Weaning From Breastfeeding

Hey! I hope you had a good weekend and enjoyed the Superbowl. Today I wanted to talk about something personal that I hope others will find valuable: my experience with weaning.

Let me start by saying, this past year has been a long journey. Breastfeeding is one of the hardest and most rewarding things I have ever done. I feel extremely blessed to have been able to provide for my sweet baby for an entire year.

BACKGROUND

My little girl is now 13 months old and I exclusively breastfed her until she turned one. For the first two months, I was on maternity leave so I basically gave her “open access” meaning that anytime she wanted milk, I gave it to her. I had no set times to feed her or anything. I just let her decide when she was hungry, and fed her accordingly. This worked well for us because we got to bond pretty much all day when she was so little. Then, when I had to get ready to return to work, I started pumping. I wanted her to be on breast milk EXCLUSIVELY. I know that this sounds crazy to some people, but I was determined that if my body was capable (keyword here…I understand that some women simply cannot nurse) of giving her enough milk, I was going to do it one way or another. For the record, if you are/were capable but chose not to breastfeed, no judgement here. You do you. This is just what I wanted to do. So, our routine from the time she was 3 months until she hit one year was the following:

Wake up – nurse her

At work – pump once in the morning, once during lunch and once in the afternoon

Pick her up from daycare – nurse her

Bedtime – nurse her

Anytime she woke up at night – nurse her

Weekends – nurse her, no pumping

You can see I was pumping about 15 times every week for 15-20 minutes. The rest of the time, I nursed.

Ok, so I basically had already weaned the little one off weekday feedings because she was used to having her bottle at daycare. This left me solely with my pump sessions and nursing mornings, nights and weekends.

Now that you have an idea of where I was in terms of feeding and pumping, I can go into the process of weaning both of us.

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A Day In the Life of a Graduate Student Mom

Good morning! The past few months have been extremely busy due to my new role as a first time mom. I absolutely love being a mom and wouldn’t change it for the world. However, as a graduate student, I am presented with specific challenges that other moms may not be faced with. I have limited time with my baby during the day and have homework at night. I really have to prioritize my time. So, today I thought I would give you a glimpse into what a normal day looks like for me, a student and mommy. I also think it will be fun to look back on in the future and see what day to day activities looked like.

5: 30am: Alarm goes off and I hit snooze as my husband jumps in the shower. About 2 minutes later I hear babbling and crying coming from the nursery. I wait a bit to see if it continues before getting up and heading that way. I’m greeted by a huge smile with two teeth that immediately makes me smile. Depending on when she last ate, I either feed her or carry her to the living room to sit in her Pack n’ Play while I brush my teeth.

6:00-6:30am: My husband is out of the shower and has made his way to the living room to say good morning to our daughter before going to get breakfast ready while I get dressed. We both eat breakfast and pack our lunch for the day.

6:30-7:00am: I get the baby dressed and ready for daycare while my husband prepares the bottles. We are out the door by 7 or shortly after.

7:15am: Drop off the baby at daycare and hate leaving her but knowing that it is the best thing for her.

7:30am: Arrive at work and head straight to my research lab. I’m the first one there so I turn on the computer and check my email really quick. Of course I have about 5-10 new emails (some of them junk) that need addressing.

7:45-8:15am: Set up my experiment so it will be ready to start by 9am.

8:30-9:00am: First pumping session of the day. I usually have a snack during this time and check emails again.

Maple candies

 

9:00am: Start experiment and work until lunch time. Sometimes I stop to have a snack around 10am. Breastfeeding hunger is real!

11:45am-12:15pm: Second pumping session. I also eat lunch during this time so I can kill two birds with one stone.IMG_20160218_090444045

12:30-3pm: Complete experiment and put in the data. Sometimes we have a lab meeting or journal club at 2pm.

3:00pm: Last pumping session. By this time I’m usually pretty hungry. I have another snack and plan out how I’m going to utilize the last hour of work.

3:30pm-4:30pm: Clean up from running my experiment. Graph my data. Send the graphs to my PI. Discuss the data with my PI and figure out next steps (i.e. will I test tomorrow, how long should I continue my experiment, what is the best way to present this data, etc.)

4:30pm: Leave to go pick up the baby from daycare.

5:15pm: Arrive home and play with the baby before she gets tired and fussy. Surprise surprise, I have a snack. (old picture but you get the idea)

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6:00pm-7:00pm: I nurse her while my husband starts preparing dinner. We give her a container of solid food. Depending on the day she might need a bath. We try to let her play a bit before going to bed. She is usually asleep by 7 if not before.

7:00pm: My husband and I eat dinner and spend some time together before getting things ready for the next day. We usually do a few chores after she is asleep like start some laundry, dishes, clean the bottles and my pumping equipment among other odds and ends. Sometimes we do an at home workout together before dinner. Even though time is limited, staying fit truly helps me feel less exhausted and keeps my mood more stable and positive. I believe taking the time to exercise makes me a better wife and mom so I try to incorporate this into my day when possible.

8:45pm: I shower and then crawl into bed to try and read a few journal articles before the baby wakes up for her 10pm nursing session. At this point it is a challenge to stay awake and focus.

10:00pm: Nurse the baby. Depending on how much reading I got done, I either continue that or go to bed. Either way, I am asleep by 11pm at the latest.

2:00am-3:00am: On a good night, this will be the only time the baby wakes up to eat. Unfortunately, she usually wakes up 2-3 times per night. We are working on it.

5:30am: Start all over!

So, there you have it. An entire day, from start to finish. Obviously things differ a little from day to day but you get the gist of it. It may not seem that busy, but trust me, I go pretty much nonstop during the day. I was purposefully vague about my experiments because I know some people feel strongly about certain types of research and that just was not the point of this post. Also, now that I’m working on my qualifying exam, any extra time during the day goes to reading for and writing that. Fun stuff!

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day!

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My Breastfeeding Journey

Happy Friday everyone! I have a long one for you today so buckle up.

When I found out I was pregnant I started reading every book I could get my hands on about pregnancy and childbirth. I knew I was going to breastfeed but for some reason I didn’t read anything about it. In my mind it was just something I was going to do. It is natural, right? I also knew that while in the hospital I would have access to a lactation consultant which took some pressure off as well.

Well, I had no idea what was to come. I know a lot of people struggle with breastfeeding so I thought I would share my journey. I’m not entirely sure how to approach this topic so I just divided it up into sections. Here we go!

The First Latch And Before My Milk Came In

Although I was adamant about having immediate skin-to-skin contact with our baby, I hadn’t thought of how my first try at feeding her would go. Thankfully, the second they placed her on my chest she had no trouble latching on. I was completely overjoyed because that was the moment I had been dreaming about and looking forward to for nine months. The first night after she was born she cluster fed all night. It didn’t hurt at first but after 24 hours of constant feeding, I was pretty sore. I felt like I wasn’t giving her anything and it was really tough mentally and physically but I had a ton of support from the nurses, the lactation consultants, my family and my husband.

When My Milk Came In

About 3 days after she was born, my milk came in. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I basically just woke up in the middle of the night to really sore breasts. The next morning I woke up to what felt like tingly, sore rocks on my chest. Engorgement is no joke! It was so uncomfortable that my mom suggested I pump to relieve the pressure (more on this below). Although the first few days of engorgement were uncomfortable, I was never really in pain. I was told by the lactation consultant to wear supportive bras without underwire to help relieve any discomfort. I chose to either go without or wear a looser sports bra that was easy to feed her in. I made the mistake of wearing a sports bra that was too small and ended up with mastitis which required a shot and antibiotics. Lesson: make sure you wear comfortable bras that aren’t tight at all. Honestly, once my milk was in, I felt like things got easier. The bleeding, chaffing and scabs went away relatively quickly. I also felt better mentally because I felt like she was actually getting something out of me.  

I noticed quickly that I had a very forceful letdown reflex. I’m talking making her choke forceful. It was very frustrating because she would pull off coughing (it was pitiful!) and my milk would go spewing all over the place. This was extremely draining mentally and physically. After reading about Julie’s experience and speaking with a lactation consultant, I decided to buy a nipple shield. It was amazing! She was able to stay latched and drink easier due to the flow being slowed down.

This is when I started having to rely on nursing pads. My letdown would occur at random times and my shirt would end up being soaked. At night I would wake up drenched. I ordered the Lansinoh Stay Dry nursing pads to wear inside my nursing bra.

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When I am feeding on one side, my milk lets down on both sides so the pads catch the milk from the side I am not feeding from. At night I can sleep knowing that milk isn’t wetting me or the bed. Now I continue to use these because if I go too long between pumping session my milk lets down. I also continue to have forceful letdowns which is why I pump every three hours.

Pumping and Storing My Milk

The first time I attempted to pump was during my engorgement period. I was very hopeful and naïve. I let the pump go for about 6 minutes before deciding to call it quits. I got about a fourth of an ounce. It wasn’t even enough to keep. I was really discouraged and started freaking out because I knew I would have to pump once I returned to work. My mom assured me that after a few tries it would happen. She was right. About a month before I was supposed to go back to work I started trying to pump between feedings. It was pretty tough because she was eating every 1.5 to 2 hours so I was short on time. Thankfully, I was producing a ton of milk (which I will take advantage of next time around) so I wasn’t worried about running out.

After my body adjusted to her schedule and how much she needed I no longer had any left to pump after feeding her during the day. At night, I continued to become engorged. After speaking with one of my friends who has a 1 year old, she told me that she would always pump at night while her husband gave their baby a bottle. So, I decided to start pumping at night. I really wanted to hold off on giving her a bottle as long as possible so I would feed her on one side and pump the other. I found that feeding her first allowed my letdown reflex to happen easily and I would actually get a ton of milk (like 3-5oz).

After researching all the different ways of storing milk, we decided to go with the Kiinde bottles so that I could pump directly into the Kiinde bags and freeze them.

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They are disposable so we could just throw the empty bag away after a feeding and not have to worry about cleaning bottles. The downside was that it was extremely hard to tell how many ounces I had pumped because although the bags had measurements on the outside, it didn’t seem very accurate. About two weeks before I needed to go back to work we decided to give her a bottle for the first time. Let’s just say it didn’t go well. Milk was pouring out of her mouth and she was coughing and throwing up. After a few tries which ended in frustration for all of us, we knew something needed to change. That’s when we decided to switch to Lansinoh storage bags.

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I began pumping into my Medela bottles that came with the pump to see how many ounces I was getting. I would then store the milk in the Lansinoh bags. When I first started I was getting only 2oz at a time so that is what I stored. When she started to spread out her feeding times I began pumping again between feedings, especially when she only ate on one side. When pumping at night and getting more I would store the bags with 4oz in them. They store flat so they fit well in the freezer. When it was necessary to give a bottle, we would pour the milk easily from the bags into Dr. Brown bottles. These bottles are amazing! She takes them so well without a problem. We used the preemie nipples to start with and gradually moved to the size 1 nipples which we currently use.

Pumping At Work

When I returned to work, I was very nervous about how pumping would go. I had read that it is important to pump when your baby would normally eat but I was breastfeeding on demand. Since we had no schedule, I got advice from my friend again and also read some example schedules online. I decided to pump every three hours to begin with and go from there. Thankfully, my boss was more than willing to allow me to start back part time. I began by pumping once in the morning and then again during lunch. The first day I was pleasantly surprised. I was able to pump about 6 ounces during my first session and about 4.5-5 ounces at lunch. I think it was because I had no expectations and I knew I had a pretty good freezer stash stored up.

Currently, I pump three times during the day (morning, lunch, afternoon) and I am able to get more than she eats. Anything I pump on a given day we use the next day for daycare bottles. Whatever I pump on Friday goes into storage bags and into the freezer. Milk pumped on the weekend also goes into the freezer stash. On Monday we use the oldest milk from the freezer. The system works pretty smoothly.

I exclusively breastfeed on weeknights and weekends. It has been a long few months and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I cannot express how much I love feeding her and I hope to be able to feed her at least through her first birthday. It really does get easier just like they say. Just stick with it through the tough times and it is so so worth it.

Trial and error has been our method so far and we finally found what works for us. My advice is to take it day by day and know that things will get better and work out in the end. Please let me know if you have any questions. Feel free to share your experiences in the comments!

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Returning To Work

Now that our little one has reached 8 weeks old (whaaaat!?) I am returning to work and she is off to daycare. I thought it would be a bad idea to go from two solid months of it being just the two of us all day to dropping her off for an entire day without me. Instead, I started back part time to ease my way into this new normal. I have to admit, it is really hard. I cried the first few days even though I knew I would see her in a few short hours. It is slowly but surely getting easier as each day passes. Next week will be my first week back full time. I am still working on getting a solid routine down. I thought I would share a glimpse into what my days are looking like lately.

5:30am – Wake up and nurse

5:45am – Get dressed and clean pumping bottles (I pump during the night too so I clean the stuff in the morning); Pack lunch while my husband dresses her and changes her diaper

6:30am – Nurse and eat breakfast while my husband pours the bottle for daycare

7:00am – Make sure everything is packed and leave to drop her off

7:15am – Drop her off

7:30am – Go to gym

8:30am – Pump

11:00am – Pump while eating lunch

12:15pm – Leave work to go pick her up

1:00pm – Nurse her at home; get household chores done; clean pumping stuff and store milk pumped that day

4:00pm – Go pick up husband from work

5:00pm – Nurse and bring up frozen milk to use for daycare the next day while my husband works on dinner

7:00pm – Nurse and start bedtime routine; prepare everything for the night (pumping stuff, her medicine, changing pad for nighttime changes, etc.)

9:00pm – Nurse and go to bed

We usually have about two night feeds which isn’t bad at all, though some nights are worse than others. Then, we get up and start over again.

So there you have it. That is what my days have been looking like since returning to work part time. Hopefully the next few weeks will get easier and we will settle into this routine more and more.

Question:

What does your daily routine look like currently?

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LIFE WITH A NEWBORN AS A FIRST TIME MOM (THE FIRST 6 WEEKS)

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I have dreamed about having a family since I was a little girl and when I got married to the greatest man ever three years ago, I knew it was going to happen. When we found out I was expecting last year, we were over the moon ecstatic. I immediately began reading and “studying” for the big day. Well, a few weeks ago, that day finally arrived and it was better than I could have imagined. Now, six weeks in, I am (just now) beginning to get the hang of things. This is a very long-winded post so I apologize in advance. Please keep in mind that this is just my experience and I am being honest about how I feel. I’m doing my best to be the best mom I can be.

I can’t begin to explain how much I love this little girl. I worried about her for nine months before she was born and when she made her appearance, I couldn’t believe it was real life. I know it sounds corny but it really does feel like a dream. I can’t stop thinking/saying things like “I can’t believe she was inside me” and “I can’t believe I am a mom.” There are no words to describe the emotional and physical ups and downs that come with being a first time mom. I constantly stress about her and I probably check a million times a day if she is breathing. Every whimper, grunt, hiccup or cough and I run over to see if she is ok. Her cry breaks my heart and her smile lights up my life. She is my sunshine.

fingers

When I though about how the first weeks would go, I figured there would be a lot of time spent entertaining and playing with her. However, all she did was sleep and eat. There wasn’t really any time between feeding her and her sleeping for us to “play” with her. Almost all of those first two weeks were spent holding a sleeping baby. This was fine because we were extremely exhausted those first weeks…and still are.

BREASTFEEDING

I thought breastfeeding would be hard at first and get easier with time. It was something I didn’t research because I new there would be a consultant at the hospital. As much as I told myself I was definitely going to exclusively breastfeed, I couldn’t imagine my body actually doing it. When she was born, they laid her on my chest and she immediately began nursing. I didn’t have to coax her or position her in any way. She just new. Then, my milk came in. At first, everything was going smoothly. Then, at around two and a half weeks, she started getting fussy and throwing up a lot. This led to more frequent feedings (like every 30 minutes). This was physically and mentally exhausting but really wonderful at the same time because I was still nourishing my little girl (other moms will understand). At her 1 month checkup, I told the doctor what was going on and he asked some questions and ran some tests. It turns out, she has reflux. I know it could be so much worse and I’m really thankful there is a reason and a treatment for what she has been experiencing. We started her on medicine and since then she has been doing much better in terms of pain (she still throws up sometimes).

Then, we hit a point recently where I was having issues with latch and let-down and it was getting really frustrating because I really want to continue to exclusively breastfeed. After reading about Julie’s experience, I purchased a nipple shield and it is a lifesaver. When it is 3am and she is thrashing her head back and forth choking from a forceful let-down, it is literally the best thing ever!

After all this, I think we have established a rhythm that works for us. So I guess this was my long way of saying it started easy, got hard, and is getting easier again. Even though it is challenging sometimes, it is my favorite way to spend time with her and I never imagined how much I would enjoy it. To any moms out there struggling, stick with it!

SLEEP

Overall sleep has been touch and go. She usually does really great at night with only two feedings. After she eats she goes right back to sleep. Daytime is rough. At first, she slept through the day with no problem. Then, when her reflux emerged it became an issue. She isn’t comfortable laying flat on her back so we either have to hold her or put her bassinet on an incline for her to nap. She still experiences some discomfort so she cries between naps/feedings. Her naps range from 30 minutes to an hour. She never really goes into deep sleep during the day so it is hard for me to nap or do chores around the house because I usually end up helping her “settle” several times during her naps. She has been on meds for about a week and we have started to see an improvement in her sleep in general. 

HOW AM I?

Overall, I am doing really well. Some days I’m exhausted and overwhelmed but that just comes with the territory. Mentally, I feel like I am in a good place. I am happy everyday (maybe not all day every day, but every day I am happy). I am extremely anxious about returning to work in two weeks. I love my job and I’m excited to get back but I feel nervous and guilty about leaving her. I’m sure it will pass with time.

Physically, I feel more normal as each day passes. My body doesn’t look different from before I was pregnant but I definitely feel weaker and more flabby in my arms, stomach and legs. That too will get better when I am able to return to the gym and honestly I’m not too worried about it.

Right now I am focusing on doing my best as a mom and treasuring the last days alone with my precious little girl. We already have a bond that is indescribable and I will forever remember these past few weeks that we have had alone (while dad is at work) to get to know each other and to form a very strong mother-daughter relationship from the very beginning.

I want to say thank you to my sweet little girl for being mine and loving me unconditionally.

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