This journey is one that is very close to my heart.
I am doing a three part series on exclusive pumping because I feel like not enough information is out there for a first time pumping mum and I very strongly feel that it needs to be advocated more than it is, especially so for conditions which require a mum to pump.
One can also store colostrum if they know that they’ll be welcoming a baby with feeding challenges. I had the good fortune of working with a great certified lactation consultant to help me with the same.
I want to say that IT IS POSSIBLE and exclusive pumping is a beast we can tame!! However, please note, I am not a lactation expert and the following is an account of my very private experience.
The one thing that I thank God for everyday is the fact that I had enough supply to feed my daughter exclusively for the first 7 months and continued to do so post the introduction of solids until her palate repair surgery till year one.
She still enjoys the benefits of her mamas milk and will continue to do so thanks to modern storage technology even though my journey is officially over.
This whole experience has been bittersweet for her and me. I mourned the loss of our breastfeeding relationship, I could never just have her latched on even for comfort. Our several skin to skin and comfort nursing sessions only just lasted a few minutes before it all got a little too overwhelming for her.
What kept me going for 13 months non stop was excellent support from the husband and family. Sticking to a pumping schedule no matter what. Readiness to pump anywhere and I mean anywhere! The downside was that I couldn’t really socialise outside of my house all that much unless I carried all my supplies BUT I wouldn’t change any of that because it was for her, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat if I had to!
Here are a few things I kept in mind at the time of purchase and some I learnt via experience.
- Select a good hospital grade pump especially if you’re in it for the long haul.
- Make sure its a “Closed system pump” to maintain hygiene and safety. Read more on closed system vs. open system pumps.
- NEVER use a second hand pump unless it is a “closed system pump” (motor only) Always buy new tubing, bottles, flanges, membranes and accessories. Please note Medela themselves recommend that one should not share pumps or even use them second time around for the fear of “cross – contamination”. Read more on it here.
- Make sure it is a double electric so you don’t have to be hooked onto the pump for hours on end.
- If possible, always have spares of membranes, tubing, valves or any delicate parts handy to avoid wasting time in re-ordering or even God forbid “missing a pump”!
- Select the right flange size. A wrong flange size can be unforgiving.
- I used a Spectra S1. It was beautiful and the customer service was great too (US customer service). Absolutely gentle on the body and wont rip your skin. I LOVED my pump for its “night lamp” feature as well as how quiet it was, made the middle of the night pump actually possible and that too without waking up my babies or husband. Another great feature is that it’s chargeable with a decent battery life. Seriously, I couldn’t have asked for more!
- Last but not the least, lube the flanges, the reduction in friction will lend you more comfort than one can imagine! I used organic coconut oil. Just a drop rubbed on the funnel would do the job.
A little rigid in the beginning but well worth the time invested. Someone would watch the babies and if that wasn’t possible they’d just be hovering around me. Yes! we normalized pumping for my then 2.5 year old just as we would with nursing a baby.
- They say it takes a good 12 weeks postpartum for the supply to get established. Which means pumping in the “Middle Of The Night” (MOTN) becomes a necessity. There will be a spike in supply for the first few weeks and then sometimes a sudden dip so in view of that “sudden dip” I could NEVER let go of that MOTN pump. Plus, a pumping schedule needs to mimic a new borns feeding pattern and almost all newborns will nurse at night.
- Sticking to the schedule. I started pumping at first every two hours for 10 mins at a time but soon realized it wasn’t for me. Each body is different constitutionally and I could manage well with longer gaps. Below is a pumping schedule I got off the internet and used as a broad guideline. It took me time to understand my body to be able to decide the time interval between two pumps and the length of each pump.
- Always pump until empty. That is how a baby would nurse. Emptying will cue the body to keep the production going. Incomplete expression has the potential to manifest into clogs and worse still, mastitis.
When the production dips:
For an exclusive pumper a drop in production sets off immediate alarm bells because we can always “measure” what we make and that can be rather unnerving! One can take several routes to bringing up the production with the aid of supplements etc. But what seemed to work for me was POWER PUMPING. Below is a chart which represents a power pump schedule. Power pumping essentially mimics “cluster feeding” therefore, the body attempts to increase supply.
Finally, I wish to reiterate the fact that the information I represent here is what I’ve learnt through my journey and via being a part of various exclusive pumpers communities on social media, guidance from a couple of lactation counsellors and the internet in general as a source of information and inspiration.
Thank you for reading!
Next up, Taming the BEAST, Part 02: Storage & The Battles Within!