Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Breastmilk Expression, or My Top 3 Tips on How to Pump Like a Pro

As a second time mother, there are a few aspects of parenting and motherhood that I've figured out to be much easier this time around.  One of those aspects is breast milk expression or pumping milk for my daughter when I'm unable to nurse her myself.

As many of you know, I work a lot of weekend days.  This leaves my husband to care for our children - during which time he feeds Little Lady expressed breast milk via bottle.  Which means I have to pump.



Sigh.

Pumping milk is not my favorite thing to do.  {Is it anyone's?  Doubtful.}  It takes up a bunch of time, I have to remember to do it, and there are some aspects of pumping that can be unpleasant.

But, because I'm committed to feeding my child/children breastmilk as their main source of nutrition until they wean, I suck it up {yep, you see what I did there} and keep pumping.

Because pumping can be confusing and frustrating at times, here are my top guidelines on how to pump like a pro:

1. If you pump some days - pump every day.

The first time around as a breastfeeding mother with Little Man, I pumped Wednesday-Saturday when I worked.  No fail, every Sunday I started to get clogged ducts.  This led to an incredibly frustrating cycle of heat packs, pumping, hot showers, nursing on only one side, nursing in different holds, massage, and pain until I was able to release the clog.  It also lead to my having mastitis when I couldn't release a clog for a few days in one instance.  Which was terrible.  If you've ever had mastitis, you know exactly how I feel about that one.

What I didn't realize at first was how I was causing the problem.  You see, the breast pump expresses milk differently than your child does.  It doesn't stop when your baby's belly is full, and for me it often removed more milk than my child would have taken because neither of my kids always nurse/nursed on both sides in one feeding.  When I was pumping on those four days of each week, I was causing my body to overproduce milk.  It makes sense then that when I stopped pumping each day on Saturday-Tuesday, that I started to clog up from all of the extra milk.

As soon as I realized that pumping one time each day even when I am with Little Lady all day long would remove all the excess milk I'd been producing the days when I pumped at work, I stopped getting clogs altogether.

As evidence - my clogged ducts began when I returned to work with Little Man at three months, and peaked around 5 to 6 months after he was born - or two to three months after I started working and pumping.  This time around?  Little Lady is five and a half months old and I have not had ONE clogged duct now that I pump once each day.

2.  Spend the cash on a hand's free pump bra.  

Having a hand's free pump bra has been ridiculously helpful as a nursing mother.  Since I mentioned that I pump every day, there are often times when I pump that either Little Lady, Little Man, or both are around while I'm pumping.  Having a hand's free bra allows my world not to stop while I'm pumping.  I can still refill Little Man's drink cup, clean up a spill or spit-up, or even write a blog post while I'm pumping.

Because - really - if you have to be stuck to the pump each day, you can at least have two hands to go about your day otherwise.

3.  Consult the experts.

There are many different aspects of pumping that can be confusing.  From how often you should pump to pumping rights at work to how to store or freeze your breastmilk.  If you have a lactation consultant handy, then they are always your number one go-to guy.  I also highly recommend finding a friend who has breastfed their child and pumped milk to have as a resource when needed.  If you're specifically asking about pumping, a friend who has exclusively pumped and fed their baby expressed milk from a bottle or a friend who works full or part time and has pumped are at the top of my list of go-to guy's as well.  {I am happy to be this guy for several of my new mama friends!}

However, for all those little questions that come up along the way, I've found Kellymom.com to be an invaluable resource, especially at 2 a.m. during a feeding when I need advice on how long that milk I pumped yesterday morning - and subsequently forgot about freezing - can sit in my refrigerator.  {8 days is how long you can keep freshly pumped milk in the fridge, by the way.}  It's just a few quick clicks that will take you right to the answer you need.


Expressing breastmilk for your child can seem like a daunting task.  But by following these simple tips, you can make it quite a bit easier on yourself and your family.

What have your experiences been with pumping milk for your children?

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4 comments:

  1. Good for you for sticking to the pump, what I always affectionately referred to as my bastard child ;) I pumped when I was in residency and so it was lots of long hours, but I never pumped on days I didn't work b/c I just wanted to nursenursenurse, so I didn't find pumping on days off was needed. BUT every boob is different ;) Hands-free bra: AMAZING. Kellymom: AMAZING. Pumping: not amazing, but the day you hang up the pump for the last time is!!

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    1. I don't know how I'm just seeing this, but LOL at what you call your pump.

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  2. I am the mother of two month old and I've been exclusively pumping for six weeks. I've not had any significant issues, per se, with breastfeeding, but Little Man sure loves his sleep and that was making feeding times difficult times. He has an incredible latch (from the moment he was born, skin-to-skin contact) and did well at the breast ... until he fell asleep. Plus, we had a few nights/days when he would eat, fall asleep, and then wake up really fussy. We attributed his fussiness to gas, reflux, etc but then we had this GENIUS THOUGHT: what if he's still hungry? BAM! The kid was still hungry. From that moment, I began pumping like a mad woman so we could measure the amount of breast milk he was actually eating. We started with 3ozs and he downed that like an appetizer. Increased to four, then five, and at six weeks old he was eating 6ozs every 2-3 hours. My little man isn't so little anymore, he's growing like a champion thanks to Mama's Milk! His sleeping habits have also improved because he's satisfied at feeding time. Like I said, this kid loves to eat and he loves to sleep. He'll average a solid 6-7 hours at night, eat, and sleep another 3-4 hours. I'm so grateful for the double breast pump and hands-free bra, they're both lifesavers! I'm having surgery next month (March 2014) so I've been trying to store as much breast milk in the deep freezer as possible to use during my post-op recovery. I'll only have to "pump and dump" for 24 hours, but I want to have a surplus just in case. My goal was to freeze one bag (containing 6ozs) every day in the month of February. Today is the 16th and I have 28 bags! On average, I pump 6-7 times a day and collect 10-12ozs (total) during each pumping session. I know there are some mamas who are Power Pumpers and collect a lot more, but I think I'm doing well. I've boosted my supply with homemade lactation cookies and granola, as well as Fenugreek and More Milk Plus. It's also wonderful and a God-send to have experienced mamas like YOU and moms in the 'trenches' too. Thanks to Twitter, I have an on-going conversation with four other moms and it's not uncommon for us to send Tweets at 3 in the morning! Support, from friends and family, is so IMPORTANT for a breastfeeding/pumping woman. I don't know what I would do without my husband, family, and friends.

    I apologize for the 'novel' of a comment, I'm really appreciative of input from women like you who are willing to share their experience and tips for other moms. Doctors and lactation nurses are wonderful, but they can't always respond as quickly as our experienced breastfeeding veterans!!!!!

    Blessings,
    Nicole

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    1. Thank you so much for commenting! You are doing a fantastic thing for your baby, and while I know it's hard work - it's such a great payoff. Keep up the good work mama!

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