Happy National Breastfeeding Week!
Even though breastfeeding didn’t go exactly how I planned, I wouldn’t change my journey. I have had the privilege to exclusively pump for the last 37 weeks and wow, what a labor of love pumping has been for me! Honestly, those early days were emotionally draining, shifting my mindset from exclusively breastfeeding to exclusively pumping was rough. But finding the silver lining in everything I do, exclusively pumping has brought so much joy to our life. Not only has it given me a peace of mind that August is still benefiting from my milk and nutrients, but Romy also gets to be part of the feeding process. Also, I have been fortunate with an oversupply of milk, not only does August have plenty of milk, but I have been able to donate some of my excess milk to premature babies.
Now looking back on my journey it’s easy to forget how we even got here. The process of pumping was not easy and getting into a rhythm was hard, so I figured I would outline what I have learned over these past 8 months.
First Time Pumping (with the nurse): My first experience pumping was in the hospital and it was so WEIRD. I would strongly recommend any new mom, take the pump out of the box, and get a feel for the machine. Obviously, I did not, so I had a strange encounter with the nurse, rushing to pull all my parts out (because my child was hungry and not latching) while fondling my breast to start the extraction process.
**B.F. Tip: Those first days, your baby feeds every couple hours. Being new to the mom club and celebrating with friends and family that visited us in the hospital, I did a really shitty job of keeping track of the time. So wear a watch or tell the nurse to keep track of time for you. This was definitely the first learning curve of motherhood that my life is no longer just mine.
When Your Milk Comes In: The day after we got home from the hospital my milk came in and, August had a really hard time latching. Our lactation consultant said if he was having trouble latching to hand express my milk and syringe feed our baby. While after a FULL day of syringe feeding our child 30ml with syringes, Romy and I were about to lose our shit. Luckily, we were able to meet with our pediatrician that suggested I start pumping to start a supply, but continue to offer my breast as well.
**B.F. Tip: At the end of the day, fed is best! If something does feel right, follow your gut. Looking back I wished we would have contacted our pediatrician right away.
First Time Pumping (by myself): What an experience of trying to figure out pumping, while being sleep deprived, healing after child labor, and caring for said child. Those first pumping sessions were rough. But some advice that helped me through:
- Comfortable nursing/pumping bra in one, my favorite
- Mini heating pads to help your milk release
- Hand massaging your breasts really does help
- Drinking lots of water
- Eating health snacks, I LOVED these Good and Gather bars from Target.
- Pumping at a max 30 mins (your machine should automatically turn off after 30 mins)
- Understanding your machine’s setting (I use the Spectra 1 and LOVE it)
- Start: Massage Mode: 70 Cycle/Suction, suction 5 (about 2 mins until your milk starts to flow)
- Expression Mode: 54 Cycle/Suction, suciont 12 (about 20-28 mins)
- These are the settings that work best of me, never use a suction that is painful. This could cause pain or nipple damage.
**B.F. Tip: I used my machine incorrectly for the first 10 weeks, OPPS! I basically flipped the massage mode and expression mode…read the instructions
What Do I Do With This Milk?: August was 9 days old, I got into a groove of pumping every time after he ate his bottle and started to bank a little stockpile of milk. At first, I was keeping all my milk in these little bottles in our refrigerator (freshly pumped breast milk only can stay in the fridge 5-7 days). But then realized I really only needed 2-3 bottles on hand, so I started freezing my milk. I use the 6 oz Lansinoh Milk Storage Bag and have always frozen my milk flat in a glass pyrex dish. When I get 12 frozen bags, I stack them into a gallon freezer Ziplock bag to save space in our deep freezer.
**B.F. Tip: I have actually started donating some of my extra frozen milk to a milk bank, reach out if you have any questions on that process.
Cleanliness: So Romy and I kind of live in the stone age, we actually don’t have a dishwasher (maybe someday after we renovate our kitchen). So for cleaning bottles, we have a silicone bottle brush, that works really at removing build-up and gunk. I don’t clean my pumping supplies after every time I pump (that would be A LOT of dishes), but I do completely clean all my pumping parts once a day. In between my daily pumps, I put all of my parts in an airtight Ziplock bag in our fridge. I also use reusable nipple pads every day after a pumping session to ensure I am keeping your pumping process as clean as possible, with little to no cross-contamination.
Routine: Our routine has changed A LOT over the last 8 months as August has drunk more milk less frequently, thus my routine has changed.
- Birth-One Month: I pumped every time after August ate for 30 mins for the first few weeks (including night feedings). This increased my milk supply as well as my inventory of milk.
- 2 – 3 Months: As August started to sleep longer thru the nights, my first pump to go was my middle of the night pump. So I would pump 5 times a day: right when I wake up, mid-morning, lunch, afternoon, and before bed.
- 3 – 4 Months: When I went back to work, I dropped a pump, so I would pump 4 times a day: right when I wake up, mid-morning, afternoon, and before bed.
- 5 Months to Now: COVID really put a damper on my plans. Being home, working, with August, I didn’t have the luxury to pump 2 times in the middle of the day, so I shifted a little and now pump 3 times a day: right when I wake up, lunch, and before bed.
Pumping at Outside the House: I am very fortunate to work with a majority of women that are of childbearing age, so pumping in the office is very normalized. We actually have multiple nursing rooms available with sinks in them. Some tips for pumping while not at home:
- Block time on your calendar. I pump in the mid-morning and afternoon.
- Comfortable pumping bra, that works with normal clothing, my favorite
- Pump (my pump is rechargeable, so I don’t have to bring a charger)
- An insulated bag that you can keep your milk and pump parts cold
- Shaker cup to store milk
- Extra pump parts
- Ice packs
- Milk bags, in case of an issue with your shaker cup
My goal was to breastfeed for 1 year, and I am SO proud that we have been able to get to 8 months. I have an amazing support system around me that encourage me daily!
Check out my post here for all my pumping product recommendations to help the pumping process.