My Mama Adventure

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Bottles & Breastmilk: Tips For The Exclusive Pumping Mama

Disclosure: Affiliate links are included in this post. Thank you for your support.

I sometimes feel like the exclusive pumping mom gets left out in the circle of breastfeeding moms. I've at times felt that since my son didn't nurse due to an oral aversion that I am less than in the eyes of other breastfeeding moms. It's a lonely place to be when you feel like you are doing your best for your child, but others still want to judge you for not "trying harder" or "giving up."

I never intended to be a pumping mama. My intentions were to nurse my child, put him to the breast and nourish him the way nature designed. I planned to breastfeed him until at least a year and then let him self-wean. Our story of exclusive pumping may be different from other's since my son had a feeding tube and other medical issues going on at the time, but my feelings of inadequacy or loneliness are probably very similar to other pumping mom's. 

I'm here to tell you, that you are not alone in your exclusive pumping choices. Whether you chose to pump because you wanted to, you returned to work, you or your child had medical issues, or some other reason, you are not alone. Exclusive pumping is hard! It is probably one of the hardest things I ever did for my baby. It's not easy to wake yourself up at 2:00am and then again at 5:00am just so you're not engorged by 8:00am. It's not easy to lug around your pumping bag and supplies everywhere you go so you can express your splendid liquid gold whenever you need to. It's not easy to bond with the hum of a machine and keep up your supply.

It's not easy to exclusively pump for your baby.

But we do it because we feel it is what is best for our baby. We do it because our baby is our only priority and in the end if it helps our baby, it's all worth it. And, if you're going to keep pumping for you little one, for however long you choose, I'm here to offer some tips from a professional pumper (that's me!).

7 Exclusive Pumping Tips:

  1. Buy a good breast pump. In hindsight, I would have made sure to have a pump with a closed system. Why? Because it maintains a barrier between the breatmilk collection and the pump tubing, which keeps outside air from being exposed to your breastmilk. This system also keeps breastmilk from getting into your tubing and pump system. Open systems will end up with milk in the tubing and possibly into the pump system which may result in mold or mildew building up and it's very (if not impossible) to clean the actual pump. Ameda and Hygeia both make close breast pump systems. The extra cost is definitely worth the expense if you are going to be pumping a lot and if you exclusively pump, believe me, that pump will get a lot of miles!
  2. Pump both breasts at the same time. You will save so much time if you do both breasts at the same time. Think of it this way, you should pump for at least 15 minutes every 2 hours (at least in the beginning), that means you spend a bare minimum of 3 hours per day pumping. If you do your breasts separately, you will double that time to 6 hours per day hooked up to a pump. You have a baby, you need sleep, do both at the same time. Electric pumps are designed to do both at the same time, take advantage!
  3. Go hands free! And do not waste your money on buying a hands free pumping bra. All you need is an old sports bra to go hands free. Cut two small holes in the sports bra in the areola region and voila! you have a hands free bra. I do recommend a sports bra that is about a size too small so it provides some compression. Hands free will allow you to be able to read, tend to baby's needs (to some extent), watch TV, check Facebook, etc. while you're pumping. And trust me, if you're spending 3+ hours a day pumping, you'll need those hands free to keep yourself from going crazy bored.
  4. Use milk storage bags. Pumps usually come with storage bottles, hospitals may have storage bottles, but trust me, bags are much more convenient. I had a very healthy supply in my son's early weeks/months (8+ ounces every 2 hours), and there was no way we would have fit those bottles in our freezer. The bags lay nicely in your freezer and are easy to thaw. **Bonus tip: Write the date and ounce approximation on the bag - the bags are not as reliable as the bottles for measurement.
  5. Store pump parts in the refrigerator. This was recommended to me from a lactation consultant. When you're up pumping at night, instead of washing all your parts at 2am, just put them in the refrigerator until morning. You can keep your milk in the bottle you pumped into, keep it all attached, toss it in the fridge (I used the door), and go back to bed! Transferring the milk into a bag and washing the parts can wait until morning.
  6. Use nipple cream. Whether it's lanolin cream or something else, use something that will protect your poor breasts. Your breasts will get used to pumping, but going without some sort of cream for lubrication can cause some irritation and be uncomfortable. Do your research though and make sure that what you use will be safe for baby.
  7. Have the right sized breast shield. When I first started pumping, it was painful. Really painful! I was developing sores and I just assumed it was normal. Wrong! Pumping should not hurt. It feels weird, sure, but it shouldn't cause you physical pain and sores. If it does hurt, move up a size for the breast shield, your actual breast size has nothing to do with the size breast shield you will need. Pumps usually come with a 24mm, but the sizes go up to a 36mm. The right size will also make a world of difference in terms of productivity. Check with a lactation consultant or your local La Leche League, they may have extras on hand that they can get to you.

Maintaining Your Supply when Exclusively Pumping

When you're not nursing and getting that skin to skin contact, it can be very difficult to maintain a milk supply. It's very common for women to go back to work and their supply drop because they have to pump. It's also common for pumping to produce less milk than nursing would. Here are some tips on maintaining (or even boosting) your supply when you are exclusively pumping.

Tips to Maintain (or boost) Your Supply:

  1. Drink water! Your milk is made from your body, milk is a liquid, if you are not drinking at least 8-10 servings of water per day, you will not get the most out of your supply. I guarantee that if you are not drinking enough water, you will get frustrated. 
  2. Pump frequently. Recommended, especially in the beginning, is to pump every 2-3 hours. This is how often your baby would be nursing so you need to trick your body into thinking that it needs to produce every 2-3 hours like a baby would. You may be able to cut back as time goes on and as baby takes less and less breastmilk. Your body may be able to make the adjustments as your baby grows, but it may not. It all depends on your body and personal milk production. If you start to pump less frequently and see a drop off in your supply, pick up the frequency to trick your body into thinking it needs to produce more. You can also throw in quick pumps (5 minutes or less) in between the 2 hours pump times to trick your body even more - I used a manual pump for these mini sessions.
  3. Pump at night. You kind of want to hit me right now, don't you? It's okay, I wasn't very happy about pumping at night either. It does make a difference though and if you think about it, your baby eats at night, so of course your body would need to "feed" at night. The benefit of pumping at night is that during the times of 11:00 pm and 5:00 am, your body's prolactin levels are at their highest. This is a good thing! I always found that if my supply was dropping, if I upped the ante of daytime pumping and added in at least one nighttime pump, my supply would be back up within a couple days.
  4. Skin to skin contact. If you are able, get some skin to skin time in with your little one. If you're able to do this while pumping, that's an added bonus (and gold star for being able to finagle this difficult task). Your little one is your biggest method of making milk. In a world where you are nursing, your body would immediately respond to your baby rooting towards your breast, your baby's cries, your baby's contact. Use this natural response to your advantage to keep your supply up.
  5. Other alternatives if all else fails. You can try other natural methods (galactagogues) to give your supply a boost. I would definitely recommend doing your own research on these methods and checking in with your doctor or lactation consultant before starting any of these alternatives. I will give information on the alternatives I tried, but this is not an all inclusive list. You can find a more detailed list at KellyMom (a fabulous resource for pumping and nursing moms).
    • Fenugreek - I found the fresher the better. I tried both a fresh ground version and capsules bought at a health food store. The fresh ground, I absolutely noticed a difference. I did not seem to notice much help from the capsules. Every mom is different though. Warning: You may start to smell like maple syrup and unfortunately, fenugreek does not taste like maple syrup.
    • Lactation Cookies- I made this recipe of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. They were delicious! I did feel like they  helped too. If only they had lasted in the house longer and did not have to be made by scratch. The oatmeal, brewer's yeast, and flax seed are the ingredients said to improve lactation. Lucky you, you have me to let you know about options like MilkMakers, which I did not know about when I was pumping.

So, there you have it! The best tips I can provide to you as a pumping mama. It's not easy, you may get frustrated, you may get incredibly bored listening to the pump hum in the background. In fact, the pump may start singing or talking to you! It's all normal! Just know that you are not alone in this journey and you are an incredible mama for doing what you can to ensure your baby gets the best nutrition you are able to provide. Keep at it mama!

What tips do you have for pumping mamas?

**All pictures belong to the creator and writer of My Mama Adventure blog. Pictures are not to be reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the creator and writer of this blog.**

Monday, October 20, 2014

Guest Post: Three is the Magic Number

Written and Posted with Permission By: Lauren of lo-wren

Not one, not two, but three.  Three is the number of times I had to miscarry in order for my miscarriages to be deemed ‘recurrent’, and for my health insurance to cover testing to find a cause.  It didn't matter that my first two miscarriages happened within six months of each other, nor did it matter that there were signs of a possible underlying cause (clotting present with both miscarriages).  I had to wait until I lost my third baby to be ‘labeled’ and for insurance to ‘deem’ that there was a problem worthy of being resolved by testing; I suffered my third miscarriage, in under a year and a half, yesterday.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Guest Post: Pregnancy Loss and Rainbow Baby - A Story of Hope

Pregnancy Loss and Rainbow Baby - A Story of Hope - My Mama Adventure

Written By: Brandi, Guest Blogger

Brandi's Story:

In November 2010, we found out we were pregnant after trying for one month. I had the fairy tale pregnancy… no morning sickness, very little swelling, never miserable, etc. We found out in February that we were having a little boy, whom we named Noah.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Travelin' with Baby #Giveaway Hop {Featuring Planet Wise} #BabyTravels

Welcome to the [3rd Annual] Travelin’ with Baby Giveaway Hop Event, hosted by the Blogging Mamas Network.

We’ve got a fabulous group of bloggers that have come together to offer giveaways on the best products that make traveling with baby a success - so be sure to hop around to them all. Don't miss out on the amazing new stroller from Combi USA - the F2 Stroller which is the ultimate lightweight stroller that makes traveling with baby a breeze and a fabulous set of reusable snack pouches and bags from Yummi Pouch! Enter the Grand Prize Here.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Guest Post: Pumping Struggles from a Working Mom

Pumping Struggles from a Working Mom - My Mama Adventure #breastfeeding #pumping

Written By: Mary Kay, Guest Blogger

Failure. Loser. Unfit mother. Okay, I may be being a bit dramatic.  But I have never felt as inept as I do when I'm trying to pump breast milk for my 6 month old son. 

When I first found out I was pregnant, my husband suggested breastfeeding and my visceral reaction was to scream "hell-to-the-no" and then gag to the point of near vomit. In fact, during our parenting classes, they showed an animated video clip of what your nipple would look like as it was being suckled on. During this lovely video, I actually told my husband he could take the breastfeeding and shove it. It looked painful. It looked uncomfortable. And to be completely honest, my motherly instinct hadn't quite kicked in yet and I was being selfish. I didn't want to be in pain any more than I had to (wasn't labor enough??). 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Free For Fall #Giveaway Hop {Featuring Citrus Lane} #Free4Fall

This Giveaway is No Longer Accepting Entries

Welcome to the It's a Free for Fall Giveaway Hop, hosted by the Blogging Mamas Network.
The days are getting a bit cooler and Fall is just around the corner! We're celebrating the upcoming season with a fun giveaway hop. Each blogger in the hop has a prize for you worth at least $25, so don't forget to hop around to them all in the linky at the bottom of this post.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

6 Ways I've "Greened" Up My Beauty Routine

My list of "green" beauty products are minimal compared to other green bloggers out there. I will never claim to be 100% crunchy, I'm crunchy-ish at best. I make some crunchy choices and in my family and circle of friends, I'm a tree-hugger. But, in the scheme of all things crunchy, I fall quite short. I truly could give you a laundry list of my non-crunchy ways, I'll save that for another post.

I have made several attempts over the past few years to be more green, especially in regards to my body. After a 2nd miscarriage I really started questioning some of my beauty routine practices and slowly made some changes.