I haven't taken any pictures of myself breastfeeding, so you'll just have to settle for pictures of Isis.
My friend Emily asked for an update on my breastfeeding experience so far. Since August is also National Breastfeeding Month, I felt this was a perfect time to share an update! I am still currently breastfeeding. Isis is now on an every 3 - 4 hour schedule where she eat at 7:30am, 11:30am, 3:30pm & 6:30pm. She also eats solids at every feeding except 7:30am. The reason why I do it this way is because at the first feeding, she doesn't even eat everything that is in there, so I don't offer her more. The other 3 feedings, she eats all I've got to offer & still seems hungry, so we do solids.
As for breastfeeding in particular, things have definitely gotten easier in some ways. Here are some of my observations about how breastfeeding went at different stages:
3 weeks old - right after feeding, you can even see the nipple shield behind her head
First 2-4 weeks:
We were just getting everything set up. There was lots of leaking, overactive letdown, latching issues, etc. She obviously can't position herself, so it was hard getting her into the right position. Due to her latching issues, I used a nipple shield for the first 4 weeks. This was an absolute lifesaver for me & I highly recommend the use of a nipple shield if the baby is having trouble latching on at first. It makes it almost impossible to have a bad latch & allows you to see whether they are getting foremilk or hindmilk. At around 2 weeks, you can start weaning them off of the nipple shield, but I know that the nipple shield really helped Isis be able to get good, full feedings there at the beginning which helped establish my supply & in my mind set up success for the future. During this period, she only ate about 7 minutes total & she ate from one side only per feeding. She was eating every 2.5 - 3 hours around the clock. She had 2 growth spurts in this time where she ate about every 1.5 hours. They each lasted about a full day & tapered off into the next day.
11 weeks old - laying on the Boppy
4 weeks - 3 months:
We've both gotten the hang of breastfeeding at this point & we are no longer using the nipple shield. Feedings got longer, about 10-15 minutes total, but still only one side per feeding. She also still couldn't totally position her whole body where she wanted to be, but she could position her head. She was eating every 3 hours around the clock, but this was when she started slowly dropping a feeding in the middle of the night. By 12 weeks, she was sleeping 12 hours at night. This posed some interesting breastfeeding issues because going to sleep & waking up in a puddle as well as with some major discomfort is not fun. There were a few nights where she slept through the night, but I wasn't sure she was going to continue doing that, so I would wake up around 4:00 & pump just so I wasn't so uncomfortable & to keep my supply up. Once she consistently started sleeping through the night, we would put her to bed around 7:30 or 8:00 & I would pump before I went to sleep around 10:30. I still do this late night pumping session to keep my supply up & to help with discomfort in the morning & to build a supply of milk for when I'm student teaching.
5 months old - breastfeeding clearly working out okay - look at those rolls!!
These were probably some of the easiest months. She knew what she was doing, I knew what I was doing, everything just worked well. She also had a growth spurt around 10 or 12 weeks & rather than feeding every hour or 2, she just wanted to eat from both sides each time she fed. Ever since this point, she has eaten from both sides every time. I think this happened right before she started sleeping through the night, so I know she increased how much she ate during the day to compensate for sleeping more & not eating at night. For a while here, she ate for a total of about 25-30 minutes per feeding. It was about 17 or 18 minutes on one side, then less than 10 minutes usually on the other side. So this period was tough on one hand because feedings were longer, but easy because she knew what she was doing & how to position herself.We also stretched from every 3 hour feedings to every 3-4 hours. This was also when I stopped leaking in public & things like that. I have found that keeping a schedule helps in several different ways & this was one. Your body adjusts to the way you are feeding. Since I've pretty much always fed Isis on a schedule (although not strict, don't freak out), my body started being ready for let-down along the lines of that schedule from about 3 months on. Therefore if she was eating every 3 hours & it had only been an hour since I fed her & I was in Target & heard a baby cry or something, I didn't have let-down. If it was closer to the 3 hour mark, I probably would have.
7 months old = mobility
6 months +:
This is where we currently are. Around 5 months old, she got much more efficient in her feeding. I thought she was eating less, but I could tell she was getting everything, so I knew she was just eating faster. Our feedings now are back down to about 10 minutes. She still eats from both sides at each feeding and she eats every 3-4 hours like I said above. Since the very beginning, she's eaten closer together with her last 2 feedings. If she went every 3 hours during the day, there were normally only 2 hours between her last 2 feedings before bed. If she went every 3.5 hours during the day, it was 2.5 hours between the 2 feedings before bed, etc. The problems now are that she is much more mobile & much more alert & interested in everything around her. She's always been pretty interested in everything around her, but now she is at a point where she can actually move her body around to see whatever she wants to look at, even if I'm holding her. So it's harder to keep her focused on what she's doing. I have to keep the TV off, everything as quiet as possible, etc. which obviously makes it really difficult to feed her when we are out somewhere. I just do the best I can & sometimes have to settle for a smaller feeding if we are in a nursing room at the mall or something. Also, Lewis taught her a couple months ago how to pull a blanket off her head so that we didn't have to be so scared about blankets & suffocation. This is a great thing for us at night, but not such a fun thing when she's pulling back the nursing cover when we are in public. I find myself having to keep one hand holding her & one hand keeping the nursing cover in place. Oh well.
Overall, breastfeeding has gone very well for us. I am really happy that it has worked out. I know that for some women, it just doesn't physically happen. Melissa at Confessions of a Dr. Mom wrote an absolutely beautiful post the other day about her experience with breastfeeding. I literally had tears down my face as I read it in the waiting room of my doctor's office. So if you start breastfeeding & it just doesn't physically work out for you or baby no matter what you try, take a moment - it's okay to be sad for that, I think Melissa beautifully shared her sorrow over not being able to do this as long as she wanted with her son - but pick your head up & grab that bottle of formula & feed that beautiful baby! Because breastfeeding or not, you are a mother who will provide food for that baby in the best way you can.
This has prompted me to plan a couple more posts on breastfeeding:
Top 10 Breastfeeding Tips
Why I chose to breastfeed
Mastitis: Treatment & Prevention
Ode to a Breast Pump
Foremilk & Hindmilk: A New Mom's Guide