Milk Machine: Resources for Pumping … and My Story

I started to write the story of my pumping journey, but it turned out to be long. So, here’s the info first and me second. : )

TWO BASIC RESOURCES:

TOPICS:

Choosing a Breastpump

Pumping (Kellymom.com)

Ten Tips for Pumping Success

Correct Fit for Nipple Shield

Common Concerns

What Is Your Pumping Space Like?

Another thought: Who gets to feed the baby?

As Christine @ The Aums, mother of 4, says in her Wordless Wednesday post (Pumped Breastmilk), “Let your older child give the baby a bottle…feeding a baby is important! You will boost their self-esteem and help them bond with their sibling.”

BREASTPUMP REVIEWS

MY PUMPING JOURNEY

When people think of breastfeeding, they think of an actual baby suckling on a breast. The breast does seem key in breastfeeding. However, the baby is not, or so it turns out.

I grew up in the country in Kansas. I have seen cows, horses, dogs and such nursing their young. I can’t say I saw a lot of hand-milking of cows firsthand. I have seen it done, though, and have seen videos of cows in industrialized, factory settings being machine-milked. I always wondered what the cow was feeling, especially with the machine which seemed so …. machinized and impersonal. After all these years, now as a mother, I think I might know some of what a cow may be feeling when they are being milked.

I had the blessing of five months home with my daughter before going back to teach in a sixth grade classroom. I became familiar with the milking experience in the first weeks, though. After losing 10% of a mere six pounds, my daughter was a tiny thing. She had a little jaundice, too, which made her a sleepier, lazier nurser to some degree. Though she was surviving fine, my little girl just wasn’t getting enough in to thrive. As any breastfeeding mama knows, and particularly one who has had troubles, being able to feed your baby well can feel like a really big deal.

I had a homebirth, so my midwife (and her midwife-in-training) were visiting almost daily, and talking on the phone and emailing regularly. I felt that things were being monitored but wasn’t sure what I could do to help her gain weight. My midwife sought advice from a lactation consultant midwife friend of hers who suggested I get out the foremilk by pumping for a minute or two on each side before nursing. This would get her closer to the the fattier hindmilk faster. (What are foremilk and hindmilk?) So began my pumping journey. [Suggestions scattered throughout.]

I quickly found some challenges and some resources with solutions. (See below.) I had a little routine with Earth Mama Angel Baby nipple balm that made let down predictable. This helped with soreness as I learned the ins and outs of pumping. [Suggestion #1: Get a good fit.]

I didn’t know at the time that I should feel grateful that I didn’t have to care what my output was. I just needed to keep an eye on the time and take a general glance at the bottle. If I had known better, I would have kept that milk. I don’t know if it would have been donation-worthy or useful in the future, but I would come to feel by the end that any milk saved would have been genius. The pumping trick worked, and after a while I didn’t have to pump anymore and nursed at the breast exclusively.

Then I faced going back to work. I decided I should try a test run of a bottle before I actually had to go back. Enter the world of bottles, nipples, and spilled milk. [Suggestion #2: Don’t be afraid to try lots of bottles and/or nipples to get the right fit. I wanted glass bottles and someone bought me the BPA Free Siliskin Bottle from my registry. I ended up needing to switch nipples and therefore bottles, did some research and asked around, and finally settled on the Born Free Bottle set up. They’ve worked well for us.]

As far as letdown and output, I did fine. I was blessed because my husband would bring her to me at lunch, though by that time she barely nursed for distraction of crawling about. Sometimes I would get sore from a lot of pumping and a lot of nursing — growth spurts seem to happen back to back at that age! For the most part, though, I could get 3-5 oz quickly and easily. [Suggestion #3: Don’t judge what you’re getting by what you used to get or what other people get.] I’ve never been good with numbers; it’s too easy to let them mean more than they do. Summer came and I had a few months with my daughter while the pump gathered dust (not really) in a corner.

I did not know that a completely different pumping experience awaited me in the fall. I now nursed a pre-walking, 10-month old who was starting to eat solids and keep things down. She didn’t come to me at lunch every day of the week. At first, since she was nursing a lot still at night and my supply was high, I could get a good amount fairly easily still. At 14 months, her teeth came and so did more of an appetite. Yet, it seemed she still nursed as much as when she was 7 months. She seemed to be drinking more during the day (meaning I need to pump more) than she was earlier. [Suggestion #4: Try to keep an open mind and take it day by day.]

Somehow, my experience of this time was one of stress. It was in this time that I began to feel like a milk machine. My supply kept going up and down, the beginning of the week generally stronger having nursed all weekend and dropping towards Friday when I’d been away from her all day for days. I started to feel bad if I didn’t get a lot of milk. Some days I couldn’t get anything. Nursing Tea would definitely help, so I just had a cup in the morning when I could. [Suggestion #5: Overall wellness and tools like herbs can really help.] It was definitely harder at this time than the first couple months back to work. There were days when I would come home still upset at the stupid pump if I couldn’t pump much.

[Suggestion #6: Pumps have a lots of parts that all need to be kept working. Keep that on the table as an option when all else seems unreasonable.] Sometimes it was that I needed a new shield. Once it was that my pump motor needed to be replaced. The charging cord was always annoying, and I found out over a year later that the cord was being recalled because it wouldn’t charge. Just having the machine with its whirring noise and the mechanical pulling made me feel like I was being milked. Felt nothing like nursing.

Then came regular days with barely any milk even after trying and trying. Hand expressing would show me that milk was in there, but I wasn’t letting down and didn’t feel full. She happened not to take a bottle some days, more and more it seemed. I made it to almost the end of the school year with the milk I could get on weekends, but it was a struggle every day. I was at the end. I stopped pumping and just nursed her as soon as got home as much as I could.

One fine day, I found out I was pregnant. In retrospect, this made so much of my experience of the last month make sense. I wasn’t far along, but my milk was clearly on its way out. Thus began my nursing while pregnant journey…..for another post.

3 responses to this post.

  1. […] pumping became difficult and stressful. What was wrong with the pump? Where was my milk? Nothing was coming out. Nursing […]

    Reply

  2. […] wrote about my commitment to breastfeeding despite woes while pumping and working and while nursing and pregnant. I shared how my body weaned us both due to lack of supply which may […]

    Reply

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