Thursday, April 17, 2014

Pumping Journey Part 1: Before Returning to Work

An image and slogan I constantly
 repeat to myself as my pumping
 journey continues.

*I am not a lactation consultant or medical expert; everything that I share about breastfeeding comes from my experience, and personal research.  Please feel free to pick and choose what you think will work best for you and your baby, and good luck mama!

My Nursing Journey
There was one big reason that I wanted to start writing this blog.  When I first found out I was pregnant there were two things I wanted to do with fidelity, exclusively feed my baby breastmilk (no formula supplementing), and use cloth diapers (that's a story for another post).  Everyone has their own philosophy about breastmilk vs. formula but that's not what my posts are going to be about.  Aside from my philosophy, I knew that I wanted my child to be raised on breastmilk, and I was willing to do whatever it took for that to happen.

When I was pregnant I took a lactation class that taught baby led latching.  If you're an expecting mom that plans on breastfeeding, I highly recommend taking a lactation class while pregnant.  I really felt as if this class gave me some key tips, and I loved the baby led latching method.

Then Ethan was born and my nursing story was one of pure bliss, yes I had the cracked nipples, clogged milk ducts, engorgement, and stress before my milk came in, but with the knowledge from my lactation class and a lot of support from Jeff, my mom, Ethan's pediatrician, and the hospital's lactation nurses, mine and Ethan's nursing relationship got off to a great start, and has been wonderful ever since.  I felt as if I was on cloud nine, I had heard all of these horror stories about nursing, and I felt truly blessed to not have experienced anything out of the ordinary.

Preparing to go Back to Work
If you are planning on going back to work and pumping there are some very important things you must do while at home to prepare.

Tommee Tippee Bottles

  1. Introducing a bottle
  • There is a very small window for introducing a bottle to a breastfed baby, they say that the ideal time is between 4 weeks to a month (I told you it was small).  I had heard horror stories from friends who had waited too long and their baby had rejected the bottle, but they still had to go back to work.  This scenario completely terrified me.
  • When doing further research, everything I saw said that as long as your baby was latching properly, you were producing plenty of milk, and yours and your babies nursing relationship had been fully established, you could introduce a bottle as early as 3 weeks.  Since our nursing relationship was very well established, as well as my milk supply, I began giving Ethan a bottle towards the end of 3 weeks.
  • We used the Tommee Tippee slow flow bottles and have loved them.
  • I would only give him a bottle 2 times a week with 2 ounces of milk.  He would usually drink the most at night, so that's when Jeff would give him the bottle. We would always leave him hungry so that he would nurse afterward.  I didn't use the bottle to fill him up because I didn't want to affect my milk supply; I just continually used the bottle so that he would be used to getting his milk from my breast and the bottle.
  • I continued to use this schedule until I returned to work.
The Medela Pump in Style Kit

   2. Pumping

In order to start giving Ethan a bottle I needed to start using my pump so that I would have breastmilk to give him.  Previous to pumping I had watched a show where a mom was going back to work.  The morning before she went back to work she pumped all the milk her baby would need for the day, and proudly left the house.  With this image in my mind I thought, cool, no big deal.  Imagine my horror when I started pumping and it was incredibly painful, and after 15 minutes of pumping I had gathered 1/2 oz. of milk. Just to put things into perspective, once I was back at work I would leave Ethan about 25 oz. of milk a day (I've heard this amount is very high, but my little guy is an eater).  I was horrified, and had no idea what was wrong with me.  How on earth was I ever going to pump enough milk for my baby?  Every time I would pump, my session would end in tears. I finally reached out to my good friend Katie, who was a doula and is very knowledgeable when it comes to nursing.  With her help I was able to figure out what was wrong, and what was normal, and I got my pumping on track.
  • My first problem was that I was using the wrong size breastshield.  I was using the one that came with the pump but I was a size smaller.  This is why pumping had been so painful.
  • The second issue wasn't even an issue at all, when you first start pumping it is completely normal to only pump 1/2 an ounce because your baby is taking a lot of the milk, and your body isn't used to letting your milk down for the pump.  This is also why you should start pumping before you return to work, so that your body is used to the pump.  Once I realized this I relaxed and would pump a couple of times a day.  As soon as I had gathered 2 oz. (it would usually take me 2 days), I would give them to Ethan and continue pumping for the next bottle feeding.
  • One thing that is very important to take note of is to only pump when you know your baby is taking a long break from nursing.  I would pump during his long midday nap, and at night, after he had gone to sleep.  You do this for two reasons: first you don't want the pump taking the milk that your baby will be needing, and second you want to wait a little while after your baby nurses so that your body makes more milk.
  • Once my milk supply was established I began to pump about 4 ounces per pumping session.  This allowed me to give Ethan his 2 ounces twice a week and to freeze the extra milk.
  • I love the Lansinoh breastmilk
    freezer storage bags
  • It is very important that once you have extra milk you begin to freeze the milk in increments of at least 5 oz.  When I went back to work I had frozen about 30 bags of breastmilk which was approximately 180 oz. of milk.  This is a crucial step in the pumping and working scenario.  At times your milk supply will drop for various reasons, and the only way you will have enough milk for your baby is to dip into your freezer stash.  On days where I also had to work late and would have to leave more milk than usual I would use a frozen bag.  This freezer supply has been one of the big reasons why I believe I have not needed to supplement with formula.

I'm sorry this post has been so long, there is so much information that goes along with my journey that it's difficult to condense it.  Although Ethan is 11 months and I've been doing this since he was 3 weeks old the idea of having to write all of this down is the main reason why I've held off for so long.  Writing this series is really special to me because although this has been one of the most difficult things I've ever done, it has also been the most rewarding accomplishment.  
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