One thing is for sure: Breastfeeding is very very HARD. I just ended my 13 1/2 month breastfeeding journey with Jasper. It happened very naturally. Once he hit 12 months, we started introducing organic whole milk, and he took to it just fine. (He took to his sippy cup pretty easily as well!) I started to gradually pull back from nursing until it seemed like we could go a whole day without It. I have mixed feelings about no longer nursing. I wish I could have gone longer, but my supply was dropping drastically. I still get a little sad when I come across breastfeeding photos on Instagram. I miss those sweet moments of sitting down with my babe and relaxing and cuddling while he ate.
If you followed my journey on Instagram, you know I struggled with my milk supply almost as soon as I returned to work. That was around the four-month mark. For the first few months back, I went into the office only twice a week. Then, when he was about eight months old, I started going into the office three times a week. I am very blessed to run my own business and choose my schedule. I chose this schedule because of breastfeeding. I knew I would take a hit in business growth for the year, but it was a sacrifice I felt was worth it. I had supply problems with Jaxon, so I wanted to give myself every advantage I could this time around. I did a lot of reading this time around to make sure I could breastfeed for as long as possible. I breastfed Jaxon for eight months.
I’d like to tell you the second time around was better, but, unfortunately, it was still a struggle to keep up my milk supply. When I was home with the baby, nursing went really well. Jasper nursed often the first few months. Every one and a half to two hours! It was a lot of work. I didn’t try to get him on a schedule. I have always nursed Jasper on demand. (That was a mistake I made with Jaxon.) I felt like I couldn’t leave the house, and I rarely did. I don’t know how mamas with small babies run errands or get anything done. My husband stepped up and really helped out. I couldn’t even get through a grocery shopping trip! There were a lot of parking lot breastfeeding sessions if I did attempt to go out with the baby. We even pulled over on the side of the freeway to stop and breastfeed once! I loved breastfeeding, but those early months were a little stressful because of the short intervals between feeds. He even woke every one and a half to two hours throughout the night. I was a mom zombie (#mombie).
I started pumping almost immediately when we got home from the hospital to build a healthy stash before I went back to work. I’d pump in between feedings. I felt like I was either breastfeeding or pumping at all times. I love the closeness and bond from breastfeeding but I HATED to pump! I never had good results from pumping. I used two different pumps, and neither made me feel like I pumped enough milk to cover an entire feeding.
When I returned to work, I pumped every two hours. I knew I had to pump more often since I didn’t seem to pump much milk. I kept that up for the first few months I was back at work. Finally, I was able to go to pumping every three hours. I was so hell-bent on not giving Jasper formula that I would set my alarm for an extra pump in the middle of the night. (That’s after he finally started sleeping through the night at about seven months.) I pumped every night before I went to sleep as well. If I didn’t sneak these extra pumps in, I wouldn’t have had enough milk to send with Jasper to school on days I went into the office. I was a warrior mama and I was determined to make it 12 months exclusively breastfeeding! When I set a goal, I take it very seriously. Sometimes it isn’t the best quality because I stress myself out and run myself down until that goal is met.
I was able to build up a good stash at different points in my breastfeeding/pumping journey. When Jasper was six months old, my husband and I went to Vegas for four days for my 30th birthday while my in-laws watched the boys. I had enough milk to last him while we were away. A couple months after that, I had a three-day business trip and was able to leave enough milk for that trip, too. The 3 a.m. pumps made those trips possible. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Pumping poolside in Vegas at Marquee. I got so many weird looks! Ha!
Pumping in the airport before leaving for my business trip. Again with the weird stares. 🙄 I also had to pump on the plane.
Breastfeeding in the middle of a dinner during my firm’s summer regional meeting.
Breastfeeding at the pumpkin patch at the Dallas Arboretum. Probably one of my favorite breastfeeding photos!
Breastfeeding was worth it. I LOVE the closeness and the bond it creates, and we all know the health benefits for both mama and baby. I’m so proud to say I breastfed Jasper for 13 1/2 months! It was a second job at times, but he’s already reaping the benefits! His little immune system fought off the flu in record time, and he’s avoided catching my bronchitis.
A few tips from a two-time breastfeeding mama:
- Nurse on demand! Do not try to put your baby on a schedule too young.
- Drink A LOT of water. I’m talking a gallon or more a day! I always noticed a dip in supply if I drank less than a gallon. Drink while you nurse.
- Eat enough.
- If your supply starts to drop, nurse/pump more often. Preferably nurse. The baby is more efficient at emptying your breasts so they’ll fill up again.
- If you’re going to return to work, start pumping immediately. Build up a stash so you aren’t stressed about pumping enough for the following day’s feedings. I suggest pumping after your baby’s done nursing. That also helps increase supply. I pumped for about 10 minutes during these after-nursing sessions.
- Add an extra pump after the baby goes to bed. Turn it into your wind-down time. I would get a square or two of dark chocolate and put Gilmore Girls on Netflix and it would go by quickly. I would generally pump for about 25-30 minutes during these sessions.
- If you have to pump at work, put on your favorite Netflix show while you pump so it’s like a little break. When I started watching Stranger Things, I would look forward to pump breaks because I was so hooked on the show.
- When you pump at the office, you don’t have to wash the bottles after every pump. Bag your milk and just put the bottles in the fridge until the next pump. When I finally figured that out, it saved me SO MUCH time. When I pumped at work, I would generally pump for 20-25 minutes. I noticed I’d get a second letdown if I pumped for that time frame. Fifteen minutes just wasn’t enough.
- Finally, don’t stress yourself out! Remember: fed is best. Unfortunately, we aren’t all milky mamas. If it becomes overwhelming, maybe a little formula isn’t such a bad thing. Having a newborn is hard enough. Make sure to enjoy them instead of stressing out over your baby having formula. That’s my biggest takeaway this time. If I have supply problems like this with my next baby, I’m not so sure I’m going to stress myself this much again.
I really hope this helps some mamas out there! Feel free to ask me anything or leave me some of your tips in the comments! I want another baby, so I’m always trying to learn more for the next go.
I loved when he would fall asleep nursing. I miss this already!