A while back I shared some of the hurdles I faced while learning to breast feed. You can read about those hurdles right here.
I always knew I wanted to breast feed my child(ren). It's the BEST nutrition for a baby during their first year of life. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast feeding for at least a year (exclusively for 6 months meaning no solids/cereal- breast milk only for 6 months!) and the WHO recommends two years.
In our family, formula was only an option if medically necessary- meaning if I couldn't not nurse my son due to some kind of emergency or life threatening situation or he somehow could not nurse.
Formula isn't poison, but it wasn't an option for me to use formula to feed my son. There are 100+ nutrients in breast milk that formula companies can not duplicate. Not to mention the emotional and mental development that babies receive from nursing.
But knowing all the benefits about breast feeding still doesn't make it any easier.
There were 3 hurdles I mentioned: Poor latch, nursing in public, and keeping up my supply.
Today I still struggle a little bit with 2 out of 3- nursing in public and keeping up my supply.
I don't think I'll ever be 100% comfortable nursing in public. I'm so awkward! We're working on it. Of course if my son is hungry and we're out and about I'm going to feed him. But it's just not as comfortable as it is at home.
Keeping up my supply will always be something I have to work on. After about 3 months from birth, milk supply is no longer dependent on hormones but on demand. The more often a mama nurses/pumps, the more milk comes in. Conversely, if a mama misses a feeding or pumping session, her body thinks the baby doesn't need that feeding and will adjust milk production accordingly.
Which leads me to another struggle: pumping.
Since returning to work, I have to pump to 1) produce milk for Phillip for the next day and 2) to keep my supply from decreasing.
How often should I pump? Well, technically every 2-3 hours during the day, and every 4 at night.
But I love my sleep.
And pumping is annoying.
Even though it's tough, I am keeping up with Phillip's demand.
I wake up at 5am and pump about 5oz before Phillip is awake. I nurse Phillip around 5:30 (it still takes us about 30 minutes for a nursing session. Some babies become very efficient and only nurse for a few minutes but Phillip isn't there, yet) and get ready for work. We are out the door by 6:45am.
Once at work, I pump again around 8:30, 11:30, and 3pm. On a good day.
On a normal day it's more like 9am and 3pm.
A bad day? Once. 10am.
It all depends on how busy my workload is that day.
Did I mention how much labor is involved with my work pumping sessions?
I share an office. We store our files in our office as well as a "community" typewriter, some snacks, and supplies. We have people coming in and out of our space ALL. THE. TIME.
We also have two doors.
Before each pumping session, I close the main door- leaving it open just a crack so if people really need something they can ask my co-worker.
I put up a wooden screen and drape a cloth (like a curtain) to cover the gaps.
I close the blinds on my window and lock our second door so no one sneaks in.
It takes me at least 10 minutes to pump 3-4oz.
After I'm done I store the milk in a cooler, wash the pumping equipment, break down the screen, put away my drape, unlock the doors.
It's a pain.
3X a day.
After work Phillip usually wants to nurse again, regardless if he just had a bottle or not. We'll play for a little bit then it's bath time and he'll nurse again before bed.
I'll pump again before I go to bed.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Sometime between all that I have to cook dinner and get our bags ready for the next day.
If you're keeping count, I pump 5X a day, most days. On average I get about 4oz a session. Phillip is currently drinking 20oz of milk when I'm at work.
I'm basically meeting his needs, but leave no room for error (spoiled or spilled milk, missed pumping sessions).
Sometimes I have to use some of the breast milk I have stored in our freezer. But that's OK. That's what it's there for, right?
It's definitely a labor of love- it's a lot of work and sometimes I think about how formula feeding is easier. But I can't give up.
Yes, it's difficult in the beginning.
But the benefits are amazing. The best payout? Seeing my son grow, knowing that I provided the best nutrition he could ever receive.
If you're thinking about breast feeding or if you're a new mom and are struggling, DON'T GIVE UP!
The early weeks are the toughest but you don't need to suffer in silence.
Seek help from a lactation consultant. Ask your doctor or baby's pediatrician for resources.
But the bottom line? You have to do what is best for you, your baby, and your family. A happy mama is a happy baby. Whether you choose to formula feed or breast feed, it really comes down to providing nutrition to your baby.
How you choose to provide that nutrition is totally up to you.