Monday, September 15, 2014

The "Joys" of Pumping

School started a few weeks ago and amidst the chaos of gathering my work bag, lunch bag, hand bag, water bottle, and miscellaneous school supplies there was something that was clearly missing from my clutches:  my breast pump.  Last year each and every day was spent gathering all of the many bags I needed for school, including that dreaded pump.  It was bulky, cumbersome, and generally I really didn’t like using it at all.  However, pumping at work gave me the ability to provide breast milk for my daughter every day when she went to the babysitter, as well as keeping up my supply so that when I was home with her I was still able to nurse her.  I won’t lie when I say that I am truly thrilled not to have to use it this year!  My free periods are now my own again and I won’t have to spend that precious time locked in a supply closet.  Yet, if you are not as lucky as I am this year and you still find yourself confined (or planning to be confined) to one of those closets, I have some advice how to make this be a hopefully easy transition.

Pumping 101
Basic Tips for Returning to Work
(with sample schedule)

1.  Get a good, double breast pump and a hands-free pumping bra!  I used the Medela Pump in Style Advanced and I must say that I really liked it.  It was wonderful being able to pump from both breasts at the same time.  The PIS also has an automatic “let-down” feature that I know some others do not.  I would often be so tired while pumping that I would forget to turn it on.  Luckily, it would do it on its own after two minutes.  And do invest in a hands-free pumping bra.  While you will probably not get much work done will pumping, it is nice being able to just sit and type at the computer.

2. Start pumping before you head back to work!  I know, it seems silly to pump when you have your baby at home and can easily nurse her/ him, but it is so important to get yourself used to your breast pump.  Not only that, it is great to have an extra supply stashed in your freezer, in case those first few days do not go as planned.

If possible, I say start pumping as soon as you can.  I think I had started pumping when Kendall was about a week old.  I made it part of our routine.  She would wake up every two hours to eat those first few weeks.  Around 7:00 am when she would wake I would nurse her, put her in her swing, and then pump.  My body got used to producing the extra milk (because our bodies are truly awesome!) and so it was no problem getting that extra supply.  I would then put that milk in a milk storage bag, label it, and store it in the freezer.  It was helpful to have in case I needed (or wanted) to go out anywhere.  And by the time I started work I had an additional 175 ounces of milk stored away.

3. Create a pumping schedule!  This is truly going to be based on what works well for you and your schedule.  As a teacher, I needed to work around my free class periods.  Luckily, I think my assistant principal responsible for scheduling knew that I planned to pump, so she gave me a great schedule!  My nursing/ pumping schedule looked like this:

5:00 am – Wake up, nurse Kendall
5:30 am – Pump for 30 minutes while eating breakfast (typically oatmeal with raisins and a cup of coffee) = Pumping anywhere from 3 to 6 ounces
8:00 am – Arrive at school and pump for 15 – 20 minutes = Pumping anywhere from 3 to 5 ounces
11:00 am – Free period to pump for 15 – 20 minutes = Pumping anywhere from 3 to 5 ounces
4:00 pm – Home with Kendall to nurse
7:00 – 7:30 pm – Nurse Kendall before bed
10:30 pm – Pump for 30 minutes before going to bed = Pumping anywhere from 2 to 6 ounces

4. Determine times and positions that work best for you! Before I went back to work I was pretty panicked as to how I was going to pump, how often, how long, and if it was going to work.  It is a scary thought giving up breastfeeding and I was determined to at least give this a try, so I went straight to someone who had done it before.  I emailed a girl I worked with who was currently nursing her little girl and pumping at work.  She shared all of her tips and tricks with me, which was truly invaluable.  Through her reassurance and support, I knew I could make this work for me. 

Of course, her schedule was not my schedule and her body was not my body, so I had to make some changes.  If you find that in the beginning you are not producing enough milk for your baby to get through the day try to add in a pumping session.  There were a few days where stress got the better of me and my supply of milk to send to the babysitter the next day was low.  In those instances, rather than reaching for my freezer stash, I woke up in the night to pump.  It isn’t fun, but I wanted to make sure I was still producing.  Also, see if you can add time to each session.  Eventually, you will see that you can drop minutes from pumping, but if you are trying to increase your supply, start by increasing your time.

If things still aren’t working out, change positions!  I found that sitting hunched of with my shoulders curled was my best pumping position.  Obviously, my back hurt all the time, but it gave me the most milk.  Others find that massaging the breast while pumping not only allows for more milk, but also helps prevent clogged ducts.

5. Have extra bottles and extra pump parts!  One thing that I really hated was washing bottles every single day.  And then have to wash out all of my pump parts.  Every. Single. Day.  It was exhausting and annoying and was probably my least favorite part of pumping.  If possible, get yourself a few extra bottles, so that maybe you can throw the used ones in the dishwasher, rather than doing it by hand.  Or have extra pump parts so that you can use the clean set and only have to wash parts every other day.  Again, this sounds silly, but it may make the process less tedious.

6. Create an environment that will allow you to relax!  Or at least relax somewhat.  The supply closet certainly wasn’t ideal, but there was a comfortable chair, soft lighting, and a desk for my pump and computer.  The more relaxed you feel, the easier it will be.

7.  Be proud of your accomplishments!  So you didn’t produce as much milk as you thought.  So you didn’t pump for as many months as you had hoped.  That’s okay!  Pumping is no easy task and it certainly is not fun.  Do not be disappointed if it did not turn out the way you had hoped.  The important this is you tried and as moms, that is all that we can do! 

Of course, with pumping comes the added stress of whether or not your baby takes to the bottle well.  I will share my struggles as well as the bottle that succeeded where all others had failed!