Oversupply with breastfeeding, the struggle is real my friends! I feel the breastfeeding conversation usually centers around how to boost supply or fearing that you’re not making enough, but some of us make more than enough and while it’s great, it’s also incredibly painful! I knew that I’d have an oversupply issue with Baby H, I had the same issue with M when he was a baby. I mean, what newborn needs 8oz of breastmilk every 2 hours? And that was when I didn’t even empty my breasts while pumping. I know it’s pretty normal to have a large supply when milk comes in, but usually mama will adjust to her baby within the first couple weeks. I was bonding with a pump and not nursing when it came to M so 3 weeks in, I was still pumping 8-10oz every 2 hours.
It’s weird, a month ago I was counting down the days until we could introduce a bottle. Then something happened…
I started to enjoy breastfeeding.
I thought I would enjoy it from day 1. And on day 1 and day 2, I did enjoy it. Then day 3 happened. Sores. Bleeding. Ouch. I knew it wasn’t supposed to hurt, so I called a lactation consultant and got help. But, the pain continued until about 5 weeks, then something changed.
It’s 2 in the morning. It’s another all-nighter. I am barefoot, walking on a cold surface, on my way to have a feeding. I know I will be back in my warm bed within the hour. And I am hopeful, albeit doubtful, that tomorrow, I will be chipper and ready for a hard-day’s work. I am groggy, exhausted, but loving every minute of this life…
Written By: Jamie, Guest Blogger
Throughout my entire pregnancy I had always assumed that I would breastfeed, formula never entered my mind. Breastfeeding is a natural thing, so it can’t be that hard….right? Oh how wrong I was.
I sometimes feel like the bottles & breastmilk for the exclusive pumping mom gets left out in the circle of breastfeeding moms. I’ve at times felt that since my son didn’t nurse due to an oral aversion that I am less than in the eyes of other breastfeeding moms. It’s a lonely place to be when you feel like you are doing your best for your child, but others still want to judge you for not “trying harder” or “giving up.”
I never intended to be a pumping mama. My intentions were to nurse my child, put him to the breast and nourish him the way nature designed. I planned to breastfeed him until at least a year and then let him self-wean. Our story of exclusive pumping may be different from other’s since my son had a feeding tube and other medical issues going on at the time, but my feelings of inadequacy or loneliness are probably very similar to other pumping mom’s.
I’m here to tell you, that you are not alone in your exclusive pumping choices. Whether you chose to pump because you wanted to, you returned to work, you or your child had medical issues, or some other reason, you are not alone. Exclusive pumping is hard! It is probably one of the hardest things I ever did for my baby. It’s not easy to wake yourself up at 2:00am and then again at 5:00am just so you’re not engorged by 8:00am. It’s not easy to lug around your pumping bag and supplies everywhere you go so you can express your splendid liquid gold whenever you need to. It’s not easy to bond with the hum of a machine and keep up your supply.
It’s not easy to exclusively pump for your baby.
But we do it because we feel it is what is best for our baby. We do it because our baby is our only priority and in the end if it helps our baby, it’s all worth it. And, if you’re going to keep pumping for you little one, for however long you choose, I’m here to offer some tips from a professional pumper (that’s me!).
7 Exclusive Pumping Tips:
BuyGet a good breast pump. In hindsight, I would have made sure to have a pump with a closed system. Why? Because it maintains a barrier between the breatmilk collection and the pump tubing, which keeps outside air from being exposed to your breastmilk. This system also keeps breastmilk from getting into your tubing and pump system. Open systems will end up with milk in the tubing and possibly into the pump system which may result in mold or mildew building up and it’s very (if not impossible) to clean the actual pump. Ameda and Hygeia both make close breast pump systems. The extra cost is definitely worth the expense if you are going to be pumping a lot and if you exclusively pump, believe me, that pump will get a lot of miles! **Update 3/22/15: Most insurance companies will now cover the cost of a breast pump, so call your insurance company!
- Pump both breasts at the same time. You will save so much time if you do both breasts at the same time. Think of it this way, you should pump for at least 15 minutes every 2 hours (at least in the beginning), that means you spend a bare minimum of 3 hours per day pumping. If you do your breasts separately, you will double that time to 6 hours per day hooked up to a pump. You have a baby, you need sleep, do both at the same time. Electric pumps are designed to do both at the same time, take advantage!
- Go hands free! And do not waste your money on buying a hands free pumping bra. All you need is an old sports bra to go hands free. Cut two small holes in the sports bra in the areola region and voila! you have a hands free bra. I do recommend a sports bra that is about a size too small so it provides some compression. Hands free will allow you to be able to read, tend to baby’s needs (to some extent), watch TV, check Facebook, etc. while you’re pumping. And trust me, if you’re spending 3+ hours a day pumping, you’ll need those hands free to keep yourself from going crazy bored.
- Use milk storage bags. Pumps usually come with storage bottles, hospitals may have storage bottles, but trust me, bags are much more convenient. I had a very healthy supply in my son’s early weeks/months (8+ ounces every 2 hours), and there was no way we would have fit those bottles in our freezer. The bags lay nicely in your freezer and are easy to thaw. **Bonus tip: Write the date and ounce approximation on the bag – the bags are not as reliable as the bottles for measurement.
- Store pump parts in the refrigerator. This was recommended to me from a lactation consultant. When you’re up pumping at night, instead of washing all your parts at 2am, just put them in the refrigerator until morning. You can keep your milk in the bottle you pumped into, keep it all attached, toss it in the fridge (I used the door), and go back to bed! Transferring the milk into a bag and washing the parts can wait until morning.
- Use nipple cream. Whether it’s lanolin cream or something else, use something that will protect your poor breasts. Your breasts will get used to pumping, but going without some sort of cream for lubrication can cause some irritation and be uncomfortable. Do your research though and make sure that what you use will be safe for baby.
- Have the right sized breast shield. When I first started pumping, it was painful. Really painful! I was developing sores and I just assumed it was normal. Wrong! Pumping should not hurt. It feels weird, sure, but it shouldn’t cause you physical pain and sores. If it does hurt, move up a size for the breast shield, your actual breast size has nothing to do with the size breast shield you will need. Pumps usually come with a 24mm, but the sizes go up to a 36mm. The right size will also make a world of difference in terms of productivity. Check with a lactation consultant or your local La Leche League, they may have extras on hand that they can get to you.
Maintaining Your Supply when Exclusively Pumping
When you’re not nursing and getting that skin to skin contact, it can be very difficult to maintain a milk supply. It’s very common for women to go back to work and their supply drop because they have to pump. It’s also common for pumping to produce less milk than nursing would. Here are some tips on maintaining (or even boosting) your supply when you are exclusively pumping.
Tips to Maintain (or boost) Your Supply:
- Drink water! Your milk is made from your body, milk is a liquid, if you are not drinking at least 8-10 servings of water per day, you will not get the most out of your supply. I guarantee that if you are not drinking enough water, you will get frustrated.
- Pump frequently. Recommended, especially in the beginning, is to pump every 2-3 hours. This is how often your baby would be nursing so you need to trick your body into thinking that it needs to produce every 2-3 hours like a baby would. You may be able to cut back as time goes on and as baby takes less and less breastmilk. Your body may be able to make the adjustments as your baby grows, but it may not. It all depends on your body and personal milk production. If you start to pump less frequently and see a drop off in your supply, pick up the frequency to trick your body into thinking it needs to produce more. You can also throw in quick pumps (5 minutes or less) in between the 2 hours pump times to trick your body even more – I used a manual pump for these mini sessions.
- Pump at night. You kind of want to hit me right now, don’t you? It’s okay, I wasn’t very happy about pumping at night either. It does make a difference though and if you think about it, your baby eats at night, so of course your body would need to “feed” at night. The benefit of pumping at night is that during the times of 11:00 pm and 5:00 am, your body’s prolactin levels are at their highest. This is a good thing! I always found that if my supply was dropping, if I upped the ante of daytime pumping and added in at least one nighttime pump, my supply would be back up within a couple days.
- Skin to skin contact. If you are able, get some skin to skin time in with your little one. If you’re able to do this while pumping, that’s an added bonus (and gold star for being able to finagle this difficult task). Your little one is your biggest method of making milk. In a world where you are nursing, your body would immediately respond to your baby rooting towards your breast, your baby’s cries, your baby’s contact. Use this natural response to your advantage to keep your supply up.
- Other alternatives if all else fails. You can try other natural methods (galactagogues) to give your supply a boost. I would definitely recommend doing your own research on these methods and checking in with your doctor or lactation consultant before starting any of these alternatives. I will give information on the alternatives I tried, but this is not an all inclusive list. You can find a more detailed list at KellyMom (a fabulous resource for pumping and nursing moms).
- Fenugreek – I found the fresher the better. I tried both a fresh ground version and capsules bought at a health food store. The fresh ground, I absolutely noticed a difference. I did not seem to notice much help from the capsules. Every mom is different though. Warning: You may start to smell like maple syrup and unfortunately, fenugreek does not taste like maple syrup.
- Lactation Cookies– I made this recipe of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. They were delicious! I did feel like they helped too. If only they had lasted in the house longer and did not have to be made by scratch. The oatmeal, brewer’s yeast, and flax seed are the ingredients said to improve lactation. Lucky you, you have me to let you know about options like MilkMakers, which I did not know about when I was pumping.
So, there you have it! The best tips I can provide to you as a pumping mama. It’s not easy, you may get frustrated, you may get incredibly bored listening to the pump hum in the background. In fact, the pump may start singing or talking to you! It’s all normal! Just know that you are not alone in this journey and you are an incredible mama for doing what you can to ensure your baby gets the best nutrition you are able to provide. Keep at it mama!
What tips do you have for pumping mamas?
Written By: Mary Kay, Guest Blogger
Failure. Loser. Unfit mother. Okay, I may be being a bit dramatic. But I have never felt as inept as I do when I’m trying to pump breast milk for my 6 month old son.
When I first found out I was pregnant, my husband suggested breastfeeding and my visceral reaction was to scream “hell-to-the-no” and then gag to the point of near vomit. In fact, during our parenting classes, they showed an animated video clip of what your nipple would look like as it was being suckled on. During this lovely video, I actually told my husband he could take the breastfeeding and shove it. It looked painful. It looked uncomfortable. And to be completely honest, my motherly instinct hadn’t quite kicked in yet and I was being selfish. I didn’t want to be in pain any more than I had to (wasn’t labor enough??).
As my pregnancy continued, I began to see some positives. Bonding. Quiet time. Weight loss. Yada yada yada. I wasn’t completely sold on the idea but I wasn’t completely against it, either. It was at my baby shower where two of my best friends’ mothers (who also both happened to be delivery room nurses) gave me some sound advice. “Give it 6 weeks. Then decide if you like it or not.” For some reason, this is the only advice I remember from my pregnancy. (Well that and “sleep when the baby sleeps.” I swear if I heard that one more time, I might have been admitted to the looney bin for losing my cool on the poor, unsuspecting “advice” giver.)
So anyway, I took their advice. I gave the breastfeeding thing 6, painfully excruciating weeks. I was sore, confused, and an emotional basket case. But it was the best advice I have ever followed. If I hadn’t known that it would take 6 weeks or so to adjust (physically and mentally), I would have given up day one. I would have been throwing the peace sign with my fingers to the old nip’n’sip method and welcoming that metal tin of powdered formula with open arms.
I love breastfeeding my son. I never thought breastfeeding was for me but I love the time we get to spend together, just him and me. Some days, I feel like it’s the only thing I’m doing right as a mother.
When it came time to go back to work, I was prepared. I had obtained my insurance-covered breast pump, the storage bags, the extra pump parts, the works. It didn’t take me long to realize that pumping is not my favorite thing to do. It is also not something I’m totally successful.
Since that first day at work, I have struggled. It just always seems like I’m never able to express everything that’s in my milk-makers. Here’s the deal, I don’t have an over-supply. I’m not one of those moms that seem to have milk-geysers and an extra freezer in my garage filled to capacity with breast milk. I also don’t have an under-supply. When I’m breastfeeding, my son is always content and has been gaining weight appropriately. I seem to be producing “just enough” for him to develop and grow as is expected. But for some ungodly reason, I can’t seem to pump this milk! It’s infuriating, frustrating, and tends to perpetuate the pump-slump I’ve been in since returning to work. The cycle usually goes like this: pump, slow-flow, frustration, try to re-focus (look at pictures of Ben, listen to music, etc.), look at bottles and see milk is still slow-flowing in, get more frustrated, milk stops completely, tears come, I give up. I almost wish I was an under-supplier. At least I would know where I stand.
For the past week, I have dipped so far into my “supply” (luckily I was able to build a small, frozen supply while still on maternity) that I am now without a breast-milk backup. My growing, small-fry is literally eating up everything as I pump it, which puts even more pressure on me to perform. And to be honest, the pressure is starting to suffocate me. I’m drowning… And not in breast milk.
A few nights ago, my husband and I decided to get some formula “just in case” we run into an issue where we don’t have enough breast milk to send to daycare. I’m not trying to sound anti-formula, because I’m not. Like I said before, I wanted nothing to do with breastfeeding. It wasn’t my scene. But now that I am breastfeeding, I’m just not ready to give it up! And every single time I go to hook up to my milk-machine, I feel the pressure closing in. Are my days of pumping numbered?
I’ve tried all the tricks. I’ve been drinking water to the point where if I’m not pumping, I’m in the bathroom (which really isn’t conducive to being a working mom). I’ve played music that reminds me of Ben. I’ve looked through pictures. I replaced my insurance-covered pump with a brand-spankin’ new pump (better brand, better model). I even went out and bought Fenugreek-an herb thought to help increase milk production. I just can’t seem to get it right.
So here I am. Guilt ridden. Feeling inadequate because I can’t “provide” for my own son. I know. I know… How cliché?! But I’m a mommy on the verge of milk-meltdown.
So what’s a gal to do when it seems like all else has failed? Try to be positive, of course! As upsetting as this whole pumping-predicament is, I know that I am lucky. I have a healthy baby boy who latched on immediately after birth and never had an issue since with breastfeeding. I’m lucky that my little guy had 6 good months of nursing. And I’m lucky I have a supportive husband who stands by me even when my stress is sometimes taken out on him.
The thing I am constantly reminding myself is that I am a good mother. Sometimes it’s easy to forget. The modern mother works for a living. And yet, we still feel guilty for leaving our little ones at daycare or, if you’re lucky enough, with family members. I’ve come to the conclusion that I feel guilty for having to go to work. I feel guilty for HAVING to pump. And when I really think about it, I may be letting my guilt prevent me from completely relaxing and getting a good pump-session done.
For now, I need to focus one pump at a time. Each day is a new day. And the good news is… if this whole pumping thing doesn’t work out, there’s always formula!
About the Guest Blogger:
Mary Kay is a 30-year-old mother and wife living in Northeastern Pennsylvania. She is a practicing school psychologist and enjoys working with children. At home, Mary Kay enjoys spending time with her family, crafts, karaoke, reading, and the occasional workout.
photo credit: aaron_anderer via photopin cc
**All pictures belong to the creator and writer of My Mama Adventure blog. Pictures are not to be reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the creator and writer of this blog.**
Since Sarah Wells Bags don’t look like breast pump bags they can easily be used for anything! Featuring a large main compartment and 2 side pockets you can fit your breast pump, pump accessories and everything you would carry in your purse (including an iPad or other small laptop device!). It fits almost every model of breast pump and when you are no longer pumping can still be used as a stylish purse. This bag is perfect for any working mom or fashion-forward breastfeeding mama who needs to travel with her breast pump and wants to look great doing so. Learn more about The “Maddy” Breast Pump Bags from Sarah Wells in the full post at mama pure. The Sarah Wells “Maddy” Breast Pump Bag can be purchased on Amazon.com for $145 (free shipping with Amazon Prime!).
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THIS GIVEAWAY IS NO LONGER ACCEPTING ENTRIES