Milk coming in.
Not only is becoming a parent a crash course, but so is feeding a baby. And this was something I thought I was prepared well for ahead of time. Whatta joke! I legitimately took Continuing Education credits (so I could also apply to my RDN), listened to podcasts, books, you name it. My thought process was: “I’m prob not going to remember half of this, but hearing it once beforehand should help” (to be fair some of what I did read ahead of time was very helpful, and no I definitely did not remember even half).
I’ll get this out of the way immediately – I really thought that if you used a bottle you weren’t “breastfeeding”, which is technically true, but it is not the entire truth – for instance if you don’t have amazing success with nursing, you can pump, pump & supplement with formula, or exclusively pump, which is what I do now – I DID NOT KNOW THIS WAS A THING. Call me simple, but thought boob = breastfeeding and bottle was for formula. NOT THE CASE.
The moment I figured this out all of us started getting more sleep. And so did Em, because she was getting fed.
Honestly though, despite working with a lactation consultant, I figured A LOT of this out completely by myself, don’t get me wrong, my LC was great, and I found some great accounts on social media with extraordinarily helpful content (that are lactation consultants), AND I had support from Pat.
When it came to my plans for feeding Emmy, I approached it as I do everything else: “I’ll try, and adjust as necessary”. My initial plan was to breastfeed, but the main goal was a fed, healthy baby, and a calm mom. I wasn’t ready to sacrifice my sanity for exclusive breastfeeding – I know that’s “provocative”, but it’s the truth, I also knew that breastfeeding would be hard. I had no idea until it was upon me.
If I had to give anyone unsolicited advice I would say think about what YOU, and your partner want. For example, I knew, and embraced early on, before Em was born that pumping would be a big part of our journey, as Pat expressed the desire to be able to feed her, and spend that time with her, and I obviously supported this. So I spent a lot of time researching pumps, and pros/cons, etc.
I am glad I did this research, as when I initially just added some pumps to my registry I did not realize there were nuances with pumping, I kind of thought “boob goes in, milk comes out”. Again – true, but not that simple.
One huge thing I am glad I did figure out ahead of time was the correct size flange I needed for my pump, and purchase those; and I would advise anyone who plans to pump in any capacity to do the same thing because (big shocker), not all nipples are the same size!
In order to pump comfortably, you will really want to make sure you get the correct size flange to facilitate your pumping journey. Each pump manufacturer has guides showing you how to measure and then which flange to purchase. Please don’t just assume the flange that comes with your pump is the size you need.
If I had done that, I would honestly be very over pumping right now/probably not pumping at all, as 24 mm flanges came with my pump, but upon measuring (which was so bizarre, but funny) I needed a 21mm.
So. I’ll pause here, and give another bit of unsolicited advice – if you plan to pump, what will your goals be? Will you want to pump as you move around the house and get shit done? What will going back to work look like? Maybe it is because I work in the field of medical devices, but I think there is more to consider with a breast pump than just which one is cheapest (AGAIN CONSIDERING YOUR GOALS – I’M NOT HERE TO SHIT ON FORMULA). So please, as a mom consider what YOU and your partner want, and then look at available pump choices.
I’m going to say it: Parents’ sanity is just as important as raising healthy, tiny humans, it’s not a badge of honor to constantly try to pour from an empty cup. Sorry not sorry.
I ultimately chose the Willow 2.0 – I used my Flex Spending Account to purchase it, and the parts, and some bags I would need. I plan on doing a review of that pump and my Medela in a separate post.
Here is a HUGE thing I wish I would have done – boil all of my pump parts, get everything out, and set up the app/pair the pumps, and familiarize myself with the system prior to needing it. When Em came home from the hospital I was nursing, and we were doing a small amount of supplementation with syringes, and my Lactation Consultant advised pumping in between feedings to help with my milk coming in. I was frazzled, sleep deprived, sore, and just a general dumpster fire. I vividly remember opening my Willow box, and just bawling my eyes out because it just seemed so overwhelming, and complex.
Regardless of which pump you plan to use, I cannot recommend enough getting all of these parts and pieces out and organized ahead of time. Even if you are an amazing breastfeeding mama- “mom-ing” is hard, and whenever you need that pump (if its day 2, day 20, or the day you go back to work) it’s nice to not need it, AND learn it from scratch at the same time.
Also, make sure you have storage bags/extra bottles – the willow has single use bags, and containers – both are nice, my Medela has the bottles that came with it, I did end up needing to order more.
Another thing I would change if I could hop in my DeLorean and go back in time is I would have reached out to my hospital’s Lactation Consultant ahead of time. This was something I meant to do, and didn’t, and would change if I did in fact, own a time machine, as I think at the very least the rapport would have been helpful.
So where are we now?
We are four months in, and I’m exclusively pumping, + 1 bottle (~4 oz) of rice formula each day. We introduced that around 3-4 weeks when we thought she was having issues with reflux, turns out, she wasn’t, but that was also around the time she started sleeping through the night; sooooo we didn’t ditch it despite me having been an oversupplier early on.
Another reason why Exclusive Pumping worked for us was it was SO REASSURING to know how much she was eating, and in what time frame. Early on Emilia had a good latch, and suck, but had a really difficult time transitioning to swallow, and ultimately this was what brought us the most peace. I started pumping exclusively around 3 weeks, and fell into a good rhythm around 4-6 weeks; and now I just pump anywhere, on the road, in the drive thru, running into Starbucks to get my mobile order, in a coffee shop; for us it was a good solution.