Are half birthday’s a thing? Why am I even asking? Who am I kidding? I LOVE BIRTHDAYS and I am so grateful to be able to celebrate a half of a year with my little man! The purpose of my post is to celebrate making it six months exclusively breastfeeding my son!
Something I knew I wanted to accomplish, but in those first six weeks I wasn’t sure how I would ever make it.
In March I shared with you 10 Tips for Breastfeeding Past Six Weeks. I was told in one my breastfeeding prep classes while I was pregnant that making it past four and six weeks were crucial in the journey.
According to the CDC, about 82% of mothers start out breastfeeding, but only 55% continue to 6 months, and only 25% of moms exclusively breastfeed.
The top reasons moms wait is due to pain, (perceived) low milk supply, little to no support from family and friends, and being told to supplement with formula .
Breastfeeding the first 6 weeks was SO HARD! There was bleeding, cracking, and lots of tears. I tried it all, different positions, lactation consultants, nipple shields, pumping, creams, lotions, and potions.
I am going to do my best to not repeat some of my tips, but instead elaborate more on how we made it past 6 weeks and now in to 6 months.
Q & A from Instagram
The other day on Instagram I asked you what some of your questions were about my breastfeeding journey. I wanted to kick off this post by answering your questions first. 🙂
How long do you plan on breastfeeding?
I often joke with people in person with the answer, 13 years old. 🙂 But the truth is, my goal is to make it to at least 18 months old, although I would like to do 2 years. While these are my goals, my little one will also call the shots.
It is another goal of mine to have enough frozen breastmilk to last six months after we wean. According to the CDC, breastmilk can be stored in the freezer past 6 months, up to 12 months. So if I can store it, I figure why the heck not give it to him? If he weans off the breast at 2 years, I would like him to have enough frozen milk until 2 1/2. That’s a lot of pumping! 😀
Breastfeeding Past Age 1
There are a lot of opinions about breastfeeding past 1 year old being useless, but I don’t believe this. Although there is little research, I think there is enough research to support my decision to go as long as we possibly can. In the second year (12-23 months), 448 mL of breastmilk provides, 29% of energy requirements, 60% of vitamin C requirements, 43% of protein requirements, and 36% of calcium requirements. Breast milk continues to provide substantial amounts of protein, fat, and vitamins well beyond the first year of life.
Breastmilk is great to keep the immune system healthy and children nourished. There are so, so many other benefits of breastfeeding past infancy. If you would like more to read, visit this post on Kelly Mom.
While I know breastfeeding past 1 is not the norm, I would hope that people respect a mother’s choice to continue breastfeeding. It’s not a mother being selfish and trying to coddle her baby, it is a mother wanting the best for her little one. It bums me out that we live in a culture where we look down or judge a mother who breastfeeds a toddler, but we don’t bat an eye when a toddler is drinking soda. I think we have a lot of work to do to inspire a change in our culture.
What do you do for your supply at nighttime?
This is a challenging question for me to answer, because my little one doesn’t sleep through the night… like ever. 🙂 So this question is a little difficult for me to answer.
Other than nursing on demand, I still take Legendairy Milk Supplements to keep my supply up. Since my first post, I have found that Pump Princess is the formula my body responds to best. If you are just starting out, I would highly recommend the Best Seller Bundle.
These are the only supplements I have taken that help me with my supply. I don’t do lactation cookies or shakes, I just make sure we nurse on demand or I pump to replace feedings. ((Ps… Brewer’s yeast, often in lactation smoothies, tastes like feet to me and I’d rather not drink it. 🙂 )
I don’t have the perfect answer for this question, but I think The Cleavage Club Facebook Group is the perfect resource to see how other moms are handling nighttime supply.
Have you started purees yet?
We have not started solid foods yet. My plan is to delay solids until after he is 6-months old, sitting up unassisted, and has met several other milestones. My pediatrician recommended starting solids between 4 and 6 months, but we have decided to wait until his gut is mature enough to handle solids.
My plan is also to skip purees all together and jump in to baby led weaning, which is simply offering table foods that are cut special for him. Baby Led Weaning teaches the baby to explore food, feed him/herself, and develops good eating habits.
The Cleavage Club FB Group has great information on introducing solids. KellyMom.com also has a lot of information about introducing solids along with information from accredited sources. If you are interested in learning more about Baby Led Weaning, there are several books you can buy here and here. I’d suggest started with the Baby Led Weaning Cookbook as I feel it covers just enough of the basics of Baby Led Weaning that you might want to know. There are also groups on Facebook you can join.
What I have Learned Breastfeeding 6-Months
1. Food is Fuel, for Both of You
I learned the hard way that dieting while breastfeeding probably isn’t the best idea. I thought because of my background in nutrition that I would be able to do both, breastfeed and diet. I made a horrible mistake at trying a Keto diet around 4 1/2 months. Oh-em-geeee it was detrimental for my supply. The sudden shift in macro nutrients (cutting carbs, increasing fats and proteins) was not loved by my body. My supply suddenly dropped and we were still battling a lip tie we didn’t know about.
Cutting macro nutrients is something I don’t recommend, unless you are CERTAIN it is right for you.
Losing Weight While Nursing
Instead of dieting, I would recommend focusing on whole foods. Choose fresh produce, organic meats, and lots of water. If you are looking to jump start your postpartum weight loss, focusing on nutritious food is going to get you there while you are nursing.
I have followed intuitive eating while breastfeeding, which is essentially listening to my body and eating when I am hungry. We limit processed sugars, processed foods, and for personal preferences we do not eat dairy and have eliminated gluten. I do not think this is the only or best way to a healthy lifestyle, but I do believe being mindful is the best thing we can do as Mommas.
2. Tongue and Lip Ties
In my post about breastfeeding past the first 6 weeks, I shared about having a tongue tie fixed for my little one. More than 2 pediatricians missed his tongue tie and it felt like quite the battle getting someone to accept that the tongue tie needed revising.
We had a tongue tie revision done at 3 weeks. Clipping the tie was helpful at first and got us through a crucial stage in the journey, but it was a temporary fix.
Around 5 months we had to have a lip tie revised with a laser by a pediatric dentist. I had known since the end of March that something wasn’t quite right still. His poop was an icky green color, nothing like the yellow poop I was told to expect. Because it was so difficult to get the tongue tie fixed the first time, I put off checking for a lip tie.
I Should Have Listened to My Gut
Some of the other things I noticed, but brushed off was that he leaked while he was eating most of the time. He didn’t have a proper seal around the nipple and milk constantly dribbling out. I also noticed his top lip didn’t flare, it rolled under. Anytime I would correct it, it would roll right back under.
Though it was rare for him to have a bottle, at 4 1/2 months old he started to refuse to take a bottle all together. He got so “combative” when I tried to feed him. I called him ninja baby because he HATED to be nursed and constantly popped himself off while eating.
Finding Help to Address Potential Ties
I went to The Cleavage Club FB Group group for help and to get feedback from a lactation consultant that specializes in lip and tongue ties. Sure enough, he had a lip tie we needed to revise.
I won’t spend a ton of time getting in to the details of his TIES, but I will say I wish I would have had someone with the proper background and expertise look at him in the beginning. I relied on our pediatrician(s) and they missed his lip tie (and the tongue in the beginning). After fixing the lip tie, it has been a night and day difference when he is eating.
If you suspect a tie, please do yourself a favor and jump in a group. Ties can cause so many issues for you and the baby. Low supply, gas, pain, etc. can all have something to do with a tie. Both tongue and lip ties can cause problems down the road, too if not properly fixed.
Getting ties looked at is (now) my #1 tip for nursing moms who are trying desperately to figure out why they are struggling nursing.
3. Chiropractic Care Can Help Latching Issues
I started taking my son to the chiropractor when he was 2 weeks old, but stopped going after a couple visits because it was not covered by my insurance.
To most people, chiropractic care for infants sounds scary or intimidating. Truly, the pressure and adjustments done for babies by chiropractors is so gentle. There is no popping or cracking, just a little pressure to help relax tight muscles and offset areas.
My little guy was having a difficult time latching on my right side. We also noticed that he had a head tilt, meaning his head always kind of leaned toward one side.
I started taking him to the chiropractor for the head tilt and my chiropractor was able to identify areas that might be contributing to his poor latch on my right side. After just a couple routine visits, the latch problem AND the head tilt was so much better. We now visit the chiropractor weekly to help keep our little man aligned and ready for the next stage of his development.
4. Water, Water, and More Water
Breastmilk is 88% water and a lesson I learned the hard way, is that water helps keep milk supply up! When the heat of the summer hit, I wasn’t drinking enough water and I noticed my supply got a little low. I always aim for a gallon a day, but realistically I probably get half or 3/4 of a gallon a day.
5. Nursing on Demand
We nurse on demand, even if he isn’t “hungry”. During the last 6-months there were a couple times I felt pressure from the outside world to have Isaiah on a nap schedule or rigid schedule to get him to sleep through the night. Suggestions like BabyWise, crying it out, or plain ol’ baby schedules just weren’t for us.
I have learned over the last 6-months babies don’t just nurse because they are “hungry”. Babies nurse for comfort, to soothe pain, and to help feel secure as they travel through different milestones in their lives.
Instead of following a schedule for feedings, I waited for my little one to tell me when he wanted to nurse. I usually follow his cues of rooting for the breast, sucking on his fist, or being fussy. I also nurse him when he wakes up in the middle of the night. (If you are feeling pressured to have your baby sleep through the night, I highly recommend this article.)
This way of nursing has allowed for him to tell my body how to regulate milk. Our bodies produce in a supply and demand type of way. So where there is a demand, or constant nursing, there is supply.
6. A Baby is Never Too Old for Skin-to-Skin
When my little one was born, I was adamant about having an uninterrupted “Golden Hour” after birth. The golden hour is an undisturbed hour where baby is held against the mother’s breasts with no barrier. A cap and a diaper is fine and a blanket on top of baby and momma can help keep them warm.
An undisturbed first hour skin to skin with Momma can help a baby with their initial latch, helps with temperature regulation, and bonding between Momma and baby.
Skin to skin also helps with milk production and helps calm a baby by being close to their mother.
We still nurse skin to skin whenever possible at home. The close connection helps keep milk supply up, as does nursing on demand. If we have had a busy day or several busy days out and about, I am sure to make the following day a quiet day of lots of skin to skin.
I find that it keeps him calm, centers us, and allows for us to rest together.
7. A Good Pump is Important
Although I don’t pump very often, I will say that having a good pump is necessary. I started with the pump our insurance provided after my son was born. An Ameda Purely Yours. I do not know if I would have been given any other options, but the Ameda is AW-FULLLLL! It is so loud and I never really got a decent pump out of it.
In the beginning when we were sorting out the tongue tie issue, the lactation consultant had me rent a hospital grade pump for 60 days. It worked so well and I got to see how bad the Ameda pump really was. Because I was renting the hospital grade pump, I had to return it.
A month or so ago I invested in a new Spectra S1 Pump! The Spectra works so well and is so quiet. I opted for the Spectra S1 instead of the Spectra S2 because the battery in the S1 can be charged and does not have to always be plugged in. It is my understanding that is the only difference between the two pumps.
I need to get better about pumping. I think having an extra set of pumping parts would be helpful for me to get more consistent. I don’t like washing all the pump parts, so I always put it off.
If you are going to be pumping, I highly recommend having a special pumping bra. It makes life so much easier.
We Made It Past 6-Months
We made it past the first 6 months and I feel so grateful that I have been able to make it this far.
I honestly thought that breastfeeding was as easy as latching the baby and waiting until he was done. With breastfeeding comes new challenges to navigate.
As he gets older he has become more curious, thus losing focus at the breast to look around or look behind him when he hears a new noise. This is wonderful when he turns his head to look while he is still latched. 🙂 We also haven’t experienced any teeth yet, but I know the challenges that come with that are just around the corner.
If you are planning on breastfeeding your baby, please, please, please rely on SUPPORTIVE people to help you along the way. If there is no one in your family or friend circle that is supportive, find a group online. I believe that the support makes all the difference. Without it, I wouldn’t have made it this far.
Thank you for following my journey this far! I plan to do another update in… probably another 6 months. When we start Baby LED weaning, I will share more of that journey too. SO make sure you are following me on Instagram for all of the latest updates!
With love, Anna