Expressing breastmilk for Coraline
Pumping until Coraline is seven months old
I have two weeks left of expressing breastmilk with a double electric Lansinoh breast pump! Coraline has had an expressed breastmilk diet for six months.
Pumping and feeding Coraline on my lap at the same time
At the beginning I was pumping eight times a day and seven of these were during the daytime, so I did both simultaneously when Kevin wasn't home. I had a pumping bra so I could be hands-free. These days Coraline sits next to me during the time I pump, which is much more luxurious, as I am down to two pumps a day now.
When Kevin suggested I pump ten times a day (as the more you pump, the more you make).
There was a certain look on my face
I would disappear upstairs and pump for twenty minutes at a time, and often have the door open so I didn’t miss gossip. We didn’t have too many visitors though in the first months due to Coraline’s lower immune system.
There is a lot of washing of the pumps and bottles, and sterilising. And working out times milk is O.K. for at room temperature (6 hours!) and in the fridge (5 days!) and in the freezer (6 months!). Freezing milk happens if you are lucky enough to build up a surplus stash, as different people produce different amounts of milk. Drinking lots of water apparently helps production, amongst other things. And then you learn all about thawing times if you take it out of the freezer, and the fact that the enzymes go after three months in the freezer, and fresh is best, so you rotate your freezer stock into your daily feeds. You get used to it and it's just part of your routine, and it's really fun recording volumes pumped each day with an ap! I used "Pump Log".
A group I have loved on Facebook is called “Exclusive Pumping Mums’ and it was excellent to dip into it and search on any query e.g. on dropping pumps, or storing milk, as there were so many great tips. Amazing friends who had also pumped wrote to me about their experience too when I first began which was so helpful.
Pumping on the go
I remember when my Australian cousins came when Coraline was about eight weeks old, and we went out to lunch at a riverside pub (Coraline’s first trip to a pub). I took my pumps with me and you can work them with a battery, so I was sat by the riverside on a bench pumping under a rug. I have also pumped in the car before, with the same rug!
How long I planned to pump
My initial intention was to make it to three months, but I have now made it to six months. I am winding down now with the intention of finishing altogether when Coraline is seven months old. You have to reduce pumping time gradually. I also only realised this past week that pumping makes you tired, because your body is expending energy producing milk. I am now excited to see how I feel when I stop.
How and why I started doing it
I wrote about how and why I came to express breastmilk for Coraline in a blog post Milk. Coraline was not able to latch on, and we had a huge amount of support from midwives to give it our best shot, but it didn’t happen. It is everyone’s individual choice as to whether to breastfeed (or express breastmilk) or not, and this just happened to be our choice.
I was lucky that I found a breast pump which was really comfortable and suited me well (I tried a different one once and it didn't suit me at all). So my tip would be to bear in mind that it may not be the pumping itself that isn't comfortable, but the pump. You can send a pump back if you have issues with it, and for us this was always really easy to do. You play around with the attachments to the pump to find those that suit you too.
The rather wonderful Kevin
I credit Kevin with getting my milk supply started and with giving me all the support and love in the world to help me with the resolve to express. He has also always been sure that I just stop whenever I feel I need to stop. He has been full of love and encouragement, and understanding too of how consuming it can be in your day, such as having to stay up late to pump when you want to go to bed.
Why the 4.30am pump is key until 12 weeks in
The 4.30am pump is necessary because prolactin hormone levels are highest between 1-5am, and it’s the hormone which helps to build and maintain milk supply. After the first 12 weeks it moves from hormone driven, to supply and demand, so you can drop pumps slowly, seeing if it doesn’t affect volume.
I remember Coraline sleeping through the night from about seven weeks old, but I was still getting up! There was a maximum of about five hours you could go between pumps.
Would I have believed I would get up at 4.30am for 12 weeks
I said to my younger brother in the early weeks, “a year ago, if a stranger had come up to me and said, you will be getting up at 4.30am every day and staying up for half an hour I would not have believed them”. He said, “why would a stranger be coming up to you saying this?” It is amazing what you can do though when you put your mind to it.
What about having a glass of wine?
A good few months in, I decided I could have a glass of wine when I was out, but I had minute calculations of processing times and millilitres I was able to have (my friends will all remember this)! This was pretty exciting stuff as I think I didn’t drink for almost a year.
Sometimes I would have a couple of glasses on a night out and then throw away the 11pm pump when I got home. But I would still need to know what would have metabolised by the morning pump.
I got mastitis a couple of times, but the doctor prescribed remedies.
How it feels to be stopping.
I will actually miss it as it has been such a big part of the last half a year. But, I will also feel so free not sitting down to do it. I am now going to pass the pump on to one of our friends who is expecting a baby, in case she would like to use it. I will finish up in early March and we plan to celebrate in style when Coraline's Godmother is here for her birthday.