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pump it up!

December 27, 2010
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I knew I was going back to work. The minute I found out I was pregnant I interviewed for a post doc with a  starting date 6 wks after my due date. My husband and I decided he would stay home with the baby and I would work full time. Which was exactly how I wanted it (and how I still want it.). So that meant I would need to pump. I would need to pump before going back to work so we would have a back up supply. I would need to pump at work, at least twice a day. And pumping freaked me out. Because you couldn’t practice! you couldn’t try it out before the baby came. Pumping induced labor. And I didn’t want anything making that baby come before she was good and ready. Those around me didn’t pump. All I knew were stay at home moms or moms who used formula. So I had no one to tell me how to do it, what it was  like, how to organize your day. So I was freaked. I really like to be prepared and know whats coming. But as they say, you never know with a baby involved.

I went to the hospital’s breastfeeding class. What a waste of time! They assured us they would cover pumping – how to do it, the different pumps. After watching the most ridiculous video on breastfeeding (I think just to fill time), they finally got to the pumps. And what did they do? They sold them! I mean, they explained how to rent one from the hospital, which one had the best motor, which one lasted the longest. It seemed like medela was funding this class. Never once did they say this is how the pump goes on the breast, this is how high you should set the pump, this is how you clean the pump. It was awful! And now I was more stressed than ever b/c they reiterated to NOT TRY THE PUMP before the baby came.

So going in blind, I started pumping about 3 wks after she was born. I had a fantastic milk supply, which was lucky and actually needed to pump some nights when she wouldn’t or didn’t nurse. And it was relatively easy. Just put the cups on your boobs, turn the thing on and let the pump do its work. Just like milking a cow. Even my husband was completely disturbed by how much my boobs had turned into udders. Needless to say, I would pump without him in the room. The worst thing about it – trying to maintain a good suction while at the same time trying to adjust the speed of the pump. I did not have the hands free pump (I will next time for sure), so I had to hold one to each boob while trying to maneuver to adjust the speed of the pump. or do anything else for that matter. Really I could just sit there and hold them. Nothing else. So hands-free pumps people!! Of course with practice, I’m able to hold them both with one hand but in the beginning all I could do was pump and stare at the wall.

Going back to work: once I felt comfortable enough with the pump and ready to go back to work I had to scope out places to pump. I shared an office that also served as the kitchen/break room and was open to the lab. So there was absolutely no privacy. Campus has a pumping room, but I had to share that with the rest of campus. It wasn’t so bad, and I managed to work out timing pretty quickly so I never really had to wait for the room (women, I found, tend to pump at the same times every day). Amazingly, there were not that many people who pumped on the campus – really just four or five women ( I scoped out the sign up sheet).  Not sure if that is a good or bad thing – No young college-age moms or a lot of moms who don’t pump? Anyway, thats a whole different post.

I got a new job about a month later and started work at  a company where the majority of women with babies did pump/breastfeed. In fact, my office mate and my boss were both pumping at the same time, having children right around baby’s age. It was wonderful – completely supportive and actually fun, we would all pump together at about the same time of day. We could talk about the babies, or ask each other questions (for two of us it was our first baby), or just talk about work. So productive. Way better than interrupting my day to walk halfway across campus to pump for half an hour. I was really lucky to be part of this group of women.

I started out pumping two times a day, mainly dictated by my boobs and how full they were. As baby grew and started eating solid foods, around six-9 months, I dropped down to once a day. We based this on how much she would eat at home and not need a bottle. Finally at a year I stopped pumping at work altogether. It was  relief – my day was not dictated by the pump. But it was also sad. That was my time to relax, take a break, breathe. My milk supply adjusted almost immediately, which was also a relief. I was nervous that there would be pain, or clogged ducts but I think  nursing the minute I walked in the door every evening helped.

I was lucky in many aspects: my employer provided time and a place to pump. It may not have been the most ideal place, but at least it wasn’t a bathroom and I had privacy. A TV would have been nice….I know quite a few women who work for very small companies that don’t have the space to give them, or don’t have offices where you can close the door. Right now VA law does not require employers to provide a space but “encourages” them (see the link on the side of the page for all state regulations on breastfeeding).  It’s unfortunate to not be mandated but I think it’s at least a step in the right direction.

Although pumping took up a lot of my day, it was so important to me it was worth it. Liquid gold in little freezer bags.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 27, 2010 8:56 pm

    Thanks for sharing this, pumping mommas need their own support group. My long term nursing friends all stayed home and my working momma friends stopped nursing once back to the grind so I felt like a different breed. I was lucky: self employed as a photographer and able to nurse at home on “office” days but on location I had to get more creative: the backseat of the car en route or in a parking lot, coat check closets, church basements, clients’ spare rooms… anywhere with an outlet and a door I could shut. I completely agree that practical info on pumping needs to become more readily available. I attended the same bobo class and the books I read on nursing never addressed pumping specifically (subtext: good, attached mothers don’t leave their babies). I’m disappointed that our laws and most work places don’t do more to support pumping. I understand why working mommas give up on it but I’m so glad I didn’t and I try to support others any way I can, even if its just with funny stories of pumping follies. Yeeaaaaah, mother pumpers!!!

  2. December 27, 2010 9:03 pm

    i agree – there may be a lot less support/info for working moms b/c there is the stigma that “good mothers don’t leave their babies”. part of the reason i never really attended la leche league mtgs, postpartum group mtgs, NAP, etc. is b/c most of the women there are stay at home moms and there is that stigma that you can’t be a good “attachment parent” if you work. i just didn’t find those support groups very supportive for my situation. hence this blog!

  3. Jenny McGurk permalink
    December 29, 2010 1:45 am

    we call it liquid gold too!!!

  4. December 30, 2010 2:18 pm

    Great new blog and I like this post. It probably seemed like Medela was funding the class because, well, they are (at least indirectly.) Because of the way lactation services are generally not covered, lactation professionals who want to make a living of it generally have to sell or rent lots of products, which may or may not actually be necessary or helpful to the woman and her baby. I wrote a post a year or so ago about this… http://www.scienceandsensibility.org/?p=200

  5. Jenny Morand permalink
    January 3, 2011 3:43 pm

    I had a ton of childbirth education but never took a breastfeeding class because I got so flaky on oxytocin. I wasn’t worried because my pregnancy was so easy, and I felt the healthiest I had ever been. When my husband mentioned a pump, I thought that I probably wouldn’t need one because I would be working from home. Well, then I had a baby who was jaundiced. What I did know about BFing was that sometimes your baby didn’t eat for a few days while you milk was coming in and that she would have plenty of nutrients stored up from the womb. My daughter was pretty tiny, and slept all the time. When I would put her to my breast in the hospital, she would take a few gentle sucks and then fall asleep as if to say “I am content just resting on your bosom. Thank you anyway, mom.” The logistics of jaundice were not really explained to me in plain English: basically unwanted icky stuff is expelled by peeing and pooping. It was maybe suggested twice that I supplement with formula. They would say, “or are you planning to breastfeed?” A nurse gave her formula once. She told the pediatricians that mom was getting an A for effort, and baby was being lazy. I didn’t know at the time that “laziness” was related to her condition. Midwives and lactation consultants came in and told me to make a hoagie with my breast, to cram her face in as hard as I could. She screamed and shook her head. I asked if my nipples were flat. “NO! Your nipples are fine.” I shrugged my shoulders and enjoyed my baby who slept all the time, never cried, and never needed her diaper changed, comforted that my baby was still stuffed from the tacos mom ate the night before she was born. The hospital staff mentioned a pump. I asked for a pump. They brought one the next day and showed me how to hand pump– IMPOSSIBLE– then how to use the medela symphony–OUCH. After 20 minutes I had pumped about 5 CCs of colestrum. So mom, dad, and baby are sent home less than 48 hours after Lucy was born. The pediatricians said that her situation was serious… sort of. She needed to start having mustard diapers, not dark greenish black stools. We would have to come back the next day at 8AM for the baby to be weighed. She had already lost 10% of her birth weight which was normal, but she shouldn’t lose any more. We tried to feed her that night. She took a few sucks and slept. I “let” her have about 20 CCs of formula. It killed me as I incorrectly thought I was sabotaging BFing. She wasn’t that interested anyway. The next day she was down to 88% birthweight. But she doesn’t even cry! That’s because she is too weak and dehydrated to wake up they told me! Oh my god! Why didn’t you tell me? I would have given her formula all along! PLAIN ENGLISH people. Most babies would be readmitted they said, but they would let us take her home if we came back the next day again at 8 AM. So much for nestng and resting and bonding and following my midwife’s orders, we would be in the car back and forth to the hospital all week. We were to wake her up to feed her 60 CCs of formula every 2 hours. Forcefeed. We left that wing of the hospital and went to do the birth certificate while we were there. While we waited I gave her the formula. She wouldn’t eat it, and she WOULDNT WAKE UP. I started to hyperventilate and feel faint. I thought my baby was going to die in the lobby of a hospital.. Why are they sending us home? Why don’t they save her? Give her an IV or something! I asked someone to page the midwife on duty. My husband woke her by undressing her completely. She took the bottle. The midwife came out and said, “Jen! Why did they send you home last night? We came up to check on you this morning and you were gone. Babies with jaundice should be sucking and peeing to go home. Insurance would have covered another night no problem.” The next day she was out of danger. The community’s most reputable LC could see me two days later, almost a week after Lucy’s birthday. Guess what! FLAT NIPPLES! I needed nipple shields, and I needed larger suction thingies to not pump in agony. And I needed to try to BF every two hours, then pump for 15 minutes, then feed her expressed milk, then burp her, sit her up for 10 minutes so she doesn’t spit up, then wash the pump parts, then start over. Oh, and also get plenty of rest, get myself enough to eat and drink, and take 20 minute sitz baths 4 times a day. No problem.

    We are now BFing champs. She is 7 weeks old, and we no longer need the shields. I pump once a day– it feels so good!– so my husband can give her a bottle. I still don’t understand how people pump enough to store long term. My point is no one knows about pumping for a low supply or a weak baby. I thought pumps were for working moms, that’s it. But I wouldn’t change a thing. Between natural delivery and breastfeeding, I have a serene, healthy, beautiful baby. I now know that BFing is hard work for most women, “the most unnatural natural thing a mother can do.”

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