It is definitely true that “breast is best”, but it’s not always the easiest. In fact, it is rarely ever easy. But if Mom and Baby are able to succeed, the benefits make it all worthwhile. Baby gets milk made just for him. It’s always warm and ready to go! Mom and Baby get to experience a bond that only they can share. And Mom gets the benefits of having her uterus shrink faster, burn more calories (so an excuse to eat a little more) and no monthly visits from Mother Nature until you stop, if you’re lucky!
However, not all women and babies are able to nurse. Whether Mom is unable to make any milk, or baby cannot or will not latch on properly, sometimes it just won’t work.
And that is alright.
You have not failed!!!
Trust me, I know. I have experienced it firsthand myself. I had to start my first baby on formula after 6 weeks. I couldn't keep up with the demand after going back to work. But I promised myself I would do everything I could to make it work with the second baby. Formula was a last resort for us after going from living off of two full-time incomes to just one income. We simply couldn't afford for it not to work.
Unfortunately our Big Boy decided he was not going to go along with our plans.
After almost three months of constant struggling with latching, then a nursing strike that kept getting worse and lasted about 2 weeks, I gave up. The stress was making me dread nursing and I knew at that point is was not good for either of us.
However, we still could not afford to put him on formula. So, after thinking about it, and I mean really thinking about it, I decided to Exclusively Pump (EP) for my baby.
Now, I did not come to this decision lightly. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, either. And I know that if I had been working, I most certainly would not have been able to do it. I was already pumping more than he was nursing so the transition wasn't super difficult. But, I knew there was a lot I still needed to know. So I started searching for tips online and came across this website that had everything you would need to know about every problem you could possibly face while either breastfeeding or pumping. This website became like my bible in the first couple months. That website was Kellymom.com. Seriously, if you are nursing or are planning to nurse, take a look at this website!!!
So thanks to some tips and tricks I learned from there I am happy to say that I am still EPing for my Big Boy.
I will share some of my tips and how I have made it work for me.
First off are the supplies you will need. Now this goes for Moms who are pumping and nursing or just pumping. Either way you will need these things!!!
Double Electric Breast Pump
This one needs to be a good high quality and reliable. If you are EPing or even going to be pumping every day at work, you’ll need a pump that can not only handle that much use, but also do it efficiently. They can be a bit pricey, but compared to formula, it will pay itself off within just a month or two. I think a lot of insurance plans will pay for you to get one, too. Some may require a RX, but if you just call and ask, you could save money on that as well!!! I lucked out and received this Medela one from a family member
Storage Bottles and Bags
You will obviously need something to store the milk in, right? I use the Medela bottles to pump in to and I store it in the fridge until I’m ready to either use or freeze. Then when I want to freeze the milk I just dump it in a Lansinoh storage bag, write the ounces and date, and lay it flat in the freezer. Once frozen I put them in a large gallon freezer bag and write the date range of milk and put it in the basement freezer. I used to use the Medela bags but they just don’t hold enough. They were only marked for 5 oz but I have had issues with them leaking after I thawed them. The Lansinoh ones are bigger and cheaper! And I have never had one leak on me yet. I have bought both of them on Amazon and with my prime membership I get a discount and free two-day shipping!
You will still need this if plan to leave the house at all, or even have guests over. I usually try to time my pumping times around my outings but sometimes we are out all day and that is not possible. So a nursing cover makes it easy for you to pump outside of your home without showing anything.
Hands-Free Pumping Bra
I started out my pumping adventure without one of these and it was a pain to hold both bottles. Especially when you need to massage the milk down occasionally. I found this one for a great price on Amazon and I cannot live without it now. It makes things so much easier. I can type my blog posts while pumping, or sit on the floor and play with my kids. If you happen to get a more portable pump you could even do some cleaning or something as well. I have read some women cook dinner or even drive while pumping if you have a portable pump. It could also be great at work. If you work at a desk, just slip this baby on over your bra (I also recommend having a nursing bra for convenience) in the bathroom then put your cover on and hook everything up. You can pump while you work!!!
Manual Hand Pump
This has been the best thing I have bought. It’s a cheaper portable pump that works just as well as an electric pump. The only drawback is you can only do one breast at a time. I use this one a lot in the car when someone else can drive. Also a great option to take to work if you don’t want to haul your big loud electric one to work.
If you can, purchase extra pump parts so that you can always have one set clean. I have not had the extra money to do this but I really wish I could. It would make things a lot easier, especially if you will be pumping at work. To make it so that you don’t have to wash the parts every time you use them, you can just rinse them with hot water after every use and then store in a plastic baggy in the fridge. It will keep whatever milk is still on the parts good until the next pump. I am able to wash my parts two to three times a day, instead five or six. This is especially helpful at work where you may not have the time to wash them. You could also wipe them down with some pacifier wipes and then store in fridge if you cannot rinse them.
Lanolin Nipple Ointment
Your nipples will be sore in the beginning until you get used to that much pump use! But if you use it before and after pumping, it will not be as bad. I now only have to use it maybe once a week if that. I actually had to use it more when I was nursing! But this stuff is a life saver in the beginning.
Here is a list of tips to make Pumping as easy as possible
Make sure you are comfortable- If you are not comfortable, it will affect how much milk you will be able to get. Sitting straight with support for you back, feet down in front of you is the best position. I have a spot on the couch that works great for me. But a rocking chair would great too. Whatever works for you that is near an outlet.
Drink plenty of water- This makes such a difference. If you are not drinking plenty of water, you will get dehydrated quickly. And, if you are dehydrated, your baby will be too! If I ever notice that my milk production is going down, I can usually just drink a couple extra cups of water and that will fix it most of the time. Plus, I get so thirsty I have to drink water while I’m pumping!
Relax and think about your baby- To activate a let-down, I have found taking a deep relaxing breath and picturing my baby helps. For some women, looking at a picture or smelling something of their baby’s helps when they are not at home. Do whatever works for you but relaxing is definitely the key.
Massage and gently squeeze the milk out- As you are pumping, gently massage your breasts with your fingers in a downward circular motion (like when doing self breast exams) all the way around the breast. Also gently squeezing for a couple seconds at a time will help get all of the milk out of your breasts. It can also help encourage more let-downs.
Pump as often as possible- When first starting out and building up you milk supply you will need to pump at least every two hours for 20-30 minutes. I know that seems like a lot but it will set you up for long term success. Once you have done that and have built up your production enough and you feel comfortable with it you can go to every two to four hours. But try to aim for 6-8 pumping sessions in a 24 hour period for the first couple of months. I am now on month four of EPing and have been able to reduce it to every 6-8 hours for 30-40 minutes. The fewer times you pump the longer you need to pump for to get it all out! But if you try it and notice a decrease in milk supply, go back to every 4 hours for a couple days and then slowly extend the amount of time until you are comfortable with the amount you are getting.
Don’t expect to fill the bottle every time- Even after I go 8 hours I won’t always be able to fill both bottles. That is completely normal. I have been lucky and have been over producing milk from the day it came in, but not everyone is like that. I wasn’t with my first baby. So if you only get a couple ounces, just know that is normal. Don’t give up. The best thing is to keep going. The more you pump the more milk your body will make. Supply and demand. It may take a couple days to notice an increase so just give it time. I always try to freeze any extra milk so that if I ever start to lose some I can have a backup until it comes back. That leads me to the next tip.
Freeze any extra milk- If you have four or more full bottles and you know your baby will not need all of them before your next pumping session, freeze some. That way you can start building up a freezer supply just in case. My goal is to have enough in the freezer by the time he gets to be 9 months that I can decrease my pumping to about 2-4 times a day. So far I have about 5-6 gallon bags full.
Support from family and friends- If your family and friends don’t support you, it will make things difficult. Especially your husband. You need him to be on the same page when it comes to breastfeeding and pumping. Luckily that has not been a problem for me. But I have heard of mothers or friends or even husbands telling women that it’s disgusting or annoying. It doesn’t matter what they think. You are Mom and it is your decision, so do not let anyone tell you anything different.
As you can see, deciding to Exclusively Pump is not easy. It takes a lot of and dedication. But once you get the hang of it, it becomes like second nature to you and your family. I have a four year old daughter, and she knows that when mommy is pumping she can’t do certain things that need me to help her. I also try to time my pumping so that it’s done while the baby is asleep. He rolls all around now and is learning to crawl so I have a hard time being connected to a machine with him awake. But do whatever works for you. Some like to time it around feeding their baby so it is done at the same time.
If you decide to try it, but find it is too stressful for you and your family, then just do what you feel is best. If you think you and your family would be happier using formula, go for it! It’s OK if that is what will make everyone happy. And it is alright to feel sad about it at first. I felt horrible when I decided I couldn't continue trying to nurse. I felt like a total failure as a mother and like I had let everyone including myself down. I allowed myself to feel sad about not being able to have that special bond with him anymore. Then I started to remind myself that at least he is still getting my milk and everyone is happier. Because it is so true when they say “If Mamma isn't happy, nobody’s happy!”
Good luck to you in your breastfeeding and pumping adventures. If anyone has any other tips or encouragement please share! And if you have any questions I would be happy to do my best to answer them if I can, or lead you to a source that can help.