Two weeks after having Grace in 2016, I started pumping breastmilk. The first time I did it was just so I could take a long shower and go to bed an hour earlier while my mom took on feeding duties for the evening. In reality, it took my so long to set up the pump, pump, and clean up the pump parts, and then stress over the bottle feeding and possible nipple confusion that I think I went to sleep late! So began my 7.5 month adventure as a full-time working mom...who was also trying to keep up with pumping 30+ ounces per day to feed her growing girl.
So...without farther adieu, I'm going to say what every mom really, truly needs to hear: FED IS BEST. Period.
7.5 months into Grace's life, pumping brought me to me knees. I was stressed about every last drop of breastmilk I could squeeze out of my boobs, and I was also stressed about trying to break away to pump 4x per day with my work schedule. I remember crying, alone in the kitchen one night, waiting on one of my last bags from my "stash" -- once a solid 200 oz, now sacrificing 12-15 oz per day to keep the bottles full -- to thaw. That weekend, we bought our first can of formula an started Grace on "half and half," and slowly transitioned to 100% formula at 9 months. Best decision I could have made -- for me, and for Grace.
As luck would have it, my experience nursing and pumping with Ben has been phenomenal. Some of my success can be attributed to the NICU stay and the rigid schedule it created, but I was planning to do a lot of these things before Ben’s early arrival! Here’s my “tips and tricks” that helped me amass 500 ounces of breastmilk in the 5 weeks after Ben was born:
1. Accept that FED IS BEST. Yes, most mothers want to breastfeed. And yes, sometimes you have to work through difficulties to make it successful. But for heaven's sake, don't let it stress you out and consume your life! Do your best, see a lactation consultant, join La Leche League or a local support group, but DON'T lose sleep or tears over it. Having that mentality is so freeing and allowed me to focus on taking care of my son. And thankfully, my body followed.
2. Ask for a pump at the hospital (or bring your own to the hospital if they don’t have them). True life: my insurance-covered pump arrived 24 hours before Ben did. I hadn't even unboxed it. However, the L&D nurse at our hospital rolled a pump into the room and handed us a sterile bag of parts as soon as we asked. Obviously, it would have been ideal to nurse Ben right away; however, I would have still pumped after if he was nursing. Unlike my personal pump, the hospital had a special pump designed to mimic newborn feeds and more efficiently remove milk from a new mother!
3. Pump after every feed, starting as soon as you can! As a new mom, you're already losing sleep. Spending an extra 15 minutes pumping after a feed (or every other feed) in the beginning is a small investment to build a stash up front. It will create an initial oversupply, so while your baby is eating 1-2 ounces at a time you are banking another 4-6 ounces per "feed."
4. Be consistent with your pumping schedule. With Grace, I pumped once a day at random times. I rarely got more than 2-3 ounces a bump. With Ben, I started after every feed, then cut back to every other, an now pump at 6:30 am after his morning feed and at 9 pm after his last. My body knows to produce extra milk AT THOSE TIMES and can effectively create more to meet the demand.
5. Get a hands-free pumping bra! Now you can read, type, or cook dinner for your 1-year-old while pumping. Seriously, it makes the experience much less of a "time suck" which will encourage you to pump more.
6. Store your pump parts in the fridge between pumping. This saves precious minutes of cleaning pump parts after every pump. I'd stash them in the fridge for a day at a time, then clean/sanitize them in the mornings or at night. Even now, they go in the fridge after my 9 pm pump, and I clean/sanitize when I clean up after breakfast.
7. Eat. I've met so many breastfeeding moms who try to cut calories to lose weight right away. I personally give myself a full month of eating WHATEVER I WANT to support milk production, then "tighten up" my diet by focusing on nutrients. If you prefer to count calories, don't let your intake drop too low. Breastfeeding and pumping is the rough equivalent of 500 calories per day; if you chose to cut calories to drop baby weight, account for those! I read the other day that 1200-1400 calories is the appropriate intake for a FOUR YEAR OLD. Not a full grown mom who is breastfeeding a baby. Just saying.
8. Hydrate. To be honest, I haven't really kept track of my fluid intake. However, I make it a point to drink a cup or so of water after every nursing or pumping session, plus now that I'm working out again I drink Gatorade or Nuun twice a day. Some people day that 100+ ounces is ideal, but I need to drink closer to 200 ounces per day when I'm working out!
To answer one more question: I used a Medela Pump in Style when I had Grace, and my insurance covered replacement parts every month (including bags and bottles) which was close to a $200 value monthly! That was all I used with Grace. I definitely can't knock that pump -- I pumped with it at work for almost 5 months after maternity leave, and appreciated its efficiency and the easy, built-in carrying bag.
This time, I got a Spectra pump. It's quieter, and has a rechargeable battery. (The Medela didn't -- I occasionally used a battery pack in the car, but it wasn't as strong). I love that I can pump anywhere with my Spectra. The Spectra wasn't compatible with my Medela bottles, but a $5 adapter on Amazon solved that issue. Sadly, my monthly parts supply is no longer covered but I get generic parts on Amazon without breaking the bank.
Finally, I want to let you know that at 5 weeks postpartum, I was over 500 ounces of milk. At 7 weeks postpartum, I'm only stashing about 5 ounces per day. I put in the work up front, and have reaped the benefits. If you've already missed your window to do it upfront, don't get discouraged! It can take several days of consistent pumping for your body to respond. I saw this with Grace -- I added a pre-bed pump when I went back to work, and it took me a week to pump an entire ounce! But I kept at it, and eventually was able to add an extra 2-3 ounces to the amount I pumped at work each day in order to keep her fed at daycare.