Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Nursing Diaries: Pumping Adventures

[This post has been in the works for a while so both the photo and the opening are a bit outdated]

In what will undoubtedly be considered too much information by the vast majority of you (and with apologies in advance to my male family members), here is a lovely tidbit to start the day:

This morning’s haul was a humdinger: 5+ ounces of milk from one side! I feel like I have about-to-burst water ballons strapped to my chest. Not a bad thing, baby-wise, but not exactly comfortable.

Pumping has been an adventure. I mentioned earlier that I wanted to pump for two reasons: 1) to give Chris the opportunity to feed Benjamin and [more importantly] 2) to give me a bit of extra flexibility as a nursing mother. Some kindhearted family members have volunteered to babysit so Chris and I can have a night on the town and I have every intention of making good on those offers. 

So far we’ve had two ‘date nights’: a trip to a ball game with Megan and Eric, and dinner at a fancy restaurant. At most, we’ve probably been gone for no more than three hours each time. But those baby-free hours were so desperately appreciated. How I’ve missed adult conversation that isn’t interrupted by a screaming child.

I'll have to check with Chris to get his opinion on the bottle feeding experience thus far but I'll admit that I love being able to hand Benjamin off for an evening feeding. The tyke is a pretty good bottle chugger and the milk coma he goes into afterwards is a welcome respite for his parents. And it gives my body a desperately appreciated rest. 

As for the physical aspect of pumping breast milk, it's been a long adjustment period. When I first began, Ben was going through a phase where he was nursing frequently, and for long periods (45 minutes to an hour). Add pumping, even at low levels and for short periods, and it made for one exceptionally sore mama.

But thanks to some suggestions from friends and the gals in my PEPS group, we’ve worked out a routine that is manageable and more comfortable. 

Here’s how it goes:

I always pump in the morning, when I have the most milk, both sides, and for no more than 10 or 15 minutes. Benjamin is usually ‘at the spa’ [aka lying on a mat in front of the heater in the bathroom while Chris is taking a shower] or in his day crib. I plunk myself down in front of the computer with breakfast and start the machine. I can stand anything for ten minutes if I have both food and the computer as distractions. Also, I’m also pretty strict about ignoring outside commitments during this time. I’m ok with having Ben wail for ten minutes (he’s safe in his crib), for Bailey to stay out on the porch, or for the phone to remain unanswered during this time. I’m unlikely to go back to pumping if I have to get up halfway through. 

I use copious quantities of lanolin to coat the breast shields and I upgraded to Medela’s larger shield size - they are significantly more comfortable. I also try not to look down too often to see how much I’ve collected. That’s 'A watched pot never boils’ scenario. 

And so far, I’ve been happy with this system. Overall, I’ll probably get 4-5 ounces, which is enough to hold the kiddo over for an hour or two. We’ve got a fair amount stored in the freezer for babysitters and I usually have a bottle in the fridge ready for Chris in the evening. It sure isn’t the most exciting part of my day but the freedoms afforded me later on are well worth feeling like a dairy cow for 10 minutes in the morning. 

What about you, my dears? Any other suggestions? Things that worked well for you? Problems?


  1. I'm so glad it's working out for you. I must say I'm a tad jealous. I could only get less than a quarter of an ounce. :( Thank goodness we live in this day and age rather than when my babies would have just starved potentially if a wet nurse wasn't available.

  2. Felicia8:43 PM

    Good for you, Sonja! I never was able to use the milk I pumped because they didn't take to bottles, but I did rig up a handy-dandy way of holding the bottles in place. I just cut slits in the cups of an old bra (there's no way I'm ever going to be a B cup again!) and slid the shield through them from the back side. It worked great and gave me both hands free.

  3. Emily Benson6:48 PM

    Sonja - as a working mom I do A LOT of pumping! I can sympathize with you re: feeling like a dairy cow at times, but overall I don't mind because I know I'm giving my little boy the best nutrition possible.

    While pumping isn't something I enjoy, it isn't something I dread either. I've been doing it pretty much every day for the past 3.5 months. I started pumping a month and a half before returning to work in order to make sure I would have enough milk for Logan while I was away. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to pump very much while at work (my experience with crazy nursing [as in registered nurse, not breastfeeding] shifts at the hospital didn't seem like they would be conducive to pumping), so I wanted to store up as much as possible incase my supply decreased. I'm happy to report that my manager at work has been super supportive of my breastfeeding & need to pump and I have been able to work it into my schedule - she even lets me use her office to pump privately when I need it. I work two 12 hr shifts and one 8 hr shift a week (that's 32 hrs) and I pump 4 times on a 12 hr shift and 3 times on a 8 hr shift (which works out to roughly every 3 hrs). Needless to say I have a lot of milk and I haven't had to even tap into my frozen reserves yet. Every day I put some in the fridge and some in the freezer, depending on how much has been used up during my time away from home.

    I also continue to pump at home on my days off. My pumping schedule at home is similar to yours. I always pump in the morning after waking up, when supply is the greatest. Then I also pump at night after the little one has gone to sleep and before I go to bed. That way I don't get too engorged overnight with a long stretch of sleep - although my definition of "long stretch of sleep" has certainly changed since becoming a mom (longest Logan sleeps is 6-7hrs).

    I've never found pumping painful. It isn't the most comfortable thing I've ever done, but I can do it without much discomfort and I'm pretty fast at it. Sounds like you've found ways to make pumping less painful for you with the larger breast shields and lanolin. Breastfeeding and pumping are pretty comfortable for me now that I've been doing it so long, but I remember in the beginning when it was painful and sore - glad those days are behind me. What an adventure this parenting/breastfeeding thing is, huh! I never could have imagined!!

  4. Emily Benson7:13 PM

    Sonja - Also wanted to share this article from the New Yorker on breastfeeding. It is long, but it has a good summary of the history of nursing/pumping in this country and others. It's not a new article, but rather from their archives (2009). Enjoy!

  5. Emily Benson7:15 PM

    Some of the link got cut off... trying to post again (sorry)

  6. Emily Benson7:17 PM

    Ugh! Here is the missing part - add after the "0" in the previous link (again sorry for so many posts).


  7. Emily Benson7:19 PM

    One last time (too many zeros)


  8. Excellent article Em, thanks for posting it! Especially fascinating was the history: we really like to flip-flop our nursing practices.