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Pumping

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

So pumping is going really well. I frickin' deserve for my body to do something right finally. There is just a whiff of moral approval attached to many of our bodies' natural abilities, like staying skinny easily or producing children, which is stupid when it's something your body either can or can't do regardless of your strength of will. Making enough milk to feed your children is in that category: I didn't do anything to deserve it, but good for me I guess?

I will take credit for the fact that I am doing what I need to do to allow my body to make enough milk. I pump 8-9 time a day, for at least 20 minutes, never going longer than 4 hours. Religiously. I have missed one pump in 9 weeks. I pumped 8 times a day, including in the middle of the night, following it with 20 minutes of hand expression, for 5 days before I got *anything* in the bottom of the bottle. As I'm pumping, at least twice a day I do massage and compressions, and I do a couple of minutes of hand expression afterwards to make sure I'm really empty. I also drink at least a gallon of water because I'm actually that thirsty for it, I eat everything in sight, and I sleep 7 hours a night.

And so I'm making 65 oz a day, which is more than half a gallon. The babies need about 25 each eventually, so I'm really close to my goal. Right now they're only eating about 30 oz between them, and I'm able to freeze lots -- I have several hundred ounces in storage. But I tell myself that the reason I'm trying to pump so much more than they need right now is not to create a back-up stash, but to increase and maintain my supply. That makes it easier to bear when I accidentally spill, leak, or leave milk out. :) I'm sure we'll burn through the stash in no time once they get home.

Although pumping has sort of become my life and is often a pain in the butt, like when I can't go out to eat with family, get out of the house for more than 3 hours at a time, sleep uninterrupted, or do certain activities unless I've just pumped, I still appreciate it. I can feed my babies! When there's so little I can do for them, that gives me a lot of satisfaction. It's also something that I can be successful and productive at everyday -- I record each session and try to beat my high score from the day before.

These things have helped support my pumping:

- Hands-free bra. I would have stopped after a week if I didn't have this thing. I'm used to spending lots of time on the computer, so now I just do it while I'm pumping. I'm pumping as I type this!

- My hubby! He made it his job to do everything but wear the pump parts while I was in the hospital -- he cleaned and brought me the the parts, reminded me when it was time, labeled and delivered everything to the nicu, and used a tiny syringe to literally suck up every drop I could produce via hand expression. When I came home he figured out which part of the process was providing difficulty for me and bought or created something to solve the problem.

- Hubby went out and bought me 4 extra sets of pump parts. That means I only have to wash twice a day and can just throw the rinsed off parts in a tub the rest of the time. This is a lifesaver in the middle of the night. He also got a tiny freezer for the room where I pump so that I don't have to walk down the stairs to the freezer every time. That would be inconvenient now, but it was literally impossible for the first week or two after my c-section. These things made it so much easier to continue pumping in those vital first few weeks when everything was so much harder due to my recovery, and to continue when he had to go back to work and couldn't help me himself anymore.

- I haven't had any cracking, blisters, blocked ducts, etc. I'm sure some of that is due to luck, but I do think that keeping the pump setting on the low side and only pumping for 20 minutes at first helped. I remind myself that there's no glory in being so "extremely devoted" to pumping that I hurt myself, and will be counter-productive if I have to take time off to heal.

- I keep snacks and water by where I pump. Duh.

- I pump at 10 pm, go to bed, get up at 1 and 4, and then stretch it out to 8 am, where I'm up for the day. Getting that one stretch of 4 hour sleep makes a difference! I have to then get one session in 2 hours apart during the day to make it up.

- I motivate myself to get up for my 4 am pump by making that the "last one of the day" where I add up my totals and see how much I got. If I sleep through it, it makes that day's score really low!

- I have to put my phone out of reach so I actually get up when the alarm goes off. :( Another consequence of sleeping through is waking up with painful rock boobs and covered in leaked milk.

- I have access to the hospital's lactation consultants while my babies are in the nicu. They are like magic. I saw them twice while I was still admitted and twice in the weeks afterwards. I have another floating appointment for when we go home and start trying to exclusively breastfeed.
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