Friday, September 27, 2013

Confessions of a PAWM (pumping at work mom)

When I went back to work with my first child, I knew pumping would be difficult. I had a busy schedule and I was really nervous about it all, so I tried my best to get a decent freezer stash just in case. I don't necessarily think that a freezer stash is necessary to be a successful working, exclusively breast feeding mother, but I do think it helps with any supply-based anxiety. I'm a health care provider so I see patients all day and my schedule, although predictable on paper, is sometimes unpredictable! I wasn't sure if I could really carve out an exact time every day to pump. But I've done my best, and I've literally pumped almost every (work)day the past two years, so I have a few suggestions for those moms who may need some support.

#1... It's hard. Don't expect to pump every day and get the milk your baby eats at home. Your daycare or nanny may tell you that your little one just ate a 6oz bottle (or in Gianna's case a 7oz bottle)! And you may think, Oh- that's super because I just pumped 4 ounces! UGH. Listen... it happens sometimes. You may not produce as much as baby eats, but that's OK. The more you stress, the less you pump (in my experience). It's not the end of the world if you have to pump once overnight or your baby has to have formula. Seriously. It's not.

#2 There are techniques that will allow you to have an increased output. I am a FIRM believer that manual compression is necessary when you pump. Let's face it- pumping isn't exactly natural. So if you're noticing a decrease in your output, squeeze or massage. If you're not sure you have any more to give after a pumping session- squeeze into the bottle. I guarantee you you're not done. As much as they try, pumps don't stimulate like a baby does, and you're bound to have some milk in the ducts after you pump.

#3 Use a good/great pump if you're going to consistently pump. If you're not using a double electric (preferably hospital grade if your insurance will cover it or you can rent) pump, you should be. Pump style and brand matter- personally I've used the PISA (medela pump in style advanced) and I've been very happy with it for the past almost two years. I know friends of mine (E @ Oh'Apostrophe for one) have loved the Hygeia pump- she talks about it here. Related to the pump, breast shield (or flange) size matters! I can't stress this enough. Pumping should not hurt, should not make you bleed, and you should be able to tolerate some suction. If you can't, or if you are not producing as much as you would hope, try going up a size. I'll admit (and I'm sure I'm not the first) that I've bled from trying to use the standard 24mm medela flange for way too long. This link has some info about choosing the correct size.

#4 Output changes and possibly decreases with time. Part of this is completely normal because your baby will start eating solids around 6 months, and part of this is normal because your body just does not respond the same to the pump after while. If this happens, add fenugreek, blessed thistle, mother's milk tea, oatmeal, and lot of fluids if you think they may increase your supply. I've used all of them, and I've actually had great success with the combination.

#5 Hands free pumping is awesome if you're trying to work- I use this regular nursing bra (from Motherhood Maternity).
Motherhood maternity Seamless Lift Up Nursing Bra

This bra has been my best kept secret for the past two years- I simply wear a regular tank top under whatever outfit I am wearing to work and push the tank top down and lift up this bra (it's a lift up opposed to the flap down like most). Picture a sports bra with two holes for your breasts underneath. I use the material at the bottom of the bra to hold the flange in place and I use the flap (that is lifted up) to cover the top of the flange. This allows me to pump more efficiently because there is some pressure holding it in place. I wear this bra and I'm not sure how I could pump at work without it. I do know that the hands free bras are popular too, but I tried it and found it quite annoying that I had to put it on and off every time I wanted to pump.

#6 You don't need to wash and sanitize your pump parts throughout the work-day! I was so worried when I first started work that I would have to carry my parts back and forth to the bathroom to clean them. It was that, or I brought a few sets of the pump parts and washed them all at the end of the day. But I've realized that if breast milk is good at room temperature for around 5-8 hours, it makes sense that it will be fine on the pump parts until the next session. So I will pour the milk into a separate bottle and either refrigerate the parts or just leave them until the next time. This allows me to use one set for the entire day, and I just clean it all when I get home. Easy.Peasy.

So my schedule looks a little like this:
Kids up between 6-7
Nurse Gianna on one side at 7, pump the other
Around 10am pump
Noon or 12:30 lunch/pump
4pm nurse
.. and so on

Any other helpful suggestions for the PAWM?