My daughter was born and immediately whisked away to the NICU as we were being proactively treated for chorioamnionitis. As a result, it was a few hours before I could join her. I was wheeled into the room and cried; there she was, all 9 lbs, 22” of her, entangled amidst the cords and beeps of the NICU. She was gorgeous. I wanted to hold her and try to get our nursing routine started, but it was hard.
The cords were hard to navigate to create a comfortable space to try and nurse, all while there are several people continually checking monitors and stats. I felt nervous and afraid! Thankfully, the lactation consultants and nurses were so helpful and not only helped me get comfortable but also got me set up with my Medela Advanced Pump in Style breast pump. NICU babies are on a strict feeding schedule, and in our case, aside from letting the antibiotic IV do its job and clear the infection, if she didn’t eat enough and keep her glucose levels in range, we wouldn’t get to go home. So aside from donor breast milk, nursing, and pumped colostrum, she got the nutrition she needed!
When we got home and my milk started to come in, this rigorous nursing and pumping schedule created an oversupply. As I was trying to feed her, she would get full, and then I would have to pump out the extra milk. This became too much to handle all while being a new, sleep-deprived Mama. So, I had to come to terms with letting the nursing go. For me, and I’m sure many other mamas, this is a sad day–saying goodbye to the last nursing session. For some it comes soon, and for others it comes later, but every mama has to let go at some point. It is a very emotional experience. It’s the final letdown of letting go.
I had to create a system to help ease the transition with all of the changes. I’m all about organization and scheduling so below will feature some helpful tips for creating a detailed system for exclusively pumping. This was the best decision for our family, so if you find this helpful, please read on!
Tips for being an organized and efficient “Exclusive Pumper”
- Check with your insurance to see which pump they cover. If you have it beforehand, bring it with when you check in to the hospital–you may need to use it. If you get it there once you arrive, the nurses or lactation consultant in-house can teach you how to operate it.
- Invest in 4-5 sets of parts for your pump (your pump comes with one set of each part). I recommend having [at least] this many because it limits the amount of washing you have to do all while tending to a newborn. The initial investment is around $150 but in my opinion, worth it. Time is money! If you can, I also recommend getting yourself an additional pump if you’re a working Mama. When you go back, the last thing you need to try and remember is to bring your pump every day. I have the Medela Pump and Style Advanced and the Medela Freestyle. I love them both and they both have great qualities! Freestyle is my on-the-go pump because it’s compact and fits in my purse!
- Take an old sports bra, or buy a new cheap sports bra, and cut holes where your nipples would go. You can stick the shield through the hole and then comfortably feed your child with both hands, free! I had several that I used so while a few were in the wash I had extras. You can also buy one, like this Lansinoh brand.
- Some Mamas may need to use multiple 5 oz. bottles during daytime sessions (particularly with an oversupply or your first pump in the morning after sleep). My first pump session I use 9-oz Gerber bottles (They fit the Medela, yay!), and after 5 or so minutes I have to screw on a new, empty bottle. As a result, the first bottle is full of foremilk, and the second is full of hindmilk. When I’m all done, I use a large cup and mix all of the milk together to make sure baby gets equal parts in each bottle. Too much foremilk will make them gassy and their poop frothy! Foremilk is almost a blueish tint and sort of clear; hindmilk is thick, white, and creamy.
- Create a comfortable space to pump. My husband wasn’t able to stay home longer than a few days with both our kids, so I had to create a space that allowed me to multi-task. I used the Boppy Nursing Pillow and pumped while I bottle-fed my kids.
- Get yourself a large bowl to keep on your counter or in a space that you prefer. When I finish pumping, I rinse out the parts and put them in the bowl. The CDC warns against soaking your parts in the sink water or even keeping them in the same space because of bacteria, and it also warns about reusing parts. Some women use them and keep in the refrigerator. If this works for you and you’re comfortable, do that! I err on the side of caution as I was fortunate enough to donate my milk after my first pregnancy and also to a close friend during my second.
- Run your dishwasher once a day if you have one! You are lucky! I would recommend putting the parts in a dishwasher container on the top rack.
- If you’re like me and you don’t have a dishwasher, at the end of the day, I fill the sink with hot, soapy water. I wash all the bottles, valves, shields, and connectors and rinse them. I throw them all in my Munchkin Microwave Sterilizer and hang them on a bottle dryer to air dry. Medela sells Reusable Sterilizer Bags (they can be used 20 times) and I keep those in my pumping bag for while I’m away from home.
- Familiarize yourself with a structured pumping and feeding routine to minimize the stress of errand-running, visitors, or playdates. The first few weeks are tiring if you’re doing this around the clock; however, it pays off once the baby begins to regulate and can go without eating longer periods of time.
- Purchase a bottle warmer. I fill all the bottles the night before with the milk for the next day. That way, as we near the next feed, I warm the bottle in this Bottle Warmer so it’s ready to go. A coffee cup with hot water also does the trick!
- Remember that this is a tough job! It takes a lot of work, as do many things as a new mom, so if it doesn’t work for you, you will find something that does!
I hope you found this information helpful! If you have any questions about being an “EP” please don’t hesitate to reach out. I would love to help you, Mama!
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