I wanted to share my experience with feeding our little Otis with you all today. I constantly get so many questions about our schedules etc and wanted to give a bigger update. Please know that everything I share has either worked or not worked for Otis and I. Every mama and baby are unique and special so just know that I am here to share my own journey and support all your other mama’s out there on your own unique paths. These photos are my everything. His little arm reaching onto me. These moments are the most precious to me and it warms my heart to be able to share them with you.
Beginning to Breastfeed
Like all first time moms, I had NO idea what I was doing. While I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to try to breastfeed and if it worked that would be wonderful. I was also fully committed to a fed and happy baby no matter what that meant. So if breastfeeding was not working for me or baby I would not put the pressure on myself either way. My approach was to keep an open mind and go one day at a time. Honestly there is so much pressure out there about how to feed your baby and at the end of the day, for whatever reason, not everyone is able to breastfeed for many reasons. So for all my mamas out there formula feeding, I see you, I respect you, and you are killing it.
To prep, I ordered my breast pump through insurance (ask your doctor about how to do this if you are interested and I signed up for a breastfeeding class at our hospital. I will be honest with you, while the class was informative, when I took the class to when I actually gave birth, I forgot a lot of the things we talked about. The big thing that lingered with me was “get a good latch.” That was about it. After giving birth and we had settled into our room, I felt comfortable to give this whole breastfeeding thing a try. In all honesty, I was intimidated to try my feeding at the first time, with an audience… not knowing what I was doing. So when we got to our room the nurse kindly offered to help me for my first time. I am SO lucky to have delivered in a hospital that is very breastfeeding friendly. Almost every single nurse offered to help with breastfeeding which was so valuable. Basically the key is really pushing their mouth onto the nipple when their mouth is wide open to ensure a nice big and open latch. When you have a shallow latch that is when you can start to have problems especially sore nipples. When you are dealing with an hours old baby, it’s scary to be jamming their head onto your boob, but slowly you start to get used to handling their little bodies. I was lucky to have Otis latch on the first try and I was so shocked! One of my biggest concerns was whether I would be able to breastfeed since I had breast surgery to have a lump removed in 2005 but I was so happy to see I didn’t have any issues. Now, I know everyone says that when done correctly, breastfeeding should not be painful, but when you have lived your life with nothing attached to your nipples, and then all of a sudden someone is attached to them every 2 hours 24/7… there is going to be some discomfort. The way my lactation consultant described it was that having the right latch can really minimize the discomfort. Everything was going great in the hospital. I felt like, “wow, I’m a pro.” So when they asked if we needed to see a lactation consultant I passed because things were going well and all the nurses were so helpful. Feeding was going well so we did not need to supplement in the hospital as well.
After about a week of being home and feeding Otis, my nipples started to crack and bleed and I freaked out. At this point, and for a while, my nipples were erect all the time (TMI I know) so it was just very strange what was happening in the boob department. But the bleeding freaked me out big time so I called the hospital to schedule an appointment with the lactation consultant. What I didn’t know is that typically these appointments are booked for a few weeks out but I lucked out and was able to snag a cancellation appointment the next day.
I can’t stress to you enough how valuable and amazing it was to be able to see a lactation consultant. I know it can be pricey to see one but be sure to check with your hospital because ours was only for a copay and not a fancy in-home visit. What was great is that when we arrived for our appointment, they weighed Otis, and then I fed him and they weigh him after the feeding so you know how much he is eating. This really put my mind to ease that all this hard work was paying off. It was also so valuable to have her look at my positioning and latch while feeding and have her be able to correct anything she could see and practice with her. Basically I found that my latch was great but could get deeper so she gave me some great tips. The bleeding nipples would pass and I actually never used any nipple creams. Hot tip: put breastmilk on your nipples. I know that sounds odd but she said there are so many healing properties in breast milk so it works great on cracked nipples and I also will squirt some onto any little cuts that Otis gets when he scratches himself.
The First Month
It’s wild when you start breastfeeding because it takes so long. Otis was eating for 20 minutes on each side or more and when a baby is eating every 2 hours that means you feed for almost an hour and only have 1 hour break till the next feed. Even though breastfeeding was going great, I can’t tell you how challenging it still is. Turning into a human cow is a lot of wrap your head around. It’s incredibly demanding both physically and psychologically. I felt like all I was doing all day everyday was feeding little Otis. Eventually Otis started eating more on a schedule of every 3 hours and that started making the schedule a little bit easier with more time in between feeds.
My milk ended up coming in a little less than a week after birth. How did I know? My boobs turned into ROCKS!!! I remember being in the shower one day and feeling my boobs being like, “why are they so rocky?!?! WHY ARE THEY SO HEAVY!?” That was the day. I never had any supply issues so I consider myself very lucky. The only supplements I am taking specifically for breastfeeding right now is sunflower lecithin. Other than that I take my regular prenatal vitamins as well as drink as much water as possible.
As far as nighttime feeding go, somewhere between 2 and 3 Months Otis started to sleep longer stretches at night. Anywhere from 5-8 hour stretches. THIS WAS A GAME CHANGER. Basically anything over 3 hours allows you to feel like a rested human again!! But, I would wake up with boobs that felt like rocks and were read to explode. I noticed that my boobs would hurt so much since I sleep on my side and some days I would wake up with soaked pajamas from leaking milk. I actually cut all those night feeds out cold turkey when Otis started sleeping through the night because I just desperately needed to sleep. So I never woke up to pump in the middle of the night and thankfully it did not affect my supply.
Clogged Ducts. OUCH.
I won’t forget the day I had my first clogged duct. It was all fun and games until this day. I have no idea what set it off but in the morning one day I felt some pain in my breast and a bit of a lump. I didn’t think too much of it until each feed got increasingly more painful and my boob was painful to the touch. Just brushing up against it made me cringe in pain. I was hysterically crying to my sister asking for advice on what to do. I quickly figured out that I had a clogged milk duct. That was the day I got out my breast pump. I was between feeds but I wanted to immediately do something to help relieve my pain. Everything I read and what I learned from my sister (a mom of 2 kids) to work out the clog you really have to white knuckle massage the clogged area and push toward the nipple while feeding or pumping. I know this sounds glamourous. And let me tell you… it’s not fun. It hurts BAD. My clog was more on the bottom of my boob so it was hard to get to while feeding. So I decided I had to pump that clog out. I pushed and massaged as hard as could. It sucked. But you know what, it worked. After a few more feeds I was feeling normal again. One thing I do now to help to prevent clogs is take this organic sunflower lecithin from Legendairy Milk. I take 1 pill in the AM and 1 pill in the PM and it’s supposed to help to keep milk flowing and reduce the “stickiness.” Ever since starting this supplement I only have clogs occasionally now. I do know that I can work them out with good old massage. I also sometimes apply heat and get in a really hot shower before I pump or feed to help bust the clog. I recently also bought a Haakaa hand pump to try a hack to bust clogs. I filled it ⅓ of the way with warm water and epsom salt and let soak for 10-15 minutes. I had a hard time with the suction but I think this will be a great little hack for the next time.
Feeding on the go
Everyone always ask, “How are you out all the time when you have to breastfeed?” The answer is, I am breastfeeding while I am out. I am not shy when it comes to feeding Otis outside of our home. Of course the first few times it’s a little intimidating just getting in your rhythm when your used to your breastfeeding pillow and routines but I needed to take small outings to get out of the house so I became a feeding on the go expert. HA! I always bring a nursing cover or a light blanket with me to cover myself up. It’s not that I am shy, I will wipe my boobs out with friends and family with no shame. I just don’t want anyone strange ogling at me. No thank you. So for now, I still cover up unless I am in a nursing room. It’s all a very personal thing so however you feel comfortable feeding is up to each and every mama. What I do is I plan to be somewhere whenever I need to feed. Whether that be home, anywhere else, or in my car. I can’t tell you how many time the inside of my car has seen my boobs. Too many. But you do what you need to do to keep that baby happy and well fed. What I have found is that some of my favorite places have nursing or family rooms! I would have never noticed these until I became a mom but some stores or malls have incredible nursing friendly areas that make you feel a little more at home when you are feeding your little one on the go! (Nordstrom has great nursing areas!)
Feeding + Pumping Schedule + Starting a freezer stash
Otis typically has himself on a pretty good schedule. He eats every 3 hours during the day. Of course there are times during leaps and growth spurts that he might want to eat earlier, he is pretty set into his eating and sleeping schedules. I put his sample schedule of what his day looks like below. Just remember, this is what his day looks like in a perfect world if he is waking and sleeping in an exact minute to minute schedule, which is, 100% not realistic. I feed him on both breasts each feeding. He is eating about 4oz in a feeding right now at 4 months.
Wake + Feed #1 7am
Feed #2 10am
Feed #3 1pm
Feed #4 4pm
Feed #5 7pm
Dream feed #6 10:30pm
I started pumping around 3 weeks (on the advise of my lactation consultant and because I had a clogged duct). I used my medela pump in style from the beginning. Since I wanted to start a freezer stash of milk for use later, I didn’t replace any of my feeds with a pump and instead I added 1 pump session in between my feed #1 and feed #2. I make sure to pump between 1-1.5 hours after my first feeding to make sure that I will have enough milk to feed Otis for feed #2 of the day. I typically pump anywhere from 2-6oz a session. That is total from both boobs. Sometimes more or sometimes less. I know this sounds vague but I think it makes a different if I pump too early after feed #1 or wait too late. Sometimes it’s hard to stay on schedule because obviously I am taking care of Otis as well and then coordinating pumping. After each pump session, I label and freeze my milk. Most days this milk gets frozen so it’s going straight to my freezer stash. Somedays if I know I might have a challenging time feeding Otis on the go, or if I need to be away for 30 extra minutes from Otis, I will keep the milk in the fridge so that myself or Blake can give Otis a bottle. We introduced a bottle week 2 at home to try it out and see if he would be agreeable to bottle eating. It was a success so every once in a while we give Otis a bottle and it’s a great opportunity for Blake to feed Otis and get that time with him. In the case that Blake gives him a bottle of pumped milk because I miss a feed, I try to pump as soon as I get home to make up for the missed breastfeeding. Basically to keep your body making the same amount of milk that baby is drinking, you always need to pump if you aren’t feeding from the breast for a meal. So I try to limit how many times I skip a breastfeed because it makes more pumping work for me. I have missed a pump session here and there because of being able to give a breast milk bottle but man do I pay for it. My boobs will turn into rocks because my body made that meal which wasn’t eaten. As far as when I will be using the milk, in the next month or two we will likely need to start thawing some milk for bottles since I started pumping in October. I plan to use the milk when I start to wean etc. I am not exactly sure what that whole process will look like but I am so proud of my little stash so far and know that I can still continue to feed him this nourishment in the future. What is great is that you can also mix breastmilk with formula so I can mix and match down the road as well. Lots of possibilities. Frozen milk will also come in handy if I need to be away from Otis for any work related time and Blake will need to feed him.
As far as pumps go, I started off using my Medela pump in style until I got the Willow Pump. For those of you who follow me on instagram I have shared my thoughts on Willow Pump and man… it’s a serious gamechanger to be hands free and cords free. I love having both now because I can still pump faster with Medela in 10 minutes while the Willow usually takes me 30 minutes to pump. I use the medela more to work out clogs now and the Willow pump more on a day to day basis because I can wear it while I shower, while I work, while I play with Otis. So I don’t have to be tethered to a wall in one spot. ITS EPIC.
I get asked a lot how long I plan to breastfeed. The answer is the same as it’s been from the very beginning. I take one day at a time, don’t put pressure on myself, and just want to do everything I can to keep my baby happy and healthy. I feel very fortunate to be able to breastfeed so what I do is make small goals taking it one month at a time. If I had to put a number on it I would say 1 year. But again, I don’t know where Otis and I will be. Really it’s seeing what is right for both of us along the way. I recently thought about what it would look like if I wanted to wean 1 breastfeed from my 6 feedings a day. I tried to replace my dreamfeed with a pump session for a bottle and I felt sad not feeding him directly and ended up breastfeeding him anyways. I never thought I would be so emotional about it. Breastfeeding is one of the most challenging things. It keeps your tethered to your baby in a way that is hard to explain unless you have been there. But there is something so special about that time we have together. I never thought I would be so gushy about it… but man… as hard as it all is, it’s also the best most special thing. That time together, his little body pressed against mine. Oh man… my heart. When the day comes to wean and make a plan it will be tough but we will deal with it then.
Otis and I are in a great rhythm now. It’s true that it really does get easier with time. It’s been 4+ months and I am so proud of everything we have accomplished with breastfeeding. It’s amazing what mothers are capable of and the lengths you go to to care for your little ones. Otis is my greatest accomplishment to date. Hands down. My biggest joy.
We try to give Otis a bottle every once in awhile just to keep him used to accepting bottles as well as breastfeeding. What we noticed is that he will not take breast milk bottle if it’s cold. So we need to warm the bottle before we give it to him and then we are good to go. We usually give him 4oz and that usually satisfied him. We either thaw the milk the day before by placing the frozen milk bag in the fridge overnight or we run warm water and slowly defrost the milk in the sink. Otis is not picky with bottles at all luckily. We have mostly been using Dr. Browns bottles but I also use the medela bottles that I use for pumping or the baby brezza bottles.
Tools for Breastfeeding
Breastfriend Pillow: Otis is 4 months old and I still use my breastfriend pillow to this day. I don’t use it for every single feeding since I am on the go alot or sometimes I am too lazy to get it from the other room when I feed him in his nursery. It’s basically amazing because it helps you position the baby to get a great latch etc. It has a firm and stable surface so the baby isn’t rolling around which is so helpful. I tried to use other pillows that were softer and they just didn’t work for me. The breastfriend is so helpful and it’s one of my favorite things I registered for. Also my lactation consultant had one to use so you know it’s a good one!
Bras: After some trial and error, I found 2 bras that I am loving for breastfeeding. I wanted to find ones with removable padding since (TMI) my nipples were so hard in the first month and I needed something to kind of protect them. Does that make sense? I know it sounds strange… but if you know you know. I have loved this CAKE bra and I own it in both nude and black. I also love this bravado bra which I have been using while I pump with my Willow Pump. Most used bras: Cake bra / bravado bra / boob bra
Haaka hand pump: I have used this only once and I wouldn’t say I had the easiest experience with it but I now have it in my tool kit to bust a clogged duct. What I did was fill it a third of the way up with warm water and epsom salt and soak my nipple for 10 minutes. I had a hard time having it stay suctioned but I hear the hack is to flip the top inside out and then suction it on. I will be trying this next time! Also another hack is to use it and suction it on in the shower so you can keep refilling it with warm water.
Nursing Cover: I have a few different ones. I particularly love the covers from Copper and Pearl. They are super lightweight and have tons of cute patterns. They also double as a light blanket or a car seat cover!
Legendairy Milk Instagram: This instagram account has been SO incredibly helpful along the way for me personally. They sell the supplements I have been using but even if you never visit their shop, their account is filled with tons of great knowledge where moms share their experiences. It’s been amazing to have this as a resource.
Tools for Pumping
Medela Pump in Style Pump: I got this pump for free through my insurance. It’s a pretty easy process which you can ask your doctor about since each insurance has a different process.
Extra Medela Parts: If you plan on pumping regularly, I highly suggest investing in an extra set of parts (I have 3 full sets of pumping parts) so that you aren’t constantly having to wash things right away etc. Trust me, the last thing you have time to do is pump and take your grand old time washing breastpump parts. I typically rinse them and then soak them in hot soapy water and then come back and clean them.
Hands free pumping bra: This is essential so you can at least do something while you pump. I use this bra and I am able to sit with my laptop and work.
Willow Pump: This has been a game changer for my everyday. I use this pump the most now because I can be both hands free and wireless. I can get ready after a shower, sit at my desk, or take care of Otis no problem because of full mobility while I pump. This pump is pricey but in my opinion it’s worth every penny for the freedom it creates.
Baby Brezza Bottle sterilizer: I have used this sterilizer since before Otis was born to prep bottles and pacifiers and my breast pump parts. It’s so easy to use and I don’t have to mess with boiling water. It just makes sterilizing things very easy and not a chore. It’s takes up a good amount of space on the countertop but it’s worth it in my opinion.
Baby Brezza Bottle warmer: We found that Otis doesn’t like to take cold bottles so this bottle warmer has come in handy at home.
Advice on how to prep for your breastfeeding journey:
-If you plan on getting a breast pump, order your breast pump through insurance and ask your doctor how to do it! I did it all online and it was super easy.
-Ask for Help! Take advantage of your nurses knowledge in the hospital. I know it can be intimidating when you literally do not know what you are doing but remember that everyone is here to help you.
-Lactation consultants are AMAZING. One of the best things I did was see one and she helped me so much and gave me the confidence to know I was feeding Otis as best as I can. She gave me great customized tips based on myself and Otis and I could not recommend this more if you are able to.
-Bring your breastfeeding pillow to the hospital. This is something I WISH I did. Of course I managed with some extra hospital pillows but seeing how helpful this tool can be at home, I would have loved to bring it to the hospital.
-Prep your Boobs! I started massaging my breasts in the shower while I was pregnant to just increase the sensory experience so it wasn’t so drastic once you have a little baby attached to them. Also make sure to run your loofa over your nipples to start to take down your sensitivity. Not gonna lie, your nipples will most likely be sore no matter what but every little bit can help you prep.
-Go with the flow and don’t pressure yourself. Breastfeeding is not for everyone. Not everyone can do it. Even if you can do it, it’s a really intense job. As a mom, it’s your choice how you choose to feed your baby. Just know I have your back because a happy mom means a happy baby. You are all rockstars mama!!!!!
If I get more frequently asked questions or if I find other super useful tools, I will add onto this post for you all. Happy feeding!