Monday, September 9, 2013

Pumping part 2: on the road again

Building up a stash
My strategy was to pump on the other side when the baby had slept for more than 4 hours while she nursed on the other side, starting at about 3 weeks old. We didn't know for sure when she'd start daycare (or that it would only last 6 weeks) so that's why we started then. If we'd had longer until childcare, I probably would have waited until closer to 6 weeks to get serious about pumping (If I'd known I had 12 weeks of leave or something). My other strategy for stockpiling milk is to note any time I leaked and pump then (that's how I picked that time in the first place) and no skipping weekend pumping. I have an attack let-down so pumping with nursing means I get more than I would just pumping, but I think the same is true for most folks. For me it was crucial/helpful to stick to an approximate schedule so I can train my body when to produce more.

One thing to note is the shape of a lactation curve. I know, I know, we don't like to think about dairy animals and moms producing milk together, but I think it's useful here. On the bottom it's weeks since giving birth, and this is a cow curve because she's done at 10 months to have her next calf at a year from the first one's birth (poor livestock).
 Here's the thing: it's wicked hard to increase your supply after about 2-4 months (this curve is a bit sharper than I think most people curves are so stretch that top bump to about the 10-12 week mark). In those early days you can convince your body to feed twins (or come close) if you pump enough or nurse the baby enough. Afterwards your body just isn't responsive nearly so much no matter what you do. So if you are going back to work and going to pump, start early not only to build a stash but to be sure to build your supply enough that when you pump less than baby nurses you still get enough.

I've heard lots of women say "I had low supply" based on pumping, and I'd say that's untrue. Pumping doesn't actually reflect how much milk you're making. Left alone with a baby, I produce more milk than she needs. If I'm pumping, I don't get the same amount she drinks from a bottle unless I pump one time more than she eats which is miserable. MISERABLE. On her normal daycare day/day with the spouse, she eats 4 times so I should really pump 5 times to hit the same volume... for a half hour each time... UGH. Still doesn't mean I have low supply, just that I am bad at pumping. It takes a lot of very specific manipulation to clear my cloggy ducts. Compared to the tech that's available for livestock I feel like our pumps are terribly lame and technologically pathetic. That's why I think there's no reason to declare low supply based on what you pump. If your baby isn't growing, you have low supply. That happens, absolutely, but don't get too judgy based on pumping alone. Also note if you are taking a thyroid med, doses too high of it can stall your milk production so be sure it's carefully monitored. ::end soapbox::

Car tactics
The car adapter for the pump is awesome. I really liked the quiet of my car as opposed to a study cube in a hallway indoors. With my pump, electric or car worked equally well while batteries worked less well. When it was cold out, I assembled as much of the pump set up as possible indoors. I'd then set things out on the dashboard, get the heat running if needed, and get on with pumping. A cardigan or a zip-up sweatshirt is really handy for sneaking around if someone walks by while I pump. I don't own a cover so I never used one and those things are so obvious that everyone knows exactly what you're up to, but if I'm just sitting in my car, nobody really gives you a second glance. Garish nursing cover? Makes people stare (or it makes me stare because whoa are those bright/ugly/tent-ish and distracting).

Indoor sneaky tactics
My college has two places to pump (officially), each a 20 minute walk from where my classes are, so they are non-options for me (20 minute walk, 30 minutes to pump + 5 minutes set up and clean up 20 minutes back = more than the hour between classes). Usually I am parked much closer (3-5 minute walk) but sometimes it is cold/windy/raining so I find somewhere indoors to pump. I make good use of the sweatshirt to hide the sides/hands holding things (nope, no hands-free fanciness for me... alas). I also set my drip towel under my pump. It makes a terrible racket left to its own devices because it doesn't sit level (or no surface I've ever found is level enough) so this cuts the huge noise down to what might be a noisy laptop. There are study cubes with sides that work well enough. My personal preference is to get a study room in the library. Some college libraries have group study rooms you can rent for just one person, others you actually need a group so you could bring a friend to sign into the thing with you. Currently we have "media viewing rooms" that you can check out for just one person and it works well enough. I wind up sitting on the floor because the main outlet is behind the TV console and the other one is hard to access and get my power cord to reach from a chair (and the chairs are terribly uncomfortable). These are sound proof so no worries about being loud or a noisy audio book. If I have time I set up my laptop to run its screen saver where I can watch all the pictures of the baby scroll by. She's getting so big! Sheesh!

Airplane management 
Coming soon after my fabulous week-long field trip. Field trip! Wahoo! Also terrifying! I will say that keeping milk fresh rather than my usual freezing strategy was the way to go because I had stuff thaw on the one flight with pumping I've taken so far (and there was a delay in flight too so my pitiful ice supply wasn't enough to keep it all frozen). Also since that was a time we traveled with the baby it was very confusing for the security guys as to why there was bottled milk and a baby, but after a few minutes they decided it was innocent enough even if it didn't make sense to them. Sigh.


  1. Yeah, I'll definitely start pumping around 3-4 weeks again this time. It's a pain, but totally worth it.

    If you fly with fresh milk instead of frozen, how do you keep it cold long enough? For me it's usually 10-12 hrs from door to door & I'm always afraid of it getting too warm.

    1. I had one of those "freeze the bag" milk storage doodads that I used and it was about 8 hours door to door that everything stayed cold. This next trip will be longer, but I'm not sure how long yet. According to KellyMom's reference chart, milk in a cooler with ice should be good for a full 24 hours so I'm going with that. I would think that even if all the ice melted the milk would still be below 59 F in most good quality cooler bags. I am longing to get this cooler myself but I will probably just get something less fancy and smaller.

  2. Aww, man, I really do not want to pump early on. But you are most assuredly correct that it's most important to do it earlier.