There may be no bigger love-hate relationship than that between a breastfeeding mother and her breast pump. You love what it gives you (#foodforBABY) but loathe the process of pumping. Plugging it in, preparing the parts, putting the pump on, and processing the milk can be a pain, to say the least. For all of you who have done it or are in the process of doing it, you are likely nodding in agreement. But no matter how much angst our plus one (a.k.a. the pump) brings us, it can bring you and your baby many benefits. Here’s how to make this relationship last as successful and as long lasting as possible…
First, it’s okay to acknowledge that the breast pump/breastfeeding relationship is definitely not love at first sight. No one looks at that piece of machinery with adoring eyes and thinks, Wow, this is what I’ve been dreaming of! So before you decide to go steady (a.k.a. the baby is here and you need to make extra milk), get to know each other.
A few weeks before your baby is set to arrive, assemble the pieces, become comfortable with the parts, and set up your system. This will serve you well in the weeks and months to come. If you are unsure about this “match,” seek out a “matchmaker” (a.k.a. someone who has been there before). Don’t be afraid to ask for a tutorial. And if you are the first in your line of friends and family to do the baby thing, look online. There are several legitimate sites that can serve as a guide. Additionally, lactation consultants will not only help when it comes to breastfeeding but also when it comes to breast pumping.
After you and your pump exchange pleasantries, it’s time to solidify this relationship. While most of us like to practice the “take things slow” motto when it comes to relationships, the sooner you start making milk, the sooner you can start storing and saving. This is particularly helpful for mothers who plan to go back to work and want to continue giving breast milk.
Milk production is highest in the immediate postpartum period. Maximize what you make then by pumping after the baby feeds and setting it aside for those “rainy days.” The more you have saved up now, the more you will have to offer your little one later. By maximizing your supply now, you are in many ways matching their demands later. Frozen breast milk can last for months.
Keep track of all of your dates, even the ones that didn’t end so well. Every ounce of milk that you produce and package appropriately (#date) can be used later. Therefore, you want to clearly date each bag of milk that you produce (think black Sharpie) so that you know when it needs to be used by. Unlike the milk you buy at the grocery store, frozen breast milk can go the distance. In fact, it can last up to six months in the freezer.
Because time keeps moving on, you want to use what you made first, first and what you made last, last. And be sure to store your frozen milk in the coldest part of the freezer, not on the door! This system will ensure that you don’t let all of your hard work go to waste (making milk is not easy!)
Give your significant other some space. And while we aren’t talking about relinquishing some of that coveted closet space or clearing a spot on your bathroom counter, we are talking about rearranging your freezer. Milk that you plan to store for a later date needs to be frozen, so it’s a good idea to clean out your freezer before and free up some room before you start the milk process.
Invest in a “new outfit.” Let’s face it: getting dressed for a first date is never easy. Is that skirt too short, are those shoes too bright, is that shirt too tight? And while breast pumping seems far from glamorous, investing in a good hands-free bra can make all the difference in whether you call your pump back for a second date! Hands-free bras allow you to produce and be productive all at the same time! And when you may need to pump several times a day, a hands-free bra can make all the difference.
Be creative. It’s easy to get into a rut in your relationship. Sleep, eat, work, pump, repeat can take a toll on any new mom. It can make you forget what you are doing and why. When cleaning parts and preparing your pump bag for the next day, “wear” your baby in the carrier. While it may not be the traditional “rock-a-bye-baby,” it accomplishes that skin-to-skin closeness that we all yearn for. It also helps with bonding and brings you back to why you are busting your butt making all that milk.
Last, divide and conquer. Figuring out who and what can help you make this relationship work will help ensure that you and your pump go the distance. The pump has to be cleaned, sterilized, and cleaned again (sounds like fun, right?). This takes time, time that no new breastfeeding mother has to spare. Consider asking someone for help (partner, friend, family member, hired help). Dividing up tasks will make the process more tolerable.
There is no doubt that this relationship will have its ups and downs. No doubt you will want to break up at least once a day. And at some point, you will. Whether you get back together in the future (#anotherBABY) is up to you. But in order to make this go around as fruitful, forgiving, and far reaching as possible, it is important to remember our dating tips. While we certainly are not matchmakers, we do know a bit about how to make the breast pump/breast feeding relationship a long-lasting one—take it from us, this one is a keeper!