This is my life now. I feel like this thing is always attached to me, and to escape it means my daughter might go hungry. My breastfeeding journey has been easy for me (minus a few minor issues along the way) so I had no idea that pumping would be this hard.
My plan was always to breastfeed. Thankfully, I was able to do so right after giving birth, and continued doing so (still do!). In the first couple of days however, we had some latch issues on one side because it was a fucking painful experience. That lead to some one-sided eating until my midwife came over to see how we were doing. Long story short, we learnt that looking is with your eyes and not your icy cold hands, and that a $40 bottle of prescription-grade nipple cream was the best thing I could have bought. I still use it to this day when little miss decides to test out her teeth. Yeah, that is the second issue we ran into along our breastfeeding journey. But those were it, and I would absolutely consider it a glowing success! Along the way, because I was considered an over-producer, I would pop my haakaa “pump” on the other side while baby ate, and collected quite the freezer stash. Seriously, like 4 ounces at a time. No effort required. It was awesome!
So you can imagine my immense disappointment and discouragement when my transition to pumping was anything but smooth. At one point I had stopped using the haakaa as much because she became a snacker and would only be nursing for 1-3 minutes at a time, and sanitizing the pump for that didn’t make sense. In order for me to ramp up my business from my half-capacity during maternity leave to full-time, my daughter is now in the care of someone else for 2-3 days a week. She has plowed through my freezer stash in a matter of weeks! On top of that, the daycare requires fresh (not frozen) milk to be provided ready-to-feed in bottles, so I’ve got to have an ever-growing supply happening, and I cannot even begin to think about replenishing my freezer stash. Keeping up with the demand is insane!
I pump in between feeds, I pump while she feeds, I pump after she goes to sleep—I am literally pumping as I write this. And yet, minimal yield… Why is this so hard!? The internet says to eat cookies and drink beer or tea, or buy their magical guide or protocol or supplements—not that a small amount from a pump is completely normal and that babies do way better. You’ve got to deep-dive into a depressing amount of research hours to find any hint of reassurance, and by that point, it’s not even worth it. Not even the pump manuals tell you things like that, and that collecting an ounce is great even though baby would be eating 4-6 in the same amount of time (however the Medela booklet did reassure me on the correct storage timelines fresh breastmilk—much longer than I was previously told!). Nope. We are just expected to know, and not feel like shit when it is way less than we hoped for.
On top of that, I guess I never realized how long a pumping session would take. Most of it is in the prep. You need to wash the bottles and the parts, sterilize them (boiling water takes forever!), let them cool, assemble them, and then pump. Then you need to wash everything all over again for the next round. And then you repeat the process at least a handful of times daily if not a dozen to increase milk supply. Geeeez! Trying to get all of that done in between actually caring for your baby…forget having a social life! No wonder motherhood is so isolating! Nevermind the mental health aspect of being cooped up at home alone with only a baby and your deep thoughts of how you are failing as a mother. Yeah, even the happiest and most cheerful of us go there.
It isn’t the most elaborate of experience because I have only been doing this for two weeks now, but here is what I have learnt through research and my pumping transition that should prove useful to you:
- fresh breastmilk can actually be stored in the fridge for a few days, BUT thawed freezer milk must be used within a day or so
- instead of wasting your “expired” breastmilk, dump it all into a freezer jar and keep accumulating it for a milk bath for baby (helps with eczema and is very moisturizing—it also makes for great photos)
- pump companies say that flange size matters (like reeeeeally important!) but then don’t sell enough sizes to accommodate
- just because you have big breasts, does not mean you produce big quantities of breastmilk (or have large nipples!)
- “only” yielding an ounce per breast is good; the overproducers typically get 3-5 ounces, and not every time
- empty breasts refill faster, so mamas with babies who snack need a longer timeframe, and it is recommended to empty them out once baby is done (with pump or hand expression) to encourage a milk production increase
- don’t lean over while tandem pumping because it will likely spill out all over the floor—yup, that happened!
- treating the pump like a haakaa and using it on the opposite breast while you feed baby works better than solo pumping because your body is reacting to the tiny human; something about hormones and let-downs
- identify your night-time versus morning pump collections with a sticker/string/something because they contain different things based on what baby needs (and avoid feeding morning-wake-up-milk to baby right before sleep time because it may confuse their body)
- some people are crazy opinionated, others are nosy, and the odd handful are super helpful, so take all the advice you can get and sort through it on your own terms
- drink LOTS and LOTS of water to stay hydrated and help your body cope with the demand
I am still riding the learning curve and will continue my breastfeeding and pumping journey for as long as I possibly can. Feel free to ask for updates, and I will always accept any tips and tricks I can get.
Thank you to all the wonderful people who sent me messages with tips and resources (the best one being LegendairyMilk) and encouragement as a response to my social stories last week! You remind me of the WHY behind sharing all of our family adventures, good or struggles, and I am so appreciative!!Yes, there are a few affiliate links in the post, but they are to things I would have linked to anyway, but figured this way I could make a few extra cents towards the cost of motherhood—it ain’t cheap! Thank you for any support you can offer.