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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All About Traveling and Pumping

When I began planning for my trip to Austin I did some extensive research on the best way to pump while traveling. There were many great resources available about what is “allowed” as far as breast milk goes but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and I was a little overwhelmed. In an effort to help other mamas out there who will need/want to travel without their little one while continuing to pump, I thought I would share my experience and tips.

Before I jump in and start giving my tips, I’ll share a little info about my traveling schedule and normal pumping routine. My flight out involved an early departure with one layover that was a little under an hour.  My flight was scheduled to arrive in Austin around 9:40am. While there, each day would start around 7-7:30am and continue until around 7pm with meetings on and off throughout the day. My flight back was around 5pm, again with one layover approximately an hour and arriving home around 11:30pm. My normal schedule involves breastfeeding at 5am, 5-7pm and on demand during the night. I normally pump around 8:30am, 12pm and 3pm while at work and breastfeed on demand on the weekends. Now that you have a bit of background on my routine, I can get into the purpose of this post. I will share my exact experience with you (unedited) and then provide a list of my top tips for easy access later.

Be Flexible and Have a Sense of Humor

First and foremost, my number one tip is to be flexible. This is hard for me because I am extremely organized and have a very specific routine I like to stick to. However, when airports are involved, it is best to expect changes in schedule. Fortunately, all my flights were on time but the short layover caused a time constraint with having to pump.

Since my flight was scheduled to arrive in Austin around 9:30am, I breastfed the little one in the car at the airport before checking in. In my carry-on I brought my pump along with my pumping supplies, milk storage bags, 8 freezer bags (4 gallon size and 4 quart size), a manual pump, a Kiinde bag with adapter for my manual pump and my pumping bra. Going through TSA for my first flight was easy because I didn’t have any milk but I did make sure to tell them I had a breast pump. I figured if I fed her right before my flight, I wouldn’t have to pump until I arrived in Austin. Well, sure enough, around 8:30am I started to feel very uncomfortable. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue but it had been about 4 hours already since I fed her. By 8:45am I was hurting and I knew I wouldn’t get to the hotel until around 10 or a little after.

Bring a Manual Pump

I made the decision (as much as I hated it) to pump on the plane in the restroom. Before lugging all my supplies back to the restroom, I took a trip back there to scope things out. Despite many people saying that plane bathrooms have plugs, this one did not. So, I went back to my seat and grabbed my manual pump with my Kiinde bage attached and told the flight attendant I was going to be pumping. After pumping I just stuck the filled Kiinde bag back in my carry-on.

Plan Ahead When You Will Pump

At the hotel I set up my pump on the nightstand next to the bed for convenience and comfort. When I wasn’t using it, I would put it in the desk drawer. Since I was there on business, my days involved meetings all day and little free time. I tried to look at my schedule each night for the following day and get a sense for when would be the best opportunity to slip away and pump for 20 minutes. I made sure to pump right before leaving my hotel room every morning and try my best to make it to our lunch break to pump. I kept my manual pump with me just in case but thankfully didn’t have to use it. If I knew I was going to have to miss part of a meeting, I would sit near the door so that when I had to leave I wouldn’t disturb anyone. I also made sure to set an alarm to wake me up at night to pump because I didn’t want my body to think that little girl was sleeping through the night.

Expect Setbacks

Due to the amount I was having to pump, I experienced my first plugged duct. After doing a quick google search on my phone, I decided to hop in the shower that night and turn it as hot as I could handle and let it run over the area I felt was plugged. I gently massaged the area and even expressed a little by hand in the shower. As soon as I got out I immediately pumped while firmly pressing and rubbing the area. I set my pump on much higher than normal but not as high as it can go. I wanted to have a strong suction without excruciating pain. I also let the pump go for about 40 minutes, all the while massaging the duct. After doing this I felt much better and I successfully got rid of the plug.

Flying with Breast Milk

Every time I pumped at the hotel, I made sure to pour my milk into Lansinoh storage bags. They are easily stacked in the refrigerator and allow for more space than bottles.

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Right before leaving for my flight I filled one of the gallon and one of the quart sized zip lock bags with ice at the hotel. I double bagged them so they didn’t sweat too bad and then I put everything in my cooler bag.

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When I arrived at the airport I emptied the ice and made sure to tell TSA that I had breast milk. At first the man told me I had to take every single bag out and put it into the bin and I was NOT happy. Before doing it I asked a women who told me I could leave everything in the freezer bag. Once I made it through security I went to one of the restaurants and asked them to fill my gallon bag with ice. Everyone was extremely nice and accommodating. I had about an hour before my flight so I knew it would be best if I pumped. I was planning on finding a family restroom when I saw the most amazing thing ever. The mamava!

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The mamava is a “modular suite” that “offers nursing mothers a clean and beautifully designed space to pump/nurse.” I had no idea this even existed but I immediately fell in love with it. It was such a great feeling to know I had privacy and a clean area to express what is my baby’s primary source of nutrition.

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It was very spacious and calming and I am definitely a fan! I hope more places adopt these beautifully and thoughtfully designed suites.

When I reached my layover I pumped once more in a family restroom where I emptied out my slushy ice. I had my gallon bag filled once more before boarding my final flight home. When I arrived home my husband commented on how the ice was still mostly frozen and that the milk was super cold. I call that a win!

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So that was my experience with pumping while traveling. If I left anything out that you might be wondering, please let me know. I’m not an expert but I will say I feel very accomplished with how things went.

Here is a quick recap of my tips:

Be flexible and expect setbacks.

Bring a manual pump.

Bring different size zip lock bags and a freezer bag.

Bring plenty of storage bags.

Use ice to keep milk cold, empty ice before going through security and refill near gate.

 

Good luck!

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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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