Pump pressure: 5 questions every pumping mama has asked
It's 3 am — just you, your pump and your phone. The makings of a Google onslaught. For many a new mama, breastfeeding brings its own set of challenges. But there's nothing quite like the anxiety-inducing minutes of watching pump bottles fill (or not fill) ever so slowly.
Not knowing just how much is on the way is as if you're stepping up to bat. Will it be a homerun or strike out? When the numbers are dwindling you run through the variables of the day. What did I eat? How much water did I drink? Sleep? Was it the glass of wine? The least helpful piece of advice: don’t stress.
Pumping can cause a wave of emotions for many women, including elation, anxiety, or even depression. If you feel that your emotions are on the extreme end of the spectrum, you may have an actual condition called Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER). You can read more about the symptoms from KellyMom.
When you’re strapped in, confined to the length of your pump’s tubes (hopefully in a fairly pleasurable location — check out the Washington Post’s look at the realities for many), it’s the perfect time to pose those never-ending questions to the one thing that will listen at any hour: your search engine.
Here are the questions it seems every pumpin’ gal has asked:
Am I making enough?
You could have a freezer full of breast milk and the question still lingers. Breasts seem to have a mind of their own and you never know how they’ll perform on a given day. It doesn’t help that they continue to change over the months — ranging from fully engorged in the early days, to leaky and full in the following weeks, to just the opposite after a matter of months. One breast could be an all star, while the other makes a mere fraction.
While exclusively pumping may provide the comfort of gauging the exact amount baby is getting, it’s also stressful. To add to the confusion, many experts believe that the amount you pump is not fully indicative of your actual milk supply. There’s seemingly countless suggestions on how to increase your milk supply — breast massages, lubricated nipples/flanges, supplements, to name a few.
Fear not, you’ll find your norm — and then it’ll change, again. Whether bottle or breast, bottom line, fed is best. Whatever that looks like to you and your baby.
How often should I pump?
In the battle of sleep versus pump, which inevitably wins? (Hint, probably sleep.) Rolling out of bed to pump takes some motivation. And let’s be honest, breastfeeding is a workout.
With a new baby, finding the minutes to pump is easier said than done. Will baby remain calm? Is there enough time before the next nursing session? Why does baby always get hungry after you’ve just spent 15 minutes with your friend, Medela?
Sometimes this feels like a no-win situation. Try experimenting with different times of day before establishing your routine. Many women find they get the most milk in the morning. Just cue up the Netflix and don’t look back.
What’s that pain?
From blocked ducts to cracked nipples, breastfeeding can be a pain. Literally. While pumping can help alleviate issues like blocked ducts — or prevent them in the first place — it can also cause its own issues.
Ensuring you have the right sized flanges (one of those terms you never knew before you were pregnant…) can help. Also, using a salve on your nipples will help soothe and add some lubrication when pumping.
It’s perfectly acceptable to cry over spilled (breast) milk. Seriously, why are those storage bags so hard to maneuver?
What did I eat?
Everything from the amount you pump to the color of your milk can change on a daily basis. But when you have an A+ pumping session, do yourself a favor and don’t overthink it. Unless you’ve been actively supplementing, trying to decipher what made the difference can drive you crazy.
Maybe it was that extra helping of oatmeal this morning. Or maybe not.
No matter why you are pumping, there can a lot of pressure. Be proud of what you have done so far. It takes determination and work, and you’re doing the best that you can. If you need support and advice, we strongly encourage you to reach out to a lactation consultant.
P.S. A special shoutout should go to NICU mamas pumping for their special babes. No matter how many times you pull that curtain, it seems everyone in the entire hospital will have seen you with your shirt half off.
Stay strong, ladies.