I've had a few people ask how pumping is going, so I thought I'd post an update on breastfeeding and pumping.
I do want to start out by saying that breastfeeding is hard work and so is pumping. I'm not trying to imply that pumping is harder, through talking about my experiences. Pumping is what I know, since we weren't successful with BFing. And this post is about my own experience.
I can officially say that I am exclusively pumping. Womp womp. I have tried to bring Aria back to the breast numerous times (the last on Wednesday), but it just isn't happening. It always ends in her screaming and me feeling awful. Maybe she has PTSD from my boobs. Who knows.
I've been exclusively pumping now for 2 full months. It is not what I had in mind when I envisioned feeding my baby. But I've accepted that the important thing is she is eating and thriving. I actually think she put on 5 pounds overnight because yesterday she felt HUGE.
The biggest benefit to pumping, other than the fact that Aria is getting what she needs and growing right on track, is that other people can feed her. I can say that is really nice. This past weekend we traveled to Maryland for Thanksgiving and there was always an extra pair of hands who wanted to feed her. That was helpful because I used that time to duck away and pump.
The biggest challenge to exclusively pumping is the time commitment. Throughout the day and night, I have to pump as many times as Aria eats, to make sure I keep up my supply…which sounds sort of silly since I have such an oversupply. But if I want to keep it flowing…I've gotta keep pumping.
The double duty is toughest at night and when I'm away from the house.
For night pumps…she generally wakes up at 1am and 5am to eat and goes back to sleep. I can either time my pumps at the same time she eats, and just pump before or after, which has me awake for chunks of an hour to an hour and a half in the middle of the night. Or I can time them between her feedings, but that leaves me waking up even more. It's a double edged sword.
When I'm away from the house I have to get creative.
A few weekends ago when I was at Friends Thanksgiving, I had to excuse myself into a bedroom to pump.
I pump in the car when we travel.
I pump in the car when I'm out of the house and pump time rolls around.
I pumped at thanksgiving numerous times.
After our anniversary dinner I pumped in the parking lot of the restaurant before we went to get coffee.
I've even excused myself to the car to pump at the bowling alley.
And if I don't have my pump stuff, I have to go back home for a session. Kind of a bummer when you're in the middle of something.
Usually I can entertain her while I pump during the day at home. Usually. Not yesterday though. Yesterday she was not having it.
I actually missed a pump session yesterday because she was having a really tough time. She is in the middle of a growth spurt, which means…one minute she is playing, smiling and giggling and the next she is completely inconsolable. I sat down to pump and set her up for some play time…then she went berserk.
The missed pump caused a lot of pain, but when I finally had the chance to get to it, I felt SO much better. I don't seem to have any clogged ducts or any symptoms of mastitis. I won't know if my supply will dip because of this until these next few days.
Well, I made it to my first goal, which was Aria's 12 week mark. I feel pretty good about this because when she first started her nursing strikes, I really didn't think we had a chance. It is definitely hard. But then again, name a part of motherhood that isn't hard. Our next goal is 16 weeks. If we make it, we'll add on another 4 weeks and head for 20. If we don't, I'll learn to accept it and move on.
In spending the past 2 months exclusively pumping, I've been through a lot of trial and error. I've put together a list of things that have been important for me. I hope it may be helpful for some of you!
1. Get a good pump! Medela Pump in Style rocks my world!!!! It is a little pricey but I promise you it is worth every penny.
2. Stick to a schedule. At the beginning I pumped every 3 hours to help maintain my supply. Since I have an oversupply, pumping that often yielded around 50 ounces.
I was going a little crazy with getting a max of 2.5 hours of sleep at a time and being stuck to my pump ALL day, so I took the chance of scaling back to every 4 hours, 20 minutes per session. Luckily I did not have a dip in my supply. Most everything I've read says that you shouldn't drop pumps until after your supply is established at 12 weeks. I took the chance because I had so much extra milk.
3. Lubricate. I use olive oil or coconut oil to lubricate the nips before putting them in the flanges. It makes a world of difference. Especially with all of the tugging going on between the pump and the double tugging if you are breastfeeding too.
4. Research milk storage. There are a few different rules for milk storage. I generally follow the 4's rule. Four hours at room temp, four days in the fridge, four months in the freezer. Also, NEVER re-refrigerate milk that has been heated up. It can spoil. I learned that the hard way.
5. Don't be shy about it. If I'm at someones house, I'll just say "Hey do you have somewhere I can pump?" Don't skip pumps because it can lead to clogged ducts, mastitis and it can hurt your supply.
6. Hands free pump bra. Medela makes a hands free pump bra which is the one I have. You could spend the money to buy one, or you could just cut some slits in a sports bra and use that. I know some ladies who did that and it seems to be just as effective. The hands free bra is soooo important. When you spend so much of your time pumping, multi tasking is key. I write blog posts (ahem) while pumping, answer emails, change diapers, entertain the babe.
7. Join a support community. It's nice to talk to people who are experiencing the same things as you…and it's a really great resource for questions. There are a few pumping groups on Facebook that I belong to. Even if you aren't exclusively pumping, check out the groups. They are made up of all mommas!
Pump Strong New England
Exclusively Pumping Moms
I'm going to go enjoy my coffee, while the house is still silent.