Or should I say hate hate relationship. I hate pumping. Let me explain just a few of the many reasons I hate pumping. Pumping is so unnatural. Pumping takes up so much time. Pumping just plain hurts!
First off, pumping is unnatural. Yes breastfeeding is a wonderful thing, but pumping is a whole different experience. With breastfeeding you get to see the immediate effect on your child and probably the most enjoyable thing about breastfeeding is that you get to bond with your child. With pumping there is no bonding, only hate for this annoying machine that you feel is sucking the life out of you. A breast pump can really make you feel used.
Secondly, pumping takes so much time. I try to pump every three hours. Each time I pump I take 5-10 minutes to set up, 20-30 minutes to pump, and 10-15 minutes to clean up and sterilize the accessories. And sometimes an extra 5 minutes somewhere in there to have a private melt down when something goes wrong (such as overflowing one of the containers and realizing I have a lap full of milk...yep I get distracted and it's happened multiple times!) So after almost an hour of the process I only have two hours before I have to turn around and do it all again! I have to schedule everything around making sure I am near my pump at the right time.
And last, pumping hurts! After I get everything hooked up, I dread turning the machine on because I know the first 30 seconds will be hell. I find myself holding my breath at first until the feeling finally goes numb, then it's not so bad. Maybe I'm a wimp, but I wouldn't wish that pain on anyone. Thank goodness it is short lived.
After all of that, here's why I pump. Pumping my milk is the best thing I can do for Cooper. On days when he's not doing well and I can't hold him or even get to touch him much, I feel helpless like there is nothing I can do to help him. On those days it feels like pumping is the only thing I can control. Did you know that when a mother gives birth early, her body knows to formulate the milk specifically for the needs of a preemie. That means my milk is made special for Cooper and is far more beneficial to him than formula would be. Therefore I put up with my hatred toward my pump and will continue this madness for as long as he needs.
Now, for any poor soul that is in the same situation as me and has to pump instead of breastfeed, here are a few tips I've picked up in the last few weeks.
Don't worry if you don't think you are producing enough milk. If you keep at it, all of a sudden you will notice that you are able to fill the container every time (and sometimes overfill it too!) Seriously, I don't even remember when my milk finally came in, I was only producing a few drops each time and then all of a sudden it was plentiful!
Get some lanoline cream. Before I started using it I could hardly even put clothes on for fear of rubbing them and having intense pain. While I do still have pain when I first start the pump, I believe the lanoline is helping.
Also invest in the Belmama & Cherub shower hug. It's a super soft cloth that wraps around your chest during a shower. It protects the sensitive nipples from the spray of water. I tried holding a hand towel over them for the first week, but this is so much better to have both hands free!
Get the Nuk ultra thin breast pads. I tried other disposables and I tried reusable, then my sister in law sent me the Nuk ones and I love them so much more. They seem to be the most breathable so you don't get that sweaty smell underneath. TMI? Too late!
Once you get to the point where you are pumping more than 2 oz per session, start separating the milk into more than one bag. I was packaging up to 6 ounces together in one large bag for two weeks before a nurse finally explained to me that once they thaw out a bag it must be used within 24 hours. Even when Cooper was on full feeds he wasn't using near that much each day. So separate it into smaller bags so they don't have extra left over that they have to throw out.
Last, check to see if your insurance will pay for a pump rental. That way you can use a hospital grade pump instead of a cheaper less effective pump from the store. Our insurance is paying the rental fee for a hospital grade pump as long as Cooper is in the NICU.
And... It's time to pump again.