Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are 100% my own.
If you’ve already read my earlier post, 9 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Breastfeeding, you know that breastfeeding has not come easily for me. Written about eight weeks after the birth of my third child, the post shares a bit about the challenges I’ve had – and my ultimate success in finally being able to (almost) exclusively breastfeed lucky baby #3.
The post also talks about many of the truths of breastfeeding that I wish I had known going in. The amazing aspects as well as the ones that – well – suck (no pun intended). I feel that had I known better what to expect, I would have been better equipped to handle various challenges as they arose – and perhaps had been more successful with my first two babies.
It appears that 9 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Breastfeeding has resonated with readers as well. To date, it has been one of my highest-performing posts, prompting more emails and reach-outs than I can count (which I love – we’re all in this together)! This tells me that I’m not alone in this experience, and that many new mothers have gone through the trial and error that I have while trying to navigate a new nursing relationship.
So, at six months postpartum, I thought it would be a good time to post an update about how my breastfeeding journey has evolved.
I AM PROUD!
There. I said it. And I’m not ashamed! I have worked very hard to hit this milestone, and I’m delighted with the progress that my baby and I have made. I read this week that only 18% of mothers who start out breastfeeding are still nursing at 6 months, so I feel I’ve really achieved something (never mind that the statistic was on a Facebook meme – take it for what it’s worth, but it sounded great to me)!
My husband asked me yesterday how long I was going to continue breastfeeding. I answered that, at this point, as long as possible since the hard work is already done! Or at least the one year I had originally set my sights on. Which brings me to my next point.
It really DOES get easier.
Hear me when I say this – as I never believed anyone who said this until I experienced it for myself. It won’t always be as hard as it is in the beginning. Not even close.
Now, don’t get me wrong. It remains a big (huge) commitment. Every day breastfeeding is one of my biggest considerations as I time outings and events around feeds. As I struggle with various aspects that I will detail later on. BUT it is easier than it once was. It has become habit, second nature, and I have gotten used to it. It has simply become a part of my life.
It no longer hurts – as much.
In my first post, I talked a lot about the pain of nursing. Because the pain at that point was SIGNIFICANT. The “tender nipples” crap that I hear time and time again is complete B.S. – at least for me. For me, it was a searing, burning, excruciating pain. And yes, I felt this pain even though the latch was absolutely correct.
So I’m happy to report that the pain – at least to that level – started subsiding for me around 12 weeks. Granted, this is much longer than the 3-8 weeks I was originally led to believe, but the good news is that it DID subside. Now when the baby latches, I feel an initial prick/tingle and that is it.
Lest I lead you to believe that it has become completely pain-free, it has not. My little guy now has more of a say in things and will often bite (even without teeth, this hurts), tug, or my personal favorite – bite and tug on the nipple simultaneously to pull off. The good news is that if I’m paying attention, I can often tell when he’s in this sort of mood, or can read his cues to pull him off before he decides to do it himself. The bad news is if I’m watching TV or browsing Facebook on my phone, I will sometimes miss the cues and end up with a sore nipple.
Some babies hate covers.
I know that I can technically nurse pretty much wherever and whenever I want sans cover. It’s my right. That said, I still (shockingly) retain a shred of modesty since birthing three children, and I personally prefer using a cover.
My baby disagrees.
He hates the cover. Despises it. And refuses to eat (and instead cries and screams) when I place one on. I’ve tried everything – all different types of covers, putting them on in different ways so that he won’t notice, and even trying to cover him with other items like shirts, soft blankets, etc. Nothing works. He’s hip to the game and isn’t having any of it.
Which puts me in a dilemma. Since I’m shy to nurse publicly without cover, I have to find a private area or feed him a bottle. Neither is ideal. Finding a private area means leaving whatever I’m doing at the moment (often leaving people to wait for us), while feeding him a bottle leaves me still needing to express so essentially doubling the time of the feed.
I have yet to find a solution, so opt to switch between finding a private area or bottle feeding when in public. And it blows.10 Things I've Learned About #Breastfeeding at 6 Months #Postpartum. #nursing #motherhood #baby Click To Tweet
Distractions are the bane of my existence.
Like I mentioned earlier, my little man has become much more engaged with the world, no longer content to simply sleep and feed. Which is great. Except when I’m nursing. EVERYTHING is a distraction. His brothers. The TV. The radio. The sound of the garbage truck driving by. And with every distraction, he pulls of, smiles, and turns towards it.
It can turn a 20-minute feed into an hour.
I’ve tried quiet rooms. That worked – until his brothers figured out that these were the perfect times to get into everything they shouldn’t. So no more quiet rooms for us.
So now we simply try to work with it. I admit that I turn on the TV for his brothers to minimize distractions, but they still occur. Fortunately, the baby does have his good times. He eats much better during the evening, less so throughout the day. So I try to maximize the evening feeds understanding that I have to take what I can get. And it seems to go in phases – around four months was really difficult as everything seemed to pull him away from the task at hand, while now at six months it seems to be improving.
Little hands are curious.
As much as outside sights and sounds distract my baby, his own hands do as well. He reaches for everything. Like my hair, which he grasps and yanks and will not let go of. Or my chin, which he scratches and scrapes with tiny baby fingernails. Or even my jaw, which he grips onto and tugs while feeding away.
It’s not comfortable for me and as much as I love my baby, I don’t love having to extract my pulled-out hair from clenched baby hands.
So I’ve learned to prevent it by keeping his hands busy during feeds. Offering him fingers or small toys to grasp onto. Wearing tug-resistant shirts that won’t untie or unravel when pulled. And tying my hair back into ponytails – lots and lots of ponytails – to keep it safe from curious hands.
I still pump.
And I still hate it. Fortunately, I will now go many days with only a single electric pumping session each morning after waking up engorged.
For other times throughout the day, if I’m out and about, I’ve discovered the wonder of the manual hand pump.
Hear me out. I, too, was appalled by the notion of manually pumping my own breasts. I held off until my third baby was 4.5 months old before finally purchasing one out of necessity (and to use up an expiring gift card) – because I didn’t want to lug my big double electric pump on an all-day outing.
And I freaking LOVE it!
I bought the Medela Harmony because my electric pump is also Medela (hooray for interchangeable bottles and parts)! And I now carry it everywhere. It is awesome:
- It’s SMALL. Which means I can discretely carry it in my purse for whenever I need it.
- It is INCREDIBLY efficient. In fact, I pump more milk manually using the hand pump than I get via the electric pump. It’s probably because I am consciously controlling the speed and action versus simply vegging out on the couch – but to this day I am amazed at how much milk I get in a much faster session.
- Fewer parts to clean. Just one bottle, one breast shield, and one membrane kit. Hallelujah!
- Easy to clean on the go. I am in love with the Medela Quick Clean Wipes – no soap or water needed!
- It is QUIET. I can do it without anyone hearing it – unlike my electric pump which often prompts questions on phone calls: “what is that whooshing noise in the background??”
- Fewer supplies needed. No tubes, no hands-free pumping bra, no electrical outlet nor cords. Just the pump and my breast is all I need. And a cover to use it in public.
So, yes, I still pump BUT am enjoying much more flexibility in how I pump.
Babies don’t nurse as often as newborns.
This was a welcome revelation seeing as I spent close to entire days in bed nursing my newborn. Now he can go much longer without nursing, and the feeds are more efficient. We’ve gotten into a groove.
The best thing about this is now being able to schedule my day. I know roughly when the baby will need to eat, and can schedule departures/arrivals around those times. I know that when he eats, he will eat well (as long as he’s not overly distracted), and then be satiated for a longer period of time. And I know that since we both have a handle on what we’re doing, we can pop in a quick 10-minute feed if need be to hold him over. It’s gotten much easier all around.
Introducing solids reduces the reliance on breast milk alone.
Most 6-month-olds are on solids and I, too, started my baby on solids at the six month mark. It’s still new for us, but already I am noticing his breast milk needs beginning to level out with the introduction of solid food.
Which makes my nursing job a bit easier and less time-consuming as I begin to focus more on other forms of nutrition and sustenance. And bittersweet as I reflect on how his dependence on me will continue to lessen as time goes on.
It is a gift.
The gratification of nursing my baby has not changed since he was a newborn. I feel so grateful and satisfied to be continuing this journey with him as he matures. There are now thousands of moments catalogued deep into the recesses of my memory – of him falling asleep on the breast, cooing after a feed, smiling in gratitude, giggling, or simply looking up at me as he eats while grasping my finger.
Even at 2am, when I am exhausted and want to cry myself when he is again crying to eat, I can’t help but be thankful for those precious moments once he’s latched on, dozing, and content. They really are a gift.
- 9 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Breastfeeding
- What to Pack in Your Maternity Hospital Bag + FREE Printable
- What You Really Need For a New Baby + FREE Printable
- 7 Reasons the United States Needs Paid Maternity Leave
- My Third Birth Story – Or, Why You Should Get an Epidural
And this is why I’m in it for the long haul. The end is nearing, faster than I’d like, and I want to soak up these final moments before they’re gone. This special time shared by only my baby and I. Because sooner than I know it, this will be the time I miss.