So I’m switching gears today and writing about breastfeeding, or more exclusively, pumping.
First, I am of the mind that “Fed is best.” Moms can whip their boobs out in public and latch on their hungry babes, or shake up a bottle of formula and I could not care less. All that matters is that mothers are feeding their babies. And in my opinion, if you are not that child’s mother or parent, you have no opinion on the matter.
For me, my decision was to breastfeed my babies, or at least give it a try. I was intrigued with the physical bond. But, just as influential in my decision was the fact that breast milk is free. Exclusively breastfeeding costs you nothing, unless you need to pick up a tube of lanolin. Pumping requires some equipment and accessories like milk storage bags, but is generally low cost – especially since insurance covers most breast pumps.
On top of being free-ish, breastfeeding is convenient. No fumbling with bottle parts, jugs of filtered water, or bottle warmers when baby is hungry. Baby taps the keg, if you will, and you’re good to go. Given I do not shy away from occasional laziness, I love the convenience of just feeding baby on demand without having to get off the couch.
But facing the reality that I would eventually have to return to work, I knew pumping was in my future. With my first son, I mistakenly started pumping a couple times a day when I got home from the hospital due to engorgement and wanting to relieve some pressure. This extra demand left me with oversupply issues that resulted in mastitis two weeks post-partum. I knew better this time around and stayed away from pumping unless absolutely necessary.
I am lucky in that I didn’t have any supply issues like a lot of moms do right off the bat. My boys also didn’t have any latch issues, so we hit the ground running. But going back to work threw a wrench in that smooth sailing.
With my first son, I was working from home full-time while my son was away at daycare (My employer expected me to be on the job 8-5, M-F). This meant I could pump from the comfort of my home three times while he was away. He wasn’t a big eater at daycare (a sign of his stubbornness even back then), so I didn’t have to produce a whole lot to make up for what he was eating at daycare.
Things were going well until my son reached about 8 months of age. I believe it was a combination of the stress of life and my son eating more that finally caught up with me and dramatically reduced my breast milk supply. Not wanting to add more stress on myself, I started supplementing with formula once or twice a day. I continued pumping until my son reached a year old, then happily packed away that little machine.
What I hated about pumping is how obsessive I became about how much milk I was producing. Any time I got less than I usually did or what I got from the session before would cause me to worry. My liquid gold was drying up! But my son continued to thrive on what I produced and the supplemented formula until we could bid adieu to bottles all together.
Fast forward to now, and circumstances are slightly different. I have a different job and work full-time in an office. I am very fortunate that my employer offers a comfortable, private, and clean room designated for pumping mothers. And since I am currently the only mother in need of such space, it’s become my own little hideout.
I am on week three of being back at work and I can tell the stresses of life and the challenges of pumping are affecting my supply already. And this baby is a chunky monkey and has no problem chugging a couple or more 4-5 oz bottles of milk while I’m at work, so I really need to stay on top of my supply.
Because I want to stretch out this free meal plan for as long as possible, I am doing everything I can to try and keep up my supply. This means chugging water and Mother’s Milk herbal tea like I’m preparing for a drought. It’s like my pregnancy bladder has returned.
I also picked up a bottle of Fenugreek pills to pop a couple times a day and will be putting my baking skills to the test by whipping up oatmeal, flax seed, and brewer’s yeast into lactation cookies and lactation oatmeal that I plan to eat religiously.
I also plan to listen to my body’s hunger cues and eat when it tells me. Cutting calories and dropping the remaining baby weight may just have to wait.
I have 8+ months to go, so I am hoping that some of these little tricks work.