I knew once I returned to work, my in-laws would care for her for a few months before heading onto their next destination during retirement. They retired in August, sold their home, moved into their camper, and made plans to travel the country. They came to the area in September to spend time with the bean before they headed out of the area. To still provide her with the breast milk I so desperately wanted her to have, I knew early on, I would have to utilize a breast pump to express milk and figure out how to store it so they could give her bottles while I was working. Workdays varied anywhere between 7-10 hour days, so the kid has to eat and all, I can't just starve her.
The best type of pump for my situation is a double electric pump. This type of pump utilizes two pieces that you place both of your breasts to and through suction, you get milk. Well, it's not really THAT easy. Pumping milk is hard. Pumping enough to store a decent stockpile in preparation of returning to work AND enough to continue feeding the baby, that's pretty difficult stuff. They usually have a type of way that you can close one side up and just pump one side if that's something you find yourself needing to do.
image from: here
So, my tips for getting used to pumping and success:
- You get what you pay for. If you buy a cheap pump, it will NOT do as well as a hospital grade pump.
There are some reasonably priced pumps on the market. You probably don't want a hand-me-down that has been used for three kids... Just like any technology, the industry is going to improve their products over time. If you DO decide to utilize a used pump, make sure you purchase ALL NEW parts that can come into contact with milk for sanitary purposes. Simply boiling the parts won't cut it.
- Do not expect to see an entire full bottle! One source says that most women produce 1-3oz per session, not per breast- also note, this is after they are used to pumping! Your first time pumping, you might get 1/2 oz total! The goal of your first session is to have one let-down. You know you're having a let-down because the milk starts shooting in streams instead of droplets.
- One thing to remember is that you have multiple let-downs during nursing your baby at the breast, so how much you pump is NOT indicative of how much your baby is actually eating. Your baby also empties the breast much more efficiently than your pump.
- Some women are able to have multiple let downs during pumping, but it took me some time to be efficient enough with pumping for that to occur. If you don't have it the first few times, it's okay.
- Start by pumping both sides, with the baby near you. This way, you can feel the lovey-dovey hormones going on and you're more likely to have a letdown.
- Pump in the morning, when your breasts are fullest. Fuller means that it should be easier to get something out, as well as giving you some success for the first time.
- If you have a difficult time getting a let-down, try nursing on one side while pumping the other. I LOVED doing this because I could take advantage of the let-downs from nursing the baby. You may need an extra set of hands, but my tip to make this work is to set everything up, then set up and start nursing the baby, and THEN put the pump on. It may take some practice, but it is a great trick to master.
- Pump "hands-free". I cannot say enough about this. Pumping both breasts at the same time, while holding the pump there makes for a LONG session.
- Just relax. The first time I pumped, I was so upset and anxious. If you have to read a book, do that. If you need to look at video or pictures of your baby, do so. Don't freak out if you don't get a lot. It's very hard to train yourself to be an efficient pumper.