It’s food week here on the blog, and as I thought about it, I realized I am not just a consumer, procurer, and preparer of food. I am also a producer. I have spent close to 4 of the last 8 years nursing (and 36 months pregnant!). I’m not sure when else I’ll get to share my hard-won baby-feeding wisdom, so here it is.
I think I did well with baby #1, considering the learning curve. I didn’t have a pump at the beginning, and since I was working at home, I wasn’t sure why I’d need one. I had been told babies eat every 2-3 hours, and when my son would cry at about 1.75 hours I would assume he was hungry. Only later did I figure out this meant he was tired. So I’d feed him, he’d pass out, then wake up hungry at some point because he hadn’t had a full feeding, and we’d get off cycle. I felt like I was feeding him all the time. I’d miss a feeding because I was at the grocery store, and once you start giving the kid formula, you fall behind.
Eventually I bought a pump, but the net result of all this was that by 3 months he was getting a formula bottle per day. At 4 months he started daycare. I went every day at lunch to nurse him, but he needed to eat more frequently, and he started getting 2 bottles per day. I went to India for a week when he was 6 months old and while it was an awesome trip, it was not convenient to pump. When I came back, I was down to nursing at morning and at night. I continued that until he was about a year old and then we mutually agreed to stop.
It was OK as an experience, but I didn’t like feeling like I was never producing enough. It made pumping frustrating, and nursing a source of angst.
So with baby #2, I was more strategic. I started pumping as soon as my milk came in, thus setting my baseline production above where it needed to be. I pumped an extra bottle a day for roughly the first 2 months. This made the whole experience much more pleasant. I knew I was producing more than enough, so the baby was never left wanting more. I also figured out the 3-hour eat, active time, sleepy time cycle. So the baby ate fewer times per day, and my pump and freezer stash meant I could leave the house without resorting to formula (not that there is anything wrong at all with choosing to feed one’s baby that way. I shouldn’t need to write that, but this topic is somewhat fraught, so there we go). He nursed for 14 months.
Kid number 3 took full advantage of my discoveries. She had the added challenge, though, of being incredibly strong-willed and having some sort of oral fixation. I finally managed to wean her at 18 months by going to Japan for a week. She latched on to her pacifier as a substitute. Two years later, I still haven’t managed to get her to give the darn thing up. She confines it to her bed, but she’s pretty obsessed. She has one she prefers to use, and she has four others she likes to have with her when she sleeps, just in case. I’ve heard from other people that I either needed to wean before 15 months, or just plan on going to 2 years or so. I don’t know if the Binky Fairy will need to visit. She’s seemed OK with the idea that binkies are for cribs, and since she’s still in her crib, it’s OK, but when she gets a big girl bed in a few weeks, the pacifier will not also make the transition. I welcome any suggestions on this.
I also welcome other people’s thoughts on the ending timeline as I figure out feeding kid #4. I likewise started pumping early to set the baseline high. I pump before going to bed, but since it’s usually only 90 minutes after the last feeding, I can only pump 3 oz before I get bored and tired. The baby gets a pumped bottle in the middle of the night. Because of this, I wake up and can pump a full extra bottle, plus a top up 1.5-2 oz for the next night (so he gets 4.5-5 oz in the night). This morning pumping doesn’t seem to affect how much milk is available for the baby at his next feeding. Apparently I can feed after pumping, but it’s harder to pump after feeding. The freezer stash keeps growing by a bottle a day during the week (I don’t pump on weekends. I also won’t keep this up in another week when the night coverage stops).
In other news: Carrie Willard has some posts on pumping for preemies, which is a whole different game.