: It is so up and down in the first four months that it’s really hard to commit to continuing or quitting. For mothers that want to, I strongly encourage trying to get to this four-month point (give or take a bit, of course), so long as they are healthy doing so. It really does level out around this point and you can make a less emotional decision regarding feeding (even though it is almost always an emotional decision!). HOWEVER, it is not wrong or bad to make a decision earlier. It’s also around this four month mark that I suggest making sure baby is comfortable with a bottle at least once in a while if you’re wanting them to be able to take one either scheduled or occasionally, because it is often harder to introduce later.
    Oh and it’s after this point that women are often able to skip a feed and actually sleep instead of pump while their partner feeds the baby – this was not the case for me when we tried it, because my supply dropped drastically. We went back to me nursing almost every feed and my supply was back up, and we didn’t try that again until much later.

    It really is so different for every mom and even each of their babies if they have more than one. It’s easy to see where the basic advice comes from, but it does make it hard to sometimes make your own decisions because the advice is so widely spread it almost makes you feel like you’re doing something “wrong” when it’s actually right for you and your baby. Lean on your support system and do what is best for you – you got this!

  12. Thank you for sharing, it sounds like you are an amazing mom! Could you share the link to the online ounces calculator you used? Not sure if I am missing the link (in a bit of a newborn haze myself…) If Teddy wakes up outside of the feeding times you listed, do you just rock him back to sleep, or also offer a feeding?

    Thank you again for starting these great conversations, I love learning from other mamas!

  13. Although I stopped breastfeeding about two months ago, I love reading your story! I, too, read ALL. THE. THINGS. and just felt so overwhelmed by it all. Our baby had to go back into the hospital at two weeks due to a staff infection and they wanted to give her sugar water on a paci (it does something miraculous to their pain sensors and she didn’t even flinch when they put in her IV). I was devastated and actually CRIED because it was instilled in my head that it would ruin her latch. It absolutely didn’t and she was BF for 15 months! She has also been obsessed with her “sassy” every moment since!!! It so nice to hear from real moms and see what others have experienced. I will know better for future babies, but my first-time-mama heart (and let’s be real… two week postpartum hormones!) was a mess.

    Keep it up, mama! You are doing a great job!!