Pumping For Advice

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Pumping while working full-time is not for the faint at heart. It’s not even something I ever really thought I would do – but then so much of what happened when the boys came early at 33 weeks wasn’t something I ever thought I would do. Our guys never really learned to latch on well enough for me to breastfeed them easily. I tried to get the hang of it while they were in the NICU for four weeks but didn’t have much success. And I was just so tired.

I got the pumping thing down while they were still in the hospital, so when we got home, I went to pumping exclusively and just fed them with bottles. We were all a lot happier. I tried to find some guidance from my baby books on how to do this whole pumping thing but resources were scarce. No one in the breastfeeding support from our hospital really shared this option with me, as I think it’s their goal to get you successfully breastfeeding. I think that is a wonderful goal, but with two babies, it was more than I could handle.

I ended up pumping for a total of 11 months. The boys were three months before I had to supplement with formula, which I ended up mixing half and half with the breast milk. The part that killed me the most was on that day when I made my first half and half bottles, my heart was so sad that I couldn’t provide all the food my guys needed – but they could have cared less! They scarfed down the formula/breastmilk bottles just like everything else. Humph. Oh well.

I went back to work when they were three months old. By then I had a solid schedule. I pumped when we woke up in the morning for 20 minutes, while they had their first bottle. Then I pump in 4-5 hour increments until bedtime. While I pumped, I gave the boys their bottles so that I could make good use of our time (God gave me twins for a reason – I love to multi-task). I know, I know, you’re not supposed to “prop” up a bottle. But I believe that guidance was written by someone who never had multiples – and I was always right there with them. We used bottle pillows and it worked wonderfully for us.

I was nervous about the whole pumping-at-work thing – what would people think? Then I remembered I worked practically with all men and, really, what were they going to say? Nothing! I looked at it as my little break from the cube. In fact (don’t tell anyone!), after I stopped pumping, I still brought my pump with me to work for two months and kept the same schedule to take naps instead of pumping.

My office has great facilities for nursing moms. They offer lactation rooms with a recliner, sink, fridge, table and plug-ins, and you just reserve the room for a private meeting on your schedule. If your workplace doesn’t have quite such a set-up, there are resources online you can tap into to help make a case for setting up something like it. I’ve heard stories about moms who pump in the restroom or spare meeting rooms or even in their cars. You can make it work but it’s a little easier when your employer is supportive.

Some essential items for pumping while working:

1. A good, heavy-duty breast pump. Don’t mess around here. I used the Medela Pump-in-Style, and it was my best friend and constant companion. It had all the compartments you need to store your equipment, plus a cooler and ice-freezey-thing. I can’t remember if it came with an AC adapter or not, but that is essential. A battery pack is a nice back up as well – the power does go out here in the middle of Missouri during bad weather. And I won’t go into details on the few times I tried pumping in the car while driving home from work (yes, I did try it – I don’t recommend it).

 2. A hands-free pumping/nursing bra thing. I’m not sure how I would have lived without this. With one of these, pumping at work becomes kind of little vacation away from your annoying co-workers. You can just relax while your pump does all the work. Of course, you do feel a lot like a cow, but reading a book can take your mind off of that.

3. A timer. A standard kitchen timer is fine. You just need to be sure you’re being consistent about the time you’re putting in. That’s the key to maximizing your milk production. (Feeling like a cow yet?)

4. Storage containers. I used hard plastic storage bottles to collect and transport my milk, then transfered it to freezer bags when I got home. Eventually my supply was low enough and they were eating enough table food (around 6 months) that I just used the hard plastic storage bottles to keep the milk in the fridge, as we would use it all up by the next day.

Keep the same pumping schedule at work that you established at home. Mine was 7am, 11am, 3pm and 8pm. No, I never really got up to pump at night after I came home hospital – but man, that first pump in the morning was rough because of it. On the other hand, it felt like I had produced a lot!

Patience is essential. I stuck with it for so long because I felt like it was the one thing I could really do to help my guys. I had the usual mommy guilt piling up – my babies were born early, my body failed them, I can’t even nurse them, I’m a horrible mother. So seeing those frozen bags of milk lined up were like my little accomplishments. I was proud. My pumping schedule eventually weaned off until I was down to pumping just once a day. Then I just stopped. It was the end of an era.

No matter how long you end up pumping, you should be proud. Pumping is hard, dammit. It feels and looks really weird, but oh well. Now you know how all those cows feel.

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8 thoughts on “Pumping For Advice”

  1. I am laughing so hard. I did the same thing as you – continued bringing the pump to work even after I stopped just so I could continue using the room for my 10:30 and 2:30 breaks!! I even turned it on while I was in the room so the noise would be consistent! I’m so glad I’m not the only one!! Great job with 11 months! I EP’d for my daughter for 4 months. 11 months is a GREAT effort!

  2. 11 months exclusively pumping is crazy awesome. And thanks for the post… I’m amazed at how many twin moms end up EP but there is so little information about EP out there.

  3. So impressive to pump for that long! I HATED pumping and can’t imagine sticking with it like that. Good for you!

  4. I could have written this. I pumped exclusively for 10 months b/c the boys were born at 27 wks and didn’t latch well. You are right there are close to NO resources for those who EP. I was so tired of others telling me how to increase my supply. I tried all the tricks and still had to substitue formula 1/2 of the time starting at appx 4 months. I found that a lot of the moms who made TONS of milk were breastfeeding at least some of the time which I think helps your supply. Anyways, great article. I hope it encourages others out there to pump away :)

  5. Thank you so much for this post! I will be heading back to work approx. one month after I have the boys and have feared that I wouldn’t be able to handle pumping at work. It is very reassuring to hear that other moms out there did it. Thanks again.

  6. Oh yeah, definitely invest in an expensive pump. In my experience, the cheaper pumps are VERY loud, which didn’t seem like a big deal until I realized that the Mother’s Room isn’t necessarily sound proof, and if you don’t have a quiet pump, everyone who walks by knows exactly what’s going on in there. I was a confident nursing/pumping mom, but didn’t like the idea of my coworkers visualizing me with my shirtless boobs hooked up to pumps.

    And I want to give props to American Express–they have mother’s rooms in all the buildings that I’ve worked in, and always supported me in my pumping/breastfeeding efforts (i.e. scheduling as many pump breaks as I wanted, letting me telecommute from home during mastits bouts, etc.). So, two thumbs up to Amex!

  7. My favorite experience pumping at work was when my normal ‘storage closet’ was unavailable for a day so I locked myself in the elementary school classroom where I taught…and my male principal walked in on me wondering why the door was locked. Yikes. Where can you buy the pump bra thing?? I’ve never seen one!

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