On Pumping at Work / Round 2


Sometimes I think about  the posts I wrote 2+ years ago during R’s first year of life and get really embarrassed. Some of them were so emotional and so raw and so, just, I don’t know… so intense, and I want to be like, for the love, Amanda, you need to sit back and calm down. It is going to be okay.

I say that realizing that writing is my release and my way to process, and those were my real feelings during that time. It might feel silly or too emotional looking back, but in the moment it was what I felt, so I that’s what I wrote. And I am a strong advocate of validating someone’s feelings, no matter how embarrassing or ridiculous they might seem.

I really struggled for the first month or so with my physical recovery after having R, and I had a hard time comparing myself to friends and other people I saw online who seemed to bounce back quickly. (People go out on walks a couple of days or even a week postpartum? Imagine! I could very literally not move off the couch without assistance.) 

It was a hard year on our marriage, and we did not adjust well to having a screaming baby in the middle of the night and living on so few hours of sleep. Going back to work was, as you know if you’ve been around this blog for more than five seconds, so difficult for me. On top of that was trying to figure out pumping and nursing as a working mom, and there was even more comparison and a lot (A LOT) of tears as I pumped fewer and fewer ounces and watched my supply slowly diminish until we started R on formula for daycare bottles and I used up the last of my frozen milk.

One of my very favorite things about having a second child, squishy baby boy snuggles aside, is the freedom that comes from having been there, done that, and knowing that it might have gone exactly to plan or it might have gone nothing at all like I thought it would, but at the end of the day it really was all okay.

I’m so thankful for answered prayers this time with J that I have felt free from so much of the guilt and stress I felt with R. Now, of course there are always things to worry about, always things to cry about, always something to feel guilty about, and living on little sleep will never ever get easier or less hard on a marriage (grouchy in the middle of the night, party for one), but in general I am in such a better place emotionally about so many things, one of which is breastfeeding and pumping at work.

Almost as soon as I started pumping after going back to work with R, it was clear that it wasn’t going to go well for me. I tried the tea and the oatmeal, the supplements, drank tons of water… nothing worked, and just a few months later I was down to pumping for half an hour and getting half an ounce total, maybe a full ounce if I was lucky. I didn’t realize how stressed out I was about it until we bought that first canister of formula, and a huge weight lifted off me. (Read more about all of that here and here if you are interested.) I swore that next time, if there was a next time, I would try to pump at work, but if it didn’t work out it didn’t work out, and I wasn’t going to get worked up about it (no pun intended).

That was not a mind-set I was able to have two years ago, but thankfully God has been gracious in answering my prayers, and this time around has been so much better. One thing that’s challenging about pumping specifically for your baby's bottles and not just pumping for extra is that you know exactly how much milk you need to get. It’s not just about pumping and getting whatever you can. It’s about pumping x amount of ounces because that’s how many your baby needs.

I currently pump 2x a day, and I get 3-5 ounces total per session. Sometimes (rarely) it’s 5, sometimes it’s 3, most often I get right about 4 ounces. J takes 2 bottles during the day (around 11:00 and 3:00) with 5-6 ounces each, so obviously 3-4 ounces is not going to be enough. But this time I have decided to be happy with what I get and not think more about it. 

One thing that has helped a lot this time is my freezer stash. I didn’t start pumping until R was over a month old, and this time I started pumping when J was a week old. I was able to quickly build up a good freezer stash, which has given me peace when I don’t pump as much as I need to during the work week. Some people might not have issues with supply while pumping, but if you do, having some already stored away can be a big help.

J will be 8 months in a couple of weeks. (How is that possible, you ask? I don't want to talk about it.) I am thankful to still be breastfeeding. It is something I do not take for granted at all! Breastfeeding is hard work, and it is emotional, and while I am not one of those people who is obsessed with it and just loves it so much, I do enjoy it and am thankful it has worked out for me to feed my babies in that way. It is not something to take lightly, because so many people want to be able to do it and can't, and it doesn't come easily for everyone.

One big thing I’m doing differently this time is not feeding J during the work day. I used to rush over to daycare every single day and feed R during my lunch break, and this time I decided that it was too much for me to do that. I am very happy with how our daily schedule is going so far and feel like it was a really healthy decision for me. I do go visit J during my lunch hour, but we play together, and I honestly like that a whole lot more.

I plan on continuing to pump and nurse up until he turns 1 this summer, but if it doesn't end up happening and my supply decreases too much, we will buy some formula and move forward with it! Again, it's just really nice to have had the experience I had with R and use that to encourage me in this second time around with J.

I feel in such a better place emotionally about nursing/pumping, and I'm just so overwhelmingly thankful to have carried and delivered two healthy babies. How or what they are fed isn't as important to me as the fact that they feel loved and cared for.

*If you have any questions about our feeding/pumping schedule, pumping at work, storing milk, or just want to talk about any of these topics, please feel free to email me!
Maria said...

First of all, thank you for writing this post in spite of your mom and sister not wanting to read it :) Haha.

I'm so happy you found peace with the pump and you are continuing to go strong with nursing! Just seeing that pump photo makes me shudder and we don't even have the same pump! I wrote some pretty candid (read: dramatic) posts regarding breastfeeding as well because at the time not being able to do it and losing my supply was a big deal to me. I tried my best to be rational about the whole thing, but you really cannot reason with a postpartum mom and her wacky hormones. Luckily as those hormones settle down, your coping mechanisms go back to normal. Phew.

"How or what they are fed isn't as important to me as the fact that they feel loved and cared for." <-- such an important point and you are doing an excellent job at making them feel loved.

Rachel Emily said...

I'm sure I've told you this before but you are a freaking ROCK STAR to me for all the pumping that you do! I will totally start pumping earlier with the next baby (Lord willing. Lord PLEASE.) any by that I mean before the child is 10 months old. Anyways, pumping stressed me out so badly, everyone who does it all day, every day is just AMAZING to me!!

Michelle said...

I'm so glad this experience is so much better. Those first baby emotions are SO INTENSE. I imagine things are much calmer with a second baby.

Unknown said...

i think that i've told you this already, but we had very similar experiences with our first (except i pushed myself way too hard to stay on breast milk...sometimes i feel guilty that i maybe didn't giver her enough, even though i know i did...i was the only one who was scarred from pushing myself). with william, i was completely relaxed. we had to move to formula mixed with breast milk from one of my best friends, and then full formula for a bit, and it was not even a little bit hard. because now i know. i love this post, and i'm so happy you are having so much more freedom this time around.

Rach said...

I love, love, love that you are in such a good place with all of this on this go around. What a blessing. So many answered prayers for peace. And it sounds like it is helping you enjoy this time with J even more. I love that!

Oh, and also, I love that you are so candid and honest. Your posts here always feel so real which makes it easy to relate to you. So if you ever feel embarrassed reading back on any of those old posts, know that your ability to open up and share is a blessing to your readers! <3

AnneMarie said...

I am thrilled that this go-around has been so much better and more peaceful!!! It's really crazy just how different each woman is. I know a lady who had hoped to pump and/or breastfeed, but after about 2 weeks she just stopped producing milk altogether. And I have another friend who could only pump because breastfeeding just didn't work out, and she had a crazy overproduction of milk (she even gave some extra to me in case I needed it for my little guy). And I had been planning on breastfeeding my little guy until he was at least 2, but last week he completely weaned at 20 months! This is definitely yet another area of motherhood where it is so important just to figure out what's best for us and not worry about what other people are doing.

Jenny Evans said...

I love your perspective on how different it is once you've been through it before and you know that THINGS ARE GOING TO BE OKAY.

I've always wanted to breastfeed my kids exclusively for as long as possible, mostly because I'm cheap but also because of the health benefits (plus I kind of enjoy nursing) but like you my supply always dwindles and I end up supplementing with formula and then usually using it exclusively by the end. Any nurse will tell you that any amount of breastmilk, even for a few days or weeks of life, provides health benefits so if your goal is all breastmilk all the time but you fall short even though you tried your best, there's absolutely no sense in beating yourself up about it in the slightest.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: you're a great mom.

Betsy said...

Thank you for writing this! I am so tremendously grateful to the nurses in the Special Care Nursery who gave Robbie his first bottle of formula at 3 days old when he was kept an extra day and we went home for a few hours - it meant that I didn't have to agonize about whether or when to give him formula. I totally would have otherwise! You've been my example in working on a freezer stash for when I go back to work, though I do expect the ratio of milk to formula to change at that point (we're now doing formula for his last two feeds of the night and everything else is me, but I only want to pump twice a day while at work, so).

The Lady Okie said...

Yes that is so great you don’t have to worry about introducing formula. Because it is so NOT a big deal, but it feels like such a big deal at the time. Also, you may be totally fine pumping at work. I was the only one of my friends IRL who couldn’t pump as much as needed, although I know it’s a common issue. I’ve been back 2.5 months now, and I’m pumping about 3oz at a time, so the end might be beginning. But at least I’m not sobbing in the upstairs office like last time. I just find it annoying!

Julie @ Just the Joy's said...

I'm so glad that round two has been a better experience and peace of mind for you! You are doing a great job Mama!!