I am excited to introduce Tricia, who has written a very thoughtful and helpful guestpost for y’all today about pumping milk for her sweet son, Evan, while she’s working full-time. I know there are some mamas-to-be out there who will find this extra helpful! And we do aim to please, over here at LeahAndMark.com. After all, we are full-service photographers. Need a bouquet? Bam! I’ve got it arranged and wrapped for you! Need info on breastfeeding? Bam! Here ya go. Ok, I digress…
Tricia is awesome. I met her waaaay back in 2003 on my Tibetan Studies program. (Remember Katie? And her farm wedding in NC? Same program!) Tricia and I were roomies for a month in Nepal during the final stretch of that adventure. And now we’re both moms to awesome lil guys, figuring out the whole parenting thing on opposite sides of the country. So…without further ado… take it away, Tricia!
Thank you Leah for having me as a guest blogger, I am honored. My name is Tricia and I am the mother of a 7-month old baby, Evan. When my husband, Alex, and I decided to have a baby and he would stay home, we joked that the only thing he couldn’t provide was milk…so I had to get a good pump. There were no ifs ands or buts about it. Continuing to breastfeed and work is difficult, if not impossible, for most. One of the first questions Alex gets when he tells people he is a stay at home dad and Evan is still breastfeeding…is “how is the pumping going?”
I read the books and talked to La Leche League, but you never know how it is going to work, I mean really work, until you start doing it. So far I have pumped about 300 times. It gets old and there are times I don’t want to strap on the pump, but I do it. Plus, we worked so hard to get breastfeeding established after the C-section and Evan being in NICU for two days…I don’t want to lose it. I learned a lot of things the hard way, so I am here to share some experiences.
My Pumping Story
I have been working 8 to 9 hour days, five days a week since Evan was 11 weeks old. My schedule is flexible, but I generally work in an office from 8 to 5. Most of my work occurs at a desk, but I do go in the field about once every two weeks. Luckily I have an office with a door I can lock. I just put on a “Do not disturb” sign and get to pumping. I didn’t even think of telling my boss that I would be unavailable, locked down in my office for 1.5 hours a day, I just assumed they knew it would happen. I guess they did, because no one bothers me.
I have found that pumping three times a day works for my body. I continue pumping until nothing more comes out, with each session lasting 20 to 45 minutes. I go through two letdowns and try to get 5 to 8 ounces out of each session, but sometimes I only get 4. I average 15 to 18 oz in a 9-hour period. Everybody is different, Leah told me she gets 4 oz in 5 minutes (I am jealous) [Disclaimer: I have super-forceful letdown, which can be nice, but not when I’m practically waterboarding my son! Great for pumping, not so great for nursing. But yes, everyone is different]. On an average day I pump within an hour of getting to work, around noon, and again an hour before I leave (every 3 to 4 hours). It typically takes me 3 minutes to put on the pump and 3 minutes to take it off and rinse the equipment. When I am in the field, there is usually a commute, so I pump on the way there, at lunch and the way home (yes, while driving). The remainder of the pumping time I am able to continue working, which is great because otherwise my work day would turn into a 10+ hour day and I would never see my child (kind of defeats the purpose of this whole venture). I have a fridge in my office which I store everything in. In the beginning I was only pumping twice a day, but Evan appeared to need more milk during the day so I added one more session to my routine. In addition to pumping, I feed Evan twice in the morning, twice in the evening, and typically once in the middle of the night.
A few things to think about.
- We started Evan on one bottle a week when he was 5 weeks old. This worked for Evan to get used to a bottle, Alex to gain confidence in feeding him, and I got to pump and create a backstock of frozen milk (2 bottles worth comes out of me and only 1 bottle goes in the baby).
- Create a backstock before you go back to work. It helps for growth spurts and long work hours. We had about 100 ozs before I went back to work. I pumped in the morning or in the evening after Evan went to bed. A friend of mine started pumping before each time she fed her baby, so her body generated enough milk to feed and pump. Now that we have worked our way through the frozen milk supply I bring the pump home on the weekend to supplement the backstock.
- The books say fresh milk lasts 5 days, but it depends on you. Evan doesn’t seem to like my 4 day old milk and a friend’s baby won’t take milk that is more than 24 hours old or frozen milk. It is probably best to test this before building a big backstock.
- In the beginning, I had one of Evan’s worn shirts to smell to get my body in the mood. Now my boobs are trained when the cold (they are stored in the fridge) flanges go on, I let down quickly. Sometimes the second let down doesn’t come as easy, so I look at pictures or videos of Evan. I also massage and squeeze the sides of the breast (C-clamp) to get extra milk. I have been meaning to get a video of him crying, but haven’t gotten there yet.
- I set an alarm on my outlook calendar to remind me. My calendar is shared with everyone else in the company, so I put the appointments on private. Either way my status comes up as busy. Most people have figured out by now that if they call or message me, I will answer (I turn off the pump because you can hear it).
- Get the double pump and bra that holds the pump on your boobs. It makes it so you can do something else while you are pumping.
- I pump directly into bottles and then Alex uses them the next day. We have nine bottles (four with me, four with Evan and then an extra).
- Have a rag to blot your breasts when you take the flanges off. There is nothing like milk stains on your work pants.
- We got a used Medela Instyle from my sister-in-law. By about the 200th pump, the pump was getting weak. I got a new plug and it started working great again.
- If you use glass bottles, the yellow tops that come with the Medela plastic bottles leak. We use the tops that are the nipple holders and then a little circle that goes in the middle. They come with the bottles and work well.
- Get backup supplies for the breakable items. The yellow piece and little white plastic flange on the Medela pumps break. One broke on a day I had to go out of town for a meeting, and I had to pump one boob at a time. I have only had my boobs leak once and this was it because I didn’t have time to drain them all the way.
- No matter where you are, have something to do while you are pumping. I get bored if I don’t and then I don’t pump as long as I should.
- I have pumped in the car and in the bathroom stall and while I was driving (I set up beforehand). My pump comes with a battery powered adapter. The batteries last for about 10 to 15 pumps before they get too slow and inefficient.
- You don’t need to wash the pump equipment every time you use it if you have a way to keep them cold. I have tupperware I put them in to store in the fridge in my office. I just rinse them with water after each pump session and then wash them with soap at the end of the day.
- We bought a cheap fridge and it makes this horrible high pitch whine when it is on. If I were to do it again, I would have spent more.
- Every once in a while I get a clogged duct and the pump just won’t break it which causes poor pump production of milk. When this happens Alex brings Evan in to ease the boob’s woes.
- I have noticed my milk supply is directly related to how much water I drink. I typically chug a 12 oz glass of water after each pump and then drink at least one glass in between sessions. I also drink a few mugs of the “Mothers Milk” tea per day.
- The key to keeping up your supply is actually doing the pumping. In the beginning, Evan spent a lot of time on the boob when I was home. For a while I wanted him to keep waking up in the middle of the night to give the boobs some action. Now I seem to pump more during the week than he eats on the weekend.
- A friend also swears by chia seed to increase milk supply. I haven’t tried it but she also had a 300 oz backstock when she went back to work, so maybe she is onto something.
I hope my experiences help. The hardest part about continuing to breastfeed and going back to work is keeping up the milk supply. Liquids and consistency helps a lot…and it never hurts to try chia seed.