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Tomorrow (August 7th) is International Pumping Day. It marks the end of World Breastfeeding Week and recognizes the hard work and dedication of all moms out there feeding their babies breast milk by means of pumping.
Tomorrow, I want us all to celebrate the day, but also to raise awareness that although pumping is a different form of feeding babies breast milk, it still provides most (arguably all) of the benefits of breastfeeding. Now, I expect this statement to be disregarded, even challenged, by some; so, I’ll take a moment to explain the logic behind the statement.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of breastfeeding for a moment… (This list was taken from the BabyCenter article How Breastfeeding Benefits You and Your Baby)
- Breastfeeding protects your baby from a long list of illnesses
- Breastfeeding can protect your baby from developing allergies
- Breastfeeding may boost your child’s intelligence
- Breastfeeding may protect your child from obesity
- Breastfeeding may lower your baby’s risk of SIDS
- Breastfeeding can reduce your stress level and your risk of postpartum depression
- Breastfeeding may reduce your risk of some types of cancer
Now, replace the word “breastfeeding” with “breast milk” in the first 5 benefits, and revise 6 and 7 to read “breastfeeding/pumping breast milk”… it is hard to deny that the statements would all still be valid. So then, why is breastfeeding so much the focus, and not the act of providing breast milk to your child in any way that you can? What is the big difference?
Some would argue that breastfeeding provides a special bond between mother and child that other forms of feeding do not. Personally, I’m not convinced. When I first started breastfeeding, my son’s latch was sufficient in that he was getting the milk he needed (he gained weight like a champ), but boy was it painful for me. I winced every single time he suckled from my breast, and I have to be honest, the pain made it impossible for me to enjoy the experience. When I started pumping, however, everything changed. Bottle feeding actually made me feel proud in a way that I know I didn’t feel before, and watching my son gulp down the milk I had worked so hard to pump for him, while I gently rocked him, made me feel bonded to him like never before. (And let’s not forget the wonderful moments of bonding my husband got to experience every time he bottle-fed our little bundle of joy).
Now, I’m not arguing that pumping is “better” than breastfeeding… I’m simply arguing that breastfeeding isn’t necessarily better than pumping. In other words… the benefits are almost entirely (if not entirely) equal. So why not all come together (breastfeeding moms, and pumping moms alike), and celebrate our achievements as one giant community?!
So tomorrow, if you’re a proud pumping momma, help spread the word and educate the lactation community. “Breast is Best” should be out, and “Breast MILK is Best” should be very much in!
(As always, feel free to use the images below to your heart’s content! Click on the thumbnails for larger, high-res images.)
Ever see fellow pumpers referencing pumping awards (or “boobie awards”) in any of your pumping groups? Well, I have, and I absolutely LOVE the idea! So, I did a little digging (and by digging, I mean some serious Google-ing) and although I couldn’t seem to find out where they originated, I did find a pretty thorough list of them.
Awesome! But wouldn’t it be even cooler if you got an actual award?! I know, I would love one! So… I made some! Feel free to grab and use them to your heart’s content :-)
(Click the thumbnails for larger images)
(Check out my blog store for items you can purchase with these award graphics on them.)
As a follow-up to my entry on Pumping at Work, I created some fun signs that you can use to deter people from entering your space mid-pump. (Unfortunately, I know from experience how unpleasant that can be.)
Feel free to save and print any of these signs… they’re yours for the taking (and using)!
My friend Amy has been there for me since the very beginning of my pumping journey. Not only did she start the very fb group I keep talking about, bringing together some of the most amazing moms I know, but she managed to stay an exclusively pumping mom for over 15 months! She is highly intelligent, has a wonderful sense of humor, and is a stay at home mom. Today, she will share her pumping journey with you… some of the emotional ups and downs she experienced… but most importantly, she will remind you that you are an amazing mom, no matter what your experience is or was.
So, without further ado… Amy Rhodes.
As pumping moms we spend our time dreaming of the day that we can pack up the annoying little machine that allows us to nourish our children. The day when we do not have to sit down every 3 hours in order to have our boobs tugged on for 30 minutes. We all know that it won’t be easy, that we will mourn our childrens’ loss of this extraordinary milk tailored just for them. However, I did not expect to mourn the loss of my pump, this obnoxious little thing that had become the rhythm of my role as a mother.
Shortly before my daughter was born, my husband and I decided that it would be best for me to stay home. Once she was here I was so busy adjusting to caring for this new little person and trying to breastfeed that I didn’t even notice that I wasn’t working anymore. Things were going well during the first week, my daughter was gaining weight and I was starting to get comfortable with my new role as a mom. Then my milk came in and nursing became increasingly painful, by 2 weeks old my daughter’s jaundice was worse and she weighed less than she ever had before. I visited a lactation consultant and found that my daughter was not transferring any milk while nursing, and thus my pumping journey began. It ruled my life for those first 3 months, I was able to to increase my supply from 6 opd (ounces per day) to 28 opd! It became a part of our routine, every day I would spend a total of 7.5 hours prepping bottles, pumping, and washing all the parts. Once my hormones had settled and I began to feel like a normal human being again, I realized that I had no idea what I was doing and no one to talk to about it. So I decided to do something about it and created a Facebook group for pumping moms. I began reaching out to other pumpers in a forum I had joined while pregnant and this new community began to grow and take on a life of it’s own. I was finding my place in this world as a stay at home mom that exclusively pumps. I felt important and I was very proud of myself for taking this incredibly difficult path and helping others who were doing the same, but eventually I hit a wall.
At 9 months postpartum I was ready to throw in the towel but I kept going, one pump at a time. I wouldn’t let myself give up even though some of the women, who had become my friends, were in the process of ending their pumping journeys. I would just dream of hitting my 12 month goal and of having free time while I forced myself to hook up to this torture device once more time. When my daughter’s first birthday finally came around I was surprised to find that I was not ready to stop. I was down to 4 pumps a day and producing 18 opd, which was still more than enough for my daughter. I decided to continue pumping until I just didn’t feel like it anymore. When my daughter was 15 months old I knew that she was ready to move away from breast milk. I spent the next month slowly weaning and put my pump away for the last time on January 22, 2014. It was much easier on me emotionally than I was expecting. I did not feel that my daughter was missing out, or that I had failed her in some way by weaning. I was very proud of how far I had made it and that I would be able to continue providing her with frozen breastmilk for a couple more months.
My first few weeks of freedom were liberating, I had time to play outside, to cook and clean, and I could leave the house at any time. Then I found myself missing my life as a pumper, it was how I had always defined myself as a mother and I didn’t know who I was with out it. My friends are all out doing amazing things, one is in the last year of her Masters program for physics, another one just landed her dream job as a paid artist while pregnant with her first child, and here I am spending all day alone with a toddler while my husband works 2 jobs to support us. I know that being a SAHM is an amazing thing and there is nothing more important than molding my child into a caring, responsible, and intelligent human being… But I still feel that I am failing society and failing my husband by devoting my time to this tiny, but demanding, little person. When I was pumping I was doing something amazing, something that few woman are successful at, something that I could be proud of, and now I feel like I am unworthy of admiration. Deep down I know that it is utterly ridiculous to feel this way but I still hear a little voice saying I’m not good enough. My mother tried to raise me to believe that a woman’s place is at home taking care of her family and that there is no greater purpose in this world. My husband tells me that I have no reason to apologize for not contributing financially because I am raising and molding our daughter into the amazing person she’s destined to become. My friends love hearing about my day, my daughter’s new words, or how silly she is. They brag about their amazing “niece” and what a great job I’m doing to their family and friends. I am lucky to be surrounded by some incredible people, both in “real” life and online, who remind me that I’m still special and I am making a difference in the world, just one tiny person at a time.
I have always struggled with self worth issues and it will never go away. I just try to take things one day at a time and surround myself with those who choose to left people up. When I look back at my daughter’s first year and I go through the old photos and videos, I will hear the annoying but constant hum of the pump and remember that I made a great sacrifice for my daughter and that I should be proud of the woman it helped me become. So when your turn to pack away your pump finally comes, just remember you are a strong and dedicated mother that deserves respect and admiration from others, and more importantly from yourself.
(For tips on using the PISA, see Medela Pump in Style Advanced – Caring for, and using your pump)
Fellow mommy blogger (and long-time pumper) Amanda, has graciously offered to write a post on caring for, and using your Freestyle Breastpump. Thank you Amanda! I know this will come in handy for many pumping mommas!
- Connectors and Valve – The Freestyle has a two breast shield connectors, two membranes and two back caps. The membranes need to be replaced on a fairly regular basis – if your pump suddenly stops working effectively on one side, this is the likely culprit. (Since the membranes are not sold separately, when you replace them, you will end up replacing the connectors as well.) The pump also does not work very well when the pump parts are wet from being washed. The best way that I’ve found to work around this is to buy multiple sets of pump parts so that you always have a dry set when you need it.
- Let-down button – This button controls whether you are in the let-down/stimulation mode or normal pumping mode. The Freestyle automatically starts in let-down mode and switches after two minutes. You can switch it back with this button if you haven’t let-down yet, or if you want to try to get another let-down later in the pumping session.
- On-Off Button – This is pretty self-explanatory (you push the button to turn it on), but one warning about the on/off button, is that sometimes it turns on too easily. There’s nothing more awkward than bumping your pump bag on the way into the elevator and having it turn on, loudly. (It’s especially fun if the elevator is full of your co-workers!) One way that I’ve learned to avoid this is to wrap the pump in the nursing cover that I keep in my pump bag. This provides some cushion for the pump so that it doesn’t turn itself on in transit.
- Breast Shields – The breast shields are held in place against your breasts by you or (preferably) a hands-free bra, and are attached to the breast shield connectors. As Nicole mentioned in her post on the PISA, it’s important to make sure that you have correctly sized breast shields.
- Speed/Vacuum Adjustment – The plus and minus signs are used to control the speed of the pump. The lowest speed is 1, and it goes up to 9. The “best speed” to set the pump isn’t necessarily the highest speed – it’s the highest speed where you still feel comfortable. Putting it on too high will be painful and could damage your nipples.
- Pump Timer – The pump timer starts when you push the on button, and it is one of my favorite features of the Freestyle, since it keeps me honest for pumping as long as I am supposed to. The timer screen also allows you to see what speed your pump is set to (you can see it on the side of the timer or by pushing the plus or minus signs to change the speed).
- Tubing – The tubing for the Freestyle plugs into the pump in one place, and then splits into a Y shape for the two connectors. If you’d like to only pump one side, plug the connector tubing that you’re not using back into the Y split. If milk gets into the tubing, it should be washed in warm soapy water and then hung to air dry.
- A/C Adapter – The Freestyle’s rechargeable battery lasts for about 3 hours of pumping time. You can use the adapter to charge the battery either while you pump or in between pumping sessions.
- Cooler – The cooler pack comes with a freezer ice pack and four bottles and caps. If you fly with the freezer pack in your carry on, it needs to be frozen solid.
- Hands-free Accessory Kit – To use the hands-free accessory kit, you need to be wearing a top-flap nursing bra. The way it works is that you attach the hands-free strap to the connectors and then to your bra using the adapters. Personally, I found the hands-free kit too difficult to navigate in my sleep-deprived state and opted to use Easy Expressions pumping bra instead, which gives you the same freedom of movement with less hassle getting hooked up.
Amanda has two kids (3 and 16 months) and has spent 27 months of her life hooking herself up to breast pumps (mostly the Freestyle). She exclusively pumped for her son and writes about it at exclusivepumping.com.
Freestyle Breastpump Features (Medela Website)
“How should I wean?”
This is probably the second most popular question I have seen in pumping forums. Why? Well, we all have to wean eventually. Right?
Ok, so I’m going to do my best to speak to this question. I’ve read various articles on the three different ways to wean… but many of them don’t really go into great detail about each approach, other than to explain how each one works.
Here are the three approaches to weaning from the pump. You can…
- Drop one pumping session at a time
- Gradually decrease pumping time for each pumping session
- Gradually increase the length of time in between pumps
You can also combine some of the above approaches. (Click on the following link… Weaning from the pump… to read more about how each approach works.)
Here’s the thing. Every body will respond differently to each approach. For that reason, it is a good idea to decide on your approach based on how your body has responded in the past. (Most of us have accidentally slept through a pump, or have had no choice but to postpone a pump by an hour or two, or have had to shorten a pump session because of unavoidable time constraints).
Now, I won’t go into great detail on all three approaches because I only have personal experience with one of them. (This is a good time to mention that what I am about to write is all experiential… I am not a medical professional. If you would like medical advice, you should speak to a certified lactation consultant.) That being said, I will explain my reasons for choosing the approach that I did. I am hoping to have guest bloggers talk about their experiences with the other two approaches in upcoming entries.
So, which approach did I choose? Option number three (gradually increasing the length of time in between pumps). I did this for various reasons.
- I was worried about clogs/mastitis. In my 10 months of pumping, I only got clogs once (multiple clogs, but one unfortunate event), and mastitis once (thank heavens it was only once, that was one nasty infection with some pretty intense symptoms). I feel strongly that I was able to avoid getting them multiple times because everything I did in relation to the timing of my pumps was gradual. I didn’t ever “shock” my body by making a really dramatic change quickly (except for two unavoidable instances that inevitably led to the aforementioned clogs/mastitis).
- I wasn’t in a rush. At first, I wanted to slow down to the point where I was producing just enough for Jimmy to consume in one day, but not more, because my deep freezer was out of space. So, I started spreading my pumps out evenly, to drop down from 6 to 5, and then from 5 to 4. Eventually, I realized that I could wean completely, and Jimmy would have frozen milk until he turned one… but I no longer felt an intense desire to quit pumping (pumping 4 times a day was actually pretty doable for me at the time). So, I spread my pumps out even more to drop from 4 to 3, and then from 3 to 2. It wasn’t until I was faced with an impending move that I realized I would be better off weaning completely, rather than pumping through it (the stress of the move was mounting as it was!). That’s why I eventually spread my pumps out even further to drop from 2 to 1, and then to just stop pumping completely.
- I liked the control. I was worried how my body would react to shortened pump sessions. My breasts had been very consistent with how much milk they were able to hold. I felt very confident in how my body would respond to a dropped pump by gradually spreading them out. Obviously, I couldn’t know with absolute certainty what my body would do, and a part of me was worried nonetheless… however, it was very rare that my body surprised me and did something other than what I expected. I really liked knowing that I could rely on it to do what I expected.
- The discomfort was minimal. Dropping pumps gradually meant my body had time to adjust accordingly. With the exception of the two instances I mentioned above, I had very minimal discomfort throughout the weaning process, and don’t remember ever feeling “engorged”.
Ok, so how did I do it exactly? What specific steps did I take?
Well, at first (when dropping from 6 to 5, and 5 to 4), I simply stretched the time in between pumps out by 15 minutes at a time, until I was down to my goal number of pumps per day. I actually stayed at 4 pumps for quite a while (probably around 2 months). Once I was down to 4 pumps and ready to drop another, I realized that I was able to spread my pumps out a bit more aggressively, with little consequence. So, I started stretching my pumps out by an hour at a time. By the time I was down to 2 pumps a day (which I stayed at for some time as well), and ready to wean completely, I was able to stretch them out by several hours at a time. At that point, my body must have realized that I wanted it to stop producing milk… because sure enough, within a week or two, that’s what it did.
If you are curious to see actual numbers, I will be posting a graph of my weaning process in an upcoming entry. Glad I was so diligent at keeping up with my trusty spreadsheet :-)