We’re nearing the end of World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7, so I figured it’s probably an appropriate show of support to post an update on how my own babe-to-boob experience is going. If it’s any indication, we now refer to breastmilk as white gold.
I’ve passed the two-month mark and as you might guess from my lack of recent posts on the subject, no news is good news. It was a bit stressful in the beginning because quite simply I didn’t know what I was doing. But it wasn’t too long–maybe a couple weeks–before I hit a stride that I was comfortable with.
For me, that meant going against everything I’d read and introducing a bottle early–like within the first week of bringing baby home. I felt kind of guilty about it for some crazy reason, but it wasn’t too long before I realized that pumping and bottling totally enhanced the quality of life for me with the wee one. I felt more mobile–all I needed was my mini cooler pack full of breast milk and I was good to go. And it felt like I got more free time (if there is such a thing once you have a kid) in between feedings where I could get essential tasks like paying bills, doing laundry, and getting myself together done.
The best I can figure on that one is that baby eats more from a bottle in a single sitting than from the boob and, therefore, sleeps a bit longer. In fact, I credit the two 4 0z. bottles that baby downs around 9pm every night for getting him to sleeping through the night. (As an aside, that’s been so wonderful. So wonderful that I’m afraid that it’s too good to be true. The thought of going backwards is really depressing.)
Now, just to clarify, I’m not pumping exclusively, although I’m fascinated by the couple of mommies who I know who’ve gone that route. (Sometimes pumping feels so time consuming.) I still nurse, but only for a few–usually two or three–feedings a day. The rest of baby’s feedings are given by bottle because they’re given on the go, anywhere from a park bench to a parking lot. (Turns out having a baby hasn’t slowed me down much; I just carry more luggage.)
But the one thing that comes with pumping is a heightened sense of how precious whatever expressed milk you have is. The first time you open up the mini cooler to find out the top to one of your bottles wasn’t screwed on tightly sucks, plain and simple. You feel so cheated because you worked so hard to produce that milk and it’s gone but baby didn’t benefit from it. (You get the same feeling when you have to pump and dump, only it’s worse because you feel intentionally wasteful.)
And there’s always this worry that you won’t have enough bottles to keep baby satisfied while you’re running around doing your thing. That’s a real concern if grandma is babysitting, but it’s really not that big of a deal if you’re busy with baby; after all, you can still nurse at any time, even if you’d prefer not to in public. In the case of a wailing baby emergency, it’s nice that you’ve got that option.
For newbie moms considering going this route, here are a few things that I’ve learned that have totally helped me out:
- Start early. So-called nipple confusion, the idea that baby will never take the breast once the bottle is introduced, is largely a farce. However, there is now more evidence that mommies can wait too long to introduce an artificial nipple, making for a rough go down the road. For me, I introduced the bottle very early and have found that my wee one goes from breast to bottle seemlessly.
- Go slow flow.Milk comes out faster from a bottle than the boob, so you probably want to go with a slow-flow nipple that’s made especially for newborns. The slower flow best simulates breastfeeding, forcing the wee one to suck pretty hard. Not only is this good for developing the mouth muscles and reducing dribbles, but it helps babies switch from breast to bottle a little easier. However, you really
need to check out the packages to make sure you’ve got the right nipple. For example, I use Avent bottles. (I love them, by the way; they’re PBA free, reasonably priced, and you can buy a converter kit that works with just about any pump, allowing you to pump directly into the bottle from which you’ll feed.) The newborn nipple is labeled with a 0+ versus a stage 1 nipple, which is good for 0 to 3 months. I’ve noticed similar labeling issues with other bottle manufacturers.
- Pump en primero. This is by far the best piece of advice I can give pumping mommies–pump before you nurse not after. I had started experimenting with this technique when a friend of mine mentioned it as a great way of building up a milk supply, especially when returning to work. When I pumped after a feeding, I was able to get out maybe a couple of ounces per boob after what felt like forever. When I pump before I nurse, I end up with double that stored up in about the same amount of time. And baby’s not suffering for it. Turns out that babies are impressive little suckers and are able to out milk a breast pump. And if I was ever in doubt, I could check for a mini milk moustache on baby when nursing. (He never disappointed.)
Those are by far the best tips I can give any mommies going for the bottle in the near term, but I saw a few more in the article “Breast & Bottle” in the August issue of Parenting. Check it out here.