Breastfeeding and pumping can at times be challenging at best. If you went on this journey for any length of time, you know what I mean. If you are expecting and planning to breastfeed/ pump or currently on this journey yourself, here is some of what I went through and tips to help you through.
As on most aspects of my pregnancy, I did a lot of reading and research on how I wanted to feed my baby once he entered our lives. I decided I wanted to breastfeed and set a goal for a year. As I am a working mom, this also meant pumping (at times more than I actually breastfed my baby), but I was determined to give myself every chance to meet this goal – sometimes maybe too determined.
In the beginning, like most moms, I worried if my baby was getting enough. Was I producing enough? Was he eating enough? If the latch is right, should it hurt like this? Fortunately for us, yes, I was doing it right, my baby was getting enough. I continued on my journey while I was at home and started pumping about 6 weeks before I needed to return to work. Little did I know, that would actually be the most difficult part.
When I first started pumping, I only produced about 1-2 oz from each side for a whopping 2-4 oz per half hour session. Discouraging to say the least when my pinterest was showing people getting 4-8 oz per side! I vigorously drank water, started eating oatmeal, any tip or trick I could think of to try to increase my supply. The level of stress I put myself under to make this work was probably not helping my supply either but try telling a determined and emotional new mom that what she set her heart out to do for her baby was not worth the stress…don’t, my family and friends learned this the hard way. But, I did finally up my supply and build enough of a stock to go back to work!
Then came the next challenge, pumping on-the-way and at work. Yes, on the way. I have an hour commute so the most time effective way for me to pump was in the car! With a double-breasted electric pump, I did this hands free 2x a day. I also initially pumped at work 2x a day. I also yielded much more milk during these sessions now that my pumping was replacing feeds and not in addition to.
So why did I stick to it when it was challenging? One, I am a bit stubborn, I mean determined. But most importantly, I read of all the benefits for my baby. He had not gotten sick, even when I started to come down with a cold and when my husband got sick, so I attributed part of this to the benefits of breast milk. I also really enjoyed the time I got to spend breastfeeding so if pumping helped me to do that, it was worth it.
Now, how did I overcome some of the challenges? I learned the hard way on a few of them, hopefully these tips will save you some trouble.
- Most important is to have a pump. I used the Spectra S2 because it was recommended to me and it was covered by my insurance. Make sure to check with your insurance to see what is covered and do some research if you have more than one option. If you can, having a second portable size pump also makes things easier. I was lucky enough to be given one from a friend which fit in my cup holder of the car and was much simpler to manage on the go.
- Extra parts – the silicone parts are very fragile and I learned the hard way that if one of these goes bad, you will get little to nothing out of that breast. I had to do one at a time when one of the duck valves went bad on me. After that, I made sure to keep extra parts in my bag.
- Cleaning – I tried to avoid washing my pump parts at the office multiple times a day. I purchased pump wipes and would wipe after each use and keep the pump parts in my cooler. After my 2nd pumping session, I would wash and sterilize in my microwave sterilizer bags.
- A cooler – again, I tried to avoid using communal office supplies as much as possible for my pumping needs (I felt weird storing my breast milk with people’s lunches and coffee creamer) so I brought my own cooler to keep my milk and parts in at work. This was easier on me, made me more comfortable and also decreased my chances of forgetting the milk at work.
- A pumping bag – I bought an inexpensive bag that I could keep stocked for work with everything I needed and could bring back and forth to the office.
- Drink more water – yes, it is cliche and probably what you’ve seen and read already but I noticed significant dips in my supply when I drank less water.
- Power pump – this basically means pumping on and off for an hour to mimic a baby’s growth spurt and increase supply. Start with your normal pumping session (about 20-30 min) then stop for 10 min, pump 10, stop 10. I typically did this on my commute – since I am captive for about an hour and move very slowly so hitting the start/stop button while driving was not dangerous. If you do not have this long commute, finding an hour to do this can be difficult but try to think of somewhere in your day that this could be multitasked, maybe while doing hair/makeup in the morning or after baby’s gone to bed and while watching tv.
- Lactation products – I tried quite a few of these. Mother’s milk tea and upspring’s milk flow worked best for me. Also, I started to eat oatmeal regularly which seemed to help.
Dressing for Success
- Maternity bras/clip-on pumping bras – not having to completely change my bra to pump was much easier. I actually preferred to wear maternity tank tops as a layering top which had clips.
- Lose tops/sweaters – instead of using a cover, I preferred to wear a loose top that I could use to go over the horns. Using a tank top instead of a bra meant my stomach was still covered. At my office, I pumped at my desk so I could continue to work and although my office is mainly women, I still tried to make it less noticeable. I did also have a cover for days that wearing loose tops didn’t work out.
The hardest thing to overcome in most instances was my own mental challenges. I told myself from the beginning that I would focus on small goals each time and not on the big 1-year goal. When I returned to work, the emotions of leaving baby at home, being attached to a machine instead of breastfeeding and anxiety of whether I would produce enough for him to drink each day had me ready to quit. While I would not have faulted myself for quitting and there is nothing wrong with formula, I told myself I would give it a fair 30 days to decide. If after 30 days it was still difficult, frustrating and anxiety-inducing I would stop. But, it got easier. I got better at it and figured out what worked for me.
What are some challenges you have faced on your pumping journey? How did you work through them? Share below!