Quite a few baby books.
Too many baby books.
Many of them discussed "plans": birthing plans, plans at home, plans for visitors, plans for feeding. Great, I thought, I love plans. I'm a planner.
One thing I didn't plan on while pregnant was getting very sick and having to deliver my baby 10 weeks early. Having a preemie was definitely not part of my plan.
What I did plan for, or hope, was to be able to breastfeed. Well, having a preemie put a bit of a halt to that plan, too -- kind of. While I quickly learned that Isabelle would not be able to nurse (at least not at the beginning -- she didn't have the suck and swallow reflexes of a full-term baby), the nurses who were taking care of me encouraged me to hand express and eventually pump my breast milk.
Woah. Different kind of plan.
I had heard about breast pumping, sure, but I never really gave it much thought. Didn't register for a pump, and thought I would cross that bridge if and when I got to it. Well, here we were. The doctors and nurses reminded me that my preemie would benefit significantly with breast milk. It was the absolute least I could do.
I was first introduced to Medela at Sunnybrook. I was loaned a hospital grade pump while Isabelle was in the NICU and I pumped at minimum 8 times a day. I would wake in the middle of the night, as though I had a newborn at home, and pump, instead of nurse. I developed quite a supply and a freezer full of milk. We even had to go out and buy a separate upright freezer to house all my liquid gold. In the beginning, I used sterile hospital containers to store milk, and then moved to Medela bags when Isabelle was home.
Eventually, I bought my own pump that had its semi-permanent home on the floor beside the couch in the family room. I developed a pumping pattern and together, Donny and I managed a system -- he would wash and prepare my pump kit, I would sit and pump.
I did continue to try and breastfeed Isabelle, but she never really took it. I didn't mind too much. I pumped for 14 months. 14 months. Pumping gave me a certain freedom -- I could share the feedings with my husband or family members, I could give her a bottle wherever we were, whenever we needed. And my Medela pump came with me wherever I went, and I pumped just about everywhere: in parking lots, in the backseat of the car, while Donny was driving. My Pump in Style flew to Aruba, took a road trip to Ottawa and quite a few treks into the City. It's portable, both battery and electric powered and easy to use. And it never failed me.
Here are some things you need to know if you're planning to pump, or at least give it a shot:
- It's not hard, and it doesn't hurt. Or at least it shouldn't. What it does take is dedication and the willingness to set aside 10-15 minutes various times of the day. When I first started pumping, I pumped 8x per day, then I dropped it to 6, then 4, and weaned myself from there. Remember, you need to produce milk, so you need to pump regularly.
- Buy a double pump. Two heads are better than one. Same with two flanges. You've got two boobs -- may as well pump them at the same time.
- Pumped/Expressed breast milk can last days once it's freshly pumped (in the fridge) and months in a deep freezer.
- You may actually cry over spilled milk. After you've pumped for any extended period of time, you will become almost obsessed with protecting your stock. Don't mess with my hard work.
- It's a good way to remind you that there are so many ways of feeding your baby. If you can't breastfeed, or your baby won't latch, there are options. Of course, if pumping doesn't work for you, that's ok too. Feeding your baby is the most important thing.
I mentioned earlier that my trusty pump is the Medela Pump in Style Advanced. It's a double pump that comes with a tote bag or knapsack. While I did love it, it was a bit bulky and heavy. I was recently able to take a look at the brand new Freestyle Pump from the masters of breast pumps -- Medela.
This pump is pretty pumpin' great. Not only is it a double pump (highly recommended!), but it also comes with a handsfree contraption that you can rig up to your nursing bra. When I wanted to handsfree pump, I had to cut a hole in an old bra -- no joke. How far we've come in 4 years!
I love that the main unit of the Freestyle is small and can actually fit into your pocket or clip onto your pants. It has a decent size screen and it's super simple to use. Of course, the Freestyle also comes with a variety of accessories -- bottles, cooler bag, tote bag and other pumping essentials like breast pads, freezer bags and sterlizer bags. The Medela Freestyle double electric breast pump is the most popular Medela breast pump and is designed for frequent, daily use. For more information and scientific specs, research and all that jazz, visit the Medela website.
So my advice to new moms, or moms-to-be is this: regardless of what your plan is, know you have options. When one plan doesn't work, there is always another way. And sometimes the other way, is pretty cool, too.
Disclosure: I am part of the PTPA Brand Ambassador Program with Medela Canada and I received Compensation as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.