Divine Mamahood

When Breast Isn't Best: 6 Tips for Making Exclusively Pumping Work January 25, 2015 15:51

Many new mothers dream of breastfeeding their babies, but sometimes despite all of our good intentions and hard work, it doesn't work out. Whether it is due to illness, latch issues, or other problems, sometimes breastfeeding just isn't a possibility. In these cases, many women turn to formula, and while this is a perfectly acceptable alternative, others choose to exclusively pump. Exclusively pumping is a major commitment and is difficult to accomplish, but by following some important tips, you can make it work for you and your baby.

Don't Beat Yourself Up

Choosing to exclusively pump is not a decision that most women take lightly, and many mothers only decide to take this path after repeated attempts at breastfeeding have failed. Although this is not the path that you would have liked for you and your baby, it is important to remember that you are not a failure. By exclusively pumping, you are ensuring that your baby is still getting the best possible nutrition even though you are not able to breastfeed. Focus your energy on your baby and developing a strong bond, and don't allow guilt to affect how you feel about the process.

Get a Great Pump

The breast pump that you choose can make or break your ability to be successful at exclusively pumping. Research double-action electric breast pumps online to find the best one for you, and choose your accessories wisely. Since your pump will likely go everywhere with you, you'll want to find one that comes with a convenient carrying case and a small cooler, if possible.

Double (or Triple) Up on Pump Accessories

One of the major drawbacks of exclusively pumping is the amount of time that you will spend washing and sterilizing your pumping supplies. In order to make this process less labor intensive, consider an investment in duplicate pump parts. Contact your pump manufacturer or look online for extra tubing connectors, silicone diaphragms, valves, and horns. By having extra supplies, you won't have to wash your parts after every pumping session. 

Freeze Excess Milk

Exclusive pumpers know that you'll have good days and bad days in terms of your milk supply. Therefore, it is important to take advantage of your good days and to freeze any excess milk that you may retrieve. Invest in freezer bags and a permanent marker so that you can properly label them, and clear out some room in your freezer. By stocking up on extra milk, you will have backup available in the event that a drop in supply doesn't leave you with enough to feed your baby.

Find a Support System

While breast and formula feeding mothers usually have a support system of people who understand their feeding decision, exclusive pumpers are often left out. Therefore, it is important to find someone that you can talk to about your experiences and struggles with exclusively pumping. Ideally, your partner and family will be supportive of your decision, but if speaking to them isn't an option, go online to search out birth boards and support groups targeting women who exclusively pump. These mothers know exactly what you are going through and can provide you with tips on how to make your life as an exclusive pumper easier.

Take Pumping One Day at a Time

Exclusively pumping is hard work, and at the beginning, you may question your ability to maintain a consistent and rigorous pumping schedule. You may have a goal in your mind to try to pump for three months, six months, or even a year, and the thought of keeping up your routine for that length of time may seem overwhelming. In this situation, the best thing that you can do for yourself is to take pumping one day at a time. Focus on the present day and completing all of your pumping sessions. By putting the future and your ability to continue pumping out of your mind, you will feel less stress about your situation. 

 As an exclusive pumper, it is important to remind yourself about the sacrifice that you are making for your baby. While your dreams of breastfeeding may not have worked out, you are continuing to sacrifice your body and time in order to ensure that your child is getting the best nutrition possible. By focusing on your baby and using helpful techniques, you can make exclusively pumping a positive experience for your family.


Returning to Work or School while Breastfeeding Your Baby - Some tips for Success December 28, 2012 21:23

Congratulations on your decision to provide the best possible nutrition and protection for your baby after returning to work or school! Here are some tips to help you succeed.

Combining breastfeeding with work or school is challenging, but well worth it. The health and immunity benefits your little one gets from your breast milk cannot be matched by formula. And sitting down to cuddle and nurse after a busy day is a wonderful way to de-stress and reconnect with your baby.

Two keys to success are planning and being organized. Below are tips that other mothers have found helpful, as well as information about the federal law to support breastfeeding mothers at work.

What should you do before you deliver?

Before you begin maternity leave:

 

  • Find out how much time you will be able to take off from work or school after you deliver. 
  • Take as much family leave as you can to have more time with your baby.  Research your options for returning to work or school.  Can you work/study part-time for a while?  Can you telecommute or use distance learning? Is there a more flexible work or school schedule you can try? 
  • Talk with your supervisor. Will he/she be supportive? You may want to point out the company advantages of having breastfeeding employees: 
    • »  Less time lost from work because breastfed babies tend to stay healthier than their formula fed counterparts.
    • »  Fewer health expenses for the baby and lower overall health care 
         costs. 
    • »  Higher employee satisfaction, morale and productivity and lower staff 
          turnover. 
    • »  Major recruitment incentive for new employees. 
    • »  Reputation as a company concerned for the welfare of working 
          mothers and children. 
  • When making arrangements for childcare, choose a provider that supports your wishes to provide pumped breast milk to the baby while you are away and allows you to nurse your baby as soon as you return. 
  • Be aware of the laws regarding employees who are breastfeeding. On March 23, 2010, as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a federal law amending Section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) (29 U.S.C. 207) was passed. This law mandates break times for breastfeeding mothers to express milk.
  • Find out where you will be expressing milk for your baby. Does the room have an electrical outlet? Is there a refrigerator nearby? If not, you may want to purchase a pump with rechargeable battery back-up and an insulated cooler with ice packs (blue ice). Is there a sink available to wash breast pump parts between pumping sessions?
  • If not, is there a microwave handy to steam clean the parts? If not, you may want to purchase wipes you can use to clean the parts.

What should you do before you return to work or school? 

  • Learn how to manually express breast milk, even if you plan to use a breast pump.
  • Become familiar with your breast pump. Practice setting up your pump and putting the parts together. Try it out. Adjust the settings so that the speed and suction are as close as possible to how your baby nurses.
  • About two or three weeks before returning to work or school, begin pumping once each morning about an hour after you have nursed your baby. (Prolactin levels are highest in the morning.) You may not get any milk during the first couple days, but you are sending a message to your body to begin increasing your milk supply.
  • Gradually add two or three more pumping sessions between feedings. Once you start to get milk, store it in the freezer for emergencies. Store expressed or pumped milk in small amounts, two to four ounces. 
  • Introduce the bottle to your baby two or three weeks before you go back to work or school. It may be easier to have someone else offer the bottle, since your baby links you with breastfeeding. Try to use the newborn-sized nipple for as long as you breastfeed, but you may have to experiment to find one your baby likes. 
  • Consider buying a “hands-free” nursing bra that allows you to use your hands while you are pumping milk.
  • It may be helpful to schedule a practice day. Set your alarm for the time you will be getting up when you’re working or attending class. Take your baby to childcare for at least part of the day. Breastfeed and pump at the times you expect to during work or school. At the end of the day, see if your baby drank as much as you pumped.
  • The evening before your first day back, pack the diaper bag and your pump bag. (See packing lists below.) Include an extra blouse or sweater that you can leave at work in case of a milk leak that soaks through breast pads.

What should you do when you return to work or school?

  • Be prepared. Your first day back at work or school may be very emotional. Try to start on a Wednesday or Thursday. Easing back into the work or academic world by starting with a shortened week will be less stressful. 
  • Breastfeed your baby when you wake up, then give him/her a “top-off” when you get to childcare.
  • Your baby will need at least two to three bottles while you are away, so you will need to pump at least two to three times during the eight or nine hours you are at work or school. (If you have a longer work day or longer commute, you will need to pump more milk.) This is the milk that will be given to your baby the next day at childcare. 
  • You may have an easier time having a let-down reflex if you look at a picture of your baby or have a piece of clothing handy that smells like your baby. Pack these in your pump bag. 
  • Clean pump parts that come into contact with you or your milk. Read the instructions that came with your breast pump. Between pumping sessions you may: 
    • »  rinse with cool water, then wash with warm soapy water and leave out to air dry, 
    • »  wipe with a sanitizing wipe sold by pump manufacturers, 
    • »  rinse parts well and store in the fridge or your cooler, and 
    • »  alternate options above throughout the day. For example, rinse and store in fridge after the morning pump session and wash in warm soapy water after the lunchtime pumping session. 
  • Some women prefer to purchase several extra sets of pump parts so they do not need to clean parts while at work or school and just put everything in the dishwasher at night. 
  • Breastfeed again as soon as you and your baby are back together. You can discuss your baby’s day with your childcare provider during this time. Let the mothering hormones that are released during breastfeeding help you relax and bond. 

1 Bridges CB, Frank DI, Curtin J. Employer attitudes toward breastfeeding in the workplace. J Hum Lact. 1997;13(3):215-219 

Resources 

Books

  • Working without Weaning: A Working Mother’s Guide to Breastfeeding (2006) by Kirsten Berggren 
  • Milk Memos: How Real Moms Learned to Mix Business with Babies-and How You Can Too (2007) by Cate Colburn-Smith and Andrea Serrette 

Websites 

  • www.workandpump.com
    Has many helpful tips for managing the transition back to work 
  • www.usbreastfeeding.org
    Has information on new legislation that relates to breastfeeding 

The information presented here is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of professional medical care. If you have persistent medical problems, or if you have further questions, please consult your doctor or member of your health care team. 

 


How to Evaluate the Early Signs of Postpartum Depression November 26, 2012 13:09

 

The room is dark. The clock says 3am. You relish this brief moment of rest. And then, the baby cries again. You cringe, desperately hoping she’ll stop. But the crying gets louder. Your man merely grunts and rolls away from the sound. Suddenly, a wave of emotion hits you in the gut, and your whole body begins to spasm with impending tears. Postpartum depression is real, overwhelming, and terrifying. Here is a brief guide on how to cope with the initial onset of postpartum depression.

When does postpartum depression start, and how long does it last?

Immediately after pregnancy, all women experience hormonal fluctuations. Some women (but not all) experience mood changes as a result of these hormonal shifts, and the mood changes can vary from minor “baby blues” to full postpartum depression. The onset of these symptoms can start within the week after delivery, or they could emerge any time within six weeks. For some, the symptoms might last for a few days. For others, it can last weeks or months.

So it’s important to know that every woman experiences hormonal changes. You are not alone. It’s also important to recognize that the “baby blues” are common for many women (estimates say 50-90% of women experience these minor mood changes), and they will fade away when your hormones stabilize.

It’s also important to be aware of more severe symptoms of postpartum depression, which affects 20-25% of women. Be honest with your doctor and pediatrician about the symptoms you are experiencing, and be open and willing to get help, if needed.

The Early Signs of Postpartum Depression

Women experience a wide variety of mood changes during the postpartum hormonal-adjustment period. Many women feel unhappy, weepy, anxious, and have sudden shifts from happy to sad. More often than not, these feelings come without clear or adequate reasons. Often, the smallest thing can initiate a mood swing. However, some symptoms should be viewed as red-flags, and you should get help immediately.




 How to Know if You’re in Danger

It is important to regularly do a self-check on yourself. Here are some questions to ask:

1. How long has your depression lasted? (Concern: Your depression lasts longer than a week.) 

2. How are you sleeping? (Concern: You have trouble sl

eeping when baby is sleeping.)

3. How is your appetite? (Concern: You have very little interest in food.)

4. How are your interests? (Concern: You have lost interest in yourself and your family.)

5. How is your hope? (Concern: You have very little hope; you only see a bleak future.)

6. How is your confidence? (Concern: You feel helpless, without any control.)

7. How is your desire to press on? (Concern: You have suicidal thoughts or urges.)

8. How do you see your baby? (Concern: You wish the baby had never come.)

9. How am I caring for my baby? (Concern: You are not taking care of the baby; you have thoughts of harming the baby.)

10. How is my mental state? (Concern: You are experiencing weird thoughts, extreme fears, hallucinations, etc.)

If you are experiencing any of these “concern” symptoms, call your doctor and get help immediately. Don’t hesitate. Even if you feel you might be over-exaggerating, it doesn’t hurt to talk to someone. If anything, talking out your symptoms will put your fears to rest. And the good news is that help is just around the corner. There are well trained counselors and doctors who will quickly come to your side and support you through this experience. And often, you might be encouraged to join a mother’s group with women facing the same feelings as you. This kind of support (even if it’s the last thing you thought you’d need) can drastically soothe your feelings of panic and give you the tools and encouragement needed to get through this postpartum period. Help is close at hand. You just have to ask.

 Tips and Tricks to Cope With the Initial Onset

Step One: First recognize and accept your problem. In this case, you are experiencing a form of postpartum depression. As discussed above, you first need to accept that mood changes are normal and common during the postpartum period, and it is due to hormonal changes. Do a self-evaluation (perhaps regularly) to see where you are at in the depression spectrum. If in the danger zone, the first step is to get immediate help.

Step Two: During the postpartum period, you will often think negatively. Unfortunately, negative thoughts fuel negative behaviors and moods. So when you are feeling overwhelmed, take a moment to step back and evaluate your thoughts. Write them down if you can. “I feel like I’m doing everything wrong.” This is a thought. It’s a negative thought. Take a moment to step outside yourself and evaluate this thought. Is it accurate? In most cases, negative thoughts are extreme and overly-critical. If you can, try to come up with a positive thought as a rebuttal. “I may feel like I’m doing everything wrong …BUT, I am showered and dressed, and the baby has a clean diaper. That counts for something.” It may be simple. It may seem ridiculous. It may take time to really believe the statement. But these positive thoughts can and do dampen the fire of your negative emotions.

In Conclusion

All women experience hormonal changes after pregnancy. And 50-90% of women experience a mild case of “baby blues” that can last for a few days or so after delivery. In 20-25% of cases, women experience a more intense hormonal reaction called postpartum depression, which can vary from mild to extreme. It’s important that you regularly do a self-check to see if your symptoms are warning that professional help is needed. If you see these red flags, be quick to ask for assistance. Otherwise, for the day-to-day coping of postpartum depression, you can practice evaluating your thoughts. Positive thoughts can dampen your negative thoughts. And practicing positive “rebuttal” thoughts can pave the way for a greater sense of control and self-validation as you navigate through this (sometimes brutal) postpartum period.