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Friday, June 20, 2014

the tale of pumping

While breastfeeding my baby is an incredible experience and benefits both me and the little man in a lot of ways, I can't say that pumping causes me the same excitement.  I remember back in January before we had Abram, I received the pump and parts in the mail with an instructional DVD.  I had been warned that I should have my pump set up and ready to go in case of severe engorgement and need of relief when I first came home from the hospital.  Well, in order to be prepped and ready, I decided that Rick and I should sit down and watch this DVD since neither of us had any idea how to use a breast pump.  First they went thru and discussed how to wash your pump parts (soap & water, eh?), then how to assemble them, and then finally they show you how to sit down and pump.  They show this woman sitting in a rocking chair and as she begins to pump the narrator says, "It is always helpful to picture your baby nursing or your baby smiling at you.  It will help your milk let down and make your pumping experience easier."  So the woman in the video closes her eyes and gets a big smile on her face as she pictures her baby and then...ta daaa...liquid gold in her pumping bottles.  Naive little me is sitting on our couch watching this laughing at how corny this video is, but also thinking "seriously, that's all I have to do?"  Well, done and done...this will be a cinch!  

I ended up not pumping for engorgement when I got home, but about a week in I started pumping at random times throughout the day to start stocking up on my milk supply for when I returned to work.  Well, that ended up being a bust because while I asked question after question about anything and everything about having a new baby, I didn't ask enough questions about breastfeeding and pumping.  What comes from pumping at random times throughout the day on top of nursing your newborn every one to three hours?  An increased supply of milk.  What comes from an increased supply of milk with a newborn incapable of eating your increased supply?  Mastitis.  So, note to those of you who are like me and know nothing about breastfeeding and pumping: don't pump just to pump and get a stockpile of milk.  That will come with time.  If you are engorged, pump, but don't empty yourself out.  Pump enough to get relief and be done, even if you've pumped half an ounce.  Trust me, the last thing you want to do is increase your supply so much that your breasts are never emptied and thus you get an infection.  

After talking to a lactation consultant and getting my milk supply issues all figured out, I stopped pumping until I went back to work.  I think I pumped a few times here and there if Rick had to feed Abram while I was gone running errands or something, but for the most part I was home for every feeding, so my breasts were 100% used to a little infant emptying them and not some mechanical pump.  On my first day back to work, I decided that somehow I was going to leave to pump every three hours (if you are a nurse, you know how impossible this is).  Okay, so that didn't happen, and by 11:00 on my first morning back, I was ready to burst and my breasts were hard as rocks.  I go into the pumping room (I will say it is convenient working on a unit where lots of mothers need to pump for their babies), get set up, and I begin.  I sit there in my rocking chair, looking around the room, and nothing is happening.  I close my eyes and try to think of his little face, but all I can think of is that stupid woman in the video smiling as she pumps and produces like a happily milked cow.  Sigh.  What now?  I pull out my phone and set the screen to an adorable image of his face.  Surely, the milk will come now, right?  Still waiting, I ended up playing with the speed and suction dials and I'm not sure how long it took for my milk to let down, but it took a long time and I was in that pumping room almost 50 minutes.  I can't remember who was taking care of my patients while I was gone that first session, but I am so thankful that they showed me mercy.  The rest of the day went better, but it still set me incredibly behind in patient care.  

About a month ago, I got a new pump because my previous one was defective.  It was still taking at least 30-40 minutes to pump, my breasts were only being partially emptied, and I would come home from work at night with knots and plugs in my breasts.  Not to mention, on random occasions the pump would sound like it was dying when it was plugged into the wall!  I decided to call Ameda customer service and they were awesome!  They immediately sent me a new pump (my motor was busted) and they also threw in a couple of extra flanges and valves!  I guess it was yet another lesson learned on my journey of motherhood...should've called sooner and realized that it wasn't me that was defective, it was my pump!  

Well, needless to say, pumping is a breeze now.  No more rocking in my chair at work picturing the little guy's face (even though I see it 24/7).  I finally figured out the proper use of the speed and suction dials to get my milk to let down and once that happens, it is free flowing after that.  Thanks to my new pump, it takes me about 15 minutes to completely empty my breasts, which gets me back to work much quicker!  It was a pretty rough start to pumping, but now I'm okay with it.  That old phrase "git er done" applies here.  Baby boy has to eat, so like it or not, mama has to pump.  

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