Tips for Breastfeeding a Full Year

February 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

I can’t believe my sweet little angel is almost a year old. The time seems to be flying by all too quickly.

I knew from Day 1 that I wanted to breastfeed and my goal was to make it to a year. At the time I had absolutely no idea what that actually meant. Little did I know, exclusively breastfeeding means you’re either attached to your baby, or your pump, around the clock.

I remember a conversation with a good friend while I was still pregnant. She was telling me I could call her if I had trouble and to look up La Leche League. Not knowing what I was in for, I thought she was making a bit of a fuss about it all. You just put the baby on the breast and presto, right? Hah, nope!

Not only was my little five pounder a ferocious eater from the start, but couple that with a bad latch and my oversupply and we had a problem. The first few weeks were hell. There’s no way around it. And I REALLY hate saying it and potentially scaring other mommy-to-be’s but, it was. In the hospital I kept asking the lactation consultant and the women around me if it was supposed to hurt THIS much. I’d just finished natural childbirth after all – I knew I had a high pain tolerance. But each woman nodded and just said, yes, that’s how it is. On top of that, the doctors kept telling me if she didn’t gain weight quicker she’d have to be on formula. I was determined to give my body the best shot and just kept sticking her on the breast every chance I got, hoping she’d gain enough weight.

Tip #1: Listen to your gut

This goes for motherhood in general – but breastfeeding is the first way to tap into your mommy intuition. My intuition told me I had exactly what my baby needed – no formula required. I refused the formula, stuck with nursing, and at check-out she was perfectly healthy. I hate the way the hospitals push formula on new mommies – barely giving them enough chance to build up their supply. My doula had provided me enough support to trust myself and know my milk would come in. Every check up they kept saying, she may need formula. But when it came to leave, she was at a perfect weight. In fact, they were all pretty impressed.

Now, I’m in NO way saying don’t feed your baby if your milk hasn’t come in or if your baby stays hungry after nursing. But my milk was flowing, and eventually she gained enough. So many of my friends had formula pushed on them and then had supply issues. It was hard, but I trusted that my body could give her what she needed. You’d never know today she was ever such a runt. She’s so strong and at a great weight – all on breastmilk alone.

As time goes on, the worry of whether they eat enough will not go away. You have to reach deep down in your gut and trust your insticts as to whether or not they’re eating enough. This can sometimes be the hardest thing!

Tip #2: Find your support system and do the research

Having a solid support system is critical – and hopefully starts with your husband. My husband was incredibly supportive in my decision to breastfeed and he was with me every step of the way. He’d wake every 2.5 hours at night to bring the baby to me in bed to feed and then put her back. He’d rub my back when the pain was too much. He’d listen to me as I’d cry and tell him I wasn’t sure I could do it. He told me not to worry when I’d feed in public and people looked at me, and help me adjust my cover as needed or sit and keep me company. He was my rock. I wish this for all breastfeeding moms.

My doula was another huge support as well as finding a lactation consultant I could trust. After going back to work, finding pumping moms was crucial to get tips and advice from. One mom spent about 45 minutes on the phone with me walking me through every detail of how to travel and pump – just knowing what I was embarking on was a huge help and a huge comfort to have her advice.

Tip #2: Find a Lactation Consultant you trust! And try a second one if the first doesn’t help.

I can’t even put into words how much my lactation consultant helped me. After meeting a lactation consultant in the hospital who did not help me at all, I was leery. What could they possibly do to help me? I had tons of women around me pointing out how to latch the baby. What more could the lactation consultant do?

I made it 13 days at home before I was ready to throw in the towel. The pain was so great I couldn’t stand it. My toes curled as she latched, shivers went down my spine, and I’d sit in tears watching her eat wondering how on earth I was going to keep it up. My nipples were destroyed, cracked and bleeding, and many women told me, that’s just the way it is – lanolin them up they said!

Then several women recommended the same lactation consultant and I got in on day 14. At $75 I was leery but wouldn’t you know, she fixed the latch in about 2 minutes! I was in shock. Granted, my nipples were all cut up so I had to let them recover before I was pain-free but it was a WORLD of difference. I could not believe it. Best $75 I spent! Finding a good lactation consultant is worth the money! Plus, my relationship with my LC continues today. I still email her questions and trust her sound advice.

Tip #3: Nurse ’round the clock 

Mommies have different opinions on this and many moms will tell you to never wake a sleeping baby. Because mine was so little, I had to wake her ever 3 hours at night to eat and she ate about every 2 hours during the day for the first few weeks – as it took her about an hour to eat, this meant we were on an hour, off an hour. After a few weeks we were on a 3 hour schedule day and night for about 3 months.

Once she started sleeping through the night and I returned to work I noticed my supply dropped. Pumping is a supply killer! I can only speak to my experience – but as difficult as it was, I woke up and pumped in the middle of the night for another two months – this helped keep my supply up for the long haul and compensate for the extra milk she was eating at daycare. I tried mother’s milk tea, fenugreek, lactation cookies, pumping after feedings – nothing made up for skipping that middle of the night feeding. So I continued with the pumping even though she was fast asleep.

Tip #4: Find a pump you love! 

When it comes to pumping, you need to love your pump. I used the medela freestyle and loved it (OK, as much as you can love a pump). Definitely try different breastshield sizes as it makes a big difference. In the beginning days I put a little coconut oil on them to help reduce the friction. Coconut oil is also great to put on sore nipples in those first few weeks.

Tip #5: Get comfortable pumping everywhere and ANYWHERE! 

As a traveling, working, mama – I’ve pumped just about everywhere and in more airport and plane bathrooms than I care to count. Once you get the routine down, it really isn’t so bad. Pumping in the car has become a regular routine! The key is to be organized and know your options. For instance, I learned early on that when I travel, I have to pump in the car on the way to meetings usually – and pumping on the plane in the bathroom is a time saver compared to getting to the airport early enough to pump. Finding a good cooler and accessories that help get the job done is also critical.

Tip #6: Enjoy it

I remember those early days thinking I’d never make it. I was told it takes about 3 months to get comfortable and for me this was true. It was about the three month mark when I could finally take a shower again and not be in pain! Those first three months were HARD. I read stories about mommies having these intense moments with their babies and the miracle of breastfeeding and I couldn’t get into it. I was hurting too much! But once that passed – it is AMAZING. Watching my daughter grow and knowing I did that, is beyond words. I wouldn’t trade the moments we share together now for anything, and as we close in on a year, I can see how moms want to continue breastfeeding. It is the most special time we share together – just me and her. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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