Tag Archives: breastfeeding

Working and Pumping, 8 months and 5 pumps in.

I got a new pump from my insurance company on Monday.  It is my fifth pump.  It’s also my favorite.  It’s the Spectra 2.

I started pumping when my daughter was a week old.  My sister had given me tips on starting pumping right away, so I would get used to it and also so that I could build a freezer stash.  I went back to work at six weeks with a full shelf of milk bags.  As my baby wouldn’t eat at daycare, I added to the stash.  Around six months, I started to experience a supply drop.  It was pretty consistent.  Nothing seemed to help much – not eating more, not hydrating more, not taking fenugreek or drinking the mother’s milk tea.  I rented a hospital grade pump for an overnight trip away from the baby and kept it for two weeks, hoping it would improve my supply.  I returned it and my supply went back down.  We started supplementing with the freezer stash.  Which gave me irrational anxiety.

My friend gave me her coworker’s old pump, which I took gladly because I am a forgetful person.  I did not want to run the risk of forgetting my pump for work one day, so I wanted a home pump and a work pump.  I got the work pump (my main pump) from my insurance company last fall.  My home pump and work pump were both the Medela Pump in Style Advanced and I had two sets of parts.  It was great, until the motor wore out in my home pump.  Around that time, an Ameda Purely Yours came up on our listserv for $20 and I picked that up.  I already had the parts because I had used a hospital grade Ameda pump in the hospital, so it was fine.  Except the Ameda Purely Yours is not a great pump.  It doesn’t have an auto let-down feature and they don’t make bigger flanges for it – the ones they make insert into each other and it’s weird.  I just used my Medela flanges inserted into the Ameda flanges and that helped.  But I consistently got less than I got from my Medela pump, so when my friend was selling her barely used Medela Pump in Style, I snapped it up.

For another two months, I continued to have supply issues, which I addressed in my last post.  After I decided I still wanted to make nursing work, I tried to get my insurance to cover a hospital grade pump.  I had changed insurances from last year, and so I was hoping that even though I had already gotten a pump through insurance, my new insurance might cover a hospital grade rental.  (You can get either a pump or a hospital grade rental, depending on your insurance.)  My insurance provider was iffy when I called about covering a hospital grade rental, but would absolutely give me a second free pump.  I emailed my doctor for a prescription and they directed me to edgepark.com, which is where I had gotten my original pump from.  I browsed through to see if they had hospital grade rentals (they don’t, my OB was confused), and when I put in my insurance info, it told me that I could get one of a number of pumps, which included the Medela PISA, the Ameda Purely Yours, the Freemies Pump (I seriously considered that one, because I think it would be so much better for pumping while driving) and the Spectra 2 Hospital Strength.  A quick review search on Amazon and Google revealed GREAT reviews, a couple of which compared it to the Medela or Ameda hospital strength pumps.  I added it to my cart, “checked out” and a week later it showed up in my office.  It is awesome.  It is super quiet, and generally extremely cool.  It has a built in timer, which is my favorite feature, and the massage/letdown feature is really cool.  It buzzes instead of suctioning the way other pumps do and I’ve gotten consistently higher yields out of it.  I pump into those free Avent bottles they give you at Motherhood Maternity, which is nice because then you don’t have to buy the stupid extra nipples for them.  I can also pump into MAM bottles but they don’t fit as perfectly.

Pumping at work is 100% possible because I have my own office.  This is a luxury that a lot of women don’t have, carting their pumps and their parts to either lactation rooms, supply closets, or even the handicapped stall of bathrooms (technically, that place also had a lactation room but it was really far away so they set up the handicapped stall as well.)  When I go to a training, I demand a private place to pump and our training director is super supportive and finds me one.  Nobody has ever walked in on me while pumping, nor have they banged on the door demanding to know why I’m in a closet with secured files, nor have they walked in to perform maintenance and commented that they “like the smell of breast milk”.  All of these are true stories.  I have pumped in the occasional bathroom, and it’s gross.  I pump in my car all the time.  I pumped in the manager’s office at a wedding.

I did hit a point around 6-7 months where I was SO OVER breastfeeding.  I was over pumping, I was over being punched in the throat and fish hooked and kicked while the baby was nursing.  I pushed through it in the hopes that it would get better, and because after a long day of work, I wasn’t willing to give up my snuggle time.

For the first time in awhile, I’m feeling like I might really make it to a year of breastfeeding.  At the one year mark, I will stop pumping, and see whether I still want to nurse or not.

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9 Months On, 9 Months Off

I could chalk the radio silence up to motherhood being busy as all get out, but that’s not the reason.  I simply have so many feelings, and I’m so inadequate at being able to express them.  I also, until six weeks ago, had been majorly slacking on exercise and therefore felt like I didn’t really deserve to be a “fitnessish” blogger.  Blogger should probably also be in quotes? Anyway.  My daughter will be 9 months old tomorrow.  Which has me taking a bit of stock in the idea of nine months on, nine months off.  And I think it’s impossible to address the issue of post-partum body issues without talking about breastfeeding.

In the beginning, breastfeeding was super-easy.  My daughter latched right away and we had very few problems nursing besides she would fall asleep immediately and then wake up thirty minutes later and want to eat AGAIN.  I drank the tea, I hydrated, I pumped starting the first week we were home so that I could build my supply and my freezer stash.  I went back to work at 6 weeks and I pumped three times a day.  And then slowly, gradually, my supply began to decrease.  Where I used to get 15 ounces a day, I started to regularly only get 12.  Then, I started to get 9.  This has been extremely frustrating.  My child still doesn’t sleep through the night.  And I lost zero weight from when I got home from the hospital until June.

The only reason I started to lose weight was I signed up for a program called Body Back, through a company called Fit4Mom (they do stroller strides), which came with a nutrition guide.  I started to really try to lose weight.  And my supply dropped even more.  And so, there I was, trying to figure out if the problem was calories, or lack of hydration, or just eating the wrong foods, or my pump, or what.  I still don’t know the answer.  Things have remained pretty low.

I heard, constantly, that the advantage of breastfeeding is that Mom gets to eat whatever she wants and can still lose weight.  That’s true for some women.  It wasn’t true for me.  And I am struggling, big time, with whether wanting my body back enough of a reason to let my supply tank and consider supplementing.  Supplementing isn’t the end of the world, but from where I sit, where breastfeeding is convenient and dammit, should be possible, and formula is expensive and requires measuring and mixing and throwing it out after an hour or something like that, I just would really really like to make it to the one-year mark.  But I’m not sure that I want to make it badly enough to keep sacrificing my body.

My body hasn’t been mine for eighteen months now.  It has grown an entire human being, and it has been the primary source of nutrition for that human being for the past 18 months.  And the forums I sometimes make the mistake of reading make me feel like that isn’t enough.  I’m supposed to be the freaking giving tree here, giving my baby everything until I am a stump.  And I am not okay with that.  And I think I’m okay with not being okay with that.

So where I am right now is still trying to make nursing work.  Because, literally, at the end of the day, I love nursing.  I love coming home to my baby and having her snuggle up in my lap and nurse for forty minutes.  My ability to be a comfort and a food source and to provide her with what she needs, nutritionally, without stressing about it, is enough that I’m willing to keep trying to make this work.  We supplement with the freezer stash I worked so hard to build up.  I’m also trying to decide whether I’m going to be done when we hit the one-year mark.  I am theoretically pro extended breastfeeding, but as my sister tells me, nursing is a two-way street and as soon as it doesn’t work for one of you, it doesn’t work for both of you.

I started working out again.  I started this boot camp, but I’m also tri training and running and going to yoga.  More than anything else, this makes me feel like my body is mine again.  Yes, exercising while nursing is logistically challenging.  But it is possible.  Going to an evening workout is logistically challenging.  But it is definitely possible.  It is not for everyone.  I’m not one of those women who will photograph herself in a bikini going “what’s your excuse?” because I do think there are a range of perfectly valid excuses for not having six pack abs at six weeks postpartum.

I will say, nine months in, I feel like I’m in a good emotional place, even if I’m not in a great physical place.  I have a grasp on what I want, what I need, what I feel, what I think.  I know my emotions and feelings are valid and that I have choices and options.  I know that it is okay to be a little bit selfish, it is okay to put my mental health needs in front of the baby, because if no matter what I do, my daughter needs a healthy mother before she needs pretty much anything else.

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Pumping: Gear

Somebody shared some inspirational quote about how they breastfeed because it’s free and they are broke, and while yes, breast milk is cheaper than formula, it’s “free” in the way that running is free.  It’s free, but the right gear makes it so much more possible.  So what do you need? I’m going to break this into “must haves” and “nice to haves”.

  • A pump.  Preferably, two pumps, one for home and one for work.  Your insurance should provide you with a double electric breast pump for free.  I opted for the Medela Pump in Style.  I acquired a secondhand Medela pump from a friend, but I’m not sure how many kids its been used for and the motor is definitely wearing out.  If you acquire a secondhand pump, just buy new tubing and flanges.  It costs around $20.  My understanding is most of the risk of milk back flow and contamination is from people who share a single-user electric pump.
  • Bottles.  I wish I had known that many of the bottles fit the same flanges – so if you have a Medela pump, it also fits the Ameda bottles and some Evenflo glass bottles and Tommy Tippee makes an adapter for their bottles.  I would have gotten more different kinds of bottles instead of the 18 Medela ones we have.
  • Freezer bags.  The Medela ones are nice because you can pump right into them with the adapter that comes with them, but they are crazy expensive and really annoying to pour out.  The Nuk and Lanisoh ones both seem perfectly durable and are way cheaper.  The Kiinde system seems like a better deal if you want to pump into bags. I have a starter kit from them coming and will report back.
  • Tupperware.  You want a big tupperware container that you can keep your pump parts in, because you want to store them in the fridge between pumping sessions.  If you refrigerate your pump parts, you don’t need to wash them between pumping sessions.  My favorite advantage is that you can use the tupperware container as a wash basin for your pump parts (at the end of the day, I put a little soap in the bin, fill it with hot water, and put the lid on and shake my pump parts, then drain and rinse.)  You can actually also use it as a bit of a drying rack for them for the next day.
  • Hands-free pumping bra.  I have four, two each of two different types.  Two are the Simple Wishes D-Lite, which is fantastic and I highly recommend.  I just pull my shirt down over my regular bra, unclip the nursing bra, and then put the hands free bra over everything else I’m wearing.  It saves a ton of time and makes it really easy to work and get things done while I’m pumping.  I also have two bras that work as regular bras and as hands free pumping bras.  They are mediocre as both hands free bras and regular bras, but when I’m pumping at court or on the go, it’s much nicer to not have to put on a bra.  Motherhood no longer sells the one I have, but I would recommend looking for something like this if you are going to have to pump on the go a lot.
  • Full extra set of tubing and flanges.  If you have a second pump, it can live with your pump.  If you are carrying your pump back and forth, leave the extra tubing and flanges at work and it’s one less thing to carry, or you can bring the dirty ones home and bring clean ones in the next day and wash them at night.  My general rule is the less things I can forget, the better.
  • Burp cloth.  Milk gets messy.  You’ll want to spread a burp cloth on your lap when you pull the flanges off, or have it up higher to catch any spillage.  If you are particularly concerned about germs, you can also have a burp cloth for your desk.

Nice to have:

  • A cooler.  This is not strictly necessary if you work in a regular office and have a fridge and don’t mind storing your milk in the fridge.  Medela makes an expensive cooler that has an ice pack and perfectly fits four bottles.  If you are going to be in a situation where you will not have a fridge, I recommend this setup.  (It’s great for court days.)  Otherwise, I would say that a plain old lunchbox and ice pack will do, and just keep it in the fridge.  Some of my pumping coworkers have commented that our office fridge is “gross” and they won’t store milk in it.  Uh, okay?  Apparently I’m gross and have low standards for cleanliness, I have zero problem storing my milk in our gross office fridge in my cooler bag.
  • Mini fridge – if you have an extra one at home or can pick up a cheap one, having your own fridge when you are pumping is basically the dream.
  • Drying rack – I have the Oxo Tot Travel drying rack from a friend, it’s great for work, I just keep it on top of my filing cabinet and dry my pump parts up there.
  • Microwave sterilizer.  Your pump parts don’t actually have to be sterilized, I recently discovered, but our water at home takes forever to get hot, so I just wash my pump parts with cold water and then run them through the microwave in the sterilizer to sanitize them.  You can get a sterilizer for really cheap at a totswap or baby consignment sale or yard sale.
  • Bag.  The Pump in Style used to come in a tote bag that fit either your cooler or your pump parts, but now you just get a pump and can spend extra $$ on an ugly bag that makes a horrible scratching noise.  I recommend a big canvas tote bag that fits bottles, pump parts in your tupperware, and your pump, but maybe one that is super fun.  You could actually spring for this one and it doubles as a cooler! Very cool. I spent some time looking for something exactly like this when I found out the Pump in Style no longer came with a bag, and couldn’t find anything, so I think it’s recent.
  • Spare membranes, valves, tubing, etc. just in case something breaks.  My office is really close to a Target, so I have figured I will just run out in an emergency and get replacement parts.  For court, I bring my hand pump as a backup.
  • Hand pump.  I’m really happy with the Medela Harmony.  I had an Ameda one from the hospital and it broke the first time I tried to use it.
  • Labels.  We use these and write the date on them to keep track.
  • Quick Clean cloths – these would be nice to have if you have to pump on the go.  I could have used them at court.  I don’t own any though, so I can’t speak to them, but my supervisor mentioned she really liked them.
  • Car adapter.  I drive a Vibe so I actually have a regular outlet in the car, but if you don’t, you will want the car adapter for your pump.  Even if you don’t see yourself needing to drive someplace and/or pump in your car, it will happen that you have a meeting or you have to go to a wedding or something else where you need to pump in the car.
  • Big sister. If you don’t have one, adopt one. You can complain to her when you need to bitch about pumping, you can ask her for advice, and she will tell you what you do/don’t need and all the tips and tricks.

Also, watching videos and looking at pictures of your baby will help with your supply, supposedly.  I haven’t noticed a difference.  But those are my gear thoughts, and if you are shopping for somebody for a baby shower, I recommend just buying all the pumping/breastfeeding stuff on their list.  It was the thing very few people got for me and fortunately then my sister filled in the gaps later when she realized how short I was of necessary pieces.  Everyone wants to buy the baby cute outfits and fun toys.  Nobody wants to get you nipple butter or extra flanges.

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Can I breastfeed and litigate?

Monday found me, for the second time, standing in a bathroom stall at the courthouse using my hand pump to pump 5 ounces.  Then I remembered that I had cleverly loaded a bottle onto the hand pump, and I had then left the cap in the car.  Even with an oversupply and a decent freezer stash, I didn’t want to just pour those 5 ounces down the drain.  I felt so angry with myself, and so frustrated.  I had planned ahead, and all for naught!  I wound up just leaving the cap part of the hand pump on and putting the bottle upright in my bag.  When I took it out later, I only had two ounces left.

Let me lay out a typical court day.  Court is an hour away and starts at 8:45 or 9am.  Most hearings take a minimum of 1-2 hours. I usually pump around 8 or 9 am after I get to work and again 3 hours later.  Traffic varies by day and weather.  So here is probably the ideal plan:

-5:30 or 6:00 – wake up, get ready for work
-6:30 or earlier – feed the baby when she wakes up
-6:45-7:00 – leave for work, drive to my office or directly to the courthouse, if traffic is too bad to stop off at my office, drive to court and pump in my car.
-8:00 – stop at office, get whatever files I forgot, pump
-8:35 – pull into parking lot, pay for parking, go to court
-11:00/12:00 – hearing ends or breaks, go back to car and pump or drive back to work and pump.

The courthouse actually has a tiny office that I can get a key to, but I don’t have one yet.  So I’ve been doing an uncomfortable combo of bathroom pumping and pumping while driving back to my office.  The parking lot is a 10 minute walk from the courthouse, and today it was freezing raining.  So pumping in the bathroom was actually preferable to going back to my car and pumping and then going back into the courthouse.  But as I lugged all my stuff up the hill to my car to feed my meter and set my bottle of milk in the car and realized that half of it had leaked into my purse, I started wondering whether breastfeeding is really worth it when it is making my life this difficult.

There are women who just nurse at night and on the weekends and formula feed at daycare.  Nursing, and breastfeeding, remains really important to me.  Our kiddo has a hard enough time taking a bottle, I think feeding her formula would actually really upset her.  So, continuing to pump it is.  I just don’t know how to make this work.  Of my coworkers, one exclusively pumped, and the others were in court less and have less of a commute.  (Exclusively pumping would be easier because I could pump in the morning instead of depending on the baby’s timing.)

I spent some time looking at the Freemies system, because the idea of wearing something that I could wear under my clothes and discretely pump in court is pretty appealing.  However, based on this review, they don’t look that discreet.  I will be getting a key to the closet my organization has at the courthouse, and I will be working really hard to be more organized so that I do not have to stop at my office before court.  The end result of this, for now at least, is that I will have to get ready to leave a full hour before I actually leave the building.  I will make sure I have everything for court the next day, if I’m going straight to court, and then I will pump and clean my pump parts, and then I will make whatever final notes I have to make, update whatever to-do lists I have to update, make sure I sign out on the office clipboard, and then head home with all my files and documents for court.  I will also have to use the same rule I use with the baby for everything else in my life – assume it takes another half hour to get anywhere.  If I have an extra half hour when I get to the courthouse, I have time to pump and make sure I have everything for my case.  I have time to talk to the clerk about the docket and maybe let her know that I’m breastfeeding and if I’m not in the courtroom around noon if they call my case then, it’s because I’m pumping and can they pass the case until I come back?

I have never been an organized person, but as my last therapist used to remind me, if you do not practice a skill, you do not get better. So I’m going to practice being organized and put together, and see where that takes me.  Every month, I tell myself, “at least I’ve made it this far.” Then I ask myself if I think I can do another month.  Which feels manageable.  And so, we go, onward.

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