(Long post alert...this should have probably been two posts, but oh well. You'll live) :)
Because pumping is basically a numbers game it's very black and white, all about input and output and there's nothing comforting about being hooked up to a machine over and over again. Save the comfort, cuddle, sweet bonding time for actual breastfeeding sessions and get ready to be a number cruncher during your pumping times. Ah, numbers. Love/hate relationship for sure.
Numbers specific to me:
I pump three times in a work day and usually get between 12 and 18 ounces of milk total. That is a HUGE range, people, and it totally stresses me out. I'd say more often than not I get between 13-15 ounces but it definitely fluctuates. Let's match this up to Truman's intake: he had one day when he only ate 6 ounces of milk while I was gone (not good for our nightly schedule, my friends), once he ate 8 ounces total, and once he ate a whopping 18 ounces in a workday. Those are the extremes though and aren't that frequent. Mostly he downs between 10-12 ounces while I'm gone which is right on the mark for the 10.5 hours I'm away. So as you can see, what I pump USUALLY matches or exceeds what Truman will eat each day but it's easy to get down on yourself anyway. My first week back to work I rocked a steady 16 ounces each day and then all of a sudden it dropped to 12 or 13 and I freaked. Turns out that was right when my mastitis hit and I hoped my numbers would go back up once that cleared, but it really hasn't too much. I know it's normal to fluctuate but it still ticks me off even though I'm pumping 1:1 for Truman's eating. Call me an over-achiever or something but I just want to post big numbers each day, darn it! Oh and my right side produces at least three to four times the amount of my left, which accounts for that boob being so much bigger--but I'm glad it can produce so much to keep my numbers up overall. If both sides were equal and only made as much as my leftie I'd be in trouble for sure. I've sort of gotten used to my lopsidedness by now anyway.
And the other big number is in ounces but it's not for milk. It's for water. I drink a butt load of water each day you guys. I've always been a big water drinker but ever since I had Truman it's gotten amped up ten fold. I carry a 32 ounce Camelback water bottle with me at work each day and I fill it up at least 3 times if not 4. Plus I have another Camelback at home that I drink one full 32 ounce amount for breakfast, and usually two more fills at night for dinner and the evening hours. In case you aren't keeping track, that is 192 ounces of water I drink in a day, or 1.5 gallons. GALLONS, people. It was way more than that on my maternity leave when I had more time to sit and guzzle the agua but now I'm paring down to just 1.5 gallons since I'm too busy treating patients to drink. :) And yes, I do pee a lot but not as much as you'd expect. I think drinking this much water definitely helps my breastfeeding ventures and it also makes me feel healthy and energized. How else would a nurse tell me the other day, 'You look very well-rested for having a newborn'? unless she was just pitying me:) So lesson is: drink lots and lots and lots of water because it really does help with milk production and it makes you feel good.
This is how I do it (cue Montel Jordan, please) aka--the Logistics that scared the crap out of me at first:
-I pump directly into two BIG bottles instead of using a whole bunch of little ones. At first I thought I'd pump right into the bottles that T would drink out of the next day but because each session yields a different amount of milk from the boob, and you want your bottles to be consistent for the baby, it just creates more hassle (in my opinion). Who wants to be pouring ounces back and forth between bottles? Not me. And I'd rather not tote around a crap-load of bottles to and from work, too. Even if you just use the four tiny bottles that your pump comes with, then transferring that milk into other drinkable bottles at night, you are washing WAY too many bottles. I had this bright idea when I got my new pump to use two of our big fatty 9 ounce Avent bottles as my milk collectors since we never even come close to using the big boys for Truman's actual eating (he only takes 3-5 ounces at a time, so who needs a 9 ounce bottle?) And I love just having two bottles to clean at night (plus the ones he drank out of, but whatever). Some people pump into freezer bags but I am not brave enough to do that just yet.
-There are a few different ways to provide milk for the baby during the day: by using frozen milk from your freezer stash or freshly expressed milk from the day before. You should be aware that frozen milk in a regular fridge-above-the-freezer is good for 3 months but if it's in a deep freezer, it lasts for 6 months. This is really important once you get into the swing of pumping because the frozen stuff doesn't just last forever and you'll need to rotate your stash to avoid wastefulness. I know in the beginning it seems like 3 months is forever away but it really does come quickly! Also, I really like this article about using your freezer stash properly--I didn't have a clue how to use it before I read this.
So what works for me is alternating between the two methods of bottle making (frozen versus fresh). Sometimes I take my freshly pumped milk and pour it right into Truman's favorite bottles (usually in 3 ounce increments) to be used the next day but sometimes I just freeze it in bags in 5-6 ounce increments. It just depends on who is watching Truman the next day, if they want to defrost frozen milk from my stash or use pre-made bottles (Nate and Tony like the frozen stuff, daycare requests fresh but will take a few bags of frozen 'emergency only' milk, too).
Ideally, I'd like to work our way through my maternity leave frozen stash up until the point when I went back to work and then freeze all of that stuff going forward for 6 months in the deep freeze. We are getting really close to that point, and once we get to June bags I think I just want to use all fresh milk. Either way works, and if you rotate your older freezer stash you are basically replenishing the total amount you have frozen each day by freezing the new stuff in it's place. I don't like the idea of my frozen stash going to waste since it's only good for so long and I like working through that older stuff so that we don't let the liquid gold go bad. I calculated how much frozen milk I have at this time and it's a whopping 206 ounces, plus two more bags that I sent to daycare for emergencies. Since it's been in the deep freezer the entire time, the oldest stuff will be good until November. That makes me feel pretty good knowing that I could extend Truman's breastmilk diet on for quite awhile even if my supply tanked.
There are pros and cons to both: it's definitely more hassle to defrost a bag of milk and those bags are darn expensive but at least you don't risk wasting milk, right? And you only have to use one bottle for the whole day and just re-fill it with defrosted milk over and over again. Less washing of multiple bottles = good!
-After I pump at work, I've found that I can just wipe off my pump parts with Medela cleaning wipes which are ridiculously expensive but worth it (Nate disagrees and is on a quest to figure out how to make our own to save money). Then I stick the pump parts in with my milk bottles along with two ice packs into the separate insulated bag. That way the milk that remains on the parts stays cool and won't go bad as fast (although breast milk at room temp stays fresh for 10 hours apparently). Sometimes I'll just keep the iced-down bag out with my pump and other times if I'm feeling especially crazy I'll put the whole thing in the fridge even though there are ice packs already to keep the milk cold. Fresh milk that is in the fridge is good for 8 days so you are totally good to go this way. But I guess in reality, I could leave the pump parts full of milk and continue to use them without being too worried about it since I would be done with the whole process within 10 hours. I just get psycho about cleaning the parts for some reason but using soap and water and drying it all off is way too time consuming to repeat three times at work. The wipes are the bomb, if you ask me.
-And let's finish with the beginning of my pumping journeys. My LC at the hospital recommended waiting to give a bottle and also waiting to start pumping until the 3 week mark. I got a little antsy and tried pumping once at 2 weeks and was so discouraged that I vowed to wait a whole week to try again. What worked for me was to feed Truman in the morning, then get up out of bed and eat breakfast/play with Truman, and then about 1 hour after our last feeding I would pump for about 15 minutes. That is it. No other pumping sessions throughout the day to 'build supply' because in those early weeks, your body is still trying to regulate your milk and if you pump too much you risk totally screwing up your supply. Every time you pump you are telling your body to make more milk, or 'placing an order', so be careful about overdoing it.
The disappointing thing is that the first few times (maybe even the first week?) you pump, you will get literal drops into the containers. It's so disheartening and it sort of hurts your already raw nipples because you aren't used to a machine pulling them into long inch-worms (they do get really long, don't they?). But lo and behold, if you keep up the pumping routine each morning you WILL start to get results, although it still won't be as much as you'd like. Don't worry about stealing milk from the baby, if you have one like mine who liked to eat every hour or so. Even if you just get finished pumping and then you have to feed the baby shortly after that, your body should be able to make more milk without a problem. Plus, babies do a much better job of expressing milk out of your tats compared to a pump. They are the ultimate pumpers, I guess.
After I pumped I poured the milk into my freezer bags without much thought to the amounts in each bag. I wish I would have regulated that a little better because those first bags had anything from 1 ounce up to 5 ounces in them and it was hard to correctly measure bottles as a result. I think saving 3 or 4 or 5 ounces at a time is best, personally and now that I'm pumping a lot more during the day my bags usually hold the max 6 ounces at a time. It does make it harder to thaw out the milk, the more you have in there, but oh well. Also I highly recommend laying your bags down in the freezer flat after getting out all of the air. That way, when they freeze they will easily store standing upright because they are nice and skinny. We bought a few plastic box containers to store the milk in our deep freeze and I know they sell actual Medela storage trays, too. Whatever system you want to use is fine but just remember to label the bags and plan to rotate through them as needed so they don't go bad.
-So what breastfeeding/pumping/bottle feeding gear do I use regularly and love? (besides my awesome new pump)
I registered for both Avent and Dr. Browns bottles and have a few of the 4/5 ounce size and also the 8/9 ounce sizes to pull from. We also got a few Evenflo and generic brands, too. The Avent bottles are 'wide mouth' which means the nipple bases are wider more like the actual boob and Truman really digs wide mouth bottles. The Dr. Brown's bottles are pricey and have lots of parts to clean but supposedly they are great and preventing too much air ingestion and great for reflux babies. Both are nice bottles, but we found Truman didn't LOVE either (nor the Evenflo, nor the generics)
So since he really liked the wide mouth nips best, we bought 6 of the Tommy Tippy 5 ounce bottles on a whim at BRU one day. And let me tell you, Truman loves him some Tommy. They are super cute bottles and according to the box they are 'number one in Great Britain' which makes Truman very English:)
My best advice here is to register for a few different brands of bottles and then see which type your baby likes best, since all babies are different. And I would probably skip the giant 8/9 ounce bottles all together (although I do like pumping into my big boys) because from what I read, breastfed babies don't really increase the amount of milk they drink as they grow bigger unlike formula fed babies. Who knew? I believe we have 2 small Avents, 3 small Dr. Browns and 6 small Tommy Tippy bottles that we use pretty regularly but I'm sure we could get by with just the 6 TT brand if we wanted.
We love our Dr. Brown's bottle brush to hand wash all of our bottles. The First Years Spin and Store drying rack is my lifesaver as someone who doesn't own a dishwasher and has very little counter space for bottles to invade. Our Philips AVENT BPA Free Microwave Steam Sterilizer is pretty sweet even though I only sterilize my bottles about once a week or so. I am glad I have it, for sure. Our First Years bottle warmer gets used a TON by Nate and Tony but I have to admit that it kind of annoys me. There are just too many steps and measuring out the little amount of water it needs takes a lot of time. Maybe I just like whipping out the boob too much, but the boys do like this warmer.
I am totally obsessed with my two nursing covers, one by Peanut Shell and one by Bebe au Lait. I keep one in my diaper bag for outings and one at home for when we have visitors and let me tell you, these babies get used all the time. I've used one in the back seat of our car (when it was parked, of course), at the dinner table with my in-laws, in front of friends on my couch, and even outside of a coffee shop. They are awesome and I'm so glad breastfeeding mamas can have something cute like this to cover up with instead of just a blanket.
As far as breast pads go, in the first few days of breastfeeding I LOVED my Lansinoh Soothies gel pads! They were perfect for my burning nips but once my milk came in a few days later I wasn't a big fan of how messy they got. But get these and bring them with you to the hospital, for sure. Now I use their disposable pads although I am totally on the hunt for the best re-usable pads, because these throw away ones seem wasteful and it's annoying having to buy a new box every month. I've tried a few cotton pads but nothing works well for me so far and I spurt out of the sides most of the time. Not cool. I lust after these Artsy Fartsy Foo Foo Milk Maid pads because everyone RAVES about them but she only stocks her store twice a month and I am not kidding when I say they sell out in SECONDS. I've tried 4 times (during my maternity leave) to log on and buy them right when she stocks the store with no luck so I've given up on that dream. :)
I've already posted about my nursing bras, tanks, and tops but I really needed more support in my nursing bras besides those 'sleeping' bras. So I got this one and this one to wear to work for added support and more of a cover for my nursing pads.
The only other thing I really want to buy now is a handsfree pumping bra to slide on over my nursing bras at work when I pump. These things look ridiculous and disgusting but I am so tired of hunching over and pushing the bottles up into my boobs with my thighs while I type. Bad posture, what? Plus, Kortney Kardashian wore one on an episode of her show and therefore they are cool now. :)
Well that's it. Everything you wanted to know about pumping as an exclusive breast feeder but you never thought to ask:) Any questions?
(I cannot do a post without a single pic, and so here is my boy....stunned to read that it takes THIS much work to keep him fed! High-maintenance, what?)