Author: Jessica Moffitt, BS, CHES
Photo Credit: Lifestyle Portraits with Morgan, MKay Photography of Hays, Kansas
My Parenting Mantra: I will not determine my value as a mother by the volume of milk I create
Pumping had been scary to me. I was DEATHLY afraid that I would pump it all out, and then my daughter would be hungry, and then I’d have nothing to feed her. It felt like she constantly wanted to eat, and I was so afraid I wasn’t going to keep up. She wouldn’t get to eat 8-12 times, and then wouldn’t gain her 1 ounce a day for that day, and then … commence downward spiral thinking.
And “that moment” came. I had just finished a mentally exhausting 10-minute pumping session and achieving a whopping 1 ounce. I was petrified. I walked the “walk of shame” into the kitchen and passed my husband on the coach. And what better statement for him to make other than” no wonder she always wants to eat! That’s all you got?” and I lost it. I collapsed to the floor. I screamed and yelled and burst in tears. And I felt like the BIGGEST FAILURE OF MY LIFE. Before you begin cursing my husband’s name, let me tell you. He is a VERY systematic and strategic thinker. He is AMAZING and objectively looking at a situation and finding the perfect solution. Innocently enough, in his mind, he had just solved why our child was always eating. The consequences of his words did not fully load in his brain until the words had already been said. We laugh about it now, but it was a painful moment in our early days of parenting, and I am sooo glad we got to experience those emotions together.
Anywho, So I scheduled an appointment with my local hospital’s lactation specialist. She teaches the childbirth classes, so I had already seen her several times, and she visited us in the hospital after birth as well to check in. I was comfortable with her, and I needed to make sure I was doing okay. That I was “a good mom”. Now Nurse Jill had made us repeat a million times in class “I will not determine my value as a mother by the volume of milk I create”. I had it written in my parenting journal, and I had the page open for when I was pumping. But it wasn’t enough. I needed someone to tell me I was doing well. So we attended our appointment. And we weighed our sweet little bundle before feeding on one side, after that side, and then again after the second side. And guess what, ya’ll? I fed our sweet little girl just over 3 ounces in 11 minutes.
So what does this mean? This means that my entire struggle with pumping was mental. Or at least, that seemed to be the biggest barrier. So I returned to Google to find everything I could about oxytocin, prolactin, and breastfeeding.
Here are some things I learned.
1. Make a designated safe haven for where you want to pump. A space that you are uninterrupted and can focus on the task at hand. Since I loved feeding in the rocking chair, this is where I picked for pumping (and still do at 23 weeks postpartum as I write this blog!).
2. Grab something to drink. I love Earth Mama’s milk maid tea. It tastes absolutely delicious, and is jam packed with healthy herbs that help promote breast milk production.
3. Get comfy. There’s nothing worse than trying to pump while you are not comfy. Get a blanket, a pillow, whatever it takes.
4. Buy the darn breast milk pump bra. They are under $20.00. Just buy one. Holding the bottles for 12 minutes is a pain in the arse and makes the mental components of breastfeeding exacerbated. I bought this one.
5. Put a blanket over the bottles. Just one of those small receiving blankets. Once you have the suction cups going, and know that your nipple is lined up in the middle of the flange and isn’t going to get torched from being sideways, just cover ‘em up.
6. Get a calming distraction. Coloring books, a game on your phone, etc. Something that is completely unrelated to feeding, but helps you relax. Don’t multi-task (at least not at the beginning). Some mom-blogs have said that looking at a picture of your baby helps, but if you are like me, it just made me more nervous about getting enough food (remember that spiral?). Now that I have more confidence in my pumping, I am able to multi-task without concerns, but I still LOVE having the time to myself if I can.
7. Love yourself. Oxytocin is the love hormone. Do things that make you love yourself, and love others. Give lots of hugs and kisses. Think of things that make you so happy. Watch your little one peacefully sleep, or play and discover new things while you pump. Be happy.
8. Set a timer on your pump, or on your phone. Don’t watch the clock. For one, it’s like watching water boil and is not pleasant. For two, panic seems to kick in around 7 minutes (for me at least), and the urge to see “how I am doing” makes the last 5 minutes even more unbearable.
9. Use ALL the settings. Each breast is different from one person to the next, try the different setting combinations, and find one that works for you. Most breast pumps have a stimulation cycle that sort of “primes” the breasts before let down, just as your little one does while they feed. Then you can choose (typically) how much force is behind the pull, and how long each pull lasts. My insurance didn’t cover breastpumps, (#grandfathered plan), so we bought the double electric pump from Lansinoh on Amazon, and I have been very pleased with it. It is battery or cord operated, and while it is definitely stronger with the cord, I find that using the battery option while camping or traveling is a convenient perk.
10. Before you lift that blanket to reveal “how well you have done”, say out loud “I will not determine my value as a mother by the volume of milk I create”. And no matter what you pumped, love yourself for that. Store it in a breast milk bag and rinse your bottles sooner rather than later. I find that if I am in a hurry and I put the bottles straight in the fridge, the milk separates and the fat sticks to the side of the bottle.