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Pump It Up

By Amalah

bounceback_week28.jpgDuring my first pregnancy I registered for (and received) a small manual Avent Isis pump. Several people who saw it on my baby registry list gently patted my head and suggested that I wait and go the double-barrel hospital-rental route instead. Oh, I was! I told them! I have read all about pumps and pumping and pump-related accessories! The hand-pump is for later, for when I’m back at work and everything is going swimmingly and perfect and I just think I’ll want something small and discreet, you know?

And they would nod and pat my head again, because oh, AMY.

Nursing and Pumping: Baby #1

I did rent a hospital-grade pump. First, the LC gave me a big blue beast of a thing that tore my already battle-scarred nipples up. (“Pump trauma.” It’s apparently an actual Thing.) I swapped it for another hospital-grade pump, the Medela Symphony. This pump worked in that it did not hurt, but not so much with the actual production of actual milk. Jason would feed my losing-too-much-weight newborn formula while I pumped and cried and felt like a malfunctioning dairy cow. I hated it. HATED.

My plan to stockpile breast milk in preparation for returning to work was a spectacular failure β€” Noah went to his first day of daycare with the entire stash of one-and-a-half bottles. Likewise, pumping at work never produced enough to see him through the next day. Sometimes I didn’t even bother bringing home the sad little half-ounce amounts. I tried EVERYTHING. Baby photos, baby clothes, visualizations of rooting and waterfalls. The only thing that seemed to trigger a letdown was watching a video clip of Noah nursing, complete with those snuffly greedy baby noises he’d make, but it wasn’t like I was ever awash in ounce upon ounce of liquid gold.

The Avent hand-pump was indeed, a laughable choice for me, as it was nowhere near powerful enough for my stubborn boobs. Oh, AMY.

I never pumped “enough” at work, either. I had an office with a door and a lock and assumed that I’d have no problem finding time to pump during the day. And then I’d show up for work and some crisis would happen or a meeting would run over and then suddenly it was 2 pm and I hadn’t even eaten lunch, much less pumped to relieve my aching boobs. Seriously, there are few things that impress me more than hearing about mothers who end up pumping more or less exclusively for month after month. I want to give them all the gold stars and medals that we all joke about not getting.

I stopped viewing pumping at work as a milk production endeavor β€” Noah drank formula when he was away from me and there really wasn’t anything else to do. I kept pumping just to keep my boobs from drying up completely so we could continue to breastfeed at home. When Noah weaned after a couple months of this, one of my very first thoughts was something along the lines of “oh thank goodness, I don’t have to pump anymore.” I boxed every breastfeeding accessory I owned and donated some and tossed the rest. I was done. I was never doing that to myself again. If breastfeeding didn’t work the second time, I would give myself permission to stop and not torture myself with the pump.

Nursing and Pumping: Baby #2

I did rent the Medela Symphony again, pledging to at least do whatever I could at first to combat potential supply problems. I pumped for 10 to 15 minutes after every feeding, essentially tricking my body into thinking I’d had twins. And oh, how the milk flowed this time! Ounces and ounces of it! A quick sniff of Ezra’s laundry or the sound of a running sink faucet was enough to trigger an enormously powerful letdown reflex. Instead of hunching over the wheezing machine and feeling sorry for myself, I was filled with awe and pride at what my boobs were doing this time. I’d bring multiple full storage bags down to our refrigerator and show them off to Jason, like: DUDE. LOOK WHAT I CAN DO.

Once it was clear that I’d veered into oversupply territory, I returned my rental and bought both a Pump-in-Style…AND a Medela Harmony manual pump (which worked great for relieving engorgement or to prevent poor Ezra from choking on the initial letdown). I didn’t need to return to work, but my fridge and freezer always had enough milk to last a week. Pumping wasn’t a chore as much as a ticket to convenience…and a little freedom. Date nights. A solo shopping trip while Jason stayed home. An extra sanity-saving bottle in the diaper bag in case we got stuck in traffic or otherwise off schedule.
After awhile, though, my supply dipped as Ezra slept longer and nursed less, and the pump was the first thing to go. I suddenly couldn’t get anything anymore, maybe an ounce here or there. I was actually kind of bummed. Then Ezra started rejecting pumped milk anyway, so I boxed the pumps up and stuck them in a closet.

I never really thought about how my pumping experiences were just as drastically different as my actual nursing experiences, but they were. The first time, it’s like I transferred all my frustration and discomfort with nursing and working to that blasted pump, and it rewarded me in kind. The second time, everything was just…fine. Not a big deal at all. Was it me? The baby? More confidence, better technique? Physical? Mental? I have no idea. Sometimes pumping is great, and sometimes it…well, it sucks.

(Weirdly, entirely unrelated: Writing this post [and last week’s] triggered very weird phantom letdown sensations in my boobs. The guy at the table next to me is giving me weird looks because I keep yanking on my bra. Keep it classy, self!)

 

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Christy
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Christy

I appreciate the gold stars offered to ladies who pump at work. My son is 10.5 months and I am still pumping. I’m waiting until the magical one year point to start weaning him, and sometimes I wonder if I will miss the pump…yeah, probably not.

kristin @ going country
Guest

Pumping is not fun. But neither are painful, totally engorged boobs that leak constantly, so the pump wins when THAT happens.
Breastfeeding is beautiful and awe-inspiring and cool and all, but also . . . kind of gross sometimes.

Sarah
Guest
Sarah

I’ll take those gold stars, but I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep them. I’m pumping exclusively and am at 4 months. Something happened about 3 weeks ago (not sure what?) and my supply dropped like a rock. My goal was to have tons of milk in the freezer, and now we are going through it like crazy – unfreezing 1-2 bags a day. I hope I can last until 6 months with exclusive breastmilk, but I have been eyeing those formula coupons, and looking for deals. I’m only pumping once a day at work, and once… Read more »

Michelle
Guest
Michelle

I had the Medela Pump in Style with my first son. Breastfeeding was a spectacularly unproductive endeavor with him. He was a little early (36.5 weeks), severely tongue-tied; although I didn’t know that until later (thanks unhelpful lactation consultant), and was very jaundiced so I was told to get feed him as often as possible to help flush out the excess bilirubin. So I pumped and fed him breastmilk exclusively. The pump worked great and I had PLENTY of supply in the beginning. I had stashes of frozen breastmilk. Then at about 9 weeks, my supply started to dwindle (I… Read more »

Bethany
Guest
Bethany

My son never got a good latch. We only lasted 2 weeks with nursing. I’ve been pumping exclusively since then. He will be 10 months old on Friday. He ended up with lots of food allergies and would have needed special, SUPER expensive, formula. We’ve been keeping it up purely from a budget standpoint. Initially, of course, it was for those motherly antibodies and what not. I was lucky enough to go back to work at a daycare where they let me pump as often as I needed. Now, I’m lucky enough to be able to stay home and that’s… Read more »

Alecia @ Hoobing Family Adventures
Guest

Christy, we must have had our babies around the same time (April 28 for me). My daughter is 10.5 months and I am still pumping. I use the Pump-in-Style and it works great. I almost felt ashamed two weeks ago when I had to introduce formula for the first time. I know, lame right? I give my daughter salsa, but I don’t want to give her life-sustaining formula. After so much time, I have to say I am FINALLY ready to be done with pumping. From a convenience perspective, I have been ready to be done for a long time,… Read more »

Olivia
Guest
Olivia

I pumped at work from the time my baby was 3 weeks to just last week when she was 11.5 months. Please, may I have my gold stars? πŸ˜‰ Seriously though, for the first 3 months or so I was able to pump enough for her next day. But at around 4 months she hit a growth spurt or the mini-pill messed with my supply or…? I went from 4 oz per session to 2 or 3 oz, and once the freezer supply was gone my husband had to start giving her one bottle of formula a day in addition… Read more »

bessie.viola
Guest

Thanks for the gold star. This post made me cry a little bit (and I also had the phantom letdown). I pumped exclusively for 10 months. My daughter flat-out would not latch; she had better things to do, hated my boobs, whatever. It was an incredible love/hate relationship with the pump. I loved what it enabled me to do; hated pretty much everything else about it. My story is here: http://bessieviola.wordpress.com/category/breastfeeding/
Amy, your story makes me really hopeful that my next experience with breastfeeding will also be absolutely different. Thanks for acknowledging the “herd” of pumpers. πŸ˜‰

chatty cricket
Guest

I find this FASCINATING. I am 12 weeks away from being due with our 4th. I did not nurse my first two (I was adamant that I did NOT want to nurse my first- LONG STORY- and regretfully decided I should stick with what I know for my second) I DID nurse my third (because I was pretty sure that would be my last shot to give it a try)(WHOOPSIE! SURPRISE BONUS BABY) Recently I decided I will indeed try nursing the 4th. Nursing the 3rd was…….interesting. We made it through 9 weeks before I had to give up because… Read more »

Lindsay
Guest
Lindsay

I also applaud all my fellow pumpers out there! My son just turned a year and gave him only breast milk, which meant pumping at work three times a day for 8 months! I felt like throwing myself a little party to celebrate not pumping anymore. πŸ™‚ He’s still nursing at home, but I hope to not see that pump again until my next child is born.

Amy Corinne
Guest

I wanted to thank you for your post. I had a horrible time nursing and pumping when my daughter was born (partly because of the standard supply issues and partly because my grandmother died when my daughter was 12 days old). I beat myself up about using formula for way too long and 16 months later, I’m okay with everything. My daughter is healthy and happy, and that’s what matters.
Anyway, reading about your experience with Ezra makes me hopeful that I’ll be a successful nurser/pumper next time. So, thanks.

Dawn
Guest

My son is just over 6 months old and I’ve been pumping exclusively since the beginning. He nursed better than his sister but never great and was introduced to the bottle much earlier then I would have liked due to his needing to stay in the hospital an extra two days thanks to extreme jaundice. But having gone through the low/dwindling supply with my daughter, I wa damn sure not going to let that happen with him! So I was able to generate a freezer full of milk while on maternity leave my tricking my boobs into thinking that I… Read more »

Alissa
Guest
Alissa

SO SO happy to be done pumping! And I had a fairly decent relationship with my pump. But I wanted to share my most fun pumping story. When DS was five months old I traveled across the country for a wedding. Left DS at home with Dad. Brought handy pump. Which got lots of eyeballs from the security guard at airport x-ray thingy. On the red-eye flight back home my boobs were FULL and I needed a place to pump. Asked nice flight attendant guy, where could I pump without taking up a bathroom for 20 minutes. So – I… Read more »

Abby
Guest
Abby

I just want women who only want occasional or minor pumping to know that the Avent Isis hand pump can be all you need. I work part time now and so I only need to pump a few ounces each morning before the baby (11 months old) gets up and it works great.

Marnie
Guest
Marnie

I couldn’t help but giggle, I read this while pumping at work! I pump 3 times a day at work for 15 mins each session and exclusively nurse on non-work hours. This is my 2nd go at this pumping situation and also found that it has been easier. Mostly because I know what to expect and I’ve try not to let myself get all stressed out about how much I make (emphasis on TRY). I’ve come to accept that I just don’t make as much with the pump as I do while actually nursing and that is OKAY. One thing… Read more »

Suzanne
Guest

I pumped in the beginning to relieve terrible, horrible engorgement and then kept doing it because…well…aren’t you supposed to? I mean, who doesn’t pump these days? Isn’t it sort of an unwritten law you have to have a freezer full of milk just in case? Fast forward almost 12 months and my son still refuses a bottle. Luckily I’m available to nurse him 24/7 but those 200+ oz in my deep freeze aren’t doing anyone any good. I would definitely suggest mothers don’t commit to a pump until they’re sure they’re going to need/want/keep/use it. p.s. If you DO need… Read more »

Stephanie
Guest

Pumping is not fun. And I realized quite early on that there was no way I was going to pump enough at work to give my baby what she needed. And it was so hard to find the time required to pump. I was spending an hour I didn’t have to pump out less than half of what my daughter needed! So the daycare lady began giving her half BM and half formula for about 4 months. And about six weeks ago, I just decided to stop pumping at work. I still nurse my baby in the morning and at… Read more »

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous

Is it an overshare to say I’m pumping at work right now? My supply has PLUMMETED. As in I only get 2-3 oz. all day. Formula is my son’s diet, but I’m crazy stubborn/competitive so I refuse to give up. I keep deciding I’ll let it go only to change my mind. Was taking Fenugreek and more milk plus before but got lazy and would forget. Think I’m going to get some more. What a silly game. P.S. – I have 2 pumps which is nice to not have to carry too and from work. Both off craigslist – an… Read more »

Nora
Guest
Nora

S turns 6 months next week and he is HUGE compared to my little 6th percentile infant. At his 1 month appt the doctor gave me one week to get his weight up before supplementing with formula. Milestone was achieved with basically round the clock nursing, skin-on-skin co-sleeping, and willpower. In that week we figured each other out, a week after that I was due to go back to work. The rental pump (Medela Lactina) had sat for two weeks without even being plugged in. Finally my husband, wanting to see how it worked, put all the parts together and… Read more »

Claire
Guest
Claire

I pumped at work from months 5-7 (twice a day), then was home again nursing exclusively from months 7-10. When I went back to work (again) at 10 months, I refused to pump at work, but was able to keep up with nursing at home for many months after that. I nursed 3 times a day for a month, then two times a day for another month, and then from months 12-15, my daughter only nursed once a day, in the morning, and somehow there was milk. And then one day she didn’t ask to nurse when she woke up,… Read more »

Melissa
Guest
Melissa

I’m one of those exclusive pumper people. DS and I just never got the hang of nursing … there was tongue-tie that was diagnosed late, flat nipples, thrush, numerous bouts of blocked ducts, etc., etc., etc. So, I’m pumping. And I hate it. My nipples are still sore and sensitive. DS still has thrush. I hate having to put him down to pump. I hate feeling like I can’t leave home for more than 4 hours because I need to pump. I’m constantly sick with some sort of ailment, I think because I’m not getting enough sleep what with waking… Read more »

Courtney
Guest
Courtney

Thanks for this, and for the gold stars. I am a physician with a crazy schedule and went back to work full-time at 3 months. Pumping was going great (though admittedly a big pain) until 9 months when my supply plummeted for no obvious reason – in fact it happened as we were finishing a family vacation when she was nursing 24/7. I nursed her morning and night and pumped 3 times a day. I took fenugreek until I thought I would turn into a bottle of pancake syrup. No dice. My daughter got breast milk exclusively for 10 months,… Read more »

miriam
Guest
miriam

Just weaned last week– a day before she turned 9 mo. The whole last month was a struggle to try to keep up supply– feeding her every 2-3 hours during the day (unless I was at work then pumping 2-3 times and again before I went to bed– all for about 10 lousy oz for 4 sessions). Was supplementing even before I started formally weaning– she was eating very well so she wasn’t complaining but I think she was getting a little dehydrated (stinky wets!). Sure, the “mature milk” comes in then, but I really felt like I wasn’t making… Read more »

Kate
Guest
Kate

I’m another one who gave up pumping at work (when my daughter was 9 months old) but was able to nurse when I was with her until she was 13 months old. I hope moms-to-be who are reading realize it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. I also found that I had much better let down with the Isis hand pump than my Ameda electric pump (which was great, by the way, and cheaper than the Pump in Style), and I would have relied on that for occasional bottles if I’d been a SAHM. It was perfect for a… Read more »

Melissa
Guest
Melissa

Went back to work when the kid was 3.5 months and pumped until she was 11.5 months. At which point we introduced cows milk mixed with breastmilk. I pumped 2-3 times a day, depending on business and whatnot. At first, I didn’t mind. I had an office and a super-supportive boss. I produced enough to feed a small nation. But sometime around the 9 month mark I was just tired of it. By 10 months I wanted to drop-kick my pump out my 4th floor office window. I dropped one session per week and eventually weaned her at 16 months… Read more »

Anne
Guest

It is great reading this post! I am a pumping mom right now. My little man came out ready to latch and nurse…I called him my boob-man. Fast forward 1 month – I ruptured a disc in my back – unable to nurse 20 days due to heavy HEAVY narcotic pain killers and back surgery. He took right back to the breast without a problem and then I went back to work…the bottle was SOOOO easy for him and he would get frustrated in the evening when my supply was not the highest. I cried a lot and then decided… Read more »

ClumberKim
Guest

With my first child I went back to work when he was 8 weeks old and I pumped three times a day in a freezing cold server closet (better than the bathroom, I guess) and it was always a struggle to produce enough for the next day. Awful as it was, I was lucky. I had breast reduction 3.5 years before my son was born and was told at the time breastfeeding was not going to be an option. I took huge amounts of fenugreek and blessed thistle, and ate more oatmeal than I ever thought possible. I was home… Read more »

laura
Guest
laura

Thanks for the gold stars. As an exclusive pumper of 6.5 months who wanted so desperately to breastfeed (if it weren’t for the flat nipples, thrush, plus everything else that could possibly go wrong), I often feel ashamed that I can’t nurse my beautiful little girl. I hope and pray every day that the next one will be different. Thanks also for the hope that history won’t repeat. While I do feel grateful that I’ve had the supply to provide for her, it has still been very upsetting at times to feel so different. I can’t tell you how much… Read more »

Jessi
Guest

While it’s a pain, I’ve never regretting hauling my pump with me to work. It’s just something I grab in the morning now. I used to have a private office and was able to pump whenever I wanted. Now that I share an office, it’s more of a pain to head down to the room – I have to get the key. But I’m still 3x a day. Really, it’s such a short amount of time in my life and his; it’s already been nine months, what’s three more? When I hold him in front of me, I ask, “You… Read more »

kari Weber
Guest
kari Weber

I am a teacher, with not a lot of privacy in my room. With my first, I tried to pump every day but was having a real hard time not being freaked out that someone would come into my room unannounced (at the time EVERYONES key unlocked everyone else’s door). I lasted 7 months of exclusively breast feeding and pumping. Then I got overwhelmed with the stress and gave it all up cold turkey. Regretted it ever since. Do over time! With my second, I told myself I would not stress about it at all. Ha! But I did stress… Read more »

Kat Eden
Guest

OMG that Avent pump gave me nothing but RSI! Evil!! I’ve been lucky with the Medela Swing Electric, pricy, but a godsend! I do most of my pumping first thing in the am, and when I get home from work again.

Stacy
Guest
Stacy

I feel very lucky that other than the very first week of my daughters life, where I was stressed out and pumping and bottle feeding while we worked on some latching and pain issues… We nursed really well on a 3 hr round the clock schedule for 7 months. At which she decided to self wean. I did pump a couple times a day for the first 5 months, but I had a ton of frozen milk and she only had a bottle a few times a week (husband did some feeds) and I felt like I had enough and… Read more »

Liz
Guest
Liz

I have a 3.5 month old, and he’s a great nurser. No problems there. But I bought a little hand pump and have had the hardest time getting any milk. When I first pumped it was no problem, but now I have the hardest time with letting down. So I feel your pain Amy! I just don’t get pumping. But nursing is awesome. I might put off working for as long as I can so that I don’t have to pump… luckily we can afford the lack of income for a little while longer.

LauraL
Guest
LauraL

I nursed and pumped with my first and everything went well (dodging missiles being hurled). My second never, ever could nurse because of low muscle tone, but it was pretty important that he get the breastmilk. And, interestingly, I produced as much pumping exclusively as I did with nursing/pumping. I managed to keep it up until he was 16 months old or so. I tell you, the first day at work when I didn’t have to go into an office where I could pump and work, it was kind of surreal… Also, I’ve had those phantom let-down reflexes. Very comforted… Read more »

Jen & The Amazing Trips
Guest

Despite several cases of mastitis, I pumped for my triplets the first few months of their lives. They had been born 10 weeks prematurely and were critically ill in the NICU. I felt so guilty that my body had failed them. And although I couldn’t control when they were born, I could control my ability to pump and provide them the best nutrition available. Once I stopped pumping, I nursed them until they were 16 months old. (I enjoyed nursing so much, I then went on to nurse their younger brother until he was 2.5!!) Here’s more of my triplet… Read more »

kdw
Guest
kdw

I have been pumping exclusively for almost 11 months. Breastfeeding was the thing about motherhood that I was most looking forward to and I probably would have nursed as long as the kiddo would have wanted to. I tried so hard to breastfeed for the first few weeks, but even with visits from multiple lactation consultants in the hospital and at home, we could never get a good enough latch and the baby would scream and scream and claw at my breast because he was so hungry. I was also pumping so that we could feed him bottles of breastmilk… Read more »

Landie
Guest
Landie

I was an exclusive pumper. I’ve posted responses on this board a few times before, but I had a cardiac baby and those little dudes are waaay too weak to breastfeed. My son dropped a ton of weight after birth and could nurse for about 3 minutes before he would basically pass out from the effort. Thanks to the advice of my other mummy friends, I had purchased a Medela Pump-in-Style double barreled extravaganza…THANK GOD. Because of that pump, my milk supply stayed ridiculous (as in I gave bags of milk away to friends who were having issues with milk… Read more »

Olivia
Guest
Olivia

Jen, I am in awe! Nursing triplets!? Just wow.

Michelle
Guest
Michelle

THANK YOU for your post!!! It is impossible to pump at work! And I work from home! I have absolutely no problems multi-tasking but when it comes to pumping, it just cannot be done! I am an exclusive low volume pumper. Let-down only comes with constant massaging of both boobs throughout the entire pumping duration of 45-60mins. Yeap, you read that correctly! Thank god my baby is not on breastmilk exclusively, she is a premmie and we have been supplementing with formula since day 1. I send her to daycare with formula, no way in hell am I letting them… Read more »

professormama
Guest
professormama

The Avent Isis hand Pump can be great. I used it to pump when I went back to work 6 weeks postpartum and it was awesome, quick and comfortable, so it has worked for some of us. The electric Medela one I tried before was so painful. Everyone’s body is different.

Mrs. Warde
Guest

WIC gave me one of those big blue beasts to use and WOW was that think the WORST! I completely believe in “pump trauma” and even my husband felt my pain. I never needed to pump with my first baby (SAHM) but #2 was born premature and was in the hospital for 2 months. I used the Medela pump they rented out and it worked fabulously for me. I knew I was going to have to go on some medications that weren’t safe to take while breastfeeding, so I placed the demand on my boobs and froze enough that I… Read more »