Ellie Joy is officially six months old which means that we’ve put food in her precious little belly for six months. Woof, baby feeding can be tough journey. Ours has been all over the place (and is still changing from time to time) so I’m going to do my best to break it into chunks and share what worked for us during that time. I always hoped that I’d be able to breastfeed but one of the best things I did for myself was I didn’t set an expectation for how I’d feed our baby. I suppose it’s one of those “hope for the best and expect the worst” scenarios that the Air Force is very great at instilling in us. 😉 The way I see it, no matter what you do, as long as your baby is fed, you’re doing a great job.
Parts of this chunk of time felt like we were just living in survival mode (you can read all about our fourth trimester essentials HERE!), especially because we were moving when Ellie was six weeks old. My milk had come in like a wrecking ball. I couldn’t get it out of my system fast enough. It’s a great problem to have, don’t get me wrong, but I can’t deny that I had a lot of conversations with God during that time that sounded like, “Umm… God… Why as mamas are we not only learning how to care for a fresh infant, we’re exhausted, we’re dealing with hormones that have gone ballistic, healing ourselves “down there” AND boobs that hurt so dang bad?” I had milk all over the place all the time and breastfeeding was toe curling painful for me.
I don’t know if it was Ellie’s latch or my let down. There was so much pain everywhere it was hard to tell where it was coming from. I definitely recommend getting a lactation consultant if you are having problems. I didn’t and I know I should have. I received a lot of help while at the hospital but since we were moving and I was dealing with a horrible case of PUPPP on top of everything else, it felt too overwhelming for me to look into finding a LC quickly.
I can’t tell you exactly when it happened but I believe it was somewhere around the 2-4 week mark where something just clicked for both Ellie and I. One of the things I’m most proud of us for is that we made it through that time. If I decided to quit breastfeeding, that was okay with me but I refused to do it on a bad day. “You will not quit on a bad day, Jordan.” is what I told myself every session. Every day was bad until it wasn’t… HA! Needless to say, we’re still breastfeeding six months later.
A lot of people love the Boppy pillow for during this time but I didn’t use it at all. It only took one time for a Haakaa filled with 3 oz of milk to be knocked off by the pillow for me to never use it again.
The first couple of weeks I nursed and pumped anytime I needed to (usually when she slept for long chunks) since my supply was out of control. I know some lactation consultants suggest not to use a bottle until the baby is great at breastfeeding but I didn’t stress about whether or not she nursed every single session. There were a few reasons for this but the biggest one was my sanity. It was great for my mind (and boobs) to get a break so that someone else could feed her other than me. Around the three week mark we tried to implement the Baby Wise method which basically means they eat every two hours vs baby led nursing. Some babies can hit that method to a T! Not our Ellie girl. Ellie never has eaten for the 30-40 min that the book recommends so we modified the times a bit. If we made it to ten minutes before she screamed bloody murder that she was done it was a quality session! I’ll never know how much she actually consumes (a baby nursing is much more efficient compared to a pump). I do know my milk always has a really thick later of fat at the top, that my let down was no joke and that her weight has always been fine at the doctors.
Here was the key for us – at night I’d wake up from being so engorged (I never set an alarm) and I would immediately put a Haakaa on one side and then use this manual pump on the other. I started doing it this way because after a couple of weeks of dealing with the Elvie while half awake and not getting it to latch correctly, while also in somewhat of a panic because I was in so much pain and needed to get the milk out, etc. I was over it. I needed something I could do while practically sleeping and this pump was the answer to that. I’d pump about 7-8 minutes on each side (always had the Haakaa on the opposite side), put 3-4 ounces in a clean bottle, put the remaining milk into a storage bag, labeled, and into the freezer, and then I’d bring the bottle filled with milk into our bedroom and leave it on Stephen’s nightstand. Whenever she woke up ready to eat, Stephen would see the milk on his nightstand, and feed her without needing to wake me up. Not only did it give me time to sleep but it also was a really special and tender time Stephen got to spend with Ellie.
I was concerned about thrush so I showered every single night. That part of the routine was also really great for my sanity. Even if I looked like a wreck, at least I was clean.
We also ran the dishwasher every night with all of my pump parts, the Haakaas, bottles, etc. That way everything was clean and sanitized before I needed to pump in the middle of the night and for the next day.
Not much changed routine wise during this time except for my milk really started to regulate as we got better at feeding Ellie at consistent times around every 2ish hours. Since Stephen was back to work, pumping felt like more work to me versus just breastfeeding her so we went to pretty much 100% BF at that time. Stephen was more than happy to keep feeding her at night but I felt bad especially if he was flying the next day so I started pushing myself to wait to pump until she woke up so I could nurse her.
Since my supply had calmed down significantly, I didn’t need to use the Haakaa anymore. I’d sometimes have leakage on the opposite side Ellie was feeding on so what I’d do is always have a burp cloth next to me and stick one end of the cloth in my bra on the side she wasn’t feeding off of. That way it would catch any leakage and the remainder of the cloth could be used if she spit up (which was constantly) or if she unlatched and milk was going everywhere…
We started sleep training at the beginning of January using this sleep course. We love it. Once we got into a rhythm with that, it changed Ellie’s eating routine a bit so we adapted once again! I hadn’t really pumped at all for months but now I’m back to pumping once a day right before I go to sleep. We feed that pumped milk the following night to her before she goes to sleep.
It could’ve been the more consistent routine or my hormones (spoiler alert: my cycle has NOT returned if that is what you’re thinking) but my supply dropped drastically. I went from having an oversupply to feeling like I barely had enough for Ellie. Her weight was still great according to the doctor! One day though I tried to pump because I felt like I had completely dried up and I didn’t have a single drop. I started doing the following to try to get my supply back up and it has worked well for me since:
Goodness gracious that was a plethora of information! I hope it’s helpful! Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments below or by messaging me here! Just know that as long as you’re feeding your baby, you’re doing an amazing job.
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