Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Good riddance

Last week, I thawed my last frozen breastmilk pop (for Opie, not for myself. In case you were wondering). Now that he’s a big boy of one, he drinks cow’s milk at day care; no more ferrying sippies of breastmilk every morning. Like Jo did, he hasn’t looked back; he barely seemed to notice the transition. He still nurses two or three times a day, but the breastpump has been retired.

Do I miss it? Hell no. It was, and will remain, one of the weirdest experiences I’ve ever had—that strange combination of duty, diligence, drudgery, pain, humiliation, and no small amount of pride.

When I was pumping for Jo, I came up with a list (not again!) of secrets to my success. They’re not really secrets at all and if you are a pumper, you’ve probably figured out most of them on your own (Mrs. Wheezer has a nice collection of tips, which I heartily agree with and won’t repeat here—see right sidebar on her page). But for any new moms that may wander by, I present:
  1. Start with good luck. I was blessed with effortless breastfeeding from the start, which I know is far from the case for everyone. I never had trouble with supply or letting down for the pump. I had a generous maternity leave and a slow transition back to work, which gave me plenty of time to keep my supply up. I had a reasonable amount of accommodation at the office (although I pumped in so many borrowed spaces that I began to think of myself as Medela, the Lactating Gypsy). I even had a male officemate who was such a Sensitive Ponytail Man that he regularly offered to make himself scarce so I could stay at my own desk to pump. Lastly, I had a supportive boss who never begrudged me the time spent pumping. With Opie, I was working exclusively from home so things were even easier.

  2. Start early. Way before my maternity leave with Jo ended, I started pumping at least once a day at home. This gave me practice with the pump and a nice large stockpile of frozen milk—an invaluable backup for those days when I left my milk in the freezer at work, or missed a pump session, or (the worst, most sinking feeling ever) spilled some of the milk. I didn’t do this with Opie (I don’t know why—just lazy I guess) and really regretted it. The day before he started child care, I had to pump after every nursing session to try to come up with enough milk to send with him the following day. That was not fun. He also went through a voraciously hungry time when he was around 4 months old. I had to add early morning and late-night pumping sessions to keep up with him. If I’d had more of a frozen stash I wouldn’t have been so stuck.

  3. One is good, two is better. Speaking of backups, it’s nice to have an extra electric pump. I kept one at the office and one at home so I wouldn’t have to haul it back and forth every day. I just washed the washable parts in the sink at work, and brought them home periodically to throw them in the dishwasher. I also had a manual pump as an additional line of defense (good for random moments of engorgement while traveling).

  4. But one hand is better than two. Mastering the one-hand, two-breasts pump session was a revelation. (I balanced one collecting cone/bottle thing in the crook of my left arm, then held the other one with my left hand, leaving my right hand free. There’s also the Whisperwear, which seems freaky, but if it works for you I’m all for it. I’ve also heard of people securing the cone thingamajigs with their bra, but I was always too afraid of spillage to try that.)

  5. Go with the flow (har, har). As with All Things Motherhood, when you’re pumping you have to be ready to think on your feet, soldier on in the face of adversity, and maintain a sense of humor. On the very first morning of my very first day back at work after Jo was born (after I’d been successfully using the pump for weeks, see #2 above), I couldn’t get the pump to work. I was painfully engorged and freaking out. I tried everything, but the stupid pump wouldn’t turn on. Finally, I had to figure out, on the spot, how to express milk by hand (in retrospect, I should’ve just popped downstairs to the nearby drugstore and bought a manual pump, but that didn’t occur to me at the time). It turned out the pump needed a new A/C adaptor. And the same damn thing happened when I started pumping in earnest for Opie. What the hell?

    I never pumped in a moving car like Julie, but I had my share of wacky moments. Who knew that at precisely the moment I was busily pumping away in front of an open window, a strange man would be measuring my neighbor’s roof, right at boob-level about 20 feet away? I shared another one of them at The Pumping Project—go there for laughs and solidarity. And if you're in the stretched-nipple, millileter-measuring, outlet-searching, "discreet backpack"-toting throes of pumping, consider this a virtual high-five—you're one tough mama.


mothergoosemouse said...

I wish my body would have been more cooperative. And my kids. I would have kept going. But any time I feel a twinge of guilt, I remember pumping in the airplane lavatory and airport bathroom stall. I think I'd rather pump in a moving car.

Mayberry said...

Wow--I didn't know you did that! I'd say each one of those efforts is equivalent to about a month of cushy home-office pumping.

Mrs. Wheezer said...

Way to go!

I definitely had a love/hate relationship with my pump, LOL. There would be times I'd just imagine how good it would feel to drive my car back and forth over the contraption.