The day that I had come home from the hospital with Alyssa, my mother had suggested I should start pumping right away. At the time, I didn’t know why this was important or how to really get started with it, so I had decided to just play it by ear. I was very lucky to have my sister in-law pass onto me her Medela double-breast pump, so I was pretty much set. She had gone over the basics with me on how to use it, but I really didn’t know what I was doing.
I began pumping and within an hour I was in tears. Something was wrong. I was pumping and pumping, and the milk flow just continued. I wasn’t sure what this meant, but I did know that I didn’t want to keep doing it, so I called my mom. “It just keeps coming!” I cried in frustration. My mother laughed. “Of course it’ll keep coming”, she explained, “Your milk supply won’t suddenly stop just because you’re pumping, I think you need to take a break”. I stopped. I didn’t want to pump anymore anyway, in fact, I began to hate the damned thing. I decided that maybe pumping just wasn’t for me.
My sister in-law had come over. We talked and she told me about the system that she had used on her kids when she would pump and it made me feel better. I suddenly felt silly about my frustration and had learned simply that pumping was actually an art.
To get started with pumping one will need a pump, unless of course you are willing to attempt to pump without one, which is possible, but will likely take up a whole lot of time. Having a great pump will save you a lot of time and stress. I remember watching my mother using a pump that my father had rented out for her when my brother was born, and watching her attempting to pump with something that sounded like a garbage disposal while equally tormenting her with pain. The one that my sister in-law had brought me, might as well have been silent compared to that one, and caused me no more pain than having to nurse a baby.
In order to feel good about pumping I think one should understand why they choose to do so, and base their actions on advise from other women who had success with pumping, research, and consulting a doctor. My first reason to pump was for the purpose of keeping up my milk supply, because we know, breastfeeding is all about supply and demand. So the more you pump, the more milk will be produced. The second reason I had pumped was so that I would have extra meals handy for the baby in case I had to go out, needed some time off, or if I wanted to bottle-feed in public. The third reason why it’s important to pump according to an obstetrical nurse is, the more activity the breasts have, the less chances of developing mastitis, which is an inflammation in the breast from milk that is not properly removed from the breast. As well, pumping helps nipples to harden, get used to the sensation of being tagged and pulled, thus preventing cracks, sores and bleeding nipples, which alone can cause women to stop breastfeeding.
I began pumping for the first two months of Alyssa’s life after every feed (except for night feeds, that time was reserved for sleeping). I also had a system that my mother and sister in-law had passed onto me. I would pump the breast that Alyssa had just finished eating from, completely empty (or until the milk flow would slow to a drip), and then pump the other breast just a little bit so that more milk would be produced for the next feeding. I’d repeat the pumping process after every meal, until the last one of the day. I would collect all my pumped milk and have a bottle handy in the fridge for just in case, sometimes even two. By the time Alyssa was 4 months old, we had moved and I had found very little time to pump after every one of her meals, so I would only do it twice a day, in the morning and at night. By the time she was on solids, I had completely stopped pumping and only pumped when I needed to leave her a bottle.
With Emma, I had followed the same system, and even had the Medela Swing (donated to me by my cousin), which I had used for travel or when I needed to pump on the go. My breast feeding experience would probably not be the same without understanding the importance of pumping or having the option to leave breast milk for the baby when I was away. I wish to all breastfeeding moms and moms to-be a great breastfeeding experience, and I hope that they may find a great pumping system that works for them to support this experience.
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