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[This post has been in the works for a while so both the photo and the opening are a bit outdated]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