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Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Other Side of Nursing

We've talked previously about breastfeeding challenges (and how to channel your inner ninja), but we have reached a point where we need to talk about pumping.  If ever a nursing mom needs to get out of the house without the baby - whether it be for errands or a day at work - pumped milk is a necessity.

I won't touch on every point of pumping, but thought I would share some challenges I have faced**.  But, DON'T WORRY.  No demonstrations or creepy footage - this will be approved writing for all ages, though I'm not certain all ages will find the topic riveting.  Here goes:


1. Breast milk does not have an unlimited supply available all the time.  Some women can produce large quantities, but it's all about telling your body to produce enough.  Nursing is a curious and amazing thing because your body will produce milk as it is needed.  When baby goes through a growth spirt and they need more, your body will kick into gear and produce more over the next few days (or until whenever the growth spirt tapers off).  Similarly, if you begin to ween the baby from nursing (or they begin to ween themselves), your supply will begin to decrease.

Rice Cereal + Milk

So what does this mean when you need to pump in addition to nursing for a night out or to add to baby cereal?  You have to tell your body to produce more, which means pumping when you don't have any left or adding in extra sessions outside of nursing.  For me, this usually means midnight pumping or ridiculous-middle-of-the-night-why-am-I-awake-at-three-A-M sessions.
On a side note: I have to give props to my dad on this one.  He babysat Quincy when Brad and I had our first date night out, and I had pumped ahead of time to ensure Quincy would have enough food.  Upon returning to my dad's house to pick up Quincy later in the evening, he told us how Quincy did eating, sleeping, etc., and then told me, "Don't forget the extra milk in the fridge.  I know how hard you worked to get it."  He may not have noticed, but I got a little choked up after hearing those words.  Having someone recognize the hard work put into setting aside sustenance for my son really resonated with me as a new mom.  Often times, that hard work goes unnoticed (when milk is warmed up, never eaten, and tossed; when milk is pumped and forgotten in the diaper bag without an ice pack, and tossed; when milk is refused by a fussy baby, and tossed...), which can be heart-wrenching when you've spent a lot of time and energy producing and collecting it. {Thanks, Papa!}

2. Pumping is a lonely chore.  At least with nursing, you have a cuddly baby hanging out with you.  As for pumping, you have to find a place suitable for pumping (especially when at work or out of the home), hook yourself up to a contraption, sit up, be relaxed, wait for milk to come, wait for enough milk to be gathered, watch for when pumping is done, store the collected milk (bottle or bag; cooler, fridge, or freezer), and then hope beyond hope that every single drop will be consumed and nothing will go to waste.

Pumping isn't quite as acceptable to do in front of others like nursing can be, so typically you have to isolate yourself in another room or area.  For working moms, this could mean using your breaks when you usually meet up with friends and colleagues (or just take a break to eat and relax) to hide away in a bathroom or office to pump.  Or, if pumping while company is over, this means going off to a different room, and missing out on the conversation or social time with friends or family.

3. Babies are more efficient.  What a baby could take 10-15 minutes to complete, pumping takes much longer (at least for me; maybe other moms out there have better luck).  To fill a four ounce bottle, it could take me one 30 minute session, or four 30 minute sessions, or 1 late night hour; it all depends on the time of day, when the last feeding took place, etc.

From left to right: 9:00am, 5:00pm, Midnight.

4. Some pumps are better than others.  I first purchased a manual pump since I would be staying home full-time and expected to only need to pump for occasional babysitters.  It worked alright, but I found I needed to concentrate a lot more on using the manual pump, and it took a lot of time for me to get a minimal amount of milk.

Medela® Harmony™ Manual Breastpump
Current Price Tag at Target: $34.19
Medela® Swing™ Single Electric Breastpump
Current Price Tag at Target: $159.99

Eventually, I broke down and purchased a single electric pump, which made the task go a little bit more quickly, though a double (both sides at once) pump would have been more efficient, but cost a heck of a lot more.  Obviously, the manual pump was much cheaper, but with needing additional milk for rice cereal, the electric pump has saved me some time.

5. It's okay to cry over spilt milk.  As number one above proves, it can be tricky to find the time, and energy, (and milk) for future feedings.  For number two, it can be emotionally and socially distancing to isolate yourself in order to collect milk.  Number three shows us that it's a time eater, while number four let's us know the equipment can affect how quickly the task can be completed and at what cost.  

With all that said, it's tough when the milk doesn't get used when it took a lot of effort to get it!

And here are just a few ways I've found it helpful to keep track of all things milk and pumping:

I use a permanent marker & circle stickers
to label when the milk was pumped.
Stickers are fine in the fridge or freezer,
just be sure to peel them off before washing.
I use this 31 Bag™ to store my pumping gear (main section),
user manuals (side pocket), stickers & marker (other side pocket),
though you can purchase really nice pumping bags
that are specifically designed for pumps and storage.
We're big fans of glass bottles - no BPA's, fridge & freezer friendly,
and recyclable once baby grows up! We use these
Evenflo® Four Ounce Glass bottles for feedings and storage.

So there you have it.  Hopefully, this was helpful to the new and soon-to-be mommas out there, and educational for everyone else!


**These are just a few challenges that I have faced, but I'm sure there are others out there!  There can be added complications with pumping when the mother's supply is low, the baby isn't nursing well, the cost of a pump is too great, or the baby refuses to take a bottle.  Feel free to share any insights in the comments below!


  1. You are truly a nursing ninja, Maggie! As for me, I was a Mama Moo-Cow. I just gotta say, not every baby is as efficient as Quincy!

    For me, the milk came in full force and my babies had a hard time gulping it down. I lasted 2 months with Maddie, then was so determined to make it work with Ben that I consulted a personal nursing coach to help me figure it out.

    All to no avail. . .Ben was more challenged than Maddie and kept gasping for air as he guzzled. (Andy imitate the sound perfectly!)On the flip-side, pumping was a breeze. . .especially once we got the electric pump. I could hook up both sides and fill two 8 oz. bottles in 15 minutes. . .tops!

    In the end, I think maybe I ate too much of Andy's yummy spicy food and my milk just didn't agree with Ben. Once we tried formula, life was a lot better for us all! Too bad, though, because we ended up having to toss 40 16 oz. bags of breast milk from the freezer stash. (We couldn't even DONATE it anywhere!) What a waste. . .

    For a long time, I took this as a personal failure and felt as if I had failed one of the most essential and natural of "Mom tasks". Now, I see that each mom has special gifts that are imparted to her offspring. Often it is the gifts that we give unknowingly that make the most difference.

    Anyway, I posted today just in case there are other new mom's out there who are feeling challenged by nursing and who may feel guilty or inadequate. You are still good moms. . .great, in fact! And there are a lot more years ahead to discover the gifts that are uniquely yours.

    Certainly, I am most proud (and perhaps a little jealous!) of you, Maggie, my nursing ninja friend. Your reflections and tips may help others who are on the edge, too. Maybe they would have helped me if I'd read them during those leaky, squirty, sour milk, soaking sheets days?

    Love ya!

    1. Thanks, Lisa! It's amazing how different nursing and pumping can be for different moms out there. Thanks for sharing your feelings about inadequacy and guilt but that women should know they/we are great moms.

      Thanks again, Lisa!! I love hearing other moms' experiences!