Sunday, August 4, 2013

Oh the torture: pumping part 1

I don't think many people talk about the nasty part of working/going to school and nursing a baby: pumping. It is unpleasant at best and just awful at worst. (and hey, this has been lounging in my drafts for weeks and weeks so it's an amalgam of pumping with full time daycare and pumping with just long-term stockpile in mind).

So let's talk logistics of pumping, since that isn't super widely discussed. For me it means that I have about 3 dozen 2.5 oz bottles in rotation with about a dozen at daycare, a dozen clean or in the wash, and a dozen in my deep freeze. This puts me an average of 3-5 days ahead of need (at 4 months it did, anyway) so everything gets deep frozen before going to the freezer at daycare.

I pump when the baby wakes up and eats in the morning (one side, about 30-40 minutes depending on everyone's patience). Then I pump both sides about 2 hours after they leave for daycare (9am), 2 hours after that, and then about 3 hours after that but for 20-25 minutes instead of the typical 30ish minutes (2-ish) when we picked the girls up from daycare at 4pm-4:30. On the weekends I just pumped that first time in the morning, and post-daycare, I am (after a pumping break because I loathe it) back to this as well.

I have heard that keeping a set of pump attachments in the fridge all day works well to reduce the amount of dishes you wind up with, but because of what's presumably Raynaud's, it isn't an option for me. The cold added to the pain in a big way. 

As far as storage goes, here's a picture of my freezing prep.

I keep 2-3 days' worth of milk in the fridge in whatever volume it was pumped (bottle with no sticker since I group each day's bottles together, oldest on the left) and freeze it only in the 2.5 oz bottles or 5-6oz bags. This makes the math simpler for me since the baby eats either 2 bottles or 1 bag of milk per feeding & eats 3-4 times a day at daycare. 

We use the Total Baby app at home and we also used it at daycare to track what Little Monster was up to. Not having a paper report helped us immensely because we'd never find the thing in the bags of cloth diapers & 5 year old debris plus it meant we could match up milk inventory easily. The app syncs across an infinite number of iDevices and can be backed up to the computer. I don't add milk to the inventory in the app until it gets frozen because I never know how dates will get combined and it keeps me from obsessing about how long I'm pumping and if I'm getting enough and all that jazz. We arranged that all milk listed as in the freezer was at daycare and in the deep freeze was at home so if our daycare provider wanted to time a thawed bottle it was easy to find on the list. 

For labeling bottles I use garage sale stickers and put just the date since daycare didn't require a name as well. I keep a pen with the stickers in my milk pail above the fridge. The pail gets used for setting a bag in as I pour a measured 5 or 6 oz into it so if I spill it's easy to clean up. The Lansinosh bags have worked well for us so far although we haven't thawed many. I like the label space above the body of the bag. They also fit into a playing card box with some dividers out (you'd buy one from a comic/games shop, it holds 3200 cards, and we took out 2 dividers. Think the thing cost about $8 but it's priceless for saving on freezer space and potential messes.) and that makes storage really nice. Here's a picture of it, for your reference.
Notice the real sized card and the comically large card. The label folds above the zipper part so I don't worry about the box causing leaks. Bags are frozen flat elsewhere in the freezer then added to a box.

I have 3 full sets of pumping stuff so I only wash one side's worth during the day by hand & dishwasher the rest. To pump into I have 9 bottles that are 5 oz (plus another few that advertise Medela) and 3 that are 9 oz for use only in the morning when I occasionally get over 6 oz of milk. Also the big bottles are easier to maneuver when pumping while nursing. None of these came with lids so I bought some of these. I've also pitched the 4 oz BPA laden bottles that came with my pump (5 years ago) so I gained some 2 part lids there too. I don't freeze bottles with the 2 piece lid because they are big and don't store well (plus I suspect they leak). Did you know so many bottles had standard necks so you can pump into almost any old regular bottle?

I should add that I have an Ameda pump (in style, no less). It's slick to go from batteries (less suction than plugged in or using a car adapter) to car to electric outlet and back, plus it has a closed system. Maybe it's just me, but I sometimes pump too much into a bottle and milk backs up into stuff and with this pump, unlike the Medela single electric I had (same parts as the common ones, I think this thing doesn't exist anymore) no milk gets into the pump itself. That's what a "closed system" means. PLUS the Medela custom size flanges fit into the horns that come with it (while the custom size flanges made by Ameda don't fit tightly at all) so you can get a wide range of custom sizes to fit you exactly. I have two different sizes so it is great to get a tight fit and be more comfortable pumping. Also if you buy the Ameda pump and need a non-25mm size, don't waste your money on their custom size sets. The inserts don't stick tightly enough to pump successfully. They do make decent funnels for mixing up powdered drinks that need to go into a bottle with a narrow neck (hey... or formula would work too... hmm...).

While I pump I usually listen to an audio book or watch TV. I almost always can set up my computer nearby so I play a slideshow of baby pictures to help with let-down. If it's an awful day pumping I watch videos of the baby too so I can hear her chattering. In the realm of TMI, I have one side that produces more milk and yet is really hard to pump from, so if I'm pumping and nursing, baby gets the bad side. It's where I've had mastitis all three times too. I also have a milk duct that randomly empties an inch from where it should so that's part of the problem and ensures I get wet every time I pump. I actually keep a cloth diaper in my pump bag that I wedge in the bottom of my bra to protect the rest of me from sogginess. 

Now that we aren't doing daycare I pump only the one side after a long sleep (4+ hours) and try to get 5 oz to freeze in keeping with the system. This means after she eats, the spouse puts the baby back to bed. Usually she sleeps a bit longer but it can be 20 minutes of rocking to get her settled so that gives me the chance to finish pumping and everyone is back asleep at about the same time.

Anyone have any questions about pumping that I might answer? Part 2 is going to be travel logistics and stuff I accidentally forgot to mention.


  1. OH this brings back memories....except I always pumped both sides. And I was so stupid not to freeze my milk flat. Took up SO MUCH SPACE not flat. This time I will most definitely be freezing flat. As someone who as a pump dependent mom for 7 months, extra parts were essential. I also had 2 pumps. I had a hospital grade pump I got from my lactation department at the hospital and my Medela pump in style for more on the go and middle of the night pumping. I pumped around the clock even when Raegan started sleeping through the night. I also used the Medela wipes to clean the parts in the middle of the night so I didn't have to go up and down the stairs in my sleep deprived state. They worked wonderfully. I'm curious how things will go this time around if I have a nursing baby. This post is wonderfully detailed and will be bookmarked for when BB#2 shows up. Thanks for sharing!! Pumping isn't the most pleasant of experiences, but it's SO worth it for the baby's sake, at least for me it was!

  2. Brings back memories for me too! I pumped with all 3 of my kids and I actually enjoyed it! Challenging for me was that I often had to pump in the car because I was making home visits for my job.

  3. Just left a long comment that my iPad ate and now it's late so I'll have to try to comment again soon. Boo!

  4. I'm so glad you posted about this since I am right there with you. Pumping really sucks for me too. I agree--unpleasant at best. I still cannot believe how much I end up pumping and/or breastfeeding in my car! I work two 12-hour shifts a week right now at a small hospital. I pump 4-5 times a day while at work. I have a 40 minute commute so I pump in my car right before I go in to work. After my morning rounds are done and medications are passed I am 3-4 hours into my shift and I pump in an empty hospital room. This entails letting my aids and fellow nurses know where I will be and when I will be back. I put some sort of obstacle in front of the closed doors in order to buy myself a few seconds to cover up if someone comes in. I tell my aids they can come get me in an EMERGENCY. I think it's been at least twice that I've been interrupted because a patient wants tylenol. I then pump again 3-4 hours later. If I can I squeeze in a 4th session during my shift. Otherwise I pump again just before I head home. I've found it's really hard to come home to a husband and two kids who haven't seen me in about 14 hours and then escape to the bedroom to pump right away.

    I have a Medela Pump-In-Style. The stores were all sold out of the Freestyle in my area, but I kind of wish I had held out for it so that I could use my own bag. The bag that the Pump-In-Style comes in doesn't even begin to hold everything I need to be away for 14 hours. You can use the battery pack (8 AA batteries but they do have a long life) or the regular plug-in to pump. Mine also has much less suction when using the battery pack so I try to avoid it. I need a car adapter but haven't tried hard to find one yet...

    I pack 10 bottles a day. There is a lid shortage in my household too! Do the Doc Brown lids fit all bottles? I am in desperate need so that link may prove really useful. I pack at least 2 8oz bottles and the rest are the standard Medela ones.

    Because the employee fridge is tiny and always crammed full, I keep a cooler full of ice in my car. After each session, I use the little black cooler bag that came with my pump to transport the product to the car. Then I grab my next set of clean bottles and bring them back in with me.

    Have you tried the Medela Pump and Save bags? I thought they seemed like a great idea, but I absolutely hate them. I only use the Lansinoh ones as well. The extra time needed to hook the bags up to the breast shields really annoyed me. Then I had to be really careful about how I sat down or the bags would get creased and breastmilk would overflow. The bags also are hard to seal up and do not have an extra zip-lock closure like the Lansinoh ones so you really have to make sure to get it right the first time.

    A pumping session probably takes me about 20 minutes between set-up, pumping, and putting away. I keep a clean towel in my bag for drying the parts. I have two sets of breast shields but could probably use more. I use those Medela wipes to clean the parts when I pump in my car and the Medela soap for washing in the sink.

    I also use the Total Baby app and I love it. I think you may have been the one who first recommended it to me? I don't inventory the milk until I transfer it to freezer bags at home.

    Your freezer boxes are much better than the plastic baskets I am currently using. The bags don't quite fit in right, and it irritates me. I don't know if I could find a playing card box around here, but I need to find an alternative.

    This comment is getting ridiculously long so I'm gonna wrap it up. My questions: Will those lids work for all types of bottles? Also...Do you use one of those hands-free pumping bras? I haven't tried one yet, but I've been thinking about it.

    1. I tried one pump and save bag on the pump and declared myself too much of a klutz to deal with them. I think you'd also be able to find the boxes online pretty easily or if there's a game/card/comic shop nearby, they probably have them too.

      I haven't tried a hands-free pumping bra but I covet one. I have a pretty enormous bra size so I worry that it wouldn't fit comfortably and it's a challenge to find a comfortable position to pump anyway. I think I will get one but I am not too confident it will work.

  5. After reading the comments for the lids, it appears they do fit standard bottles. I have been looking at all my local stores for bottle lids so--Thank you! I'm ordering some now.

  6. Wow, your pumping regime is far more complicated than mine was. I only have a dozen medela bottles total. Then again, I always barely got enough milk for one day, so the bottles were in quick rotation, and I only used 5 ounce bottles. Freezing flat is the way to go. Have you heard of milk savers? Being a low-producing mom, I never used them, but my friend did an collected a lot of milk. I'm not sure how it'd work with a pump, but it might be nice if you could figure out how to use them instead of a diaper!

  7. This sounds pretty similar to my pumping experience! What a pain, but I'm glad it's an option.