Breastfeeding with a busy active lifestyle: 7 weeks

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I’ve received requests for various topics in the postpartum realm, and a popular one has been breastfeeding with a busy active lifestyle that includes working full-time, running and consulting on several businesses and trying to fit in CrossFit training for myself. At 7 weeks, I am definitely not an expert, but I wanted to update you with what I’m currently doing and scheming to do to make it work. My goal is to breastfeed Kaitlan by boob or bottle for as long as she’ll take it.

A few disclaimers:

  • I’m by no means militant, and neither Neil or I are opposed to supplementing with formula to meet her needs. Deal with it.
  • Breastfeeding is complicated and varies largely from individual to individual. What works for one person will not work for all and none of what I say should stand above an actual expert, like your doctor or lactation consultant.
  • Per above, I’m not an expert in breastfeeding or CrossFit/fitness. I train an average of 3-4 times a week for 1-2 hours and coach an average of 1-2 classes a week.

... for a postpartum PR of 125#! I also did 30 pull-ups and ring dips!

Before Birth

It was my goal during pregnancy to return to CrossFit in postpartum as soon as I was able. CrossFit is hugely therapeutic to me, and it’s what I love. But above that was my desire to breastfeed Kaitlan for the first year if possible. It’s common knowledge that breastfeeding burns calories, and as does any exercise, complicating an already complicated endeavor (breastfeeding). Additionally, I work full-time, meaning that once I returned to work, the majority of Kaitlan’s milk would be pumped and given to her by her daycare providers. Many people I know have expressed in frustration that pumps just don’t get the job done as well as the breast does.

With all this in mind, I did what I could to prepare:

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During maternity leave (6 weeks)

It was one of the leading items in my birth plan that Kaitlan and I be together skin-to-skin for the first hour following birth to establish our breastfeeding relationship. This relationship and bonding early was HUGE. It not only ensured that we could establish latch with the help of a consultant to troubleshoot, but made sure she got colostrum, AKA “liquid gold.”

I breastfed on demand throughout my entire leave. I didn’t attempt to put her on a schedule, or adhere to the advice of “every 2-3 hours.” That was simply a “do not exceed” rule for me. If she wanted, I gave freely, and often ended up clusterfeeding and dreamfeeding in the earlier weeks.

My milk started coming in on day 3, and I started pumping immediately after feedings on day 4, bagging and freezing my first 5 ounces by day 6. I’ve continued pumping after most feedings from then on, averaging 5-7 minutes on each side. As my supply increased, I was able to pump more, and if we missed any feedings, I pumped as if I was feeding her. Over 6 weeks, I froze close to 15 bags of milk.

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Returning to work (7 weeks)

Pumping at work, home, and around CrossFit hasn’t been as difficult as I imagined, albeit somewhat tedious. My current direct breastfeeding/pumping schedule looks like this:

Between 2:00 am-3:00 am: Kaitlan feeds
5:30-6:00 am: Kaitlan feeds
6:45 am: Top Kaitlan off and pump before leaving for work (typically between 4-5 oz)
9:30 am: Pump (3-4 oz)
11:00 or 11:30 am: Pump (3-4 oz)
2:00-2:30 pm: Pump (3-4 oz)
4:00 pm: Pump (2-3 oz)
5:00 pm: Kaitlan feeds (this might become a bottle feeding)
6:00 pm or 7:00 pm: CrossFit — usually try to pump beforehand
8:00 pm Kaitlan feeds
10:00-10:30 pm Kaitlan feeds, then bed

As I mentioned, we haven’t put her on a schedule, but she’s definitely falling into a predictable pattern. Obviously, we see spikes and variation during spurts.

A few things of note/emphasis:

  • I prioritize pumping in the morning (even on weekends) when my supply is best and immediately prior to CrossFit to feel “empty.”
  • I pump missed feedings and after feeding her if I think that she didn’t feed significantly. If I don’t pump, I feed her on-demand and a little more often. I’ve also done some dream feeding.
  • I drink and eat a ridiculous amount. I try to keep it as healthy as possible, but the volume is impressive and I do what I have to to keep her fed. Food-wise, I take in anywhere from 2,300-2,500 calories a day, which is a lot when you consider it’s mostly Paleo. Fluid-wise, I typically do 120-130 oz of water in the morning, again in the afternoon, and in the evening after CrossFit. I also typically drink throughout my workouts.
  • I don’t take weekends off, and use them to get ahead or give myself a break later by building my stash.

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I’m not where I want to be on supply, but in just the one week I’ve been back at work, my supply has increased noticeably. I picked up a manual pump for times when I don’t have access to my electric and I’m going to make a point to eat oatmeal for breakfast and a late night snack this week to see if I can get to three bottles per day solidly. On the plus, Kaitlan seems to be thriving and is just over 9 pounds now.

We started her on a little formula supplementation over the weekend, and so far it’s going really well. I wanted to do this because while my supply is going up, it’s constantly on that line of being just enough. Having formula would be perfect for crunch times like topping her off in the morning or her daycare provider being able to keep her happy between 4-5:00 when we’re coming to get her. It would also be highly useful in emergencies like inclement weather when she might be at either my parents or daycare.

Is it obvious now that I tend to overthink everything? Have any supply-boosting tips for me?

9 Comments

  • Misti says:

    I needed this post! I go back to work in 3 weeks and am trying to get my stash built up better. I only have about a day supply in the freezer, but I’ve also not been working hard to build it until now. I’ll probably try to start pumping more religiously in the mornings before his morning feedings, but I’ve been enjoying the sleep for the moment. Keep us posted on how the oatmeal works—I’ve been more protein focused in the mornings as I find it keeps me going longer instead of coming back for something else to eat an hour later.

    • Jessica says:

      Yes — I need to get back to prioritizing protein in the mornings as well — I’ve seriously been eating out of jars of peanut butter.

      Yeah, it was an AHA moment when I started pumping in the mornings after that first feed. I typically wasn’t doing it because sleep, and then getting upset when I’d have NOTHING left in the late afternoon/evening when Neil was home and it was more convenient. I think I could have a doubled stash had I not made this mistake. I also wasn’t as religious, and should have been — not only for the purposes of stash, but increased supply as well. When I started back to work last week, I was at 2 bottles max by the time I left work, now I’m at close to three, and that’s not touching the evening.

      It’s tedious, but you get through it, and it’s worth it — or at least I just keep telling myself that.

  • Seriously props to you and other work outside the home moms. Breastfeeding is really hard work. Sounds like you’re in a good groove — so just keep at it and take it each day at a time. And I did the same thing with pumping before all my runs to feel empty. It was a great way to create a freezer stash!

    • Jessica says:

      I know it’s probably OCD and being really self-conscious, but I hate the big boobs part of breastfeeding, so I’m always trying to stay as empty as possible, especially around the times I workout. I will breastfeed her as long as she needs, but I won’t lie, I’m looking forward to the “after” of breastfeeding when I can have a lot less going on there…

      • Leah says:

        Glad I’m not the only one who finds the increased breast size inconvenient! My figure just looks off to me.

        • Jessica says:

          I miss my little boobs terribly. I don’t like the top heavy feeling when I wear normal bras, and god forbid I have to walk quickly,…they feel like riding in an old Cadillac.

  • Leah says:

    Curious to see what you think of the Harmony. I’ve debated getting one.

    I just made the difficult ugly-cry decision to stop pumping at work. I actually can run home to do it (5 minutes from my classroom to my living room). I had a hard time getting work done while pumping, so I was losing an hour+ of prep a day. I had to pump for 15-25 minutes to get anywhere from 2.5-4 oz total, and I could only get 2x a day to pump. My gal was eating more than that at daycare from the start. I did have frozen bags when I went back to work, but I felt like I was wringing myself dry and using my stash just to give 50% of what she ate in a day.

    In short, the pumping was stressing me out. We’re doing “combo feeding,” so I nurse her at home and on the weekends, and she gets formula at daycare. Seems to be working well, and I actually feel like I have better supply and am nursing her better with this method, tho I do get engorged by the end of the school day. But this is working well.

    Wish I had tips for increasing supply. Oatmeal cookies were the only thing that seemed to work for me.

    • Jessica says:

      Yeah, we’re really just feeling it out at this point. Neil was home with her week 7 and my MIL for week 8, so I really haven’t had a total ‘new normal’ week of how this will all play out. The daycare provider has requested 3 bottles, which right now is *exactly* what I eek out every day, and that’s pumping every two hours or so. Next week, there are two days when I’m in meetings all morning, and that’s prime pumping time for my first 2 bottles, so…I’m already like stressing, so she might have to be fed 1/2 formula and 1/2 milk those days for my sanity. There’s just no way I can always pump every two hours — I need to get work done.

      I was pretty impressed with my stash before I realized she’s doing two bottles (or 2 bags) in an 8 hour workday…

      • Leah says:

        Our provider is on a food program, so they have to do 4 oz bottles. Prior to heading to daycare, little one did 2-3 oz bottles, so that was an adjustment. Right from the get go, I tried to use my stash, and I was running through it like crazy.

        I think we’ve done two weeks now with formula at daycare and me at home, and my body has adjusted. My husband did 2 oz one night because I was busy and had fed a lot, but I’ve otherwise done just fine feeding her each evening and weekend. I think this will work well. Suffice to say, though, that I am *really* ready to feed her when I do daycare pickup.