Breastfeeding. Seriously, this used to gross me out to no end. The word made me shudder. I imagined mother dogs with thousands of tiny puppies at her (dare I say the word) nipples. Gross. But when I got pregnant I said I would give it the old college try and my “goal” was to make it to Emmy’s six month birthday.
Even trying to sum up this journey (because for me it really was a journey) is hard to do. I loved it and was frustrated by it all at the same time. There are many times where I wanted to quit because I didn’t feel like it was working for me, for her or anyone (mainly in the first 3 months), but because I am so hardheaded and when I say I am going to do something, I stick with it. I soldiered on. In the end, I am really glad we made it to one year, but my goodness had I known how easy it was to warm a bottle of milk (which I know you can’t do, but I can imagine formula is pretty much the same), I am not sure would have made it.
I have several friends who are currently pregnant and I told them I would write out what I did to create a supply before going back to work and what I did once I got back to work. Since I am a sharing person, I thought I would blog about it for anyone who might be interested in the logistics of it. None of this is La Leche League approved, these are my experiences and what worked for me.
First, the pump. My sister let me borrow her Medela Freestyle and if you are going to pump at all, there is no other way to go. This thing is amazing. There is a battery pack, so you can literally (and please don’t visualize) clip it to your belt loop and walk around with your favorite pumping bra (I highly recommend the Simple Wishes brand) and become a multi-tasking mama. Nothing like Giselle Bundchen…because you will actually be working.
Very Early Days
Before Emmy left the hospital, we were told she had jaundice. It wasn’t bad enough to go under the lights, but was bad enough that she had to eat every.two.hours. I mean, people, I don’t even go the bathroom every two hours and that only takes seconds. In addition, my milk hadn’t come in yet, so we had to supplement with formula. And this is probably what made me breastfeed for so long. The formula didn’t agree with her. So that was fun.
So, the schedule was me breastfeed her every two hours and then pump while she got a bottle of formula. Did I mention fun? And tiring?
Finally my milk came in. And for me didn’t hurt one tiny bit. Truth be told, I didn’t know it was in until an ounce came out when I pumped. I was so thrilled to have gotten something that I immediately dropped it all over the bed. Can I got a collective waaaahhhh from my fellow moms?
I used a heating pad to sleep with over my b’s (the word breast still is super weird) and I think that this is what caused it to not hurt at all. That or I just have a high tolerance for breast pain. It could go either way. I did push the child out with a fully worn off epidural, so I can assure you this wasn’t even in the ball park on the pain scale.
Next, came latching issues. She had no problems at all latching on until the milk came in. My doctor has a lactation consultant in his office who got to see it all as she helped me with a nipple shield (which I ended up using the whole time I nursed) and a syringe of milk. Basically, she would use the syringe with pumped milk and put it the milk in the shield so that there would be milk at the beginning and she would start sucking.
After a full on break down at the doctor’s office since she had only maintained her weight and not gained, he told me that it was okay if I didn’t breastfeed, she would turn out fine and if I did continue, to have someone give her some milk at night because I needed some sleep (clearly). So thus began me sleeping five hours, getting up and pumping and having someone else give her the milk for about 3 weeks until she started sleeping longer.
Building a milk supply
I knew I was going to go back to work, so the lactation consultant in the hospital told me that our bodies produce more milk in the morning, so I should try to work an extra pumping session or two in there. I was always afraid of running out of milk when Emmy needed it. Probably irrational, but still. I can’t even begin to tell you how much of mind was consumed with milk (which is funny since I hate milk). So my schedule looked a lot like this:
6:00 a.m. Emmy would wake up for the day and eat
As soon as that feeding session was over, I would pump for 10 minutes and usually get about 4 ounces.
9:00 a.m. feed her again
If we weren’t going anywhere, I would pump again afterward and get another couple of ounces
7-10 she would want to snack all night.
10 – 6 would either feed her or pump in the night and have someone else give her a bottle.
At about 8 weeks old she started sleeping through the night, so I cut out the night time pumping as uncomfortable as that was. I wanted (needed, had to have) my sleep.
By the time I went back to work, I had an entire freezer full of milk. I almost ended up buying a deep freeze, but made this work. Basically each day I was home, I could get enough for a 6 ounce bottle or more to freeze.
I didn’t realize this, but I was overproducing milk. If I woke up in the night needing to pump, I could pump like 9 ounces in six minutes. When my body figured out how much she needed, I was panicked thinking I wasn’t producing enough. This happened at about 8-9 weeks old and I pretty much freaked out and started doing things to increase my supply. But in retrospect, I just had way too much milk.
Once she did sleep fully through the night, I did add a pumping session right after she had her last feeding around 10. It made it much more comfortable to go through the night.
Back to Work
When I went back to work, I stuck with a schedule of pumping at the same times I would have fed her at home. She was taking six ounce bottles at the time and I was not able to keep up at work. However, if I fed her in the morning, pumped right after and pumped three times at work, I was able to get her enough for the following day and only needed to get into my supply here and there. Once I got to where the frozen milk (at about six months old) needed to be used, I would start to freeze my freshly pumped milk.
Little tip: I will say that eating oatmeal in the morning did help me get an extra ounce of milk at my first work morning pumping.
Luckily, I have an office with a door, so I was easily able to pump at work. I also work in a department with a fridge shared with only two other women, so I would just store my milk and bottles in a bag in the fridge. Full disclosure, what I am about to tell you would be considered a major “no-no,” but I did it and it never harmed Emmy. I didn’t clean my supplies between each pumping session. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Since you can keep milk in the fridge without incident, I figured you can do the same thing with the pumping parts. I had three sets of spare parts on hand and would just wash all three at night (I used one in the morning before work, one at work and one right after her last feeding at night). Honestly, if you wanted to have even more on hand, it would be amazing.
If you have a shared fridge, I would recommend getting a little mini one for your office or using your medela storage ice packs if your milk could stay cool in that all day.
I started cutting back on my pumping when Emmy was probably 10 months old and I could see I had plenty of milk left and tapered off until after her first birthday. I actually still have breast milk in my freezer to give her if she gets sick (or if it is about at the six month freezing mark), but now she straight up refuses it. Luckily, pouring those bottles down the drain isn’t nearly as painful as it used to be!
Medela Freestyle: I already mentioned my pump. Loved it and would highly recommend it. The service at Medela was amazing. After pumping so much, the motor went out and they sent me a brand new one overnight with no questions asked. (Little known fact it is actually pronounced Ma-dee-lah. I had always called it Ma-dell-uh. Only figured that out after calling their 800 number.)
Pumping bra. Simple Wishes is a must have. I pumped drying my hair. I pumped in my car (while driving). I pumped on an airplane. This thing rocks.
Booby Tubes. My sister told me about these and at the beginning I would use them to encourage let down. They also worked wonders on clogged ducts. I would heat those bad boys up and then pump and I never had mastitis. Thank heavens. Or breast feeding would have for sure ended.
Breast Pads. I used both the Lansinoh brand and Johnson and Johnson.
Lansinoh Pros: Each pad came in a set that was wrapped in plastic so they were easy to put in a bag without stuff getting on them.
Cons: They were folded down the center and would ripple and look super bumpy if you wore a tank top or other somewhat tight-fitting shirt.
Johnson and Johnson Pros: Were thicker and weren’t folded down the center.
Cons: They had a place indented for a nipple (clearly designed by a man) that you would never need, so you had to like poke your shirt in to get the nipple look to go away. They don’t have plastic around them, so they aren’t as easy to throw in a bag.
I preferred the Johnson and Johnson brand over the Lansinoh, but there may be a better solution out there.
Other things: Feeding pillow (boppy or other brand), nipple shields if there are latching issues (I used avent), nursing cover, heating pad and breast milk storage bags (all of the brands I used leaked – lansinoh, nuk and honeysuckle, so no recommendations there). I never used nipple cream, but I did buy this mother love brand and used it for my lips. Ha!
I think that is it. I am happy to answer any questions and hope this helps someone!