Motherhood

The Pumping Diaries, Vol. 1

For a sort of prequel to this post, please pop on over to the not-so-NEW-anymore COLLABORATIVE BLOG. I suggest reading that post first!
[Side note: there are also a handful of other breastfeeding stories ranging from cultural differences to switching to formula to inducing lactation to the struggles of maintaining a supply as a working mom…a series that we, the blog creators, ran for World Breastfeeding Week all the way back in August. So go check them all out, if you haven’t already. Go! 🙂 ]

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Original photo, ©La Leche League, USA. Modified photo, ©Motherhood & Everything Else.

Well, here we are. It’s the end of October, my son is over 8 months old now, and I’m still doing it.

I’m still exclusively pumping.

I have good days. I have days when I feel proud of myself for having lasted this long, and for my body having lasted this long. I look back on the hours upon days upon weeks upon months I’ve just kept going. I’m grateful for my supply, and for another day, week, month, because that means I still might be able to choose to stop on my own. I’m committed 110% to giving Joey the best I can because I am able. These are the days when attaching myself to a machine for anywhere from 20-45 minutes, three times a day, doesn’t bother me. These are the days I even occasionally toy with the thought of trying to get Joey to latch. I remember those early days when supplementing with formula wasn’t a choice, and I remember the sour look Joey would have when he tasted formula coming out of that bottle instead of my breastmilk, and I am thankful that I don’t have to see that face. These are the days I applaud those who are able to breastfeed at all, I rally with my current exclusive pumpers, and I reassure those who were able to breastfeed or exclusive pump for only a few days, a few weeks, a few months, how amazing they are and how well they did and how proud I am of them. I don’t think about all the things I could be doing instead of pumping because this is just how it is. These days, pumping is just a part of my day. It’s a part of my workday. It’s a part of my parenting. It’s a part of my routine. It’s a part of who I am—it’s a part of me.

I have bad days. I have days when I hate the pressure I put on myself to keep pumping. I have days when I hate the pressure society puts on me to avoid formula at all costs. I resent my body for not giving up on its own (crazy, and selfish, I know, but I made a promise to be honest here and so honest I am) and fantasize about it drying up on me and forcing me to quit. I feel like a bad mother for putting Joey in the swing when he doesn’t want to, or letting him sit on the floor with his toys fussing because he just wants to be held, because I simply have to pump before we go to bed for the night (and of course, he’s not sleeping, because teething or night terrors or just because he doesn’t feel like it). I have days when I hate the pain and the sensitivity of my breasts, and I hate the days when I don’t have the opportunity to pump in a timely fashion at work and I come home with pain from engorgement radiating through my chest, under my arms, even through to my back. These are the days I can’t stand to look at, talk to, or even think about anyone who is able to breastfeed, whether they’re struggling with it or not. I look at my current exclusive pumpers and want to ask them, “Why? Why the fuck are we doing this? Why?!” I look at those who’ve packed away their pumps and think, Well fuck, you have it right. You have it right. These days, I think of all the things I could be doing instead of pumping: playing with Joey; sleeping; reading; writing; blogging; relaxing; cooking; cleaning; exercising; and a thousand more. These are the days I hate the pump, I hate that I try so hard, I hate that I ever set out to do this in the first place. I hate this part of me.

I’m facing a busy end of the year at work, through Christmas, and the anxiety over whether I’ll be able to pump on a firm enough schedule to maintain my supply is a dark cloud over my head. Whether or not I make it to my son’s first birthday without feeding him formula remains to be seen. I can only look to the future knowing I’ve committed 100% to doing the best I can for my baby. Whatever happens, happens—and that just has to be enough.

 “Breastfeeding and the Workplace: The Exclusive Pumper’s Perspective”

Things have changed since I posted for World Breastfeeding Week. Forget three to four times a day; I’m down to a solid three times a day, with an occasional fourth “power pump” (which, to me, means a pump less than two hours from my last session in a desperate attempt to scrounge up a bit more) if my daily total that day is meager. When I’ve had a crazy day—visiting friends far away, being a bridesmaid in a friends’ wedding, and so on—I’ll pump twice. Then I’ll spend the following week doing power pumps before bed at night just to get the 3-4oz per day back that I lost because of just one too-busy day.

My daily total has gone down at least 10oz, too. I’m lucky if I can net 40oz every day of the week. My minimum is 35oz, and I usually land somewhere between there and 37-38oz. Still, somehow, despite my growing baby boy, there’s still a steady supply in my fridge. Sure, I haven’t frozen anything extra in months, but I always have several days’ worth in rotation. Even when I have to guiltily “pump and dump” on occasion because I’ve had one too many beers or glasses of wine, there is still a rotation.

I haven’t had to dip into my freezer stash once. Not one time. Though I have to find time at some point to go through it all and organize, because the “best by” time frame of the oldest milk is upon me. My plan is to defrost a few bags a week, and replace them with fresher milk. For as long as I am able.

My updated numbers, from the week after my son was born until today…

…I have pumped 992 times…
…for the equivalent of 19 days, 5 hours, and 1 minute…
…for an amount of 9,563 ounces…
…which is converted to 74.7 gallons of milk.

I don’t know what the future holds for feeding my son. My goal when I had him was until he self-weaned. My goal when we had breastfeeding troubles became three months, at least. My goal when I had success with exclusive pumping became six months, at least. My goal when I hit six months? One more month.

Seven months? One more month.

Now? One more month.

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12 thoughts on “The Pumping Diaries, Vol. 1

  1. Wow, I’m so impressed with your storage capacity! Even with your supply dropping, you’re making plenty, my bet is you’ll be able to make it to a year with what you have in the freezer. But regardless, you’re doing awesome! And don’t pump and dump unless you’re truly tipsy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks!! I’m hoping I can make it to a year. I hope I can pump another month so that I’ll have some milk leftover after he turns a year for transitional purposes. 🙂 And I don’t pump and dump often! I am of the mindset that one glass of beer or wine has no impact, and anything after two you can wait a few hours and pump without issue. Given the length of time I go between pumps, I can have 3-4 beers/glasses of wine before I need to worry! Hell, when I was in the throes of the early days, I was known to have a single beer between pumps that were only two hours apart! I am convinced the old wives’ tale of “dark beer helps supply” is right. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. One more month has been my mantra. I’m not exclusively pumping, but I am pumping 3-4 times a day and that’s going to increase when I go back to work in a week and a half. Like you, I have days when the pump is just a seamless part of the schedule and days where I want to throw it out the window. I’m only 3 months in, so mad props to you for making it to 8 months!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, honey. 🙂 The pump sucks no matter how many times you do it. Haha. Props to you for managing it yourself! I am concerned how it’ll be affected with a mobile baby, though. He is crawling and getting into everything. Including my pump stuff! ACK!

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  3. 8 months is huge!!! Do you mind if I ask a technical question for my learning? Do you pump less now because Joey is older (would you have to pump 6x a day if he was 3 months?) or is it based on amount pumped? Also do you find that the time it takes to pump to get to a certain level is consistent or do you find that’s all over the map? Sorry for being a pest, I plan on hushing a dual medela pump to either supplement for breast feeding, help with supply or like you, if I’m not able to BF, I’ll pump and a, trying to wrap my head around how you fit it all in yo one day!

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    1. Haha don’t think I haven’t replied because I don’t want to!! Just want to give this my full attention and give you all the info you need. 🙂 I’ll attempt a proper response during my lunch today. 😀 ❤

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    2. So I might’ve put this off because I wanted to give it my full attention, and then forgot…

      OOPS.

      First of all, Medela is what I use. I got mine through my health insurance for free (thanks Obama!) and I have the dual electric…Pump In Style? I think? I like it. I can’t speak for ANY other brands. I also used the Medela Symphony in the hospital because that’s what they had. I will say that the Freemie hands-free cups are popular, but not among exclusive pumpers. When you EP, you rely solely on the amount pumped. That’s it. Yes, sure, you can say the same for BFing moms but if you start pumping ahead of time enough, you’re not REALLY pumping on demand. EP moms do. That’s all I’ll say about that. 🙂

      So here’s the thing about amount and timing—the best advice I ever received from a lactation consultant was to start pumping. Around the clock. All the time. I told her my desire to feed Joey ONLY breastmilk, and with our problems with latching, she suggested I start pumping as if I was breastfeeding to build up supply. At about a week or so postpartum, I started pumping 10-12x a day. Literally. When Joey was hungry, side-by-side, my husband and I would sit on the couch. He would feed Joey pumped milk, and I would pump. Every time. I think I started to dial back to 8-10 pumps after two months or so… And after that, it’s all about my body adjusting. I was so diligent that my body knew my schedule and would make as much milk as it could in those 2-3 hours. So when I started tapering back the amount of times I pumped, my body adjusted. At first my supply would dip, but then my body would (literally) be like, “oh she’s only feeding the baby this many times a day so let’s compensate). And the amount would go back up. That’s why I’ve been able to cut back so so so far. Granted, at my peak, I was pumping over 50oz a day. I’m now barely netting 40oz/daily. So it’s not a flawless plan. And I think it’s biologically or physically impossible for boobs to hold THAT MUCH MILK. BAHAHA.

      Anyway, that advice was paramount. I think back and I’m certain that’s the moment I sealed the deal with EPing. Because I set myself up for it. I didn’t allow my supply to suffer because I was struggling with breastfeeding. So when I gave up BFing, I was still able to EP. I’m so thankful for that LC! With that said, if you struggle in the beginning, PUMP. I’m serious. Try latching first. Give it 5-10mins. If no-go, hand baby off to DH and pump. Then next time, give it a go again. See an LC, figure out if you have a tongue-tie or lip-tie or need a nipple shield or ANYTHING. Just PUMP. It sucks in the beginning, but if you’re as determined as I was/am, you just gotta bite your lip and deal. Haha. 🙂

      As far as how long I need to pump for, in general…because I only pump 3x a day, I pump for about half an hour every time. Sometimes less if I can get more than one letdown (which apparently isn’t common? but it happens with me), sometimes more if I don’t get a letdown at all or my boobs are really stubborn. When they say emotion affects your boobies and the milk, it’s true. You need to not be stressed. You need to be hydrated. When I was on maternity leave, Joey was always in the same room so it made it easy. Later, at work, I would look at pictures of him or visualize feeding him in my head. It’s weird, and when I read about it it was weird, but it’s true. I’ve never brought in a blanket or clothes of his but I’ve heard that works, too! Sometimes, knowing you’re stressed and have to pump can only make it worse. Listen to calming music. I’ve never tried but meditation? Honestly, now, I watch YouTube videos. But like, nothing to do with pumping. Or babies. I watch My Drunk Kitchen, and a lesbian parenting vlog, and another cooking channel. HAHA! It helps turn my mind off.

      SO MUCH INFORMATION.

      One more thing I thought of, for now (and by the way, between now and when baby comes and even after, ASK ME ALL THE QUESTIONS. I will try to be more timely 😀 )…another reason I don’t like the Freemie cups is because you can’t do “hands-on” pumping, which is something the LC taught me after I got mastitis. It’s basically like hand-expressing milk but while pumping. It increases my total so much. You can probably google how to do it (YouTube) or ask an LC. I do it every time. Helps to work out little clogs, too, before they become plugged ducts or mastitis (both of which can be common with EPers).

      Okay. I think I’ve rambled on long enough? 🙂 🙂 ❤

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