Thursday, September 15, 2011

Adventures in Breastfeeding: Pumping

When I was pregnant with Brees and fully determined to breastfeed for at least her first
year, I knew that pumping was going to become a major part of my life.  I am a
working mama and love my job as a registered nurse, it's such a big part of who I am.  And
so I knew that returning to work when my little bambino was only 8 weeks old was going
to require planning, preparation, and a whole lotta milk storing.

Step 1: Invest in a nice pump.  Yes, they are expensive.  But, as a nurse who has to slip
in pump times between caring for patients, I need a breast pump that's going to do the
job and do it quickly.  I was very blessed to receive a Medella In Style Advanced pump
for free from one of my coworkers who had never used hers after deciding not to
breastfeed.  This super efficient pump is a double electric and allows me to pump 6 ounces
in less than 10 minutes: super important when you have a busy work schedule.  It came
with a car battery adapter, also important because, now that I am working as a home
health nurse, I have to pump in my car.  Talk about multi-tasking...
Step 2: Develop a plan of attack before baby arrives.  In order to avoid stress and
confusion upon returning to work after maternity leave, discuss your plan to pump at
work with your supervisor and coworkers.  A few weeks before I left work, I sat down
with my Director of Nursing and told her that I would need to pump every 3 hours.  We
also discussed what location would be best and she even ensured that a mini-fridge would
be available in the office where I would be pumping.  This made returning to work so
much easier because I didn't feel so self-conscious walking in with my pump.  Everyone
was fully aware of what I needed and they were behind me 100%.  Lots of inside jokes
were developed including the nickname "Elsie" and the entire staff singing
Madonna's "Express Yourself" when they saw me coming down the hall with my
trusty black bag.
Step 3: Bring your pump with you to the hospital when you deliver your baby.  The
lactation consultant on our maternity floor went through the workings of our pump with
us step by step.  She gave us a box full of supplies and tons of advice on when and how
to most effectively use the pump.  This proved to be a life saver when I first had to use it:
late one night, fully engorged, blind with sleep deprivation.  That was NOT the time to
pull out a how-to manual and I was so glad to have had a crash course at the hospital.
 Step 4: Start pumping early.  If you are a working mom or even a mom with an active
social life, you will need a reserve.  Don't wait until your baby is 2 months old and
you're ready to leave the nest for a few hours to decide to start storing milk.  I
started pumping when Brees was only 3 days old.  At first, it was a way to relieve myself
of the overwhelming engorgement caused by my milk supply.  I gradually got into a
routine, as advised by my lactation consultant, of pumping once a day, about 30 minutes
after Brees's first morning feeding.  This was the time of day when my milk supply was
the most plentiful, therefore I had milk to spare.  Pumping once a day so early also got
me comfortable with the process, allowed me to develop a good, efficient routine for
cleaning my pump parts and storing my milk.  By the time I was ready to go back to work,
we had a freezer full of milk and I felt well acquainted with my new friend, Medella.
{Brees inspecting her goods...}
Step 5: Develop a routine that works for you.  We all have our own ways of doing
things, obviously, and my pumping routine is a blend of things I've read, advice from
other breastfeeding moms, and trial and error.  I am still pumping every three hours when
I am away from Brees.  This ensures my milk supply stays up and keeps our routine in
check.  It's hard work and inconvenient at times but as I said earlier: I knew going into this
it would be a big part of my life and I'm okay with that.  I pump into the bottles that
came with my pump, transfer the milk into Lansinoh milk storage bags, and then use
Medella Quick Clean Wipes to clean all of my parts and bottles.  When I get home from
work each afternoon, I wash my bottles and shields in hot soapy water and then
sterilize them in the microwave using Medella Quick Steam bags.  I then put my milk in
the freezer using this method.  Quick, easy, and efficient.
Step 6: Don't forget about the baby's role in all this.  My lactation consultant advised us
to introduce Brees to her first bottle of pumped milk at 6 weeks old.  Any earlier and you
risk nipple confusion and a compromised milk supply, any older and she would be
totally uninterested in taking the bottle.   So, on her 6 week birthday, Shawn sent me on
my very first outing away from my little girl to get a pedicure and he gave our precious
baby her first bottle.  I cried for an hour.  She, of course, did fine and we resumed
nursing without ever missing a beat.   We use Dr. Brown's bottles and love them, they
helped her reflux immensely and are not as hard to clean as people might think.  Our
routine, from the beginning, has been that Brees only gets a bottle if I am not home: when
she is with the sitter while I'm at work or on the rare occasion we go out and leave her
with someone.  Keeping bottle using to a minimum is also key to the success of nursing.
{Shawn and Isabelle were so excited to get involved in the feeding process!  At 9 months
old, Brees still will NOT hold her own bottle.  I suppose that's a direct result of having
the boob delivered straight to her.}
Pumping is a huge part of my life: it's not necessarily something I love doing but it has
allowed me to work and still be able to give my child what she needs.  It requires thought
and planning and can sometimes be a hassle, like the time my patient was coding on the
table and I had to pack everything up at lightening speed and run down the hall for a
little CPR session.  But I take great pride every time I look inside my freezer and see all
of those baggies labeled "Mommy's Milk".  And if either of my daughters ever tries to
complain to me about the difficulties of breastfeeding, I will swiftly tell them about the time
I pumped in the parking lot at the water park.  Or the time a man walked up to my car at
a gas station and asked if I needed help, only to realize there was a strange machine
attached to my boobs.  Or the time I accidentally dropped a bottle full of freshly
expressed milk all over my uniform and had to borrow a set of scrubs from surgery.
You get the picture...


deanna@delirious-rhapsody said...

i LOVE that picture of brees scoping our your freezer door. she looks like she's found the gold at the end of the rainbow. :)

also...i am loving on your kitchen. so much.

Ashley Sisk said...

Is it weird that I read almost every line - since we're now talking about our family, I'm curious about everything. I totally want to try to breastfeed (and I say try because I know that it does take work) and also pump so that we can leave the house whenever baby comes. This was really helpful. Thanks for sharing.

Sarbear said...

I don't have kiddos yet, as you know, but I love reading about all of this. I know when the time comes it may be a challenge, but I think it will probably help too knowing that it's only for a short time, but has great benefits. It's not like any of us will need to pump for 18 years or anything, right? :) Way to go on being a super mama! :)

Anonymous said...

Such a wonderful post! You are a super mama :P

Love the picture of her looking over the bags adorable :D

KimBerly said...

WOW!! Good job Mama. I have that same pump. Love it!

Lucy The Valiant said...

Good for you, mama! I wanted to pump, but working at a high school I could never find a teenager-free zone where I could!

nichole said...

Love the photo of Brees and her frozen milk supply!

Since Bea was adopted, she was so blessed to have all of her milk come from breastfeeding mamas who were able to donate their extras to us.

It was amazing and I am forever thankful. So that sight of all that frozen milk stored in lansinoh bags just makes me smile and remember those days - and to be grateful. It's truly liquid gold. I hope our next adopted child will be just as fortunate as sweet Bea was!

nichole said...

Love the photo of Brees and her frozen milk supply!

Since Bea was adopted, she was so blessed to have all of her milk come from breastfeeding mamas who were able to donate their extras to us.

It was amazing and I am forever thankful. So that sight of all that frozen milk stored in lansinoh bags just makes me smile and remember those days - and to be grateful. It's truly liquid gold. I hope our next adopted child will be just as fortunate as sweet Bea was!

Lauren said...

This brings back such great memories of nursing my girls! I can remember one panicked moment when a world renown transplant surgeon returned my call in the middle of a pumping session and praying he wouldn't ask what that noises was in the background.
Have you ever thought about becoming a lactation consultant? You'd be a natural!
Love Brees checking out the mother lode! By the time Johanna came around, I found a blog that recommended freezing the milk bags flat and storing them in a gift bag with a slit cut out of the side for easy removal. It worked great and I no longer had to worry about a bag of milk falling out of the freezer and onto my toes!

Katie said...

Thanks! I want to breastfeed, but have been concerned about returning to work. This makes me feel a lot better. It seems very doable. Also, love the idea of using a gift bag as a dispenser! How clever! :)

Tobi said...

no lie, no one ever understands how important the phrase "dont cry over spilled milk" is until you spill a 6oz. bottle of freshly squeezed breast milk...i did this once when one of the Madella storage bags was not closed all the way and it leaked all over my freezer, and my husband walks in and sees me bawling my eyes out cleaning it up...he thought i was nuts!

nicole said...

Reading this was like listening to my own story. I am a PA and went back to work at 12 weeks post partum. I pumped for a year with our first two children and I am now pregnant with our third. I was determined to pump for a year and I was proud to accomplish that! I never let myself think there was another option. I had a love hate relationship with my Medela pump! It's hard enough being a working mom but we sacrifice for our precious babies! Good job to all those mommas out there!