I have a love/hate relationship with my pump. If you read my old blog, or know me personally, you know I’ve struggled with breastfeeding with both of my boys. When I had Shep, we had lots of breastfeeding difficulties so I ended up pumping and supplementing from day one. Then, when I was pregnant with Beau, I read every book I could about breastfeeding to set us up for better success.
Fast forward and Beau and I were more successful with nursing, but I still spent the majority of the time with my pump because he lost so much weight early on. At first I felt defeated because I wanted to so badly be able to breastfeed Beau “normally” but then I was extremely thankful that my supply was so much better than it was with Shep. We didn’t supplement at all until around a 6 month growth spurt. It’s been a lot of hard work exclusive pumping for Beau, but I’d do it again in a heart beat.
If you are choosing to exclusively pump for your baby, or running into breastfeeding difficulties like I did, here are some tips I found that made the process much more manageable for us (especially with Beau, when I had a toddler to watch too!)
- Set up a schedule and stick to it. This website helps so much and shows example schedules you can use for pumping. However, I never could drop pumps as quickly as she did. I did 6-7 pumps per day up until this week, and now I am pumping 5 times per day and it’s a lot more manageable.
- Create pumping stations. In our living room where I spend the most time, my pump is hooked up almost all day. I have my cell phone, computer, remotes and a bouncer right by me on the couch so Beau is within arm’s reach if he needs me while I’m pumping.
- Keep a second pump in your car or work. I keep my old pump from when Shep was born in my car, so if I need to pump while running errands, or we get stuck somewhere, I’m not out of luck. Pumping while driving is one of the best pumping hacks out there. If you use the car power adaptor and nursing cover, you can be really efficient if you’re out and about, and I found this so much easier since the kids are strapped into their seats anyways.
- Pump before you go. Even if it’s not right on my schedule, if I know we are heading out to a playdate, lunch or errand where we’ll be tied up for awhile, I try to pump, even if for a short period, right before we leave. This makes getting out of the house tough, but it keeps me from being stressed out about leaving somewhere early because I have to go home to pump.
- Talk to your toddler about pumping. Adjusting to a baby was one thing for Shep, but once he saw I needed to sit still for 20 minutes and couldn’t get off the couch, he got frustrated. I explained to him that Mommy is making milk for Beau, and as soon as I was done we would play together. I like to think it’s helped him learn some patience, but I do know he understands I’m not sitting down because I don’t want to help him. He knows it’s to help his brother.
- Pump during the night as long as you can. It’s a pain, and you’re exhausted but if there is one thing that helped keep up and establish my milk supply it’s pumping in the middle of the night. Your hormone levels are highest then, so your body is going to produce more milk than during the day. Even as I dropped pumps, if I was having trouble sleeping or was seeing my output decrease, I would wake up to pump and I would see an increase for awhile throughout the day.
- Herbs. I take Fenugreek & Blessed Thistle almost everyday (2 of each herb 3X per day). I take breaks taking the herbs from time to time, but they substantially help increase my milk output. Also, I’ve LOVED Milky Mama’s brownies and cookies, and placed several orders of the “emergency brownies.” They truly are delicious and make a huge impact on my milk output (usually a few extra ounces per day).
- Pumping wipes and plastic bags. These wipes and these bags were lifesavers when I was working in an office and traveling. Sometimes a sink and soap aren’t always available but it’s so important to keep your pumping equipment clean for the baby. When I did travel to Mexico with my family, I chose to pump and dump (sadly). I didn’t want to risk contamination even after washing with the water there.
- New Dr. Brown’s bottles. The new option bottles by Dr. Brown’s don’t always require the multiple pieces inside of them. So once Beau wasn’t spitting up as much, I started skipping using the inserts to cut down on washing.
- Pumping in public. Women have done so much for one another to normalize breastfeeding in public, and I’m so thankful for that. Our babies need to eat! But something that’s still strange to see in public – a woman pumping. And what’s even more depressing is how you feel when you pump in a dirty bathroom all alone. Since we traveled a lot when Beau was little, and we were caring for Shep, I had to get over my own embarrassment of pumping in public. I’ve pumped in a terminal in an airport (with a cover), plenty of times in my car, and out on beaches and pools. Half the time no one has a clue what you are doing, and if they do care, I decided there was nothing I was doing that should offend them, so I ignored it.
Exclusive pumping, supplementing, pumping while working, etc. – breastfeeding comes in many formats, and that’s OK! We’re all doing our breast to provide the best nutrition for our babies. I hope some of these tips help you on your journey, whatever it may look like!