Sunday, September 28, 2008

to pump or not to pump: hand vs. electric and the joys of breast pumps

Sorry for my lack of posts... I'm opening a studio in the next few weeks and life is crazy with my business.

Okay, so you're pregnant and you are thinking about breastfeeding, you know you want to and yet you're hoping for some freedom. Freedom that comes in the form of a bottle (if your child will take one). This bottle freedom (if you are not doing formula) comes along with something called a 'breast pump.' You are thinking, "I'll just pump... and when I want to drink 3 margaritas, I'll 'pump and dump'"-- ahh motherhood--so simple in theory. So simple while you are still pregnant and getting lots of sleep.

This 'pumping' term is so casually thrown around amongst the breastfeeding mommies it must be super simple, and fun! You are thinking, "Maybe I can read a book and pump at the same time... I'll get so much reading done. How long could it really take? I'm going to be doing the best thing for my baby..." Oh these thoughts have entered your brain.

REALITY check.

Pumping does have it's advantages...ahem, one advantage: your breast milk can be delivered by another vessel other than yourself (unless you are me and your child WILL NOT accept said vessel). Hooray! You can go out and ride your bike and do lots of fun things. BUT WAIT! You forgot, when your child is drinking from his/her bottle, and you are out doing things, like, for example, work...your boobs say "UM, I need to be emptied." Thus the breast pump to the rescue. The joys of holding those satellite dishes to your breast, thinking about your little baby and expressing milk, all the while hearing the delightful noise...KERRR-sssshh, KEERrr---shhhh, Kerrr-shhhhh. What no one told you about pumping those jugs, you are about to read... the ugly side of breast pumping....

1) You can do nothing else while pumping (at least I can't -- but I did see this shirt thing you can get to hold both pumps in place it looks BAD, real bad). In fact, you actually pump more milk per minute if you sit there and stare at a photo of your baby or think cute thoughts about your baby. If for one second you take your hand off the little dish that goes up against your breast, you lose suction and it doesn't work. JOY. So get used to it, time spent just sitting there watching your breasts eject milk.

2) If you pump, your breasts make more milk. This is basic, enough, right? Your breasts work on supply and demand and so when you pump them, they think they need to replenish the supply. Best to pump the same time every day so they don't get confused or if you are away from your baby pump on his/her schedule. If you begin to pump helter skelter, you future will include leaking. So pump your breasts only as much as your baby drinks (go by time) or else, you'll end up with too much milk with no place to go...

3) if you aren't in the habit of pumping, there won't be a lot of extra milk. Again, supply and demand. This is really only after your milk supply and nursing rhythm is established. Ex: at 2 months I could pump 8 oz like a champ pretty much anytime. But I never pump much now so when I do finally sit down to the chore, I get an ounce...unless it's Owen's nursing time. So, establish one time a day when you pump regularly so you will produce for that session. If you are like me and don't have any luck, then begin to pump at the same time every day and eventully your breasts will get the idea. They are smarter than you think!

4) hand pump (AKA manual) v. electric (Medela pump n' style) -**side note, there is NOTHING stylish about breast pumping, nice try Medela**- so they both work, but manual pump is to mail like pony express is to FedEX. I don't know if I wrote that correctly, I'm not a writer for standardized tests but trust me, just go for the type you plug in. Too expensive? Your local hospital will rent you one monthly or you can buy a used one from a friend and get all new hoses and satellite dishes, and collection bottles or bags. Funny thing is, the milk doesn't go through those hoses, so if all you are sharing the electric motor, then it's perfectly sanitary.

5) pump if your supply is low. This is one other advantage not mentioned above. You can pump to increase your supply when you are just starting to nurse, if you are having problems. This includes sitting there holding the satellite dishes to your breasts while they suck your nipple into their plasticy-shell and tell your body "produce milk." (side note, you can do this even if you haven't had a baby, mothers of adopted babies have had success actually getting their milk supply to come in when they were never pregnant). CRAZY, I KNOW!!

6) double pumping is not necessary and will increase your supply like crazy. I single side nurse, so I single side pump. I've had to pump one breast and then the other but didn't find the need for double pumping. If I was a 9-5 working girl, I guess it would come in handy. Chime in here, working girls.

I never ever pump (like once a week or so) and I can't still wanted to fork out the dough for the electric pump. I can't stand the manual pump... it's just so odd, it takes longer for your milk to let down and frankly it hurts as little. I think your breasts are like, "What-chyou-talkin'-bout-willis?"

So in short, if you want your freedom, and believe me YOU DO, get a breast pump, suffer through those boring pumping sessions and do it early. If your baby is a good nurser and having no problems, start with that bottle a day no later than two weeks. They will not get confused with one bottle a day. If you are nursing 12 times a day, they will always prefer the breast to bottle and you'll be happy you did it. If you have a little stubborn baby, like Owen, you run the risk of missing the window of opportunity of accepting a bottle. I'd say most people will agree, if they don't take it by 6 weeks, they will most likely never take it. My boy is 7 months and thinks pacifiers, bottle nipples and sippy cups are chew toys. At first he would just scream if we tried to bottle feed him (4 weeks- 4 months) and now he just chews the nipple and moves on to another toy. We have had success with VERY watered down rice cereal and spooing that down his throat when I've had to be away for work for the day.

All the doctors in the world will tell you, "oh a hungry baby will eventually take a bottle and No baby will starve itself." Owen has stamina like you can't believe. He'll hold out ALL DAY until I get home. We frankly I didn't want to put any care-giver (namely my husband) through a 24 hour fight ending in the baby "giving up" and sucking down a bottle from pure exhaustion and hunger. That didn't sound real humane to me.

Last thought... no one ever told men to hook a machine (manual or electric) to their 'male parts', no, they don't have to look down only to hear "the pump sound." But this, ladies, is one of the many, many joys of being a woman. Suck it up. no pun intended.


McMommy said...

I have several friends who are pregnant for the first time...I need to forward them this post!!

happy pow!

Cameron Clark Photography said...

Um, I am pretty honored to have McMommy commenting on MY baby blog. Thanks for the happy POW!