Fast forward 10 months. Before I returned to work, I spent the mornings pumping one side while he ate on the other. This milk went into the freezer for an emergency stash. I returned to work at 10 weeks postpartum and found a limited amount information online about how to do this "pumping and working full-time" thing (which is why I'm writing this post- more information needs to be out there!) I muddled through, and I'm thankful it worked out. I started out pumping into bottles, pouring into bags; then pumping straight into bags; now I pump into bottles and leave it there- I was tired of continuously buying bags. My freezer stash grew slowly, and was needed very, very rarely- it is just a buffer in case Josh runs out of milk at home, or we need extra to take to a babysitter or the church nursery. I started out pumping three times a day. I'd pump four times a day for a few days if it seemed like my supply needed a boost. Now I'm down to twice a day, and Elliott's eating lots more solids for lunch. I expect I'll stop entirely at the end of the year, when he's one. The flexibility of my work schedule and my employer has made pumping as easy and painless as possible. I know I am lucky.
I've had stay-at-home mom friends marvel at my pumping regimen, amazed I could keep it up so long, lamenting how much they hate the very-occasional pumping they have to do. I surely don't feel like a hero, though- I've just done what it takes to feed my baby. It's not my favorite, but not awful, either. It just is. The heroes, in my eyes, are the moms who pump around the clock for their babies who are unable to nurse, or the moms attempting induced lactation and adoptive nursing. They are rock stars.
What I learned:
- Kellymom is a great resource. The information I found there got me started on the right foot about everything from how to pump to how to store milk.
- Instructing the bottle-feeder is one of the most important keys to success. If I'm pumping the right amount, but the baby's caregiver is feeding too much, I'll never be able to keep up. Josh was great about following Elliott's cues, letting him be done when he was full, and not over-feeding.
- "Wait for the second let-down". I don't remember where I heard this tidbit of advice, but it was so necessary for me, when I get impatient and wanting to be anywhere but sitting in a room by myself hooked up to a machine.
- Storage bags can get expensive. Not formula-expensive, still pricey and annoying to buy. Using bottles to wash and store milk definitely worked well for us, was more spill-proof, and created much less waste.
- Different people have different experiences. I was lucky, and pumping worked out for me. Some don't respond to the pump as easily. Some need supply-boosting herbs, foods, or medicines to keep up a milk supply while away from their baby. I'm beyond thrilled that pumping and working full-time was possible for me.
- It is worth it. The hours spent in a little room listening to the whirr-whirr of the pump isn't fun, but the knowledge that Elliott's getting the best nutrition for him and we're able to keep up the nursing relationship when we are together makes the time and effort so, so valuable.
What I'd do differently:
- Buy a new pump. I got one off craigslist (exactly what everyone says not to do), and, while I believe it was safe and sanitary, I see the benefit to the features and technology in a newer model. Next baby, I'm definitely getting a new one.
- Get right-sized flanges. I have no idea if the ones I have are the right size for me, and, from what I've read, it's worth having it checked out.
- Donate milk. This time around, my supply was such that I had just the right amount for Elliott. God made our bodies wonderful and perfect in that way. Next time, I'd love to regularly pump an extra supply for the Indiana Mother's Milk Bank.
- Find support. I'm the only mom I know apart, from online friends, that has pumped and worked full-time for baby's first year. Finding others for support is worth it. The one LLL meeting I attended, I got really, really good tips.
I can't believe I'm only just now talking about pumping, at the end of my journey. I want resources to be more available. Did you try to pump and work? What worked or didn't work for you? Do you have any questions about it?