Friday, January 16, 2015

pumping tips from an exclusive (& reluctant) pumper & NICU mom

((Disclaimer: this may be a little TMI for some people, so read if you aren't super sensitive about boobs and what God intended for them to be used for))

**Update!** I have been pumping for almost 11 months. I was planning on quitting last month but kept going since Mila still shows a lot of interest in milk over solid foods. I still have a good bit frozen so I am hoping to quit after her 1st birthday!

When I found out I was pregnant I was really surprised by how many people asked me if I planned on breastfeeding. I didn't realize it was such a normal thing to discuss.

Well, when Mila came a month early and needed surgery the choice was made for me.

Mary meet pump.

Mila was born at 2am and I was hooked up to a pump within two hours. It sucked. Literally. My boobs were made for making milk but they were stubborn in the beginning. Clogged/plugged ducts, engorgement, mastitis, inverted nipple, and lots of pain. I was told to pump every 2-3 hours and I stuck to that strict schedule. I mean hey, I'm a rule follower. After about 3 weeks I was able to get myself into a routine and have my supply established. It was rough though.

Anyway, Mila is almost 6 months old and I have a deep freezer with 1,000+ oz of frozen milk (I had SO many bottles from the freezers at the NICU that we had to buy a deep freezer). I still pump exclusively and usually have about 8oz surplus every day.

Here are some tip, tricks, and suggestions that I have gathered for other pumping moms.

1. Rent a hospital grade pump (or get a double pump).
I pay $55 a month for my hospital grade pump but it is so worth it. The sucking power is better on the hospital grade pump so you are able to remove the milk more effectively. It's not easy to transport which stinks but hey, you do what you gotta do.

2. Get a hand-free pumping bra.
After about 4 sessions when I was in the hospital, I had my mom go to Target and get me a Medela bra. BEST THING EVER. They aren't cheap but SO worth it. You can still massage your breast while wearing it. And be sure to wash the bra frequently (for obvious sanitary reasons). I use Dreft for anything that touches myself or Mila.

3. Get a hand pump
I was given a hand pump by the lactation consultant in the NICU to see if it would help with the engorgement issue. This thing has been my life saver. It allows me to have a life away from my hospital pump and to pump downstairs if I can't get up to my pump. I actually am able to get more out of the left breast (the one with the inverted nipple) using this.

4. Set up a station
I have a rocking chair with ottoman, side table, and mini-fridge right by my bed. Inside the side table I have: baggies for freezing milk, Sharpie for labeling baggies, extra bottles to pump into inside a basket, the pump (obviously), hand sanitizer, extra membranes, and additional pumping parts. I know having a mini-fridge by the bed is not necessary (our was gifted to us) but it makes my life easier. I don't have to walk up and down stairs to store milk and I can also keep bottles of cold water in it.

5. Have your cleaning supplies near the station
I have that ugly pink basin they give you at the hospital and by my sink I have a roll of paper towels and large thing of soap. I always wash immediately after, even if I'm tired because I'm a germ freak, and having them in the master bath makes it easier. I use a paper towel & soap to clean out the shields and then fill the basin with soap and hot water to swish around the other parts. I also usually go ahead and put the parts back together and hook up the tubing so the next session I can just put the bra on and go! The only thing I don't keep upstairs is my sterilizer because we don't have a microwave ;) . I sterilize my parts once a day and usually do my hand pump parts after every outing.

6. Drink lots of water
I have a super cute Wizard of Oz Tervis that I drink from and straws make it easier. This is also a plus of having a fridge because I can store water bottles.

7. Have a schedule but don't stress
I was very rigid with my pumping schedule when Mila was in the NICU. I was told to pump 7-8 times a day in 2.5-3 hour increments. I was so strict I even set alarms on my phone! When she came home it was much harder to get to the pump. I had to make time and not stress if it was over 3 hours. As long as my breast weren't hurting I decided not to worry. I now go 4-5 hours between pumping and still get just as much milk. I still (and only have) pump for around 15 minutes.

8. Watch you diet

Even though my lactation consultant said I didn't have to, I was told by Mila's GI doctor to watch my dairy and caffeine. Her nutritionist also recommended it. Other than dairy and caffeine everything else is fair game for me at this point (although I have found protein shakes give Mila very bad gas)

9. Don't compare yourself to others & consider donating extra

Even though I have a high supply, I have to remember its a touchy subject for some moms. I have donated to moms in need and I know NICUs love to get donated milk. No matter how much milk you produce you should be super proud! You are giving your little one what they need and that rocks!

10. There is nothing wrong with supplementing or fortifying. 
Mila had a rare condition and complicated surgery. Because of this, we fortify her milk with Neocate which leads me to...

11. You save so much money pumping/breastfeeding!
Mila's Neocate is upwards of $50 a can, so we save a lot of money giving her breastmilk and just adding a little formula.

12. Get good storage products
I LOVE Target's up&up bags. They have a double seal and hold (I've found) up to 8oz safely. We have gallon baggies full of the little bottles I pumped into at the NICU and they take up SO much space. These work better for me and the milk thaws pretty fast at room temperature. Once the milk is frozen and I fill up my mini-freezer, I put them in a gallon baggie and move them to the deep freezer in the garage.

13. Watch what you do or put around your breast
I am a stomach sleeper but I noticed my milk supply drop once I started sleeping on my stomach again. Also, I wear a bra with no underwire. I just can't stand how uncomfortable the wires are so I got a great custom fit nursing bra at a local shop. To save money, I bought reusable breast pads. Luckily, I don't have any leaking or any kind so these things worked great!

14. Don't give up.
Believe me, I wanted to those first few weeks. It hurt and was SO inconvenient! I hated it. I didn't stop though because the neonatologist for Mila told me that giving her formula would lengthen her stay (potentially double it!). I stuck with it. It's still annoying having to make sure I plan around my pumping but at the same time it's not impossible. You can do it! There is a HUGE network of moms and consultants out there so don't be afraid to reach out! You are always welcome to contact me!

You're doing great mama!

The up&up bags take up so much less room then the NICU green bottles you see in this photo!
I keep the milk upstairs until I get enough to fill up a gallon baggie

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