Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Pumping Counts Too: A Working Mom's Story

We're so excited to have our very first guest poster on Adventures in Breastfeeding! Please give her a warm welcome as she shares her breastfeeding journey. 

Before Ellie was born, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I’d read gobs of books (just doing what any good librarian would do) that taught me how to correctly position my new bundle of joy and felt as prepared as I could be to make it work. This was despite the fact that no one I was close to knew anything about breastfeeding - my mother and mother-in-law included.

Disclaimer #1: For something that is as natural as natural can be, breastfeeding sure the heck was hard in the beginning.

What the books didn’t do a good job preparing me for were tips on working with flat nipples (thank the Lord for nipple shields which got us through the first 4 months!) and how in the world to go about preparing to go back to work.

Disclaimer #2: This is my story. My story below is what has worked for Ellie and I. Use your mommy instinct to determine what will work best for you.

I went back to work at 6 weeks. While I’m thankful for those precious 6 weeks that I had, it was certainly early to have to introduce a bottle when breastfeeding still felt very awkward for us. But, you do what you have to do! 3 weeks prior to going back to work I started “building my freezer supply.” I had talked extensively with my sister-in-law (a working mom herself and one who had mastered the art of pumping at work long-term) who recommended pumping about an hour after the morning feeding and an hour after the night feeding. I had a slight oversupply, so I was able to put away quite a bit in that first week.

Disclaimer #3: I really didn’t know what the freezer stash was for, but it seemed everyone did it so I figured I would too. In hindsight I haven’t needed the freezer stash except for the very first day back to work. It sure helped knowing I had “backup” available, but I didn’t really need it to the extent that I initially thought.

2 weeks prior to returning to work, I introduced the bottle to Ellie. I pumped her afternoon bottle before she ate it and fed that freshly pumped miracle milk to her. In order to figure out just how much milk needed to be placed in the bottle, Kellymom’s very handy expressed milk calculator was extremely helpful. You punch in how often your baby is eating and you get back an average number of ounces. Pretty cool! I did the once-a-day bottle for the entire 2 weeks prior to starting back to work and also kept up with pumping 1 hour after the morning and evening feedings.

Disclaimer #4: All the literature says to let someone else feed the bottles to avoid issues with confusion, but I didn’t have that luxury since I was home alone with Ellie. Thankfully all went well and by the time I went back to work she was fully on board with taking a bottle.

Once I returned to work, I needed to establish a good routine for pumping. At the time, Ellie was eating 3 times during the hours that I would be away. That first day back, I thawed enough from my freezer for 4 bottles (just in case an extra would be needed). At work, I made sure to pump 3 different times (mid-morning, lunch, and afternoon for 15-20 minutes each). What I pumped that day I gave in bottles the next day and any extra were frozen with the rest of my bulk.

As time went on, Ellie began to expand the amount of time in between her feedings. On weekends I solely nursed and stopped pumping those extra sessions. During the week though, I continued pumping 3 separate times even though she was technically only eating twice while I was away. A good 2 weeks of this and my body was out of whack trying to figure out the foremilk/hindmilk balance. Because I was doing something different on the weekend than during the week, that was apparently enough to confuse my body (live and learn right?). I promptly stopped the extra pump at work, and within a few weeks, the green poops were gone and my supply was regulating.

I can now happily say that at 9 months, Ellie is still exclusively fed with breastmilk and I’m down to pumping once a day on my lunch break (and have been able to keep my supply up just fine).

Disclaimer #5: Literature is right and will tell you that demand (whether nursing or pumping) will signal more milk to be made. For some, dropping pumps may not be the right thing to do. For us, my mantra became pump when baby eats which has continued to work to regulate my oversupply. I also have a baby who makes it known when she’s hungry, who will. not. eat. when she’s not hungry, and who has put herself naturally on her current schedule of eating 4 times a day with one of those 4 times being a 6.25 ounce bottle while I’m away at work. Many will disagree with how I’ve done things, but at the end of the day you do what works and seems most appropriate for the situation.

Pumping totally counts! It’s hard work, certainly isn’t as fun or rewarding as straight out nursing, but the benefits are worth it. Keep calm and pump on!

What has your experience with pumping been like?

Rebecca is Wife to Adam, Mom to Ellie, and an Academic Librarian living in small-town Indiana. Her love of reading, writing, and crafting has sparked several blog attempts - most recently Humbled Ramblings of a Working Mom. You can find her here: http://humbledramblings.wordpress.com

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