Maybe you’re unable to breastfeed, are currently offering a combination of formula and breast milk, or have mindfully chosen formula over nursing. Trust that you’ve made the most suitable choice — both for you and your baby. When it comes to making that deeply personal choice, everything from lifestyle factors to personal preferences and medical conditions play a part. A well-fed baby comes in all shapes, sizes, and decisions. You’re doing a phenomenal job, mama.
I originally wrote this post when I was six months postpartum. Wilson, my son, self-weaned when he was 13 months old. It was a natural, graceful way to end. After he started consuming consistent solids for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (roughly 10 months), I dropped all feeds except two: his nighttime feed and first morning feed. He wasn’t interested in the daytime feeds anymore. Likely, because he was consuming enough carbs, fats, and protein from solids. Shortly after he turned 13 months, he stopped wanting the nighttime feed, and that was that. More on the emotional aspect of weaning here and here.
There’s something incredibly tender, innate, and connective about breastfeeding. The bond is sweet and palpable in a way no other experience is. I often refer to it as a privilege, an honor — my body providing all the sustenance my baby currently needs. And six months in, it feels very natural. There’s a fluidity and convenience to it all. Never the less, it’s exhausting. Breastfeeding is a full time job, on top of everything else that motherhood demands. The sleep-deprived agony of feeding around the clock is harrowing, at times. And the hunger / thirst that comes with breastfeeding is relentless.
In the very beginning, the onslaught of physical discomfort was enough to consider an entirely different feeding path, altogether. Thankfully, these and this really helped me. As did my lactation consultant, Jen. But with anything worthwhile, compromise and sacrifice are inevitable. I’ve compromised in some ways, and sacrificed in others, but I wouldn’t change my experience — as a breastfeeding mama — for the world. Although it’s a relatively thankless undertaking, it has given me courage and purpose in a way nothing else has. And for that, I’m grateful.
Breastfeeding, by the numbers
Because it’s National Breastfeeding Month, I thought I would share our current breastfeeding schedule (which many of my mama-friends have asked for!). Wilson is edging on six months, and in many ways, our schedule hasn’t changed dramatically from his newborn days. However, he’s no longer cluster feeding and nursing sessions are much more efficient (much to my relief). I also wanted to mention that while approximately 83% of U.S. infants are breastfed at birth, only 25% are still exclusively nursed by the time they’re six months old. More on that here. Sure, that decrease isn’t terribly surprising, but much of it is a symptom of unequal access to breastfeeding support, combined with persistent racial and ethnic disparities in breastfeeding. From one mama to another, we have to do better. We can do better.
6 month Breastfeeding and pumping Schedule
I’m currently feeding Wilson on demand, which means he’s being nursed (or fed a bottle of pumped milk) every 3-4 hours. Our pediatrician gave us the green light to start solid foods, which we did at four months. I think that was too early, though. Even at six months, he much prefers to breastfeed. However, we’re incorporating purées, an organic fortified baby cereal, or soft solids every day. I am still nursing him in the middle of the night, as that is what is currently working for our family. Keep in mind that this schedule is not rigid; there is room for flexibility based on the day of the week. For example, weekends look different, based on a day-trip we might take, an outing, long walk, etc.
6:30am: wake + play for 10-15 minutes + nurse
8:30am: down for his morning nap (either in his crib or while my mother-in-law takes him on a walk); I pump
10:30am: play or go for a walk; some time in the morning, he’ll either have 1-2 teaspoons of organic whole grain cereal with breast milk or a fruit/veg to suck on, like cucumber (which he loves!), applesauce, banana, etc.
1pm: nurse (or he gets a pumped bottle of 3-4oz if I’m working — and if that’s the case, I pump in order to replenish my supply of expressed milk)
6pm: short nursing session and another 1-2 teaspoons of whole grain cereal with breast milk
6:30/7pm: wind down with a bath, then a book (or just a book, as we don’t bathe him every night)
7/7:30pm: bottle with approx. 5-oz of pumped milk, then bed
8:30pm: I pump
12(ish)am: nurse (I’ll be dropping this feed soon)