Havre de Grace, MD, USA
From: New Beginnings, Vol. 29 No. 4, 2009, pp. 17-18
The door is locked. The blinds are drawn. I sit at my desk and struggle to get the hands free bustier around my uncomfortable, milk filled breasts, and position the breast flanges in the right place. Yes, I am pumping at work. I finally get everything connected and press the start button. I call my mother to ask her how her day is going with my two-and-a-half-year-old son, Braeden, and my six-month-old daughter, Brynne. Has Brynne taken the bottle? Has she slept? Has Braeden woken her up in one of his tantrums? I stare at the picture of Brynne on my laptop and listen to her softly cooing on my mother’s lap through the telephone. My heart melts. My milk lets down. Finally, there is relief.
Pumping has not always come easily to me and neither did breastfeeding, for that matter. Braeden Tyler was born via a cesarean section. After being placed briefly on my chest, he was whisked away to the nursery because he had high blood sugar and breathing difficulties. He wasn't returned to me for four hours so I started pumping with the hospital grade pump.
When we finally got to spend some time together to try breastfeeding, Braeden pulled off and screamed repeatedly. He seemed so impatient! We kept trying. I was determined and worked with lactation consultants, my very patient husband, and my mother, a La Leche League member. We used a syringe with formula in it at my breast to encourage Braeden to latch on and suck. I pumped in between frustrating feedings that always became a group effort. Then, the day before I was going home, Braeden started sucking ferociously at the breast before we gave him the formula. My milk had finally come in! The pumping and the syringe trick had worked.
Braeden breastfed every one or two hours at the beginning and continued to be a frantic feeder, pulling off impatiently and screaming until my milk came out to his liking. It was certainly a challenge, but by three months of age, he was a breastfeeding pro.
Then it was time for my next challenge, going back to work. Braeden was still breastfeeding so often that I didn’t know when I was going to be able to pump “extra” milk to keep for my mother, who’d be caring for him during the day. I did some reading, consulted my La Leche League Group, and got some great suggestions, which included:
- Pump first thing in the morning when you are full, then offer the breast.
- Feed the baby on one breast and pump the other during feeding time.
- Pump before bedtime.
I had pumped out and stored about 12 bags of breastmilk while home on maternity leave. Braeden would take a bottle fairly easily from my mother and I thought I was well prepared. I spoke with my supervisor before returning to work about needing to pump twice a day. My supervisor was supportive and a co-worker, who had recently returned to work, was pumping as well. She suggested that I bring photos of my baby to look at while pumping (to help me relax and stimulate milk let-down), and that I find a quiet office, preferably with a door that locked. It's a lot different pumping at work than in the comfort of your home!
Braeden went through the 12 bags of milk I had stored in the first week and I quickly realized that I was not pumping enough to replenish what he would drink during the day. He was drinking more at my mother's house, possibly because he was adjusting to being away from me during the day. I asked my LLL Leaders and Group for suggestions. My Leader suggested I pump for 18 minutes rather than the ten minutes I was doing, as I might be able to produce a second let-down. I increased my pumping sessions to 20 minutes each time, twice a day, and I ate more foods high in vitamin B. My milk let down again at the 18-minute mark. Although it was only an ounce or two at first, my supply adjusted to the increased demand and I started producing more milk.
I continued pumping at work until Braeden was 15 months old, when I became pregnant with Brynne and it was then too painful to use the pump on my sensitive nipples. I continued breastfeeding Braeden until the end of my second trimester, when I experienced a significant drop in my milk supply. Braeden had reduced his feedings to once a day before bed and continued to self-wean. It was a natural, unstressful process for both of us. He still lay in my lap when I got home from work and followed a bedtime routine of watching a music show, singing, snuggling, and then going to bed.
Brynne Elizabeth was also born via a cesarean section. I was adamant in my instructions to hospital staff that I intended to breastfeed immediately following the birth. My post delivery experience was quite different this time. Ten minutes after the birth, I was in the recovery room moving my legs. Brynne latched on and nursed for 30 minutes on each breast. She has been such an amazing little breastfeeder from the start.
I pumped whenever I could to build up my milk supply. I returned to work when Brynne was about three and a half months old with 35 bags of milk in the freezer, each holding four to six ounces. I scheduled my pumping times at work and communicated this with my staff and fellow managers. I invested in a new hands free pump, which only takes a couple of minutes to set up so I can continue working at my desk throughout pumping sessions. However, each pumping session usually still starts with a phone call to my mother so I can hear my little ones.
I would never have gotten through my first breastfeeding experience, or my first attempts at pumping at work, without the support of my mother, husband, colleagues, and LLL Group. Do I feel like pumping at work every day? No. Is it worth it so I can provide the best possible start to life by breastfeeding? Yes!
A Guide to Pumping Your Milk. LLLI, 2009. http://store.llli.org/public/profile/381