Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Exclusively Pumping for 6+ Months

I want to start this post with a little pat on the back for myself.  Next week Ryleigh will be 6 months old, and I've been successfully exclusively pumping to feed her.
There were so many moments when I thought that this day would never come. 
So many moments of frustration, worry, pain...
So many times when I was tired, mentally and physically. 
So many times when I longed to be able to normally breastfeed my baby, and moments of envy of friends or other women who could. 
Times when I believed with every fiber of my being that I would never make it past 2 months.
...or 3 months.
...or 4 months.
So many times when I thought I would just stop.
 Just give up.  Give in. 
So many times when I thought to myself, I've done this long enough already.
or Formula would be so much easier. 
I want to say Thank you.  Thank you to the women who liked and commented on a couple of my instagram posts about breastfeeding.  Thank you to friends who breastfed and EP'ed who reached out to me with words of advice and encouragement.  It means more to me than you know.  And it kept me going.  It was the perfect nudge of support to help me not to give up in moments of weakness. 
It sounds so clich√© but it's truly something you do not understand until you go through it.  No amount of books or classes can prepare you, because it's so far outside of the normal realm of understanding.  Some women can breastfeed and it's natural and perfect and great.  But for the rest of us  most of us, there is a huge learning curve and a lot of struggle until you finally, hopefully, figure out what works for you and your baby.
I know breastfeeding is such a sensitive subject with mothers.  I think that there is a such a stigma about it and so much pressure on women to do it that when we stop, whether it's after 1 week, 1 month, or 1 year, there's a twinge of guilt.  You feel like you're doing something wrong.  You feel like you will be judged.  You feel guilty that you didn't do it longer.  You feel badly because something made you stop--maybe it was lack of supply, an injury [because yes, those do happen!],  job limitations.  I've always known that I wanted to at least attempt to breastfeed my children, because I do believe that there are many different benefits to it--for the baby and for the mother [and for the family bank account].  However, I'm not one of those women that will judge, lecture, or advocate about it. 
Because sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. 
What is important is that baby is fed and healthy.
What I do want to share here is some of my experience and some tips or tricks I've learned along the way.  It was very beneficial for me to talk to other women who EP'ed and to read some blogs from women who EP'ed.  Especially when first starting out because there is a sea of breast-pumping products and sets and its hard to know what you need and what you don't.

So, there's a lot to say, bear with me.

Here's what works for me.


This has been how I persevere through it.  Instead of having demanding goals for breastfeeding, before Ryleigh was even born I set small, more attainable milestone goals.  I feel like this makes it easier for me to keep going, and allows me to celebrate my accomplishments along this journey.  It depends on what type of person you are, but this works best for me.  Before she was born, I knew I wanted to attempt breastfeeding, mainly for the health aspect for the baby and also because I do think there are benefits for the baby with breastmilk as far as healthy immune system, intellectual development, and bonding is concerned.  When Ryleigh was born and we were having issues with latching [mainly staying latched].  I tried breastfeeding and pushed through the pain for about two weeks. 
She was frustrated. 
I was frustrated.
...and in the words of my lactation consultant,
I was becoming "very damaged" from her not latching/staying latched properly. 
Yeah, painful to say the least.
I decided to start exclusively pumping, and while it has not been the easy road, it works.  We were very fortunate that I have enough supply, and that Ryleigh took to a bottle so easily. 
Still, it has been a daily struggle that I have to convince myself to do.
 My first milestone goal was to just breastfeed my entire maternity leave [9 weeks].
My next goal was to make it to 4 months.  That seemed like a good foundation and if I needed to switch to formula after that I told myself that was fine.  I was also slowly building up a supply of frozen milk, so I knew that once I made it to that point, she would still get a few more days worth.
By the time 4 months came around, I was settled back in at work and in my pumping routine, and I was finally able to sleep through the night and not have to wake up to pump at 4am.  That all made it seem easier to keep going.  My next goal was 6 months.
And now 6 months is here.
Especially with working, the time has gone by very quickly.  Now I'm looking at my next milestone, which I've decided is my birthday [October/8 months].
Part of me thinks that when I get to that point, I will think Well, we're so close to the end of the year, my next milestone will be New Year's.  But then, when I get to the end of the year, Ryleigh will be 10 & a half months old, so why not just round out to one whole year?
I'm definitely not going beyond that.  She's allowed cow's milk at 1 year. DONE.
And then I think about keeping going at this for another 6 whole months and I decide that I'm crazy to think I could do this that long.  So, we'll see.
Milestone goals.


If you are exclusively pumping, you will have a Love/Hate relationship with your pump.  It's important to have a good one.  The (1)Medela Pump In Style Advanced is fabulous, and I have the On-the-Go tote version.  I like that I have additional storage in the tote for pump parts, milk storage bags, quick clean wipes, etc.  This pump also comes with a wall plug or a battery pack, and I have used the battery pack to pump in the car and on the boat a few times [on trips when Jake was driving].  They do make a car plug adaptor, but I don't have it.

In addition to what came with the pump, I purchased the (8)Breast Pump Accessory Set so that I had additional bottles and another set of breast shields.  There are several different accessory set options, so I waited a couple weeks until I really knew which parts I needed extras of.  Having two sets of shields is very nice so that you aren't constantly washing parts after every pumping session, especially if you are unable to because you have to take care of the baby or go somewhere.
Also, my pump came with a set of breast shields that are two parts each [separate shields and connectors] but this Accessory set it is all one piece.  That is really convenient for a travel set--so it's what I take to work every day, and I use the more piece-y set in the morning and at night.

I've already mentioned what a lover of Boon products I am, and we are still loving our (5) Boon Orb bottle warmer.    In addition to that, we have the (2)Boon Lawn drying rack with one (3)Stem and one (4)Twig.  Get the Lawn size, you will need it.  You will have tons of bottles and pump parts to wash every single night and throughout each day.  You will need that much space, and then you will get creative stacking things when you still run out of room.

The (6) Medela quick-clean wipes are very convenient for what I am pumping at work, out on the boat, or at a friend's house.  Really anywhere when you're away from home. 

The extra (7)membranes will periodically start to rip and need replacing from the several-time-a-day use.  I buy this set instead of the Valve & Membrane set, because it's cheaper and my valves are still in great condition.

If you are blessed with a supply that is a little or lot over what you need to feed baby each day, you will need some milk storage bags.  I've tried Lansinoh and Nuk.  (9)Nuk are typically a little cheaper and they seem to be good quality from what I can tell so far. Plus, for every purchase from them this year they are donating to Breast Cancer Research.

Once your supply is really established [from what I've read and what I could tell with myself, that's around 2.5-3 months] you probably will not need to wake up in the middle of the night to pump.  That's one thing I learned from an old friend who reached out to me when she found out I was exclusively pumping.  She told me about how she had been EPing with her son, who was 10 months old.  10 months of EPing. Wow.  That did, and still does, sound unreal to me.  I was amazed that someone could commit to doing this for so long. It's definitely not the easy path, so I have so much respect for ladies who stick with it for so long!  It's such a self-less thing to do...well, except for that whole weight-loss upside to all the extra calories that we burn. 
But I digress. 
She told me that once your supply is established, you do not have to wake up in the middle of the night to pump, you will just get double in the morning.  Because of that, you will need to invest in some larger bottles, like the (10)3-pack Medela 8oz bottles. 

And for all the fun that is washing bottles and pump parts, you will need some good baby-friendly soap, like (11)Palmolive Baby.  Let me say that I do love the Medela bottle soap, but this Palmolive version is about a quarter of the price in a bottle that is twice the size, so that's a no-brainer for me. 

Now, finding a bottle brush that I like has been hard.  I use the nipple cleaning brush that comes with Dr. Brown's bottles on all of my bottle nipples and it works very well.  They last about 3 months before the handle breaks since it's wire.  For everything else...I started out using this Munchkin bottle brush that has the sponge on the end.  It was okay and lasted about 4 months, but then the sponge started to fall apart so I had to get rid of it.  My main complaint with this bottle brush was that the internal nipple brush area molded easily and since it just screwed on and off, it would unscrew if my palm hit it while cleaning something.  It also had a normal plastic base and I would have preferred a suction base to stand on the counter.  So, when that died I picked up the Deluxe Munchkin bottle brush.  I hate it.  It's terrible, it flings soapy water all over me and my countertop when you pull it in and out of a bottle.  The bristles are firmer and do not bend enough to fit into the breast shield canal.  It pretty much sucks. The only nice thing is this one does have a suction base.  I recently ordered the Dr. Brown's Bottle Brush which I have high hopes for, we will see once it arrives!


Staying hydrated is very important.  I notice a direct correlation to having enough or a lack of milk based upon how much water I've been drinking that day.  I have been lucky in that I do not really have an issue with needing to increase my supply, but I know that there are a few products to help if you do, like Fenugreek and special milk-production cookies.  I have also noticed that if there is a day when I produce on the low side, if I eat a burger, it works like a charm to get my supply back up.  Not sure the science behind that, but it's probably something to do with the fats in red meat.  I learned this trick from Jessica of the Little Baby Garvin blog [see her EP story here]. 


I found out about this mixture from a woman at my church who happens to be a lactation consultant.  She told me to use it to heal a blister [one of the unfortunate pumping injuries that can occur] but said it can be used for many things.  You should consult your lactation consultant before you use this as a solution for a problem, but I have found it works very well! 
Mix equal parts hydrocortisone [Cortizone10 or similar], antifungal cream [Lotrimin or similar] and polysporin [NOT NEOSPORIN. Neosporin has a numbing agent that is not safe for baby to ingest, but polysporin does not and is safe].  I had some extra plastic ointment containers left over from a spa baby shower, which works perfectly to hold this mixture and I keep it in my pump tote to apply after pumping once or twice a day, or as needed. 

So, that's my story and my advice. 
I know I've left some things out, although that's probably okay with the novel that is above. 

I know I didn't mention a pumping bra, and that's because I have one and I don't like it.  I think I used it a total of 4 times. You can't massage the milk ducts to get them empty while wearing the pumping bra, and for a girl that already takes 30 solid minutes to pump, that sucks. 
I also didn't mention bra pads, because I'm one of those weird women that doesn't leak.  Ever.  I might get painfully engorged on a daily basis, but I don't have to worry about leaking on my clothes or wasted milk.  Good and bad, I guess.  Although, I will say that a friend gave me a box of Medela breast pads for my baby shower and I did end up using them just as comfort because I was sore and they felt better than the fabric inside my bra. 

If you have other questions or want advice on specific things not covered above, feel free to ask me! 

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