Please excuse the following “TMI” I’m about to drop.
I’m pumping breast milk, right now.
Ok, there got that out of the way.
Every day, every so many hours, I take what I affectionately call my “mandatory breaks.” Because let’s face it, there are few things you can do while tethered to a breast pump. And there are a million other things you’d rather be doing.
I write these blog posts most times. Unfortunately, that also means it’s on my mind a lot. Pumping, that is.
I recently got a message from a friend from Scandinavia stating that she’s got a new found respect for American mother’s who go back to work and have to pump to supply breast milk to their babies. Her little guy was in the hospital and she needed to express milk for him rather than nurse him directly. I offered some tips and support the best I could.
Never mind the fact that in her country, mother’s get a much longer maternity leave and don’t have to worry about pumping at work. I thought it would be nice to share with the rest of you my tips and tricks for surviving the pumping lifestyle.
1. Ask your doctor for a prescription for a breast pump. And then find a medical supply company and get that pump through your insurance. Seriously, even if you are going to be a casual pumper, having a good quality double electric pump is always handy. Seriously, I have used my manual pump a few times, and my hands get tired.
2. Buy a hand pump. Even if you get the fancy electric pump mentioned above, spend the $30 and get yourself a manual hand pump, as a back up. Sure you can get battery packs and car adapters for your electric in case the power goes out, or you have to use a closet or public restroom to pump, but without all the pieces its useless. I found this out literally the day after I bought my Medela Harmony. I had it in my diaper bag just in case, went to the father-in-laws with my electric, got all set up and ready and realized I left my flanges at home in the dish rack.
3. Buy extra pump parts. My biggest fear upon returning to work is that I would forget my pump parts. I’d be engorged and sore at work with no relief. Now I have a spare set of parts in my desk drawer. In fact, I bought this set here. One set of tubing, 2 breast shields, 2 connectors, 2 valves and membranes, and nursing pads. All in a cute little non-descript bag.
4. Buy or make a hands-free bra. I thought I was slick, I would sit in the nursery in the glider and balance the bottles on my knees and hold them with my elbows, and the suction did the rest. Except I was putting too much pressure on my glands and I was starting to get sore. I bought two hands-free bras from Medela and neither of them fit. So I took scissors to a few old sports-bras and walla, I had something that worked for me.
5. Get everything you think you may need within arms reach before you turn on the pump. That includes so many things; water (you’ll get thirsty), a snack (why not), the tv remote, tissues (cause you may have to blow your nose, ya know like when you decide that it’s an appropriate time to play for your son Cat Stevens songs and you’ll cry, or whatever), the baby! (seriously, if you’re alone, sit that kid in the boppy pillow next to you, and have a bottle ready just in case), your cell phone (especially if you are not within view of a clock, or ya know Candy Crush).
6. Check yo’self! Seriously, please be on the look out for cracks, blisters, and soreness. Clogs hurt, and they can lead to infection.
7. Drink lots of water! Because it helps you stay hydrated and keeps your milk production up.
8. Ask for help. If you are tired, and you have to get up in the middle of the night to pump, don’t be ashamed to ask your partner to feed the kid while you pump. Seriously, you’re in it together, might as well share those early morning hours together.
9. Join a group. I’m in two pumping groups on Facebook. I take their advise carefully. But sometimes its reassuring to know there are other people out there dealing with the same things you are.
10. Put it on ice. The only refrigerators I know of at work are on other floors than the one I am on. I have one of the little black Medela cooler bags that came with my Medela Shoulder Bag. Every morning I put 4 bottles and the included ice pack in the cooler and into my bag with my pump. After my morning session, rather than having to go rinse out my connectors, I wipe them down, and place them in the cooler. Any milk still left in there will stay good and not spoil. There isn’t enough room for 4 bottles and the connectors, so I leave two bottles out until my afternoon session. Then I am not too worried about the connectors as I’ll wash them when I get home.
Things I keep In My Pump Bag:
- My Pump
- Hoses, connectors, breast shields, valves and membranes (all taken out daily to be cleaned.
- Extra membranes
- Pump Wipes
- Extra bottle caps
- A Ziplock bag
- Freezer bags (and the pump adapters)
- A backup battery pack and extra batteries
- a burp rag
Pumping really is a lifestyle. You have to live your life around it, but you can’t let it make you miserable. Every day, week, month you can make it, is another milestone met. When I started, I would go and sit in the nursery by myself and pump, play games on my phone, and feel terrible if Colt started crying in the other room. Now, I don’t care, I’ll sit in the living room, turn up the tv to drown out the wa-huh, wa-huh of the pump, feed or play with my baby as he sits/lays next to me. And my husband doesn’t even mind. I just try to be discreet when I have other family or friends over. And ya know what, if it doesn’t work out for you, quit, there are other options, there is no shame in supplementing with formula. Always do what’s best for you and baby. And don’t forget to laugh about it, cause you can’t look glamorous with bottles on your boobs, I don’t care how you bedazzle it.