Breastfeeding tips can come from unexpected inspiration. In the early 1990s, the band Sublime sang of 40 ounces to freedom – that walk to the corner liquor store to grab a bottle and chill with your friends. Well, a bottle likely conjures very different images for you now, and if you are managing to take a walk, it is probably not to the liquor store. But fear not – ounces can still equal freedom. Forty is probably a bit ambitious, but four ounces can make your day. Four ounces, that is, of pumped breastmilk.
While pumping can be one of the least enjoyable parts of the day, the result of a good pump is undeniable. A nutritious bottle of just-pumped or refrigerated milk can provide you with some much needed time off. While your baby savors those four ounces, delivered in a well cleaned bottle by a doting father, grandparent, family or friend, you get some freedom. Taking a break for a single feed, or maybe a full few hours, is an important breastfeeding tip that you are unlikely to hear from a lactation consultant or well-meaning friends. For some, enjoying this freedom may be accompanied by guilt and questions about whether pumped breastmilk is as nutritious and nurturing as nursing. For others, it may be empowering to make a decision to give yourself a break or give your partner the opportunity of providing food. In those early days of first-time motherhood, breastfeeding can be disorienting. While it is the most natural thing in the world, it is a learned skill. The learning process can be a difficult, painful and unrelentingly frustrating dance of pillows, tiny mouths, latching techniques, nipple shields and sometimes conflicting advice. Getting into a comfortable rhythm can take weeks or months, and giving yourself some time off can be the difference between an exhausting, frustrating day and one that is slightly less so.
My 4 ounces of freedom started early. At 4 weeks old, a lactation consultant helped us determine that our son was not getting enough from nursing. He was healthy and putting on weight but an inefficient and slow eater, leading to continuous feedings and an unsustainable schedule for both of us. The best option was to supplement a pumped bottle at every nursing feed. At first, the supplements were a miniscule 1.5 ounces (40 Ml), matching his miniscule, delicate 8-pound body. But his needs quickly grew, and I started spending a lot of time pumping.
Feeding became the single biggest activity every 24 hours. Each feed took about an hour and a half of nursing, pumping, and giving him a supplemental pumped bottle. As many moms know, spending so much time feeding can create tunnel vision around milk production and ways to increase supply. If I got 4 ounces in a pump, I knew I had enough for the next feed and could stay a feed ahead. If I got less than that, I ran the risk of getting behind with no clear plan of what to do next. So 4 ounces was my benchmark and, for a while, became a proxy for feeling like I was an adequate mom. Four ounces meant I could provide for my son.
This mathematical target was a vague goal at first, then became one of the few certainties in the otherwise messy journey of early motherhood. But as he grew, so did his appetite. Supplementing four ounces gradually increased to five then six ounces. Bottle feeding and pumping started to take longer to provide and produce this much milk. With only so many hours in the day, our patterns evolved before I truly realized the choices I was making. He was down to nursing just once in the early morning and once in the afternoon. Then just the early morning.
Reduced nursing had knock-on effects to my production. No longer did 4 ounces equal freedom; I needed about 6 to keep pace and stay ahead of his next feed. I could not deliver this much with consistency, and he was hungry. The number one rule of new parenthood is feed your baby. It is the cornerstone of them growing, thriving, being happy, and sleeping well. I had two options: pump more or supplement formula.
Formula will be the subject of another article, but for me, the choice was clear. I was already pumping 3 times a day and struggling to find time just for that. I was enjoying starting to spend time with friends and family again and did not want to interrupt those precious hours out of the house with pumping in a car or public bathroom. I also just simply did not want to pump more.
So for me, my freedom was shifting from a focus on 4 ounces of pumped breastmilk to accepting and being grateful for as much as I could continue to produce. And being equally accepting and grateful for access to safe, nutritious, organic formula to continue to provide for my growing little boy. He’s happy, he’s thriving, I’m sane. and have found my balance of freedom. It’s what I got, and it is sublime.