Saturday, July 9, 2011

Don’t Cry Over Spilled Breast Milk: What I’ve Learned about Pumping

When pregnant, I was so excited to attend a variety of birth and parenting classes.  The most important class for me was without doubt my class on Breast Feeding.  I took copious notes, followed up on suggested readings and had a solid plan for when my boy was born.    As with all plans, it deviated within several hours of our hospital arrival when it was decided that for the health of Mouse, I needed to have an immediate C-section.  So I had to let go of my hopes for our first feeding experience to happen during kangaroo care time, which would now become Mr. Mouse’s duty as they were busy sewing me back up.

Needless to say, plans went completely to the wayside when after 4 days of attempts for Mouse to latch our pediatrician announced that Mouse had lost way too much weight (much more than the Dr. was comfortable with) and that she wanted to put him solely on formula because he needed sustenance now!  We had consulted with 2 nurses and 2 lactation consultants to no avail.  She gave us one last lifeline, a visit to a 3rd lactation consultant and a different hospital.  She ended up being our angel!  Not because she had a miraculous way to get Mouse to latch properly.  No we came up with a plan I could accept emotionally and get my baby proper nutrition.  I’ve been pumping religiously every day now, 5-8 times per day, since late January.

I’d love to discuss the huge gambit of emotions this journey has encompassed, but that too is a topic for another post.  Today I want to share some pumping tips that I’ve discovered in my experience.  Let me first emphatically state, that what follows is just my OPINION!  I’m not a specialist, doctor or expert.  Anything I talk about below should be discussed with your doctor and/or lactation consultant before implementing.  
    • Buy the very best pump you can afford.  Trust me here…no, really, TRUST ME!  Be sure you put this item on your baby registry ASAP and hopefully a small group of your friends will chip in to purchase one for you.  I chose the Medela Freestyle Breast Pump, double electric.   Double means you can pump both breasts at the same time.  In addition to being able to run this via a regular wall plug, it also runs very well on a battery pack allowing you to be mobile. This is a WONDERFUL feature.  Yes, it was expensive.  I wasn’t lucky enough to get this as a shower gift, but I did watch sales like a hawk and used coupons with a sale to get the price down and it was still around $250.  Consider this though, pumping 5-7X per day for an average of 20-25 min per pump, for the last 5 months means this pump has now run about 23,250 minutes or 387 hours.  You want reliability.  You want quality.  Thankfully, I knew ahead of time that I would be returning to work and thought I’d just be pumping part time.  But even so, I chose this model because of the speed of dual pumping and the battery pack.  Thank heavens!  Because this machine is helping me get the very best food available for my son thus it’s worth every penny.

    • Don’t assume the horns (horns are the funnel shaped parts that cover your nipples and attach to the bottles) that come with your pump are the correct fit for you. I have very large breasts so imagine my surprise when I found the horns I was using were too large.   Horn size is  more related to nipple size and stretch than breast size.  I strongly suggest you speak with a lactation consultant to help you determine proper sizing if at all possible because they often have a variety of horn sizes you can usually try right there. The Medela web site also has instructions for measuring for proper fit as well.

    • Don’t waste your money on a fancy pumping bra!  Instead, put on one of your old bras that you don’t mind destroying.  Invert the small end of a pump horn so that it’s center on your nipple and draw circle with a pen.   Do this on both cups.  Remove the bra and cut out the circles. I actually suggest you do this with 2 bras because you’ll want to wash this bra daily; it WILL get milk stained. All you need to do to pump is to put on the bra, then, reaching into the cup place the large end of the horn centered over your nipple with the small end now extended out from the hole you cut. Attach to the pump and voila! Now you’re hands free pumping. If these instructions are confusing, please make a comment below that you’d like me to post a picture or two on how to do this. I’ll be glad to.

      • As my dear friend said, LUBE THEM UP!  You will want to stock up on Lanolin.  TRUST ME!  No, really TRUST ME!  I have 5 tubes around at all times, one in my breast pump pack, one in my bathroom, one on my dressing table, one in my purse and one in my night stand.  I didn’t like Medela’s lanolin.  While it was easier to spread, it stained horribly and ruined several articles of clothing.  Instead I’ve found that the brand Lansinoh is perfect!  EVERY time before you hook up to pump, spread lanolin on your nipples.  When you’re done pumping, re-apply.  When you get out of the shower, re-apply.  When you're getting ready for bed re-apply.  Get my meaning here?  While lubing your nipples prior to pumping is probably the most important time, your nipples will THANK YOU for being very liberal with lanolin. You nipples will be taking the beating with pumping and even with lanolin, it will likely get painful so do anything you can to help.   And speaking of nipple pain, just know you will have to cope with it.  One little thing I do after pumping, when I can, is after putting on my real bra and shirt, I’ll grab a can of pop from the fridge and gentle roll it over my nipples.  Do NOT do this directly to your skin!  I have several layers of fabric between me and the can.  But the cool can feels DIVINE!

        • Care & Feeding!  Be sure to follow the instructions for cleaning your pump and accessories that come with the pump.  If you lose them, look them up online.  Remember, this is your child’s food source!  You wouldn’t prepare dinner on a dirty counter or serve if on an unwashed plate.  Same holds true for your pump accessories.  One thing I’ve had problems getting cleaned well is the tubing.  Condensation occurs causing some discoloration. (To help dry up the condensation, be sure you run the pump several minutes AFTER you’ve pumped allowing the pumped air to help dry the tubing.) I’ve tried boiling and micro-steaming but after a while, just can’t get them clean to my satisfaction.  Thus I’ve replaced the tubing twice over the last 5 months.  It’s not too terribly expensive and gives me peace of mind.
        One of the biggest problems I’ve had with this arrangement has been the emotional stress of not feeding directly from my breast.  It’s hard, especially since so many tout the bonding benefits.  Know this.  Mouse knows I’m Mommy.  Mouse reaches for me, cries for me and sometimes just wants Mommy.   And your baby will too even if you’re like me and must pump to feed.  I also proudly state that I am indeed breastfeeding my boy.  It’s the milk God has created in my body to nourish him and help him grow.  Whether it be from a bottle or breast, I still call it breastfeeding.


        1. <3 Really really good advice. It *IS still breastfeeding. You are most definitely a breastfeeding Mama.

        2. Thank you so much. Due to some medical issues my son is on tube feedings during the night and oral feedings during the day but even with the oral feedings we have to measure to make sure he is getting enough. I am an exclusively pumping mother, I may nurse once or twice a week to attempt to keep my supply going. I don't think people address the exclusively pumping mother's issues enough and there isn't a large community like there is for "nursing" mothers. Thanks so much for you insight!

          1. So very happy to have been able to help if only a little! I know another blogger who had to exclusively pump to feed. Her name is Jen at Life with Levi. She did a HILARIOUS series called Pumping while. Here's the link for a giggle: We pumpers must stick together you know!