Sunday, September 02, 2012

Pumped about Pumping!

Once baby came and I fudged along with the first few days of breastfeeding, the nagging questions about pumping surfaced. How long? What time of day? How much milk should I expect? When should I give baby a bottle? I had no idea and no real answers to any of these questions. I asked friends with babies and a couple of public health nurses. The opinions were conflicting. One source told me that she never pumped and just breastfed, that it was better to maintain that closeness throughout the entire time of breastfeeding. To each their own, but I thought that this wasn't a good decision for the following reasons : 
  • One - What happens in an emergency situation when you are unable to be there and your baby refuses a bottle because you waited too long? What then?
  • Two - What about having a life outside baby? It is important for mommy to have some time alone away from baby and it is also important for baby to get used to being away from mommy.
  • Three - My husband wanted to play a role in feeding our baby and it wouldn't be fair to hog this responsibility totally.
Other sources told me that it is recommeded to wait until you have been breastfeeding for 6 weeks to make sure breastfeeding is well established and to avoid nipple confusion (baby getting mixed up between mom's nipple and the artificial ones from bottles). Someone else said that I should start as early as two or three weeks to have some on hand for emergencies.

In short - I was confused. What was the right way to do this? Like so many aspects of having a baby I was ultimately left to my own devices to make this decision.  So here's how I handled it.

About two weeks in, I started pumping whatever was left over after the feeding off my main breast. I had to do this with several feedigns about a day or so to get a few ounces and I soon learned to store roughly four ounces at a time. I stored the milk in the refridgerator (lasts for 6 days) and some more in the freezer (lasts 6 months). Picking the right time of day to get the most milk was tricky and trying not to pump too much to avoid producing too much milk was a guessing game as well. It took me over a month to have a strong enough supply and to know enough to be efficient at pumping.  Now I pump first thing in the morning after my baby feeds, using the breast that baby didn't feed from. I maintain at least three 4-5 ounce bottles in the refridgerator at all times and any additional milk is stored in the freezer (unless I am anticipating a night out or another event in the near future).

Another question - what kind of pump to get? I bought my pump knowing only that I believed electrical pumps were better. The one I ended up getting was a 3-in-1 - electrical, battery operated and manual all in one.  I used the electrical part exclusively for about 4 months. It took roughly 30 minutes to get between 4 and 5 ounces and was tricky. Sometimes the slightest movement would make me lose suction and I would be back to the start - trying to trigger let down again.  Then the pump sort of died about 4 months in - the suction dropped suddenly and it went to a snail's pace. I was upset, I needed a new pump. They are not cheap, nearly $200 for the one that I wanted. In desperation I dug out the manual attachment just to try it. Not only did it work, it was better and faster than the electrical component. I could get my required 4-5 ounces in under 10 minutes. It was so much more efficient. Had I known this in my pre-pumping days I would have just bought a manual pump for a much lower price, they run between $50-$100.

Finally - when to give baby his first bottle? I thought six weeks was too long to wait, no matter what "they" said.  I also thought that nipple confusion would be more likely the longer I waited. So just before baby turned three weeks old, he had his first bottle from daddy. It took awhile for him to figure out what to do with the nipple but we had success! After that I made sure he got a bottle at least once a week so he wouldn't forget how to take one. Now at 4 months old he usually has 3-4 bottles a week with no problems and he has not shown a preference to the bottle over the breast which was something else I was concerned with.

Momma's Musts :
  • Pumping is personal.....but. If you don't pump you may not have a back-up plan in case of emergency (trust me, it can happen), you will never get much time off and you will not be able to share feeding your baby with his/her other caregivers. I am no expert, but I highly recommend pumping.
  • Manual is best - that's what I think! Fancy electrical pumps cost more and are actually less efficient both in how much milk you get and how long it takes. Go green too - pump using your muscle power!
  • Don't wait. Give your baby his/her first bottle before the six week mark and make sure to keep giving at least a bottle a week to keep baby familiar with the mechanics of bottle feeding.
  • Experiment - It may take you a month or two to find out your best pumping time and strategy to get the most for your efforts. Ask around to your mommy friends or the local nurses. Can't hurt to have lots of advice to choose from.

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