Monday, November 10, 2008

Tips for a Pumping Mommy

I wanted desperately to nurse my first child. I’m not sure why it was so important to me, but perhaps it was that very importance that caused me to fail at nursing my child. I was a naïve first-time mom and didn’t realize I could kick less-than-helpful nurses out of my room when the baby is obviously distressed.

The nurse tried to force Miss M on to my breast repeatedly for about an hour. Miss M, being the Miss M that I now know quite well, did NOT want to nurse and when the nurse tried repeatedly to get her to latch on, well, M just screamed harder. We were never able to get past that first night of attempts at nursing but I still felt strongly that I wanted my child to have my milk.

They brought the breast pump into my hospital room and explained how to use it. I was tired, ashamed that I couldn’t nurse my baby properly and self-conscious about hooking my breasts up to a machine like I was a cow.

I pumped a tiny amount of colostrum and the nurse fed it to my baby in a tiny cup. My confidence waned with each attempt at nursing and more as I had to use a machine to get the milk for my child.

It didn’t take long once we got home for me to quit even attempting to nurse my child. Her screams at the sight of my breast drove me to tears more than once. I felt like a failure to my child, and a failure as a mother.

I’d rented the hospital-grade pump and was told to pump 8 times a day. I did as I was told, but didn’t get enough milk with each pumping to keep my ravenous baby fed. When we took her in for a check-up, the nurses basically told me I was starving her, which only compounded my feelings of failure and uselessness.

Then I met with the lactation consultant one last time and she gave me some tips for pumping that I used and kept pumping milk for my daughter for six months after her birth. I also had pumped enough milk that I had enough milk frozen in our deep freeze to keep feeding her breast milk for a while after I stopped pumping.

Here are the tips:

Try to be as comfortable as you can. A tense mommy will not pump much milk. Watch TV while you’re pumping, or play with your baby. Do something other than think about the machine you are hooked up to.

Do not watch the bottles fill (or not fill) with milk. If you catch yourself watching, cover your chest and the bottle(s) with a blanket. You’ll probably be surprised at how much milk you pump when you’re not watching.

Label your bags of milk well and use the oldest first.
Give yourself permission to feed the baby some formula if need be.

If pumping is too much, quit.

Be proud of the effort you put in for your child, no matter what you decide to do regarding nursing and/or pumping.

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Karen said...

Let me tell you, I could have written this word for word. This is the exact experience I had with Lizzy. And then Teddy nursed like a champ.

These are great tips.

Mayberry said...

Great advice! I had such a love/hate relationship with the pump. I guess that's common.

chelle said...

Great tips!
I am a full on breast milk making machine. I have insane flow, so pumping came no problem. But being relaxed and not focused on it is key. I would read a book or listen to my ipod.

Awesome Mom said...

Another tip is to go hands free. I pumped 14 months for Evan and it was actually nice to have an excuse to sit in front of the computer several times a day.

Damselfly said...

Oh, the pumping. I hated it. I admire any mom who pumps, whether you actually breastfeed or not. The things we do for love....

ewe are here said...

I had to pump for my boys, too... got just enough to supplement their formula and give them some of my immunity.

Wendy said...

I tried to nurse all three of my kids, but the combination of running out of milk, and nipples slowly being ripped from my body caused me to stop after about 3 weeks with each of them. But they all got the good stuff in that amount of time, so they have great immune systems.

Great post! I'm sure it'll help a lot of women out there!

Kate said...

This was exactly how it was for me with my kids: first one I miserably failed at nursing, then just pumped. The second, I nursed like a pro, but then had to go back to work, so pumped for about 3 months. I've always said breast pumps were the best invention ever. They also let you sleep more because then daddy can kick in with the feedings!

mothergoosemouse said...

Such a great post. I never tried not looking at the bottles - sounds like a trick I should have put to use!

louann said...

Totally had the same experience. I did try to use a breastpump but it just didn't work for me.

With my 2nd, I learned how to pump manually (using my hands) and it turned out perfect.

I plan to do the same with my 3rd.

Anonymous said...

I hated pumping. I did it for more than a month while Little P was in the NICU, but I despised it. I was so glad when he finally got the hang of bfing. Great tips. If only I read them 8 years ago...

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