After your eyeballs have recovered from reading my novel of a post yesterday about my 10 months of nursing and pumping that came to an end last weekend, here are a few lists I have for those looking for more easily digested reading material.
Random Things Learned:
- Breastfeeding is HARD WORK. It is physically and mentally tough, and it’s all on you. No one tells you this, so I am. Be prepared to want to stab your husband as he sleeps peacefully while you nurse in the middle of the night those first few days and weeks.
- Does this kid do anything but eat?! Newborns nurse very frequently (think 10-12 times a day), and sometimes a nursing session can be up to 45 minutes! So by the time you finish it’s basically time to start again. Because of this, you will not sleep as much as your formula-feeding friends, and will probably want to claw their well-rested eyes out on a few occasions too.
- Your boobs are more like a sprinkler than a faucet. Who knew?! No real relevance here but this blew my mind.
- Pumping is confusing. Figuring out how and when to pump is difficult and confusing (if you’re trying to establish nursing when do you have time to pump?!). Wait a few weeks to try it, and try pumping a little bit after each nursing session. You won’t get much but that’s not because you suck at pumping, it’s because a) obviously you just fed your kid, and b) they only take a few teaspoons at a time in the beginning so your body hasn’t ramped up supply yet.
- Building a freezer stash seems impossible. But it’s not. Try getting those little bits at a time and eventually you’ll have enough for a full bottle. Try having your husband feed that to your baby one time while you skip the nursing session and pump instead. You should be able to get almost a full feeding and can add to that the other little bits that you keep getting after feedings All of this will snowball into a full blown supply and you will be amazed. At one point I had over 150 ounces of B-milk in our freezer (just over a gallon!)
- Breastfeeding makes you thirsty. VERY thirsty. I mean just think about all that liquid your body is producing and giving away to someone else. I guzzled water like none other for the first few months.
Products That Are Awesome:
- Nipple Shield. Already mentioned them, but in case you skipped my sob story yesterday, the Medela Contact Nipple Shields are very helpful in the beginning.
- Nursing Pillow. I thought these were gimmicky. They’re not. So helpful with a C-section, and even weeks and months later they help keep your kid propped up and in place. I was even able to go “hands free” in the beginning when A didn’t move. I usually replied to emails during this time. If you heard from me via email in October or November there’s almost a 100% chance I was nursing when I sent it.
- Nursing Tank Tops. Comfortable, supportive, and don’t scream “I’m a lactating mom!”. These particular ones were extra thick and long so I felt really “held in”. The top flaps down for convenient and more discreet nursing (no post-partum belly popping out while your shirt is up).
- Medela Freestyle Pump. Big price tag, but beyond worth it if you’re in this for the long haul. Cannot say enough how convenient this small pump was.
- Hands Free Bustier. All that being said about the pump…it is NOT hands free as advertised. Well, it is, if you are going to stand still and let yourself look like Robo-Boobs. The system they provide does not allow for what I really consider to be “hands free”. I wanted to be able to do anything and everything with my pump on. Couldn’t have done it without one of these bustiers. I used this every single day for my 10 months of nursing/pumping.
- Medela Quick Clean Wipes. Quick? Yes please. Clean? Gimme! A very necessary product to have if you are pumping on the go.
- The Internet. There is so much information out there and so much dialogue between nursing moms. You can find the answer to almost anything if you search long enough! Some of the ones I found the most helpful:
Pumping at Work (and in the car, and on an airplane, and at bachelorette parties, and at weddings…)
I had pumping at work down to a science. From when A was 3 months (when I returned to work) until 6 months I pumped THREE times a day at work alone! At 6 months I went down to twice during the workday, and at 9 months I went down to just once a day until I stopped last weekend. I can’t even begin to guess how many ounces of B-milk I brought home during that time…
What helped (at Work):
- All of the products mentioned above make pumping WAY easier. For long term pumping on the go, invest in a good pump, the bustier, and the wipes.
- Having a duplicate set of pump parts and tubing (usually available from your pump’s manufacturer’s website). I left these at work so I didn’t have to lug my entire bag of equipment back and forth every single day. I just carried my bottles (empty in the morning, full in the evening) and the actual pump unit. I used one of these bags to hold what I was carrying back and forth, and no one ever knew that it wasn’t my lunch bag.
- I’m lucky enough to have a lactation room in the building which obviously is a huge help. But I’ve heard/read lots of stories of moms having to rig screens in cubicles, or find janitor closets, etc. If you work for a company larger than 500 people I believe there are legal requirements for providing you with a sanitary and safe space to do your thang. Google should be able to help you here.
- No need to wear nursing clothes, but do think about what will be easiest to lift up/take off for those months you are pumping several times a day. I actually found dresses were great because I could unzip them to my waist and remain (almost) fully dressed.
- Having a smartphone/blackberry. I didn’t like feeling unproductive while pumping, it made me feel anxious and guilty. Being able to take care of any calls or emails was a bit strange to do in our lactation room, but made me feel better about the time away from my desk.
I pumped in the car on several occasions. It’s difficult because of the possibility of people seeing you, and the seat belt situation. A nursing cover or blanket can cover up what you’re doing though. I also only ever used my hand pump since it was more discreet to just slide under the cover. This wasn’t that difficult and a great way to kill 2 birds with one stone. I mean what else would you be doing in the car?!
You may remember my trip to Miami for AC’s bachelorette party while I was still pumping. Fun times. You probably don’t remember that I pumped mid-flight. Probably somewhere over DC/Virginia if I had to guess. I was still pumping every 4ish hours during the day at that time so I pumped before I left my house, and wanted to squeeze in my next session on the plane rather than when I arrived and reunited with all my friends (“HI! So excited to see you! I’ll be right back, I have to drain my boobs!”). I used my hand pump because I didn’t feel like freaking people out and bringing a foreign electronic object into the lavatory. I covered the seat and all surfaces with paper towels and got down to business. I used my clean wipes afterwards and kept the milk in a smaller bag with a mini cooler in my carry on.
Well, AC’s bach and wedding were the only two where I’ve had to do this, but I did bring my hand pump to 2 other weddings when A was 6 weeks old and again when she was 3 months. I ended up not using it because I didn’t like the bathroom situation and we weren’t out that late. So I went about 6 hours without pumping. Probably a lot longer than most people do when their babies were that age but it didn’t seem to hurt my supply, or my boobs.
AC’s wedding was different since I was in the wedding and we were out for pictures/ceremony/more pictures for several hours before we even got to the reception. So if I didn’t pump at some point throughout the day it would be 12+ hours without. Not fun. So upon arriving at the reception site, I casually mentioned it to a female member of the staff who was like, “No one told me! Oh come with me, we’ll get you a private place right away!” Could. Not. Have. Been. More. Accomodating. I was floored. It was a perfect situation. I brought the real deal freestyle pump for this (and bustier!) and used my quick clean wipes for parts and mini cooler for the milk. It was awkward to have a bag (I used a small tote to conceal things), but since we were in the wedding a couple of people had bags with extra shoes, make-up, etc.
Pumping at events like this can be awkward, but I’ve found people to be very accommodating if you just explain to them what is going on and what it is that you need. It also helps if you have awesome friends who don’t care that you lactate while everyone else is getting their bachelorette bash on. Thanks guys. 🙂