Monday, January 17, 2011

Pumping Party: Tips for Lacating Mamas

Every day I head to work with my mom equivalent of a leather briefcase -- My pump bag. As a working mother who has been so paranoid about not having enough milk to feed my daughter, I get it. I get how stressful it can be. But I've successfully breastfed for more than six months and still haven't had to break into the free can of formula Enfamil sent me when she was born. That's right, we haven't had to supplement a drop! And to be honest I'm shocked.

It hasn't been easy, but I've learned a few things as I've gone along that may be helpful to others.

About Storing
1. Start early: If you're going back to work I can't stress enough how important it was for me to have a stash built up. It doesn't have to be huge, but just something for emergencies, and to help you feel confidant about going back to work and pumping. I started pumping when my daughter was about three weeks old.

2. Get to know your pump. Another reason to start early is so you can get used to your pump. Get to know how to put it together, take it apart, clean it. And the more you use it, the more your body will get used to how it works and the better it will respond to it. The first few times I pumped I only got a couple of ounces, but I got more and more as time went on.

3. Pump with the baby. If you're like me and feel like your baby is attached to you 24/7 you may wonder when you can even get the chance to pump. One thing I did was hook up the pump to one side, and pump with her on the other side. Your body naturally responds to your baby nursing so you'll probably get more milk this way. I do! This was much easier when she was smaller and less wiggly, but I still manage to do this during my lunch breaks with a pumping bra. When I was still on maternity leave I would nurse her from one side all night then pump the other side while she nursed in the morning and I'd get 6-7 ounces from that one side she didn't eat from all night.

4. Get good storage bags. I've used everything from Ziploc bags to storage containers and it makes a big difference when you use storage bags made for storing frozen breastmilk. I used Lansinoh for awhile, but the first time I took one out to defrost I realized there was a leak and I lost about 6oz of milk. So I tried some Simplisse ones and ended up liking those a little more and now I buy those (they're all the same price).

About Pumps
5. Get an electric. I have two pumps. One double electric breast pump by Avent, and a manual pump by Simplisse. I can't compare a manual to an electric to each other because it's like comparing apples to oranges. Actually, they're not even in the same fruit platter. I'd heard a manual was good to have for emergencies and it did call for an emergency for me to use mine. I was taking a quick trip and couldn't fit my electric in my bag.

I brought my manual which it's good I did but boy was I not prepared for the difference.

First off, I didn't realize manual was so much manual labor. My electric pump has a manual setting on it and you tap your finger and it goes to the speed of your tapping. My manual pump takes more effort.

It goes something like this:
First minute
After five minutes
After 10 minutes
After 15 minutes
Where as with an electric (and hands-free pumping bra) it's more like this:
Maybe my forearms are just really weak but it was a task. I was wondering why the bottle that came with it was so small but after 10 minutes of trying to pump I realized why--I wouldn't be able to pump very long.

The positive is it doesn't tug as much as my electric does, it was more comfortable, but I didn't get nearly as much milk out as I do with my electric. It saved me from exploding, but it wasn't the most effective. There are times though, in the middle of the night I consider manually pumping to build my supply back up. I never do it. But I think about it. Simplisse sent me the manual pump to try out, and it's comfortable, but not for my arms. Good news is, they have a double electric out now so that should solve that problem for anyone considering it.

I have a friend though who only used a manual pump, so some people do it! I think it's all about getting your body used to whatever pump you're using, like I mention in #2.

About Pumping at Work
6. Find time. I didn't think I'd have time to pump once a day, much less twice during my shift at work, but it's worth it when I do. I don't have a desk job, so I don't really have a set schedule for when I can pump, but it's nice if you can. Your body knows when it's "meal time" and usually produces more then. I did get into a routine where I was able to pump around 4pm every day and my supply would be larger and larger at that time. If I missed it, and pumped an hour later (or earlier), sometimes it would seem as though my supply was less. I'm not sure why or if maybe I'm just crazy.

Now I pump once in the middle of my shift, and once when I'm leaving and about to go home. By law in most states you're allowed time to pump so don't feel bad about it.

7. Find a place to pump with a door that locks. Oh my goodness, I about have a heart attack every singly day when I'm pumping because it never fails someone tries to walk in. Luckily the door is always locked, but I still have a half a second where my mind wonders if I forgot to lock it and this would be the time our traffic guy walks in, startled to see my girls tied up in tubes. It hasn't happened yet *knock on wood*.

8. Bring pictures of your baby, or a smart phone. I hook up to my pump and call home to talk to Lil' J, my husband, or play Angry Birds on my iPhone. Sometimes I bring my laptop in and try to do some work but I find I get more milk if I'm more relaxed. Sit back and enjoy the quiet time alone (Cause Lawd knows we don't get it often).

9. Here's a trick for storing your pump. I didn't know this until recently, but if you're going to pump multiple times while at work, you can put your pump (the horn parts, not the whole machine) in the fridge between sessions so you don't have to wash it each time. The milk on the pump stays fresh and doesn't need to be washed off. After I finally remembered to bring a bag to put them in (I didn't want to set my pump conspicuously next to a coworkers chicken salad) I started doing this and it takes about 5 minutes off each of my pumping sessions.

(I just remembered one more!) 10. Pump for 15 minutes!! If you're double pumping I mean. I usually want to give up and pack up after 10 minutes but those last five minutes really pay off. I usually can get an extra ounce or two from an extra let down before I go. It's worth it hanging on just a little longer every session.

Well, those are all of the tips I can think of right now. If you're looking for something for supply I'd recommend fenugreek, an herb that's suppose to help with milk production. I use Mother's Milk Drops by Intelligender. Their prediction test was wrong but these drops sure are right when it comes to helping. I normally get an extra ounce or two after taking (twice the dosage--But don't do that just cause I do, I'm crazy) of those drops.

Hopefully this can help some working mamas, or perspective pumpers out.
(congrats children teaching mama #36!!)
Every GFC Follower who comments on this post Before the 22nd will be entered to win a pack of goodies from Simplisse including: A Manual Breastfeeding Companion designed by lactation consultants, Essential Lactation Supplements, Disposable Breast Pads, Lanolin-Free Nipple Cream and Breastmilk Storage Bags (ARV $100). You can get an extra entry by thanking Simplisse for this giveaway on their Facebook page.

My friend Jessica is having a huge blog hop for giveaways, all over $50 (many over $100) so if you're feeling lucky, enter these below. Have fun!