10 Oct 2021

My Baby Feeding Experience | Breastfeeding, Exclusive Pumping & Bottle Feeding

I've learnt this now but for those that need to hear this: as long as you are happy and your baby is happy, nothing else matters. How you feed your baby is 100% your choice and other peoples experiences, opinions and judgement really should not matter. So me sharing my experience and story isn't me shaming anyone else who does it differently, it's just me sharing my own personal baby feeding story as I feel like it may be helpful to other mums!

When I was pregnant, I did a lot of research into breastfeeding, formula-feeding and pumping because I wanted to have an open mind going into motherhood as a first-time mum. I've heard so many women's experiences when it comes to feeding their baby and I know that things don't always go to plan depending on your body. I knew I wanted to try and breastfeed for at least 6 months (if it was possible!) I also knew that I was open to bottle feeding with expressed milk and formula feeding to help take the pressure away from me for some feeds.

Once Baby S was born, I was lucky that she latched on pretty quickly and my milk came in a few days later so I was able to breastfeed. I think it also massively helped that I ate and drank all the Indian remedies that my mum and family members gave me to help with milk production (look into the benefits of fenugreek if you are interested). When she was a few days old, I started to use a Haakaa style pump to express some milk in between and during feeds so I could put some in a bottle and use that for when I was out and about or when I was taking a nap and the husband could help out with feeds. The Haakaa pump was easy to use, clean and held enough for me during those first couple of weeks! I didn't start freezing and storing any milk at this stage, it was more just for convenience.

We started giving her one bottle of breastmilk a day from a few days old alongside breastfeeding, which worked really well! There was no 'nipple confusion' which some midwives warn you about. We used the MAM Anti-Colic Bottles with a size 0 teat and still continue to do so! They are easy to clean and sterilise and with baby taking it really well, we knew we didn't want to change them. 

When Baby S was about 3 weeks old, I started to use an electric pump at least twice a day. I borrowed my sisters in case I didn't like it but I felt like it worked really well! It was the MAM 2in1 Electric and Manual Pump. I'd pump first thing in the morning and last thing before bed and sometimes in the middle of the day if I got a chance! I could now start freezing small amounts of milk as I was breastfeeding directly from me at the same time and she would have 1 or 2 bottles a day.

Around this time I started to find the evenings quite hard. I know that babies do this to promote milk production during a growth spurt but the cluster feeding and witching hour took place at the same times everyday between 9pm-1am but I couldn't help but feel physically and emotionally drained. Breastfeeding is such an emotional bonding experience so when you start to see your baby fuss and cry when you are trying to feed them is really disheartening. It would get to a point where I would get some of my expressed milk and bottle feed her to settle her down and she just seemed so much more comfortable being fed this way.

So at 4 weeks old, one day I just decided to try and bottle feed her expressed breastmilk throughout the day and it went really smoothly. There weren't that many tears (from me or the baby) and she was so much more settled. From that day onwards I pumped every 2-3 hours throughout the day as well as a middle of the night pump and fed her expressed milk via a bottle. Exclusively pumping started to feel more normal to me and I felt so much more comfortable doing it too. The convenience of being able to pass the baby to someone else to feed for a bit was a big tick for me but also helped as I started to get out and about more and I wasn't so confident when it came to breastfeeding in public. 

A couple of weeks later, I started to develop symptoms that were similar to that of mastitis. Mastitis is a breast infection - please, please research the symptoms so you know what to look out for as it is really uncomfortable and if you let it go untreated, it can be really serious. A few days in and I managed to get some antibiotics but the mastitis meant that I had to pump more throughout the day and night to relieve the pressure. I also used the Lansinoh Therapearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy pads to add heat and allow the milk flow to be smoother during pumping - you can also use it whilst breastfeeding too!

At the same time, I also got COVID, which is the last thing I needed. As the symptoms I had for mastitis were similar to Coronavirus and the at-home lateral flow test showed negative, I didn't actually realise and didn't test positive until a week later. Luckily baby was fine and didn't develop any symptoms. But me on the other hand, I have never felt so low and still think that was the lowest I've ever felt throughout postpartum so far. I was going through a lot at that time, the COVID hit me hard and meant that I couldn't look after the baby as I was before so I got a lot of help from my husband. He really is an angel, I'm not sure what I would've done without him! But I had major mum guilt as I felt like I wasn't fulfilling my role as a mother. My milk supply went very low compared to usual (to be fair, I think I had an oversupply) so I couldn't freeze any milk and I was producing just enough for the baby.

Once I was better, the milk regulated and went back to normal so I was able to freeze and store milk again. I felt like I could do everything I wanted to do for my baby so no more mum guilt. I started to pump 4 times a day so I was so much more free!

My mornings start with a 20 minute pumping session, then I'd pump again for 15 mins at 12pm, 3pm, 6pm and then before bed, whenever that was. I also invested in a new pump as exclusively pumping was going so well - it's the Medela Freestyle Flex. I also purchased the hands-free pumping bra so I could move around whilst expressing and it is a lifesaver! I have written up a full review of this pump if you are interested and want to have a read - check it out here.

Backtracking a bit, at around 2 months, I wanted to introduce formula so I could combi-feed. So we started on 1 bottle a day, which was usually before bed, so we could give it to baby at the same time everyday. She's now on two or three bottles of formula a day but it depends on whether we are going out and about. It's more for convenience as breastmilk out of the fridge can go bad after 4-6 hours so the formula is an easier option. 

In terms of feed equipment and things I use and bought, here is a list with links!

In terms of weaning myself off the pump, I dropped each pumping sessions by 5 minutes first and then after a few days I dropped a session and lengthened the time between pumps. After a week, I would drop another pumping session. I could see the milk production was slowing down so another week would go by and eventually I was down to one pump a day. Once that pumping session (it was the morning one I left until last) was only producing 1 ounce or less, I stopped and would only have to pump every couple of days until eventually it dried up completely. I would keep a close eye for blocked ducts during that time as I didn't want to develop mastitis again so if you are doing the same, I'd listen to your body. 

So that was my baby feeding experience! I do feel confident in the way I did things mostly, I would hope to try and do the same for the next one, if I could! The bottle was definitely more convenient for me but I know it isn't for everyone. Feeding is a bonding time between you, your partner or whoever is feeding them and the baby so make the most out of the moments!



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