on being a working pumping mama
right now, i have 47 5oz bags of breastmilk in my freezer. that's 235oz of milk.
in my deep freeze, i have nine ziplock gallon plastic bags of 12 5oz bags of breastmilk each (60oz of breastmilk per gallon bag) for a total of 540oz of milk.
between my freezer and my deep freeze, i have 775oz of breastmilk. that is equivalent to just over 6 gallons. SIX. GALLONS.
i knew when i got pregnant that i would be returning to work after my maternity leave. because of our financial situation, i did not have the option to stay home. and that's fine. my husband and i walked into this knowing that and being in agreement about it.
i requested my breast pump from insurance as soon as i was able, a medela pump in style advanced. then, one of the faculty members who works in my department offered to let me use her hospital grade medela symphony breast pump. score! so i haven't even broken out my insurance pump yet, but i have it as a back up just in case. thanks, obamacare!
i started pumping almost immediately. while in the hospital, i used one of the hospital's medela symphony pumps once my milk came in. i remember being so proud of my 40ml of milk early on. the nurses told me that was a good amount to pump. and it was, at the time. babies don't come out downing 10oz a feed. thank god. when we got home from the hospital i started pumping after sabina's first morning feed. i heard that was the best time of day to pump because that was when my supply was at its best. i didn't want to pump before she fed because i was worried i would be pumping the milk she should be drinking. and i wanted to tell my boobs to produce more milk than she needed so that i wouldn't run out before i was ready.
i had several friends whose milk supply dried up around six to seven months and i was determined to keep my supply strong so that i could make it at least to my one year goal of breastfeeding. and if i can make it beyond that, then great. so on my way to that goal my not-so-little borrowed yellow symphony pump and i have become great friends.
when i first returned to work, i had talked to a working pumping mama friend who said she pumped about 10oz a pump in about 10 minutes or so. i figured if i could get anywhere near that we would be golden. alas, i didn't. ha. i ended up pumping for 30 minutes a pump and getting about 3-5oz of milk. but you know what? that's fine. every mama's boobs are different and every mama's baby is different. i produced what my babe needed (and a lot more, apparently, since i have a stash of six gallons in my two freezers).
one of the hardest things for me was learning to chill the heck out about how much i was pumping. when i realized that i wasn't pumping enough to give sabina during the day at work, i ended up adding a 5am pump when i first woke in the morning. that would give me anywhere from 5-10oz and was enough to supplement my day pumps if they weren't enough to feed bina the next day. not everyone needs to do that, but i did it for my own peace of mind. it made me less stressed about getting a certain amount during the day at work. and stress is counter productive to milk production. so the less stress, the better (and i stress about being stressed). so i pumped four times a day intially: at 5am, 9am, 12pm, and 3pm. i kept doing the 5am pump every day, even on the days i wasn't working, just to keep that supply up. over the christmas break i cut that pump out because i had such a stash of milk and realized it was not necessary anymore. also, who wants to wake up at 5am to pump if you don't have to. now i only pump twice at work, at 10am and 2pm. and that works for me!
it's a challenge being a working pumping mama. i have been really fortunate to have my own office with a door so i can pump in privacy at my computer and keep working. some stuff i read said oh no don't work and pump it will kill your supply. i found that not to be true for me. i was less stressed pumping and working simultaneously than not, so that's what i did. i also am right across the hall from the staff kitchen, so it's easy for me to quickly store my milk after pumping. i don't wash the pump parts after each pump, i just put them in a gallon ziplock bag and stick them in my little fridge tub where i keep my bottles of pumped milk. i feel for the working mamas that have to leave their desks to pump. i would be super stressed about getting things done if i had to take time out of my work day to pump, or if i had to make up that time later. again, i feel very fortunate to have the arragement i have. and i am also very fortunate to have super supportive supervisors. if i didn't have that support and accomodation, i may not have made it as long as i have.
when i started, i was worried about not having enough milk. i was worried about my milk drying up. i was worried about how much fresh vs. how much frozen milk to give bina. i was worried about bina not wanting thawed frozen milk but only fresh milk. i was worried about worrying about worrying. ha. but i just took it one day at a time, recalibrated my expectations when i needed to, made adjustments to meet my goals, and one day at a time i got there. and now i have my six gallons of liquid gold stashed away. you know, just in case the world ends. so all that to say, it all worked out (god is like: imagine that. shocking. cute little brittain.). and i am so glad and so thankful.
mama milk for bina! working pumping mamas unite!