Kerstin’s post last week about her choice to work and raise a family was a powerful one. Although there are tough parts, we both take pride in our thriving families and careers. She and I often talk about the blessings and trials of being working mommies. For me, one of the challenges is nursing my babies.
As I shared in 10 Essentials for Nursing Moms and Bitter Sweet Separation: Weaning our 14 Month Old, I believe in the benefits of breastfeeding and love doing it. When both of my children were born I nursed them as soon as possible; and continued to provide on demand breastfeeding for the first 6 weeks of their lives. As they grew, I went back to work on a part-time basis, creating the need for shared nourishment practices. Once my part-time status returned to full time, I found no way around bottle feeding. I was also not willing to give up breastfeeding and because of the support system I’m so grateful to have, I didn’t have to. With the help of loved ones, my children exclusively consumed breast milk in the early months of their lives by switching between bottle and breastfeeding.
Here are the five things I put to use in the successful combination of bottle and breastfeeding:
The routine or “flow” that worked well for both Toddler A and Baby B was eat, play, sleep. I learned of this pattern from the book, Baby Wise. I put this routine into practice after my babies developed their own patterns from early on demand breastfeeding. This means they were both a few months old before I really worked them into this routine. During daytime feedings, I was careful to make sure they had “awake” or play time after nursing. Early on, play time may have only been five minutes of singing between nursing and baby falling asleep on my chest. Then, we set our own falling asleep rituals, like tight swaddling, that were independent of feeding. A solid breastfeeding routine made it easier for my babies to switch between bottles full of breast milk and nursing. This also led to healthy habits with bottle feedings later on, alleviating the “need” for a bottle to go to bed and ease in taking a bottle from others.
I did receive some terrible advice when Toddler A was born to fully wake him during the night to ensure solid nursing sessions. I did, and he was as exhausted as Daddy D and I. I didn’t do this with Baby B and she still weighed in at the 90th percentile, just like her brother. So, I don’t recommend turning on all lights, doing a diaper change, and “fully waking” your baby for nighttime feedings. In fact, I suggest that you tune into your baby’s needs and enjoy the quiet bonding time that takes place in a peaceful and dark home, leaving the “play” part of the routine to daytime.
We were lucky to have our children in an early childhood learning center that supports nursing. The professionals there helped fortify breastfeeding for families that chose it and the Infant Room Teacher was respectful of our feeding wishes. Additionally, my husband and immediate family members were breastfeeding cheerleaders. This provided external motivation for me on the days when I was so tired I didn’t want to wake for another nursing or when I missed coveted lunch dates to nurse. I was also sure to be kind to myself so that I didn’t get discouraged on the days when I didn’t eat perfectly or felt a little worn down by my choice to nurse. It takes discipline and dedication to be the only nourishment source for a baby and I worked hard to be an advocate for myself, too.
A Schedule & Pumping
A Schedule is different from a routine. A routine is the “flow” or pattern my babies came to expect after every feeding. They always knew “play” was coming next and then “sleep.” Scheduling came later, once we had a solid routine established. This is the only way I was able to nurse and work. Again, I let my babies set their feeding times and intervals. For example, Baby B nursed around 4:00AM and ate every 3 hours at two months. I would keep this schedule and pump EVERY time at the exact time she was drinking a bottle of pumped milk when we were apart. This kept my body in tune with the schedule, my supply up, and our freezer full of breast milk. Additionally, we would alternate breastfeeding and bottle feeding throughout the day. I would breastfeed, then the baby was given a bottle, then I came back to breastfeed, again. (This allowed for solid work time, nursing over lunch breaks, and continuous emphasis on breastfeeding.) We would follow our schedule as closely as possible, and bottles were only given at the learning center. I exclusively breastfed at all other times.
Because of those supportive advocates at the learning center, we learned of some useful tools to help emulate nursing. While preforming this simulation method, the Infant Room Teacher would first give the baby a pacifier. This helped with the same concept of breastfeeding in that a little sucking had to take place before the milk came. Then, the baby would be fed half of the bottle on one side, burp in between, and then finish the other half on the other side. This is exactly how I would nurse. Coupling this hack with the schedule helped my babies easily switch between the bottle and breastfeeding.
The Feed Baby Breastfeeding App is the 2nd hack and last tip for successfully combining breastfeeding with bottle feeding. I wish I would have had this app while nursing Toddler A. Breastfeeding Baby B with the help of this handy tool was a total game changer. It tracks breastfeeding, bottle feeding, and pumping. Say what?! Believe me, it’s true! You can even pull up charts and graphs to identify trends. With the simple push and slide of a few options you can record everything you need to, eliminating paper and pencil recordings as well as poor attempts of mind-blowing memory recovery over which side received the last suckle! The reminders help ensure a regular routine and schedule when balancing between bottle and breastfeeding. Oh, and it’s FREE! I’m telling you, this app quickly became my new breastie!
As a working mom, I combined information I gathered and took cues from my babies to find the best fit for our bottle and breastfeeding practice. No single philosophy worked for me and my children but combining these five items helped ensure success in switching between breastfeeding and bottle feeding.
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