On Saturday, I decided to finally clean out my freezer stash of breast milk. I was overcome with so many unexpected feelings and memories.
Bringing life into this world was an incredible experience. I wish I would have taken time just to enjoy my son after his birth. Those dang hormones got in the way of that, but truthfully the poor boy and I were not speaking the same language. I also think I was scared of my son. He lost a bit of weight, cried a lot, and I could not get him to sleep unless he was in a swing or cuddled in my arms. He is so much happier now that I understand him more and know what makes him happy. We also had to conquer our breastfeeding and pumping challenge, you can read more about this in What I Wish I Would Have Known About Breastfeeding.
The memories that flooded back surprised me. For the first four months of Brycen’s life, I felt like I was tied to a pump. I pumped round the clock to provide milk for Brycen. I am talking every two to three hours in the beginning. I am sure pumping mammas understand me, I felt like I was going crazy.
My schedule when I first came home from the hospital with Brycen was pretty hectic. The advice I received in the hospital was to pump every two hours to build my milk supply. I would get up at 6 am wake up older kids for school. Pump for 20 minutes. Feed Brycen. Clean pumping parts and put the extra milk away. Repeat at 8 am, but this time get Ruthy up and ready for the day as well. I would pump continually every two to three hours day and night, while still trying to care for my newborn and other children. I remember taking road trips with our family and pumping in the car using a hand pump. There was very little sleep and caring for myself during this time.
After a couple of weeks of pumping, I joined the Facebook group for exclusive pumpers. Joining the group was a great move. I got my questions answered and heard success stories. Moms who pumped the full year or more. Wow, incredible! Other moms shared resources and tips as well that made their journey more enjoyable.
Anyways as I was cleaning out my milk supply, I remembered how much I hated pumping and wished we could skip or fast forward the stage we were in. I have to add that I was cleaning out my supply, because my milk had gone bad. The day my son began exclusively breastfeeding, I never looked back on my pumping days. I probably pumped possibly once or twice afterwards, because of a clogged duct, but had enough of a milk supply that I did not really need to pump for date nights! In fact, most of the milk I had saved up, went bad. Try not to judge. As I was cleaning the bottles that held my milk, all of sudden I had to hold back the tears. It is hard to explain what I was feeling. I found myself missing this stage! I was proud that I was able to provide milk for my son. I also felt incredibly guilty for wasting my milk. I did give my toddlers a milk bath, but most of it went down the drain as I melted the bottles and cleaned them out. I was actually missing this time period. It dragged on while we were in it, but honestly went by so fast!
The following are tips for pumping mammas:
- Try not to stress. I know easier said than done, but stress can actually influence your milk supply in a negative way. Eventually, I stopped paying attention to schedules and pumped when it was convenient for me. Immediately I saw a rise in how much I was pumping. This was when I started to save some extra milk as well. Some moms even wear a cover so they are not fixated on how much milk they are pumping during a session.
- Use coconut oil. Pumping often can make you very sore and tender. It began to hurt to wear clothes. I picked up the tip to rub coconut oil on. You can either choose to rub it on pumping parts or your body. Coconut oil is not harmful to your newborn if it does get in your milk supply. It just adds a little extra fat, which is healthy for babies. I would not recommend purposefully adding coconut oil to your babies milk, however. Applying coconut oil, was a game changer for me. Pumping was no longer as painful and I began telling myself we can continue a little longer.
- Do something you enjoy while pumping. I began using pumping as my time. I would watch my favorite vlogs, tv shows, and movies while pumping. Sometimes I would listen to music. Bryce would be in charge of kids, and I would get a little, much needed alone time. This helped me look forward to pumping just to get some time where I did not have to worry about anybody else. Of course this was not always the case, but when I could just meditate or relax it was nice!
- Make sure your flanges are the right size. Who knew they made these in different sizes… I did not! If the flanges are too small, pain and discomfort might be experienced. If the flanges are too large or small, this also can impact your milk supply. I tried various sizes until I found a good fit. A difference in comfort and milk supply was seen immediately.
- Do what is right for you! I wish I would have enjoyed this time period more, instead of being stressed! This is why I am sharing these tips. It took me far to long to figure out how to make it more enjoyable! If pumping every 3 hours is stressful for you, try every four hours or dropping a pump. If pumping is too much, remember fed is best.
It is crazy how fast our babies grow! Brycen is now a year old and Ruthy will be two in a couple of months. Elijah is now 9 and Isabel is 7. No more babies in this home! Savor the moments with your children. They quickly grow out of the phase they are in and enter into new ones.
Below are pumping schedules I tried to follow. A little note I might add is to use the schedules as a guide. They do not need to be followed perfectly. Also try not to allow your pumping schedule dictate what you do for the day. If you are going to be out for a while and you know you are going to miss a pump, add an extra pump either before or afterwards depending on the length of time you are gone.