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How To Pump and Store a Crapload of Breastmilk - Archive

BLOG WRITTEN BY TALIA AUGUST 7, 2013 (my baby boy was 12 weeks old at the time)

First of all, if you’ve made up your mind to breastfeed your baby and you want to store up as much milk as possible, kudos to you! Welcome to a very exhausting, delirious, but super rewarding experience. Besides all of the proven goodness you are giving your baby, let’s face it! It’s free!I never understood when people get grossed out by something like mother’s milk, yet have no problem giving their babies goat/cow milk and God knows what else is in formula. Seriously, have you read the ingredients? I have nothing against women who have to go the formula route (like you Mom, if you’re reading this ), to each her own. But at least TRY. Or make it through the first few weeks. Let me preface everything by a more personal note. After a very long and painful labor with Amelia a few years ago, I didn’t think anything could feel worse. Until I breastfed. The pain is EXCRUCIATING and I understand why many mothers quit in the beginning. If you’re like me, you’re stubborn and self-taught. I didn’t do my proper research into all this baby stuff, what with scheduling my first labor class umm, the DAY Amelia was due. I guess I assumed that “hey! Boobs are getting bigger, there must be milk in there. Sweet.” I also didn’t deliver at the best of hospitals, and didn’t have the best advice in the beginning or a good support group. Hospitals are so quick to offer you breast milk if you’re “not producing enough” which I found out much later that the babies don’t come out hungry. They come out with full bellies, and all they need are those few drops of colostrum. It is so common to think that you are not making enough milk for the baby, so once mothers go through the pain of attempting to breastfeed and are handed a bottle of formula they think “this is a no brainer!” The first three weeks of breast feeding are painful. Your nipples will crack, bleed, scab up, then go through it all over again. I would spend nights just crying. Also, both my babies didn’t have a “proper suck” according to lactation consultants (and I saw quite a few).

*If I don’t answer your questions in this, please leave a comment — there’s a lot to this process, so please excuse me if I forgot to cover something.*

You have a couple options if you want to only give your child breast milk. You can choose to feed straight from the boob if you plan on staying at home. It’s rewarding as well, and you will officially be at your babies beckon call 24/7. Don’t even think about leaving for a quick grocery run.

I had to go back to work almost right away after having my babies. When you are a small business owner (and I am not talking about my height, or lack of height), the benefits to pumping outweigh solely breast feeding.

  • I don’t have to be the only one who feeds the baby. The baby will be used to the bottle when they’re still young enough to train. Sometimes if you wait too long and introduce them to the bottle they look at you like you’re crazy and they won’t take it. Your will power has to be stronger than your babies. I didn’t care that they threw a bit of a fit in the beginning when a bottle was put in their mouths. It’s still my milk, and danggit, you’re drinkin’ this kid! Same mentality our parents had with us as children! “If you don’t eat your dinner you don’t eat.” TRUST ME. Your baby WILL eat. Jeff also loved that he could have those bonding moments with the baby and be able to feed them while I pumped.

  • I could drink coffee afterwards or wine afterwards (depending on the time of day) because I knew that it would be hours until my next pumping session and by then the milk would be fine.

  • I could leave the house and do what I had to do, and now that Sebastian is almost three months, I can work a full days wedding. Life feels somewhat normal again.

  • Every pump is an ab crunch. Every suck from the baby is an ab crunch. Those who know me know I don’t work out. Ever. I lost 20 lbs in 20 days with both babies. By now my body is back to what it was before getting pregnant…except for a few battle scars/stretch marks that have yet to disappear. It’s a forced work out and so worth it!

  • I am able to monitor how much my baby eats for his feedings. This way when there’s a baby sitter, I make sure I have enough milk set aside and the proper amounts so this liquid gold doesn’t go to waste!

There are ways in the beginning to produce more milk. These methods haven’t been proven, buuuut I’ve done them both times and I’m milking like a cow over here. At 37 weeks pregnant you can start (if you don’t, you can do this after the baby arrives, don’t worry) – I was drinking raspberry leaf tea (you can find this online or any Whole Foods) and also taking 1-2 tablets of malunggay pills every day. Both are all-natural and known to increase breast milk supply. I stopped taking the pills about a month ago when my son was already 8 weeks old because I had more than enough milk to feed triplets! The raspberry leaf tea I still take at times because it’s yummy. I like to put a little bit of honey and milk in it. It’s caffeine-free as well, so you can drink it any time.

Now. BOOB TRAINING. Yup! You read that correctly. You have to train your boobs early on. By day 4 you will become engorged. After a few days of thinking you aren’t making enough milk, as long as you continue to have the baby stimulate your nipples to get the milk out, suddenly, it arrives. And it’s painful. You don’t think they can get any bigger and viola! Ouch City. By day 4 I was advised by the doctor to pump every 2-3 hours. WHAT. Yeah. 20-30 minute sessions. Once you’re done it feels like you have to start all over again (especially after washing all the bottles, putting it all away…wow that time really flies!). You need to have a good support system around you. Because this is not easy. I was pumping 2-3 hours for 2-3 weeks straight. At first you do not get a lot. Maybe in the milliliters to start. Please do not become discouraged! (I did, both times.) You sit there for 30 minutes and get drops. It’s awful. But at the end of the 3 weeks, I was getting 7-10 ounces a session. *Also! There were times where I wasn’t able to keep up with him and have enough saved in the fridge, so Jeff and I did give formula feedings a few times and this baby was not picky! He ate it like a champ, and it allowed me to relax and not stress about trying to catch up. Look, in all honesty, if you can only give your baby 2-3 feedings of breast milk a day in the beginning and supplement the rest with formula, you are still doing a WORLD of difference for your baby. As long as they get a little a day, it’s the best thing for them.

You will notice a color change in the milk too. It starts out a darker yellow and gradually the color is white like the cows milk you would put in your cereal. This is when you can comfortably start storing.

The second month I was pumping every 4-6 hours. This month was easier, the only tough time was that pump session in the middle of the night (anytime between the hours of 2am-4am), I was already worn out from lack of sleep but I couldn’t let them go on for too long without pumping or the pain would be there and it’s not worth it.

So now on to the process of how I am surviving this daunting task..two times in a row. The pump I use at home is a Medela Lactina Select Breastpump. I have used the cheap ones (and by cheap I don’t mean cheap at all…they were $200-300+ from the store). Before seriously pumping with Amelia I saw a lactation consultant almost 5 times. Whenever I would visit I would be so engorged that they would have me use their hospital grade pumps to pull the milk out. There is SUCH a difference in the way the milk is released on a hospital grade pump. Best news? Most insurance companies will cover the cost for a rental! We only had to pay $8 a month to use this (of course they give you brand new pieces that actually touch your milk, but the unit itself can be rented out). If we didn’t have this approved through insurance, we would’ve been able to rent it monthly and out of pocket it comes out to 7-80$ per month, still cheaper than formula, still better for your baby. If your boobs are bigger, you can go online and get bigger cones – these normally come with 24mm but online they sell them past 30mm. I like to line the cones with lanolin. You will most likely get a free mini sample from the hospital, but you can buy it at any Babies R Us, Buy Buy Baby, Target. It’s used to put on your sore nipples after breastfeeding or pumping but I find that taking a little dot of it on your finger and lining the cones makes your boobs glide in easier. Less pain than your already sore breasts rubbing against plastic.

How do I have the patience for these 20-30 minute sessions? Well, I pump both at the same time. I didn’t buy a pricey pump bra. I bought a cheap on for $4 at Ross. It’s a sports bra. Make sure it fits somewhat tightly, if you’d fit comfortably in a medium, buy a small because when they start draining out you still want the bra to be somewhat tight. I cut two holes in the spots where my nipples would come out. Then I pushed the cone through. Ta-Da! Instant pumping bra for cheap, and it’s comfy too. Maybe get a few of these since you’re going to be doing a lot of laundry anyways with a newborn, you will have to wash it every other day. I only had one for the longest time and would lose it more than I would lose my keys. The phrase throughout the house was, “Babe! Have you seen my pump bra?!” -__- The best part about “hands free pumping”? I can do quite a few things while pumping! I can put my makeup on and do my hair for the day, I can edit on the computer or just be online (yep! If you got married this summer I will most likely be behind a computer pumping milk.. hope my webcam doesn’t get hacked or they’re in for a bigger surprise than my dwindling bank account), I can – and have- fed the baby while pumping more milk for him. Those with a newborn know that sometimes they just take their time eating! 30 minutes here and there. If you’re a busy momma and have things to do, you cannot wait for them to finish slowly eating and then have to pump for 30 minutes, and then when you’re done the baby is up from their power nap and you’re back at it again. Seriously, in the beginning days can go by without a shower. And when it’s early in the morning, you can catch up on your Candy Crush. I’ve been stuck on level 147 for weeks now, but it’s something to do. Having an iPad or smartphone helps, downloading some apps with games makes the time go by, I promise! Only downside to pumping both at the same time is that when you try to breastfeed your baby (if you still want to once or twice a day for the bonding- while your baby drinks from one, the other will start leaking. Still, better than pumping only one at a time! Who has the patience for this?) We even have a separate pump for the car that goes in to the adaptor so I can pump on long road trips if need be, while we were at a 4th of July bbq I had to excuse myself, turn on the AC in the car and pump, while at two weddings this summer I’ve had to leave with my dinner and pump in the car while scarfing down a meal, and just yesterday at a workshop in LA I had to have the valet take me to my car in the garage and pump in there for half an hour. It’s a sacrifice, it’s a discipline, it’s annoying. It’s worth it.

^Watch out now! Sexy stuff right here! Be prepared to get a lot of stares from your significant other, he may wanna make another baby right away! -__-

Storing! The rule of thumb I go with is 6-6-6. (yikes!) From the boob to the bottle, your milk is good out for 6 hours. (if it’s cold out or the weather is between 65-75 F I’ve left it out for 8-10 hours at times and it’s still been okay. Just smell it, if it smells fine then go ahead and feed the baby. But normally a baby will down all of that and it will never go past the 6 hours. Just know how much they’re drinking. Also, you know you’re overfeeding your baby if they’re spitting up the milk. If not, you can continue feeding. I remember being concerned because Sebastian ate so much more than Amelia ever did. Every baby is different. And some days they’re hungrier than others. They go through so many growth spurts the first year. One week they’re comfortable with 2-3oz servings and then a day will happen when they randomly wanna down 4-5oz! Then back to 2-3. So be prepared for this. In the first few weeks I started storing 2-3 oz at a time for his feedings in the fridge. I leave the milk in the fridge for 6 days. I use stickers/day dots (you can get these at any Staples or Office Depot) and I mark the date and time the milk was pumped. The milk that is left out is also dated, so that I know how long it’s been out. I like to leave anywhere from 5-7 bottles in the refrigerator until I am comfortable enough to start freezing. If you are using your everyday freezer where you keep other foods then go with the 6 month rule. Frozen milk is good for up to 6 months. If it’s a deep freezer and all you’re keeping in there is breast milk, it’s good for up to a year. I like using the Lansinoh bags to store, and I never store more than 7oz in those bags. When I DATE the milk bags I also memo in an “expiration” to myself, I mark it for four months, not six. Because currently I do not have a deep freezer so that milk is sharing space with everything else. I want to give myself enough time, so even if it passes the four month mark, I just memo to myself that he needs to drink this stuff soon, and I’ll keep it placed towards the front of the fridge. I made the mistake the first time around and would put ten ounces in a bag and I had a few break on me while thawing… I wanted to die. Worst feeling is wasting this milk. *I am not claiming that this 6-6-6 rule is the only way to go, this is just a personal blog and this is what I’ve done successfully with two babies at this point.*

Traveling, Leaving the house: When we leave to go anywhere (let’s say it’s for 5-6 hours), I like to bring a bottle that was recently pumped and somewhat full, and then I take one out of the fridge to just thaw in the diaper bag (since that one is good for several hours anyways), and I keep another one on ice in a little pouch. We have ice packs and the hospital normally gives you a pouch to keep milk in, but if not it’s like carrying around a mini cooler. And don’t get me wrong, if you’re out and cannot get back in time, there is no harm in packing one or two servings of formula, just to avoid the hassle, as long as your baby can comfortably switch back and forth between the two.

Steaming and cleaning bottles: With Amelia, I was steaming aaalll day long for months and months. Also boiling bottles a few times a week. The second time around, I just wash it all under really hot water in the sink. Let em air dry. Baby is fine. I still boil the bottles 2-3 times a month.

Got Milk? Bottles. Bottles are optional. We like to start out with the BreastFlow bottles by First year. They have two nipples, one underneath to reduce colic. Babies drinking from the bottle are more prone to being gassy, we find that these help. Also when the milk gets trapped above you can push in those little squares on the sides and the milk will fall back in to the bottle. A tid bit of advice, sometimes when you pump you will get thick pieces of goop in your milk. It’s just milk fat, it will thaw just fine but if it comes out in clumps that look like mucus, I just take a fork and filter it out. Sometimes you can’t get everything and every now and then it could get stuck in the nipple of the bottle. Your baby will have a fresh diaper on, have been burped, and will be screaming and crying just because he/she is hungry. One time it took me over two hours of Amelia screaming to figure out it was because the nipple in her bottle was clogged. Such a sad day! Always check the nipple!

After this third month we will most likely move to Drop In bottles by Playtex. We liked them the first time around, easier to clean and we will go to a medium flow nipple since our son will be able to drink more and quicker.

Thawing! To thaw out the milk from the refrigerator I put the milk in hot water for about 7-10 minutes. I check it to make sure it’s not too hot and give that to the baby. That milk I have left out for another 4-5 hours and it’s been fine. You just can’t re-refrigerate it. My babies have been fine with room temp milk. I never have to get it nice and warm all the time because sometimes when you’re out and about, you can’t warm up their milk. So instead of getting them used to having nice warm milk all the time, gradually start training them to get used to the idea that sometimes they get it fresh, sometimes they get the refrigerator stuff, and sometimes that frozen stuff. Sometimes it’s a little cold, sometimes it’s room temp, and every now and then it’s nice and warm. Your baby will drink the milk if they don’t have any other options. For frozen milk, thaw frozen breast milk in the refrigerator overnight or hold the bottle or bag under running warm water. Shake the bottle or bag gently to blend any fat that has separated. Never thaw in a microwave and do not re-freeze. Toss the bag when you’re done, don’t reuse them. Some advice, make sure to introduce your baby to some breast milk that has been frozen and then thawed when they are 4-7 weeks old to start training them to get used to the that milk as well. Last thing you want is a freezer full of breast milk and you have a 7 month old that will throw a fit and not want any part of it.

We’ve made the personal decision to not vaccinate the first year. I don’t want to have any debates here, this is just a decision we have made and we’re sticking to it. The antibodies and goodness in breast milk is good enough for our babies, so by the time 6 months comes around and we can start supplementing, I am going to be able to quit pumping and I know that I have enough milk to give my baby at least one bag a day (which is enough for them and already bonus if you make it past 6 months!) while introducing the mashed baby foods, etc. You can even give them organic formula if you’d like, a couple times a day. They may not like it at first, but will power. We just want to give them breast milk at least once a day from 6 months to a year. This is just what works for us, if you want to pump longer and can do so, please go for it!

Every day Sebastian gets 2-3 servings of fresh milk as soon as it’s pumped he can enjoy that, I just put it straight in to the next bottle and let him at it. He is currently eating anywhere from 6-8 ounces, every baby is different. At this age (12 weeks) Amelia was only have 3-4 ounces. Your body will produce enough for the baby! I have so much excess milk. If I had quadruplets I would have enough milk for them. It’s all in the training. If I didn’t have to go back to work right away I would still be pumping every 4-6 hours just to keep up supply. It’s supply and demand too, the more you do it, the more your body will produce.

Make sure to also get a lot of disposable pads, or even the reusable pads that you can wash. I like having both. I bring the disposable ones with me when I’m out and about so I can change them and toss it instead of having to carry around a soaked pad until I’m home. At home I wear the re-useable ones, and it’s a lot of laundry over here. Thankfully our water bill is included in our HOA!

*UPDATE! April 2014 - We finally took Seb for his first check up when he was ten months old. I stopped pumping the fresh stuff and then two weeks later we ALL got sick. Jeff, myself, and Amelia. All Seb had was a runny nose and slight cough. Since we were all sick for almost two weeks I took him in just to make sure he didn't have anything in his lungs. Of course the doctor and three nurses gave me grief for not vaccinating - but before they even knew that we were told that he just has a cold and it will go away soon. Then once they found out he had never had one shot they were trying to convince me to give him a few while he was sick! Umm.. can't that cause fever as well? We went on our marry way and within a couple days he was fine. The doctor was also happy to hear he was still getting at least one serving of breast milk a day. I am not telling any other mom to do what I did, but I am sharing what I have done/how I do things. Choose to take with you what you like, and leave what you don't behind.

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