Normally my son’s milestones mean he gets to take a picture with one of his milestone cards. But in this case, this is a huge milestone for Mommy as well. Before doing it myself, I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to get to this day- 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding.
Some of it was luck- my son was born healthy, full-term. He gained weight appropriately from the beginning. I didn’t have any medical conditions that affected lactation. Nevertheless, the hours upon hours spent breastfeeding and the sore nipples in the newborn days were a challenge. Within the first couple months, I developed mastitis.
During my maternity leave, I was able to amass a frozen milk stash. But as I returned to work, I wasn’t able to keep up with his demand. He’d eat twice per day while I was at work, about 6 oz each. I would pump anywhere from 2.5 to 4 oz per session. So the supply has been quickly diminishing, and I wasn’t sure if it would last until 6 months.
I have lactation time built into my schedule at work, but sometimes my patient visits are running late, and I cut down the pumping to 15 minutes instead of 20 minutes. Or there have been a few times when I was so busy I decided to skip the pumping completely and just pump after I’ve finished seeing all of my patients- which means I’ve delayed pumping by a couple hours.
Since WZW doesn’t have a regular feeding schedule, that also gets frustrating. I’ll come home, and not know if he’s going to want to eat soon, or if he’ll sleep for a longer stretch. It’s always a gamble- I’ll often pump for just 5 minutes to relieve my breasts and keep the milk supply going. If he goes long, then I’ll think- If only I’d known, I would have pumped longer. Occasionally I’ve gotten burned, thinking he was going to sleep a long time, and pumped for 20 minutes, only to have him wake up 30 minutes later. That means he ends up drinking from my frozen supply, and depletes more than I just pumped.
I’ve also dealt with clogged milk ducts- some areas of my breasts would remain firm after feeding/pumping, so I’d need to apply heat and massage prior to and during feeds to correct it. Thank goodness it never led to another bout of mastitis.
The other thing I’ve had recently are these little white spots where the milk ducts are located on the nipple. I think it’s a variant of the clogged ducts, except just at the nipple. In any case, they hurt like hell when he starts feeding, and they seem to take quite a long time to resolve. I looked up some advice online, but honestly it’s hard to do any maintenance. At first I thought maybe there was some candida (yeast) involvement, so I figured it would be easy enough to buy one of those over-the-counter Monistat type creams and apply it to the nipple. Well, having to wash my nipple every time before feeding him and pumping at work is an extra pain. And it didn’t seem to help.
There was various advice online about what to do for these white spots, but honestly it sounded like too much of a hassle with an already busy schedule. So I’m just waiting for it to eventually resolve.
I’ve heard some moms really treasure their breastfeeding time with their babies- they coo, and it’s a special bonding experience. I’ve never felt that. My kid has always been a fussy breastfeeder. He often comes off the breast and then back on. These days his latch has devolved so he’s not on all the way. As the milk flow is decreasing on the side he’s feeding on, he doesn’t hesitate to let me know. This involves crying, or better yet screaming. I tell him he has to work a little more for the good stuff- it’s fresh, never frozen. He doesn’t seem to care.
Despite the hard work, breastfeeding has its benefits. The most obvious one seems to be protection from illness. Some of my friends have said their babies first got sick around 6 months after they stopped breastfeeding. My husband was recently sick and had to stay home from work. Meanwhile, both WZW and I were fine. I’m amazed after 6 months of chronic sleep-deprivation that I haven’t gotten sick. I’ll get a little sniffle, or tickle in my throat, but then it goes away. I wonder if breastfeeding confers protection for mothers as well.
Since he’s 6 months old today, we gave him his first solid food. A friend had given us some organic baby food as a gift, so we decided to go with the flavor that had one ingredient and sounded the least appealing. My husband hates squash including zucchini, so we decided to go for the winter squash jar. Despite his initial expression looking like it tasted bad, he went for more, and kept eating it. So far this guy seems to like eating. He took the first bottle of breast milk offered to him, and so far the solid food went fine as well. Next up- the fun of seeing (and smelling) his poop!