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Breastfeeding, Pumping, & (Mostly) Pain-Free Weaning

on August 7, 2014

Let me first say that no matter how long you decide to breastfeed, it’s okay. A lot of guilt seems to surround stopping. If you stop after a few days, it’s okay. If you stop after a few weeks or months, it’s okay.

On the other hand, if you continue to feed for a few years, it’s OOOOKAY! If you are all about feeding until your baby doesn’t want to nurse anymore, go for it! Every baby weans naturally at some point. I’ve read that babies will self-wean anywhere from before a year to 5 years of age.

I weaned my oldest around 3 months. I weaned my youngest when he was just over a year. I felt a little guilty (okay a lot the first time), but my brain reminded me of a few things…

A friend’s daughter who had formula pretty much from the get-go was spelling words at 3 ½ years old. In other words, starting my oldest on formula at 3 months does not mean his intelligence will suffer. Other friends didn’t produce enough, experienced too much pain so they stopped soon after giving birth, choose to go with formula from the beginning, breastfed their kids until a year or more (some pumping multiple times a day because they also worked), and did a combo of breastfeeding and formula because that’s what worked for their families. All their kids are happy and healthy.

So again, no matter how long you decide to breastfeed, it’s okay! There is no shame in giving your baby some or all formula at any age for any reason. Being a mom is hard enough; don’t beat yourself up about ending (or never starting) breastfeeding.

My second when he was brand new.

My second when he was brand new.

My first around 1 year.

My first around 1 year.

Some Things I Learned About Feeding:

If you feel your supply going down and you don’t want it to, drink A LOT of water and nurse/pump often. And for gosh sakes, eat when you’re hungry! How are you supposed to make food for someone else if you’re depriving yourself of FOOD?! If, despite your efforts, your supply still isn’t enough, don’t hesitate to supplement with formula.

If you have a plugged duct, get that baby’s chin pointed toward it and nurse as much as you can until it works its way out. What I mean by “get that baby’s chin pointed toward it” is lay your baby down on a bed and lay over him/her suspending yourself in some sort of baby/momma yoga position so that baby’s chin is in line with the duct that hurts. Massaging the sore spot before and during feeding may help, too. I tried a warm compress, which may or may not have worked, but it’s worth a try! Also, to prevent clogged ducts, make sure you’re not wearing a bra or nursing tank that is too tight. Let those baby feeders breathe a little!

If your baby pops a tooth and takes a bite, make a loud, “YELP!” (You probably don’t have to remember this because it will likely come naturally!) After you yelp a time or two, baby will stop biting. My second kid had 12 teeth by the time we were through and he didn’t use them while nursing.

Some Things I Learned About Pumping:

Pumping sucks… in more ways than one if ya know what I mean! To give myself a little something to look forward to (even when I was waking up at 5:45 to pump before work), I read good books. Stick a good book in your pumping bag and ONLY read it when you pump! If you’re not into a book you start, get a new one! It’s gotta be a good book so that you look forward to something you associate with pumping, which sucks!

How often you pump depends on how often you want to feed your baby breast milk and how much you get when you pump. For a while when my second was still eating 5 times a day, I got away with pumping twice and nursing twice because I could divide my pumped milk into 3 feedings. For this reason, I would recommend pumping until you’re empty rather than pumping the amount your baby currently eats. If you find you’re getting more than enough, freeze some!

If you’re pumping in a place that isn’t convenient for cleaning your pumping parts, it’s helpful to put two dishtowels in your pumping bag. One for wrapping clean parts and the other for used parts (I had two colors – one designated as the “clean” color and the other as the “used” color to keep from mixing them up). After pumping, wrap your parts in the “used” towel. When you get home, wash your parts, let them dry, and wrap them back up in the “clean” towel. Wash the towels once a week or more. If you’re pumping more than once in a row without access to a sink, they have handy little wipes that you can buy to clean your parts between pumping sessions.

Get extra membranes (the “flaps” that fit on the valves) and put them in your bag just in case. A little tear in such a small part can halt your pumping instantly and who wants something so tiny to stop her pumping session in the middle of the day with baby feeders that are ready to do their thing and no time to get to a store?!

I found it really helpful to have a routine – in two ways. One, if you pump at the same time every day, your body knows what’s coming and you get the most for your efforts. Two, if you have a routine for how you manage all the junk that goes along with it, you’re less likely to find yourself ready to go and missing something you need. Here is how my routine went:

Before Work:

  • Pump
  • Wash parts, wrap them in the “clean” towel and put them in the pumping bag along with the cold pack and empty bottles with lids

At Work:

  • Pump
  • Wrap the parts in the “used” towel
  • Date the bottles using masking tape and a sharpie

After Work:

  • Put the used pump parts in the dishwasher, the cold pack in the freezer, and pumped milk in the fridge
  • Run the dishwasher every night (or clean the parts by hand) so they’re ready to go the next morning

Lastly, here’s a list of things to keep in your pumping bag:

  • A good book
  • Two dishtowels of different colors – one for clean parts and one for used parts
  • Extra membranes (and/or other parts you may need on the fly)
  • Masking tape and a sharpie for dating bottles
  • Clean bottles with lids and a cold pack if you’re not putting them directly in the fridge
  • A hands free pumping bra – cause it’s easier to read a book when you have a hand or two to hold it!
  • A nursing cover-up, which is helpful if you feel exposed where you’re pumping!

Oh, and one more thing… be aware of what you put on in the morning. It’s absolutely helpful to wear a top that gives you access without having to practically undress! This can be tricky day after day, but button-downs, stretchy fabric tops, and wearing nursing tanks under tops that can be lifted up all helps. Really, the best option is to pump somewhere you feel comfortable – not somewhere you feel like you’ll be walked in on. That way, if you need to practically undress, it’s no big deal!

Some Things I Learned About Weaning:

When I say pain-free I mean it doesn’t have to hurt as much as you’ve heard. Cabbage leaves do not have to be involved. There doesn’t need to be endless tears for you or your baby.

Now, there might still be a little pain involved. For example, I had headaches and a little nausea, which I’m not 100% sure were related, but when I looked up “symptoms of weaning” found that other women had experienced this as well.

Also when I say pain-free I’m not talking about the heartache you might feel as you finish this chapter in your relationship with your little one. I was a little sad about it, but I’m also really excited for what’s to come. Not to mention, Daddy and I can get back to our sleeping in one day a week agreement. If you don’t do this, I highly recommend it if at all possible! Here’s how we do it…

We pick one day of the weekend where I will get to sleep in and one day that he will get to sleep in. The other person gets up with the kids and the person whose day it is to sleep in sleeeeeeeeps in!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I will say that “sleeping in” is like 9am at the latest these days. However, considering our kids usually get up before 7, 9am looks pretty darn amazing!

Did I mention this was his idea when our first was a baby?! THANK YOU, Husband who happens to be incredibly fair and devoted to the happiness of our family! I deeply appreciate it… seriously!

Ok, so back to the (mostly) pain-free weaning…

Take it slooooooow. This is the most important thing when it comes to pain-free for both of you.

If you feed your baby 4 times a day, cut out the least convenient feeding and substitute it with formula (if under 1) or whole milk and solid food (if over 1). After feeding baby 3 times a day for a couple days, you’ll notice that both you and your baby have adjusted pretty easily. Then, cut it down to 2 times a day for at least a couple days – more if you want and again, you and your baby will adjust pretty easily.

When it comes to eliminating the last feeding of the day, have other formula/milk/food ready to go and feed your baby until you feel relief but aren’t entirely empty. Then, feed baby the other formula/milk/food. Continue this until your body adjusts.

As you cut out feedings, increase other food of course. If your baby is eating solid food, increase the solid food, but make sure s/he is still getting a pretty good amount of fat. Our pediatrician says you don’t really want to limit fat in a baby’s diet until age two. (I’m pretty sure she didn’t mean fill your baby with fried foods. She means whole milk, and full fat yogurt, cottage cheese, etc.)

I hope these tips help and I’m excited for you and your little one as you enter into the next chapter of your relationship! Now go give that bambino a smooch! Xoxo.

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