Oct 11, 2015

Pump it up 2.0

I shared why exclusively pumping (EP'ing) is hard, but I also wanted to talk about what I've learned - what's been useful to have, resources, etc. Again, I'm specifically addressing EP'ing mamas, but this can apply any mom who has to pump (even if it's just when you go back to work). This post is kind of a brain dump and I'm sure there are things I'm forgetting, and of course, is all from my experience, so take that for what it is!

 A few basics:
*The more you pump, the more you produce. For whatever reason - preemie, trouble latching, etc. - the baby isn't telling your body when they need food, which is how your body knows to produce enough milk. You use your pump as the baby. When I first started pumping, I did twenty minutes, every two hours for a few weeks. It was rough and I barely slept, but I also built up a great supply and now have a decent amount of milk in the freezer, in addition to what I pump daily.

*As you decrease the number of times you pump, increase the minutes you pump. I pumped for twenty minutes each time for a few months, but was getting sore sooner than my next pump session; once I increased the amount of time I pumped, it helped tremendously. (I now pump for 30 minutes at a time instead of 20).

*Set small goals, and then reward yourself when you get there. Sometimes a goal might to get through the day. That's worth acknowledging.

*You are still eating for two. Holy moley, sometimes I swear I eat more now then when I was pregnant! In general try to make healthy choices but if you want to have ice cream, have some - you need the calories! Typically you can multiply the number of ounces you pump in a day by 10, and that's the calories you're burning just from pumping. (So if you pump 20 ounces in a day, you burned 200 calories).

*Don't let numbers run your life. It is so so SO easy to get caught up with I only pumped this much. Should I be pumping more each time? How will I know if it's enough? You'll learn how much the baby is eating, and if you're not making enough? Add another pumping session. If you can't keep up with what your baby is eating and you have to supplement with formula, that's okay too - you are doing the best you can. (If you do need to supplement I recommend talking to your pediatrician about how/if to mix milk and formula and the ratio, etc).

*Hydrate like it's your job. You pumped two ounces? Awesome! However, you need to replace it and then some. Water should be your new best friend.

*You can (probably) get a breast pump for free. Courtesy of the Affordable Care Act, most insurance companies will cover the cost of a breast pump (U.S. only - sorry friends!), and sometimes even breast pads and milk storage bags. Pumps typically cost a minimum of $300, so definitely take advantage of this!

*Remember how awesome you are. No really. EP'ing is hard effing work. For however long you do it, know that you are a rock star. The end.
Why I pump!
Absolute Must Haves:
*A sense of humor. This is crucial. There will be times when something so ridiculous happens you have to laugh, otherwise you will lose your mind! For instance, when it's 3 o'clock in the morning and you start pumping, only to realize you have not attached bottles, when milk starts dripping on your leg - what else are you going to do but laugh?

Friends: You need people you can text who will respond quickly (and positively!) when you're complaining about how hard this is or how exhausted you are. There's a time and place for considering other options (i.e. formula), but when you're tired and vulnerable, having that suggested can make you feel like you're not doing a good job. You'll learn who your cheerleaders are; use them. 

Virtual: Find yourself an online forum. I belong to a closed Facebook group for exclusively pumping moms - all those ladies get it. There's understanding while you mourn the loss of that nursing relationship, there's encouragement when you're having a rough day, there are helpful tips when you're trying to troubleshoot something about your supply or your pump, and there are hilarious pictures and memes and jokes that we all appreciate because we've been there. Scrolling through that feed while pumping can always lighten my mood. 

In-person: Exclusively pumping is not for the faint of heart, and that doesn't just mean for the mom. Your partner will have to step up, whether that's helping feed the baby, washing pump parts, letting you cry, or encouraging you to take a shower and rest between pumping sessions. This doesn't always have to be your partner - in fact, having outside help will do the both of you a world of good because on top of pumping you have this tiny human to care for which is awesome but also overwhelming. I don't know what Ben and I would have done without my mom and mother-in-law the first six weeks of Parker's life; their help, especially when it came to pumping was invaluable. Even after EP'ing for five and a half months, I still need help - my evening pump is the hardest for me, so when I pick up Parker after work, nine times out of ten I end up staying at my parents' or in-laws' house for this pump so I can have an extra set of hands.

*A hands-free pumping bra. Or two. This will change the way you pump. You don't have to hold anything, you can catch up on social media, read a book, knit, whatever, because you have the freedom of using your hands. I have two - one stays at home, and one is always in my pumping bag.

*Pump Log. This is an app that's unfortunately only available for iPhones (sorry Android users), but it is wonderful! A man created this for his wife when she was exclusively pumping which is so cool! It's free for the first 50 pumps, and then $6.99 to "upgrade." Trust me, it's worth it. You can set alarms to remind you to pump, log how much you pump at each sessions, update how much milk you have frozen, and so much more. My favorite part about this app is seeing my "stats," which include how much time I spend pumping, how many ounces I average, and how many pumps I've done since downloading the app. I didn't discover it until right before I went back to work, and I wish I would have known about it sooner - for so long I was writing down how much I pumped (while we were figuring out how much P needed), and this is so much easier!
My pump bag!
What's made my life easier:
*Multiple sets of pump parts. There is nothing, nothing more obnoxious than having to spend your precious spare minutes between pumps washing bottles and pump parts. Buy stock in Medela, and then stock up. I have four sets of everything, and yes, there's always something that needs to be washed, but I don't have to wash things between every pumping session.

*Know your pump. When I buy something, I just want it to work. I really hate troubleshooting, but reading (or at least skimming) your manual ahead of time will help because you're not going to have time to read it thoroughly once the baby is here. This will also help so you're not watching troubleshooting videos at one in the morning trying to figure out if there's an issue with your pump or if it's user error. I have a Medela Pump in Style Advanced, and have found their website and their customer service line extremely helpful!

*You do not have to sterilize your pump parts daily. Let me repeat that. You do not have to sterilize your pump parts daily. For months, we were sterilizing pumping parts and bottles daily, using the Medela quick steam bags. They are super easy - a little bit of water, microwave for less than two minutes, and you're done. You can even use each bag twenty times. But, we have multiple sets of pumping parts and bottles - so it would take six or seven rounds with the bag to sterilize everything and then we'd have to dry it all off. We still sterilize things more than most people, (once a week using the setting in our dishwasher) - do what makes you comfortable, but take it from someone who cannot get that time back, it does not have to be a daily thing.

*Advocate for yourself. Know the laws about breastfeeding and pumping once you return to work. The Affordable Care Act ensured that companies must provide a designated space for mother's to pump while at work, as often as they need to. This space cannot be a bathroom, and unless your company has less than 50 employees (and establishing this room would be considered a "hardship"), they have to provide a place that is private and free from "intrusion of co-workers." Read more about the laws here.

The nitty-gritty:

Last but not least, I thought I'd give you a peek into my pumping bag. I do not have the bag that comes with my pump (I didn't see the point in spending the money on it), and I keep more in my pumping bag than others, but I know I have anything I need, so a bigger bag is worth my peace of mind.
Parts for my three pumps at work
What's in my pumping bag:
  • Pump
  • Tubes (and extra set)
  • A pouch with breast pads
  • Quick clean wipes
  • Lanolin
  • My pumping cover - these ponchos are so soft and wonderful! (I have one in Cobalt AND Mint!)
  • Hands-free pumping bra
  • A few medela storage bags and a sharpie (I typically just store milk in medela bottles and then bring it home, but in case I wanted to put milk in a bag and then right in the freezer, these are handy to have).
  • Heat pads
  • A burp cloth for any small spills (See also - it's totally acceptable to cry over this kind of spilled milk).
  • Three ziploc bags with a set of pumping parts each (See above photo - depending on how many times you pump you can easily re-use a set of parts from one pump to the next, but I find it's easier to just have a set for each pump session).
  • A bag and ice pack to transport milk on my way home (and keep it cold)
  • A book
  • Knitting
  • Earbuds
If you pump for ten days or ten months, if you're an over producer, an under producer, or just enough-er, you rock. Remember that! Pump on, Mama!


Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Until you blogged about this, I hadn't really given any thought to how much work pumping is! You are such a pro now and it's so kind of you to share your experience so you can help others!

Way to go, Becky! You are the reason that Parker has those adorable chubby cheeks!

Kelly (She Wears a Red Sox Cap) said...

I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again, you are amazing. 30 minutes a billion times a day is a commitment in the truest sense of the word. You are amazing.

My favorite pumping trick was using the same pumping parts all day, just putting them in the fridge between each session. That way I was only washing one set a day. Apparently the fridge keeps the milk left on them from getting bad and ruining your next pump (which makes sense since we put milk in the fridge haha).

If you ever feel like reading about other rock stars like yourself (I'm not sure if this is inspiring or not haha) I have another blogger friend named Gina who pumped for 11 months I think (I believe she had saved enough to stop the last month- hopefully I'm getting the story right) http://candidrd.com/2015/07/the-life-of-a-full-time-pumper.html I think she wrote about pumping more than once but this was the only post I could find. Of course, she is done now so thats reason enough to hate her without reading haha.

Love you!

Nora said...

The last line of this blog may just be my favorite thing ever. The world needs more positive support, open & honesty about these things. I really appreciate you putting this together for us, sharing your experience, suggestions and etc. Heart you!

The Candid RD said...

I love Kelly's comment, "reason enough to hate her"...lol Well. You can hate me (this is Gina, by the way) but soon enough you wioll be in my shoes and you will have forgotten about all your time pumping, BUT you'll be so thankful that you did it!! Keep up the great work!

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