Attention readers: This post it is geared for a female audience. Gentlemen, if you would like to read about Breast milk, pumping and feeding schedules then read on. If not, just wait until my next post when I am sure I will talk about Preston's latest achievement, house updates or something more 'general'.
OK, as many of you know I used a different method to feed Preston the past year. I talked about this in a post back in August, but basically about 3 weeks after Preston was born I decided to stop the traditional nursing method and begin pumping my milk and then feeding it to him in a bottle. Many of you were VERY curious about this decision and many had A LOT of doubts and questions. The purpose, then, for this post is to first update everyone on how things went, second to share my 'secrets' about this method and third give some brief reflections and encouragement for anyone who is interested. Here we go!
1. How did things go?
The pumping method went extremely well. I always had enough milk to feed Preston and plenty of milk to freeze and store in the deep freezer. I never had to use formula. I am thankful to say that we completely filled the deep freezer at one point. I think I had around 300 bags of milk. This means that the 'concern' some people had about my milk supply going down was not valid. I believe that pumping my milk not only sustained my milk supply but increased it due to the constant and predictable schedule I introduced to my body. On a more personal note, I found that my 10 minute pumping sessions were a great time for me to have some quality time alone. I spent most of that time either thinking about my day, what I was learning/experiencing, things I wanted/needed to do, or in prayer for family and friends. I also found that getting my body on a schedule was extremely helpful in making some part of my life normal when everything around me had changed. Overall, things worked out great!
2. What are the secrets to this method?
First, I discovered early on that feeding Preston when he was hungry was the best way to make him not only healthy but happy. The kid would down 3-4 oz of milk in less than 5 minutes, let out a huge burp, and then be ready to look around, play or interact with the world. I think trying to have him attached to my boob for 10-15 minutes or longer on each side would have been very challenging for both of us. I realized quickly that the time it took to pump and feed my child was significantly less than if I was nursing in the traditional way. Basically this meant more time to play, hang out with my little baby or sleep. Oh yes, at one point I pumped 16 oz of milk. Yes, that is 1lb of milk in one 10 minute pumping session. Do you think a 1 month old child is going to drink a pound of milk at one feeding? No way! That meant that I could feed him 4-5 oz and have plenty for later!
Second, the pumping schedule is VERY important. My body needed to know when and how it could release all that it has been making (and I was pretty much a milk making machine). For anyone who would like to know how I did it, here ya go:
First 3 months of Preston's life (August - October) I pumped every 3-4 hours or about 7-8 times a day. Yes, that means I would pump in the middle of the night. Preston would either wake me up to eat and then I would pump or I would set an alarm for 3am and pump. When Preston started sleeping through the night (7pm to 7am) I would still get up at 3am to pump so that I could use that to freeze and store.
The next 4 months of Preston's life (November - February) I pumped about 6 times a day or every 4 hours. (I would go about 6 hours at night so that I could sleep). At this point I went back to work and learning to pump was a non issue because I already had it down!
The next 2 months of Preston's life (March and April) I pumped 4-5 times a day or every 5-6 hours. (I would go about 7 hours at night). Everything was still going very well and there was no need to dip into my deep freezer supply.
The next month (May) I pumped 2-3 times a day or every 7-8 hours. at this point I knew that I wanted to stop because I had a backpacking trip in June that I wanted to attend and it would not be possible to bring my pump. I started dipping into my freezer supply a little but Preston was also eating baby food and finger food so it was minimal.
The next month (June) I pumped 1-2 times a day or every 12 hours. I stopped pumping the last week in June and was using my freezer supply to feed Preston.
Now we are in July and I am happy to say that I have officially stopped using my pump and are back to 'normal'. I continue to use my freezer milk and with the approval of my pediatrician I started Preston on Whole Milk during the day and give him breast milk in the morning and at bedtime. (I only started using Whole Milk when Preston turned 11 months old).
3. Reflections and Encouragement:
I have often asked myself if I will do the 'pumping' method again with more children and I honestly believe that I will. I think the benefits of this method for our family are obvious. First, I believe Steven and I have both intimately bonded with Preston because we shared the joy in feeding him. Steven is a very hands on and emotionally engaged father. He LOVED being able to sit, rock and feed Preston his milk and I am thankful that I could give him this opportunity. Some people were very concerned and believed that I would 'miss out' on the nursing experience. Well, I don't think so! I think the 'pumping' method only enhanced the love and compassion I developed for my child. Second, because I went back to work part time the transition to giving Preston a bottle was simple. Preston also learned quickly to drink and enjoy milk cold. I could pull that milk out of the fridge and he would gulp it down! This also came in handy as I began to give Preston Whole Milk and guess what - it was cold! Third, using the pumping method helped me to loose ALL my baby weight! I think someone told me that you burn around 300 calories a day when you nurse and my guess is that I burned around 500 with all the milk I was producing. The point: I feel healthy and have a positive view of my body for the first time in my life! It was exciting to open my closet and wear clothes I hadn't thought about in over a year.
Why am I sharing this information with the reading world? If you are a new mom and considering this method then I hope you are encouraged. Here is another option outside of traditional nursing method or using formula. You are not weird for considering this method and if it helps you emotionally feel better then go for it! If you are an older mom (with grown children) then be encouraged that technology has advanced and that there are pumps out there better than what was available when you were raising children. Pumping is easy and painless. If you are a mom using the traditional nursing method then I am so happy that it is working for you. I hope you will not look down on those of us trying something different. If pumping or nursing doesn't work for you then I am so happy for the option of formula and how that may benefit your family.