Man, this 7 month journey feels like it has been an eternity, and I have SUCH a long way to go! While I have come oh so very close to reaching my goal of EBF, I have not yet made it, and I am coming more and more to terms with that everyday and pushing on to do my best! ANY breast milk is better then none, and as long as the girls are healthy, happy, and full I am a happy mommy! The past month or so I have gone to more of an EP (exclusively pumping) routine. While I LOVE nursing and the special time and bond we three girls have together, it is posing to be more and more of a challenge bc they do not eat until they are full. After a few minutes they want to roll and play with each other! (it is getting a little tougher to tandem now that we are mobile as well). While the girls have been away at their grandparents for 2 nights and one day I (obviously) have had no choice but to pump. I have to give myself a HUGE pat on the back for managing to pump a grand total of 34 oz in 24 hours!!!!!!! 18 of that went in the freezer, 15 is waiting for the girls and 1 oz I used in their mango smoothies. It is still important to me to get at least ONE nursing session in daily for each girl, whether it is tandem or individual. The main reason for this is: breast milk changes to meet babies needs based on age and development (hence how you have colostrum at first and then over time the milk gets "thicker" over time...). The way your milk knows to change is through the saliva that comes in contact with your nipples. That is how your milk knows to make antibodies to fight off illness if your baby is sick! And why breastfed babies are more likely to recover from sickness quicker than formula fed (FF) babies! Also, I enjoy the bonding time :D Please note that I am NOT knocking moms who FF because I am a FF mom too! I just think that breastfeeding is one of the most amazing things that we can do for our children, and not enough new and expecting moms are equipped with the best info ! It truly is one of those natural miracles. I understand that not everyone's circumstances allow for BF and that some moms say "it's just not for them," but BF is not for moms, it's for the babies! :) I have another 18 goal months ahead of me! I plan to give BM 2-3 years (longer if I can!). There is no "magic cut off age" for them. After 7 (I believe) is when BM stops having those special nutrients for the growing bodies and is comparable to any other type of milk. The thought of 18 more months can really be depressing sometimes, but I look at it like this: It's only 2 years out of the (hopefully and God willing) many years I will have in my life as a mother. I would feel selfish for not following through with my goal knowing it is what is best for my girls!
Ok, so chugging right along here to the good stuff!!!! As I mentioned b4 I am mostly pumping now. Reasons: Daddy likes to feed the girls (and it's nice to not have all the pressure on me espec after chasing 2 all day AND it's great to have a partner who wants to be involved.) It is easier to bottle feed for my peace of mind bc I know how much they are getting and can monitor their intake/my supply. They like to play while we nurse which can everyone frazzled. We have tried to do breast only and no pumping, but that just turns into a disaster in the long run bc they don't fill up, and then all hell breaks loose after a short while (out of nowhere!) and it's not easy to just pop 2 on the boobs without some kind of preparing and positioning! This prevents it from happening on the spot! I am also DESPERATELY trying to get a decent freezer stash going, so pumping helps me get some extra milkies out with the hopes of slowly building a stash! (When they go to my parents house, I would LOVE for them to have all BM; they mostly do F there bc... well, I don't have the BM to give them and it's easier for my folks as well!) SO, the ups and downs to an EP style day???
It DOES get to be a pain having to stay pretty much hooked up to a pump all day. My pump schedule looks something like this: 9:30 am (goal 5 oz for b4 nap bottles); 12/12:30 noon (goal 6-7 oz for waking feeds); 2pm (goal 5 oz for b4 nap bottles); 5/5:30 (goal 6-7 oz for waking feeds); 9/10 pm for MOTN feeds (goal 5 oz... we are trying to stick with 2 oz per baby for this feed to cut down on MOTN wakings, but it's always nice to have extra on hand!); 12/1 am (this is a hit or miss goal pump to stay emptied out to keep supply going); 3/4am (this is a goal pump as well to empty out; I usually end up nursing them to keep from having to get up and pump lol); 7 am (this is a goal pump to have milk ready for when they wake; I usually end up nursing them lol)
SO with that said, many people ask me how I find the time to get in the pumps that I actually DO make happen... Once of my biggest issues with pumping in the past has been "When exactly do I have time to sit down and squeeze in a pump?" Cause us twin moms aren't already busy enough! Over time, I have found ways that have worked best for me. Recently, I have been doing better about making it happen (helps that I have also been more dedicated! I have amazing support from a wonderful support group! That would be my # 1 recommendation for anyone (especially those of u like me who want to, but just can't find it deep down inside to keep pushing!) Support groups are full of mommies who have been there/done that and are full of advice and tidbits that you didn't know. It's also pretty gratifying to be able to return the favors as you will probably have some info that others didn't know about as well!) For my 5 oz pumps, I put the girls in their jumpers (which they LOVE and spend time in several times a day anyways) and I sit in front of them and pump while they jump. (it's easiest I have found to keep em stationary!)
A hands free bra is the main thing that allows me to be able to pump! (Check out this budget friendly bra too! They make GREAT gifts for mommies-to-be!) If it weren't for this bra, I probably would not have made it this far! I barely have the time to pump as it is now! I can't imagine having to hold my shields every time I pump too! WOW. For my longer pumps, I usually sit and have a snack or turn on the tv and have a date with Rachel Ray and fold some clothes while I pump (this I have been doing since the very beginning but not recently.. I need to and WILL get back into this habit ASAP!) The late night pumps happen during grown up dinner time (lol) and in bed when I DO wake for those MOTN pumps.... It's harder to do so now bc the girls are lighter sleepers now and it does make a bit of noise getting up to turn the light on and get situated, then putting parts away.... but I HAVE GOT TO start making this happen. NO, it does not always work out the way I have this whole routine planned, BUT when all else fails, give em the boob! -Don't forget that directly from the breast IS THE BEST WAY to empty them and increase supply! ;)
Things that have tremendously helped encouraged me to keep pumping (and not hate it as much) are as follows (again all thanks to my pumping support group!!!) I was the victim of THE WORST red nipple rings EVER! (You know, that painful red ring around where the nipple and the areola meet. The pain that over time can cause you to cringe and not be able to nurse, hand express, or pump!) You could see the rings in a light pink color at ANY given time and it was just flat out miserable! THERE IS A SOLUTION!!!! Pumpin Pals shields are a life saver!!! I LOVE them and am SO sad that I didn't know about these earlier! I have SO MANY shields by Medela that now just sit in a box! :( The next thing to do is make sure that you have coconut oil on hand! No matter where you buy yours from, make sure it has the words "ORGANIC, UNREFINED, or ALL NATURAL" somewhere on the package to ensure that you have the real deal and the best! (Sam's has been the BEST steal as far as price and quantity. It's unrefined, organic, and extra virgin. The most ideal!) The oil is great for infinity things but a miracle worker for these red rings of death! You want to apply a little to your nipples throughout the day (and it is perfectly safe and healthy for baby to consume. It has lots of nutrients in it!) Also, you should rub a little bit around and into the shields (especially towards the ends where your nipples rub the most) each time you pump. It kind of acts like a lube. Here is a GREAT article listing 101 uses for coconut oil! I do take a few tablespoons a day to help get more nutrients in my body and it is said to help with supply as well!
Next, I started taking Lecithin to help empty myself out more quickly and easily while pumping. Also, I have to remind (and introduce our new folks) to one of the best (IMO) supplements out there! Of course I am referring to the "Mother Love" pills. This one is a little tougher for me to remember to take consistently bc it recommends that you don't drink too much 15 min prior and after taking (and of course I ALWAYS want water at the time I take this lol) I still take it but am trying to get better about taking it more consistently. I have also in the past taken these fenugreek pills. I had to cut these out after the vaca trip though bc all this stuff gets pretty pricey and there is already fenugreek in the mother love pills! (NOTE: There is a difference between the More Milk Plus and the Special Blend. The Special Blend has goat's rue in it and is the one I used most often.)
One thing I have been back and forth about, and a lot of people as me about, is why pump so many times a day? Why not just aim for a few large pumps a day. I have a few reasons behind that. Mostly, it is already hard enough to squeeze in a whole pump every few hours (that session lasts anywhere from 20-40 min). I had a large pump session the other morning when the girls had spent the night at their grandparents house. It took me almost 45 minutes to get out! The other main reason is that I am in great hopes that this will increase my supply over a short span of time. The way to increase supply is to make sure that your breasts are emptied out in the top (where the hind milk is stored). The top being empty (or full) is what tells your body whether or not you need to make more milk! So, if i keep my breasts full, them it is just asking for them to not try to produce more milk! This brings me to my next point. Warm compresses (I use a DIY heating pad that was a gift.. it has some kind of beans/lentil/beads in it... I will see if i can't track down the gifter and ask! You can also use warm/hot towels. I learned that you can put water in a clean diaper and heat it and that makes a great hot compress, but of course that's just more diapers you have to buy... but maybe now you have something to do with the old ones you have laying around that your LO outgrew?) or hot showers before you pump help a great deal! The heat helps loosen the hind milk and allows the breasts to empty more easily. I try to sit with my hot compress for a few minutes b4 I pump and then keep it on while I pump until it gets cold. I keep it on the top mostly, but put it under my breasts as well to help the bottom part empty out as well!
One thing that has been rumored to help increase supply is power pumping! I have done it a few times (but I also started taking the lecithin and using the pumpin pals around the same time, so it's hard to say which causes how much of an increase in supply), and plan to do in the evenings for the remainder of the week (and hopefully during my longer pump sessions!) It takes an hour, so I am not going to push myself. Power pumping is when you pump 10 min on/10 off for an hour (so u get a grand total of 30 min of pumping!) idk 100% "how" it works but I'm assuming it's bc u are repeatedly triggering ur milky hormones which in turn increases supply. I will report back on this after I get a few of these sessions in! :)
Lastly, I wanted to shed some light on pump maintenance. Make sure that you are taking your membranes off and cleaning them as well! (I soak mine in a small bowl of hot water with a drop of blue Dawn and then rinse them cupping my hands and pat them dry.) This can really make all the difference. You want to make sure that they lie flat on the connectors. Not washing them separately can cause a build up of the fat from the milk and cause them to not lie flat! I stopped boiling the girls bottles, but I still boil all my pump parts and bottle nipples. I have heard that you can put the shields in the fridge for 24 hours (after each use) and that keeps them "fresh" so you don't have to wash them 50 million times a day. I can kind of see the logic in that (since the milk is good in the fridge for 5 days), but I don't know if I will be doing that since then the shields will be cold and going to opposite direction of what the hot compress does for me.... but Had to let you guys know! Also, make sure that the connectors are dry before you use them to ensure no condensation gets into your tubing! If you do get any liquids into your tubing, you swing them over your head (like a lasso) to get the water out and then hang then on a rail/rod (like the shower curtain rod or towel bar) so that it can drip out! It is also good to run your pump unconncected for a few minutes to allow anything to work its way out of the tubes!
MOST IMPORTANTLY: DO NOT BUY USED PUMPS!!!!!!!!!! I CANT STRESS THIS ENOUGH!!!!! I was one of those people at the beginning that was going to borrow a pump from a very close friend because I didn't really have/want to spend the money on a new one. Let me tell you what the LC's at my hospital told me! (Before she finished talking we were already online ordering me a brand new pump!) Most pumps have an OPEN SYSTEM motor, which means there is no barrier between the tubing and the motor. SO, if you get milk in your tubes, it can get into and contaminate the motor. If you use something like the hospital grade Medela pumps, you will notice the end of the tubes (that you connect to the pump) have caps. This is the barrier that prevents the milk from getting into the motor which makes it safe for multiple people to use! Check with your insurance because many are starting to cover breast pumps! You can also try your local WIC office if you can't get it through insurance. Pumps are a medical device (which is the card I had to use to get mine into the football games last season! Go for 4-5 hours without pumping.. ya right! The things we do for our kids! I had to pump in the bathroom! Im NOT LYING when I say that pump goes EVERYWHERE with me!!!) and as with any other medical devices, you don't want to use something someone else already has! The good thing about Medela is that if you have any issues with your pump (I had a few motor issues), they are REALLY good about making sure they replace what you need to keep you going!
I hope that not only have you enjoyed this post, but that you learned a little something too! Feel free to leave your feedback/questions/comments/tips below in the comments for others to see too! It's not a contest about who has the best info/ideas, but rather support to make sure we each have as much info in our tool belts as possible to achieve our goals!!!! Thanks for tuning in and I look forward to bringing you more posts like this with a focus of one topic of info!
A few pix of me pumping at the Falcons home games!