Pump talk part 2

(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?)



  1. These posts are sooooo helpful!! i will be a working mom soon and i can't tell you how much of an encouragement you are!

  2. Awesome info!!! Thank you again for sharing. I have bookmarked this and will read it again as I get closer to refresh my memory.

    Truman is such a cutie and I just love that onesie!

  3. Great Post, I pump for my little guy as well and you have proven to me that I do not drink enough water. Need to improve this!!

    Try Lily Pads breast pads. They are awesome! Silicone so they form to your breast and no showing/lumps/wrinkles like the disposable ones. Stop leaks and you can wear a regular bras if you want.

    Thanks for the posts.

  4. I also love the Dr. Brown's bottle brush!!

  5. This is so helpful, Julia! Thanks for sharing :)

  6. First, no need for the hands free bra, mama. Just grab an old sports bra, cut small slits at the nipple, and voila, you've got your very own DIY hands free pumping bra. That's what I use every time I pump. :)

    Second, my freezer stash worries me. Isaac is already 5 months old and I started pumping and freezing when he was 2 weeks old. Which means the first in of my stash is quickly coming up on it's "use by" date. And I have no freaking idea what to use it for! I guess I could give him a bottle each day and pump during that same feeding to keep my stash current...basically, I just wish the stash would last forever so that when I'm done nursing, I could continue giving him sippy cups of milk, LOL.

  7. I literally took notes on your post so I could remember things I wanted to comment on :) ha!

    1 - I have a hands free bra (Easy Expressions bustier) and I do LOVE it. I have heard of many (like Kristal) that use a sports bra, but I wanted something I didn't have to put over my head. It's definitely worth it for me.
    2- I also started pumping in the morning. I started at 2 weeks, and was pretty consistent about it. I always pumped immediately after the first feeding of the morning - when that was depended on how lazy I was feeling. I was VERY lucky that Annie started sleeping through the night pretty consistently at about 2 months old, so I was super full in the mornings, and would just feed off one side and pump the other, but I had to stop that when I went to work because it was just too much to do in the mornings. I was a little engorged a few days but now my body is used to it, although I still do have a huge pump session for my first one at work.
    3 - I definitely agree to pay attention to how much you are storing when you pump early on - I did some 2 and 3 oz bags which are kind of worthless to me now. I wish I had been more consistent about it.
    4 - My baby does now take 5-6oz per feeding, so we need the 8oz bottles. We use Dr. Brown's, and the little bottles seem to leak if you put even a tiny bit over 4oz in there.
    5 - Definitely love that drying rack! We don't have a dishwasher either and it's great.
    6 - I also love my bebe au lait nursing cover - I'm kind of obsessed with taking pics of myself nursing with it when out and about :)
    7 - (and finally) I HATE nursing pads. I barely leak, but still am paranoid so I wear them every day. I hate that no matter what you can kind of seen them through my clothes. Ugh. I do have the gerber reusable pads, which are thin cotton. Since I don't leak much they work fine for me, but again, you can totally see them through the tank tops or even through my normal bras if you stare at my boobs :)

    Anyway, awesome post - this will be so helpful to the new mamas out there!

  8. This is SO helpful. Thank you so much for doing these and taking a little time away from your presh little one (he is too cute, Julia!). I have bookmarked both of these posts so I can continue to refer to them over the next 3 weeks until I go back to work. I've been pumping almost daily to start to build a supply, and you're right, the numbers definitely stress me out already. Ugggg-- I hate it.

    I've also heard good things about Lily Padz though I haven't tried them yet.

  9. Oh, one more thing. I, too, lust after Artsy Fartsy Foo Foo breast pads. Since I can't get any, I've been using Milk Weeds that I got from Cotton Babies. I love them! They are incredibly thick and you would think you could see them through a bra, but you can't. Love them.

  10. Thank you sooo much for these posts! We're not TTC yet, but definitely plan on breastfeeding. I'll be sure to refer back to these posts once the time gets a little closer.

  11. I just skimmed over this post since it doesnt really affect me much these days, but I think "Kourtney Kardashian" caught my eye (lord, help me) and happened to click on the link for those hands free pumping bra thing and I am DYING over those pictures. haha. can you imagine if you were that model?? I think Diz has that one, btw. Ask her!

  12. WOW! What great information and quite timely for me, I might add. I started my first full week at my new job yesterday and I feel like my supply might already be suffering a bit.

    Turns out I am on the road a lot between two offices. At one office I have no dedicated space to pump. I just have to "ask around" to see if I can use someone else's office. Well, when I ask (and keep in mind I'm the new girl so some people don't even know who the heck I am) they always ask what I need the room for and then I have to tell every tom, dick and harry that I am a nursing mom. They shut up pretty quickly after that and just give me the key ;) But because I have felt uncomfortable I have skipped a pumping session or two and I think I'm paying for it now :(

    I have no freezer stash. None at all. I am literally trying to squeeze out just enough for my baby boy.

    My right breast usually yields between 4-5 oz. but my left yields 2-3. Big difference! I can totally relate to watching the milk drop into the bottles and doing the math in my head. It's driving me bonkers.

    I really want to continue breastfeeding but I hate pumping. In fact, BF didn't work out with my first son and I very well could have continued to exclusively pump milk but I didn't. My only excuse for not pumping is that I didn't want to. Not if my son couldn't latch on at all. I didn't see the point!

    But Brigham LOVES nursing :) How can I deny him my breasts just because "I don't wanna!" That seems too selfish to me now.

    So I continue on even though it is a huge pain! I am totally jealous of your pump. You are like the research queen, Julia! I feel bad because I did a ton of research on everything for my first son and became lazy for my second! Poor guy.

    I've already dealt with two breast abscesses, a MRSA infection and a bad case of thrush and I'm still going. I have to believe there's a reason for that!

    THANK YOU for these posts. You inspired me to try a little harder going forward (even if I'm pumping in my car).

  13. Hello! Longtime reader, first time commenter (is that a word?!?!?) I really enjoyed both of your pumping posts, as I have a baby girl who is 3 months old as of yesterday and I just returned to work last week. Ugh-what an adjustment. My pumping seems to be working ok, but I completely obsess over the output, and I email my husband after each "good" session to share my success. :-) We use Avent bottles, and I'm wondering how you attach these to your pump? Maybe it's because you have a different pump (I have Medela pump-in-style), but my large Avent bottles don't attach???

  14. I work in a NICU and we only keep fresh breast milk around in the fridge for 48 hours before considering it bad and either freezing it or tossing it. Once it's thawed it's only good for 24 hours (not sure I saw that in your post.) The difference between 2 and 8 days is huge, just thought I'd let you know what we do for your reference. ;-) Congrats on have such a good supply!

  15. Thanks for sharing all of this info. I still have a couple of months to stay home, but it's nice to know about pumping at work now. Also, I'm glad to hear that someone else has one side that produces so much more milk than the other. I'm amazed how much bigger my right side is by the end of the day!

  16. Thank you so much for sharing this info. I go back to work in August and have already started stressing about pumping, so I will definitely be referring to your posts.

    For handsfree pumping, I tried this http://www.kellymom.com/bf/pumping/hands-free-pumping.html and it seemed to work well, and didn't cost a thing!

  17. Thanks for this, Julia! And thanks for adding in the part about the bottles and other feeding gear. :)

    I have to admit I'm a bit overwhelmed by these posts, but the fact that you've figured it out and can talk about it so confidently makes me feel like I will definitely get there, too.

  18. Julia, Though this no longer applies to me, I found this post very interesting. Glad to know I was not the only one crying over the few droplets of milk I got after pumping for 15 minutes!
    I just have a quick recommendation (I'm seconding Erin)- I have the easy expression hands free contraption and saved like $7 by getting the over the head one. No a good choice. It's very tight so it's pretty difficult to put on especially when you're already tired and cranky because you have to pump :) get the zip up one.

  19. You are going to be so glad that you wrote such a detailed post Julia!

  20. I love you. So there's that. I swear by the Medela wipes (even though they are INSANELY expensive). Thanks for the post - the numbers stress me out more than I ever thought could be possible :)


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