When I had Cohen I nursed him for about 5 days. Then my supply came in full force and it made it hard for him to latch without drowning in my milk. The lactation consultant suggested I pump before I nursed him. After being told this I realized that I didn't want to spend time pumping and then nursing him because really that just seemed like a ton of work to an already exhausted mama. Although I was bummed I wouldn't be able to share that bond with him, I decided I would just exclusively pump because that was the next best thing -- at least he would still be getting the much needed nutrients from breast milk. I exclusively pumped for six months with Cohen and then used my extreme stash of frozen breast milk for another month. That was what worked best for us at that time.
This time around with Lola I decided to give nursing another shot. The kid latched like a pro and had no problems whatsoever - until my supply came back full force again. Then the latching issues started like they did for Cohen. With a three year old at home, I didn't want to spend what little energy I had pumping and nursing because then that wouldn't give me time to be with both of my kids. It just wasn't worth it. I decided that once again I'd pump this time around. Honestly it was the best choice not only for myself but for my family as well. With an extremely busy three year old and a newborn, my attention and time was needed quite frequently. My original goal was six months with Lola. Currently she is almost eight and a half months and I'm still pumping but just twice a day. Once again I was able to build another killer breast milk stash. I decided to wean off the pumping slowly this time to hopefully make the process less painful. Most likely around Labor Day I'll drop down to one pump a day and then during our Fall Break I'll completely stop. This would give Lola a good solid eleven months of breast milk and would surpass my goal by almost six months.
I thought I'd share some of my tips for new moms or maybe moms that were like me and had other little ones and wanted to explore the option of exclusively pumping. Here are some of the things that worked best for me during my "pumping journey."
1. Stay Hydrated
There was a period where my supply dropped and I wasn't producing as much milk. I thought my pumping days were going to be limited until I realized that I wasn't drinking enough water. I started carrying my water bottle around with me everywhere I went and making sure I drank at least three full bottles a day. My supply increased and I was back up to milk machine status in no time. Aim for at least 90 oz of water a day if possible. My water bottle has a straw and I find that I drink way more water through a straw than with a normal water bottle opening.
2. Schedule Your Pumping Times
Obviously at the beginning you'll need to pump more frequently because your baby will need more milk. Set times of the day to pump and stick to your schedule. The first month I pumped every 4 hours. Once I had a great supply built up, I slowly decreased that amount to four times during the day and once at night. Then I dropped the night pump and pumped four times a day. As Lola got older I was able to go three times a day. Now that she is eating more solids I can pump twice a day and use 4-5 oz of frozen milk a day. But what was easiest for me was to pump at times that either she would be sleeping, eating or when Kurtis was home so I didn't have to pump and hold her at the same time. That's really not an easy task...ever. For example, when I pumped four times a day I pumped once first thing in the morning, once during her morning nap, once again during the afternoon/evening nap and finally again before bed. Find a schedule that works for you and stick to it.
3. Purchase a Hands Free Pumping Bra
If your pump is already a hands free pump -- bonus for you! If not, I suggest splurging and buying a hands free bra or making one yourself. Just use an old sports bra and cut small holes out for you to slide the pump parts through while you pump. My cousin gave me her PumpEase pumping strap and I've faithfully used this for both kids. This strap allows me to pump and do other things at the same time like feeding Lola while she sits in her Boppy, answer emails or catch up on my Real Housewives without holding on to my pump parts.
4. Invest in Multiple Sets of Pumping Parts and Accessories
You know the saying, "The more the merrier," right? I totally agree with it in this instance. At the beginning when you are pumping so frequently it becomes a pain to have to wash your parts all the dang time. This way if you have at least three or four sets, you aren't rushing to wash parts right before you pump because you always have a set clean and ready to use. You can, however, throw your parts into a plastic bag after you pump and put them in the fridge. This allows you to reuse them again that same day without having to wash them. Just a helpful tip for you working moms who have to pump at work!
5. Set a Goal for Yourself
Being able to see an end in site helps keep me motivated. I set goals for both of my kids to help keep me going and to ease the impatience and frustration that occurred with my pumping routine. With both Cohen and Lola my goal was to pump for six months. My thinking was that six months of breast milk is better than none and if I am able to produce the milk then I might as well do it for at least the first six months of their life. Now that I'm heading into the ninth month for Lola my thinking is, "Okay, I've surpassed another month past my goal. Let's see if I can go another month." I've been lucky enough to produce a crazy amount of milk that I might as well supply her with it.
It's crazy how much more you learn your second time around. You have already experienced it once so you know what works and what doesn't work. Maybe if I can convince Kurtis we can see how this changes a third time around... :)
*Quick Note: Be sure to contact your insurance company about their breast pump reimbursement program. My insurance reimbursed me $250 for a new pump. I just had to send in my receipt and then they sent me a check. I bought my pump off Amazon and paid $2 for it after being reimbursed -- holla!!!*