She Says… Pumptastic

We’re approaching the end of my 2nd week back at work. It feels like it’s been at least 2 months already. I’ve been going a million miles a minute at work and at home. I know the pace will even out eventually, but for now, it’s all systems go all the time. Exhausting, but also a little exhilarating.

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During these 2 weeks I’ve been pumping 4 times a day at work (and nursing Emmett in the morning, at bedtime, and once at night). Every 2-2.5 hours I am filling up my water cup, running to my pumping spot (at the kitchen counter at home, in a storage closet at work), hooking myself up, pumping for 15 minutes or so while I scroll through instagram or catch up on personal emails (usually while listening to One Bad Mother, a HILARIOUS podcast I’ve discovered to keep me entertained), and then running back to my computer to resume work. It’s inconvenient. And breaks up my work day in often frustrating ways. I’m trying to see these times as respites from a busy day, but right now it just feels like they are making me busier. Still, I’m giving it my very best shot.

Some people would probably argue that I don’t need to be pumping as often as I am. And they might be right. But as someone with consistently low milk supply, I just don’t think I could keep up if I dropped a pumping session. I’m currently averaging 3oz at every pumping session (double electric pumping, using a hands free bra, doing everything I can to eek out every drop) and Emmett is drinking 4oz at that same feeding time. Miraculously, I can use my bedtime pumping sessions to just about make up the difference, so he is getting almost all breastmilk at this point (except at HIS bedtime when I have to supplement with 2oz or formula to tank him up before bed, or by Thursday or Friday when I’m an ounce or two short for a daytime bottle). Over the weekend I’m exclusively nursing, so I save up my Friday pumped milk and the milk I pump at my bedtimes to give him the following Tuesday at daycare. So I’m not feeding the freezer, but I’m feeding my baby. And that’s what matters.

This milk reallocation system is working for us. Right now. I’m not convinced my supply is going to increase as his appetite does, but I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing and see how long we can make this work.

Your tips about pumping at work were all super helpful. I’m still figuring out little tricks here and there, but I’ve mostly found a system that works for me. Since I know many, many other mamas are in the same position of having to pump and not necessarily knowing where to go for good info, I wanted to share another resource that I have found INVALUABLE the past few weeks.

Isis Parenting’s Online Pump Talk class. Back when I had Owen I attended a live Pump Talk class at my local Isis store (which was actually taught by my favorite lactation consultant and now real life friend, Nancy Holtzman). It was my first foray into the wonderful world of pumping, and I learned a TON about milk production and storage, how to get the most from my pump, etc. Even though I exclusively pumped for Owen for several months before deciding it was not the best option for us, and should be a pumping pro, I still felt like a refresher course was a good idea for me this time around. It WAS 3 years ago, after all, and as I’ve mentioned before I had a bit of PTSD when thinking about pumping again. The Pump Talk class helped me start fresh, with good habits, and even made pumping feel doable again.

The online class breaks up everything you need to know about pumping into small, bite-sized chunks (7-10 minute segments) so you can hear just what you need to hear when you need to hear it.

My #1 Pumping Aha Moment: You do not need to clean those darn pump parts after every pumping session in a day. Because at least for me, cleaning those stupid things was the worst part of it all. If you have access to a refrigerator you can store the assembled pump parts in there with plastic bags over the tops (I store mine in coffee mugs so they don’t tip over) for 24 hours. The cold temp inhibits bacterial growth. So I pump all day long and stick everything back in the ‘fridge. After my bedtime pumping session I wash (ok, to be honest, Benjamin washes everything) and steam clean them in a microwaveable bag so they are ready for the next day. At work when I don’t have convenient access to a refrigerator, I wipe the parts with pump wipes after each use and keep the milk in a cooler bag with freezer packs, then wash/steam clean at night.

Pump Talk also covers getting different flange sizes (turns out my fire hose and drippy faucet are dramatically different sizes, so I pump with one tiny and one large flange — I don’t even use the “standard” sized ones that came with my pump), using olive oil to lubricate your nipple (super helpful for those of us who are pumping every 2 hours!), and how to freeze milk to maximize freezer space (and what to do if your power goes out).

Awesome. Info.

You’re going to have to check it out yourself for the other gems. Any other pumping tips that I’ve missed?

A huge thank you to Isis Parenting for letting me take the online Pump Talk class for free! I am SO glad they did, because between you and me, I probably wouldn’t have bothered taking it myself (no time, blah blah). But you know what? It’s probably the main reason I’m still pumping right now. Worth every penny. And minute.

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11 responses to “She Says… Pumptastic

  1. Pumping at work is not a big deal at all! I did it 12 months straight 6 times a day. Just make it part of your day–I never watched videos on it, just did it! It’s not a big deal!

  2. If you’re at a pretty stable level of supply right now, I wouldn’t worry about need milk production to increase at all. Babies eat about the same amount per day at 1 month as they do at 6 months (except for maybe during growth spurts). I find this website super helpful: http://kellymom.com/bf/got-milk/basics/milkproduction-faq/#change

    I went to work at 8weeks, and I also pumped 4x/day until about 6 months. I pumped once in the early morning (supply is always highest then and i could usually get 4-6oz) and 3x at work (every 2.5 hrs, getting about 3oz/time). I also did that morning pump on weekends in order to keep up. My freezer supply stayed at < 30 oz for a LONG time…and then one day (I think around 6 mo when she started solids?) I suddenly had more than she was eating, and it was awesome! At that point I switched to pumping 3x/day (mornings + 2x at work) and I ended up with 200+oz in my freezer at any given time, which allowed me to quit pumping at work at 11mo and still have Stella get breastmilk during the day until my goal of 12mo.

    What works for everyone will be different, but kellymom.com and workandpump.com were both great resources for me!

    (oh, and not washing pump parts between every pumping was SOOOO key for me and the #1 tip I give new pumping mamas!)

  3. @Josey, I did not know that! Very interesting. Thank you for sharing.

  4. I’m pumping at work as I’m reading this. I pumped for 15 months after returning to work after my daughter was born. I’m pumping every 2-3 hours at work and luckily have pretty great output. The Hygeia Enjoye is awesome. Way better than my Medela.

    I wanted to let you know that you shouldn’t worry about having to increase supply as your LO grows. As a previous commenter said, you don’t have to increase the ounces because your breastmilk composition changes as their needs change. When Ella started at daycare at 9 weeks, she got four 3oz bottles. When she started eating less frequently, we went to three 4oz bottles. Same number of ounces just in few bottles. she never took more than 4.5 ounces in a single feeding ever.

  5. I was going to say the same thing as Josey-your milk’s nutritional content changes to meet your baby’s needs as they grow, so my girl always took about 4 ozs per feeding up until 9-12 months when she started weaning herself. Daycare was a little doubtful of this and gave me questioning looks when I wasn’t increasing my baby’s amount of milk as she grew, but I checked in with my pediatrician and she confirmed that what I had read was absolutley true. There isn’t the same need to increase the amount of milk as your baby grows when you are feeding breastmilk. I also agree with Josey about the early morning pump. Once she was sleeping through the night, I actually nursed my girl on one side in the morning and pumped the other side and typically got 3 oz from that one side! My usual amount at work was 3oz per pump-like you. One was enough for her morning feeding, and the other served my freezer stash or “just in case” when my supply would dip (cycle, stress, other things). Then what I pumped during the day would be for the next day of daycare. I think what really saved me was getting into a routine of milk rotation, which is what it sounds like you have done. I was also a low milk supply person and worked REALLY hard to keep pumping and give my girl breast milk for as long as possible. Josey’s website references were also huge helps!!

  6. The biggest pumping tip I can give is to do breast compressions (squeezing/ massaging the breast) while pumping. I had a hands free bar so had everything hooked up and unzipped the bottom a bit so that I could reach in to do compressions. My output was significantly better when I did this rather than just letting the pump do all the work.

    And I exclusively pumped for about 15 months. Pumping is HARD work!

  7. I pumped in the coat closet at work, ha! It sounds like you work for a big company so I am surprised you don’t have better facilities but I guess every place is different. My husband’s mid-size firm has a mother’s room with their own fridge (though I like pumping in private so maybe that’s not better!). The only thing my work did was install a lock on the coat closet door for me and give me a power strip (since the closet had no outlet I had to run the power from outside). I used an upside-down box as a table for the pump.

    I think not washing the parts at work is definitely #1! I kept my parts in a ziploc bag inside another bag (so it wasn’t see through, I didn’t need to share that much with my co-workers since we all shared a fridge!). Also I loved leaving the bag/motor at work since I almost never pumped at home – I’d just take home my cooler bag and my parts bag.

    That freezer storage is key but sounds like you have it covered. I always did mine flat so I could then stack on their side (I used a large tupperware which held them perfectly) – oldest in the back, newest in the front for easy access. I had a good stash but in the end threw a bunch out because it wasn’t enough to donate 😦

  8. I thought this article about how using your hands while pumping can increase output was interesting. There’s also an instructional video in the link. http://pumpingtimes.com/2010/12/26/increase-your-milk-productin-with-hands-on-pumping/

  9. You are doing SO good!! Pumping is definitely hard but it is such a gift to your child. I love that you’re exclusively breastfeeding on the weekends. Our bodies are amazing and supply increase with appetite increase is definitely possible.

    I hope you find some really good tips to make pumping easier. Cleaning would be my biggest beef too. I never had to pump a lot so I used a manual (which was ridiculously hard and time consuming) so I could donate milk to a friend for a baby she was adopting. I exclusively breastfed my two boys (still nursing my 1.5yr old) since I’m a SAHM I’m not in the same position as you. I respect women who can keep up pumping at work. You’re all rockstars in my book and I can’t help but be proud of anyone who does it.

  10. Hand express for just a minute or 2 after pumping and you’ll be surprised how much it helps!

  11. Yes! I remember what an a-ha moment it was to realize that I could just stuff the pump parts in the fridge and save on having to wash those darn things. I still pump twice a day and absolutely still need to supplement for my twins. Still, I figure I’m saving 50% of the costs of formula 🙂

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