Tips for Working Moms: Get the Most Out of Your Pumping Sessions

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Hi Beautiful Mommies!

So you’re back at work, but still wanting to provide for your little bundle at home. I won’t lie, pumping is TOUGH! It’s tough emotionally, physically, and mentally. But, it’s so fulfilling and worth every minute. And, it gets easier, truly. After awhile, it’s just part of your normal routine and schedule. After one year of breastfeeding and working full time, I’ve accumulated a lot of time trying out techniques, gathering tips from other moms, and doing research. And, I’m here to share the best of it with you. You got this mama!!

So, first, The Basics:
Your milk supply works by supply and demand — so the more often you pump, the longer you pump, and the more consistent you are, your milk will adjust to this demand and grow; however, a pump will always pull less milk than your nursing baby, but that’s one disadvantage that we working moms just have to deal with. Don’t be discouraged though! EVERY drop counts. Did you know your milk’s composition adjusts to your baby’s needs as they grow older? Yep. Our body is pretty impressive.

The Tips:
This list is meant to give you the most out of your pumping sessions and keep and (maybe even) increase your supply. Pumping at work can be emotionally and physically draining, but hang in there. You’re surrounded by a community of mommies cheering you on. And your baby will thank you too!

1A GOOD PUMP: Have a high quality pump! Usually your insurance will give you choices of pumps that they will provide for you. I love Medela! I use the Medela Pump in Style Advanced.

2. A GOOD SCHEDULE: Make sure you have a good pumping schedule. Ideally, you want to pump when baby would be feeding. This isn’t always possible with different work environments and babies can nurse as often as every two hours in the first few months! Do what you can, and don’t stress if you can’t keep baby’s schedule perfectly.

3. BOTH SIDES: Pump both sides at the same time if you can. It’s more effective and will save you time. Also, your let down reflex will help jumpstart both sides instead of just one.(You can find hands-free pumping bras at the store. But, if you’re on a budget, get a cheap sports bra and cut small vertical slits in them.) I survived without a pumping bra and ending up pumping one side at a time, needing the other hand to continue working at my makeshift desk. If you can’t do them at the same time, make sure you pump both sides every session.

4. EXTRA ATTENTION: On the side that seems to have less milk, pump first on that side. When the milk stops flowing, switch to the dominate side until emptied, and then return to the side you began on (even if the milk doesn’t come). That being said, both breasts, every time.

5. DONT STOP WITH THE LAST DROP: Pump longer after the milk stops flowing. Sometimes continue pumping up to 5 minutes after — this tells your body that more is needed and eventually your supply will grow. If you stop pumping before the last drop falls, you tell your body that what’s left is not needed, therefore your supply will decrease.

6. CHEST COMPRESSION: Use your hand to squeeze and manipulate your breast while pumping. Often you can stimulate a gland that hasn’t been emptied. (But this shouldn’t be painful!!) Chest compression also can increase the fat content in your milk.

7. SUPPLEMENTS: I love using Gaia Lactation Support or More Milk by Motherlove. These lactation supports pills contain herbs that help you keep and increase your supply. You can also try lactation cookies, lactation teas, as well as specific foods such as oats. Always read the label before taking a supplement!

8. VISUALS, SOUNDS, AND RELAXATION: A mother’s letdown reflex can be triggered simply by a crying baby in a store! Although this can be inconvenient, it’s actually a plus for pumping moms that you can use to your advantage! Different visualizations, sounds, and relaxation techniques can help trigger this reflex. Think about baby nursing on you when pumping — envision it! Look at a picture. Listen to a recording of their coos. Or train that reflex to respond to other stimuli. Do the same activity right before pumping, consistently, to stimulate let down. Drink tea, then pump. Or, drink water, then pump. Do squats, then pump. Stretch, then pump…. something of the like. It’s your way of preparing your body by saying “I’m about to pump!”

9. BREASTFEED, BREASTFEED, BREASTFEED: Breastfeed as much as possible!! On weekends, before work, at lunch, after work, during the night…. (And don’t be discouraged by your baby waking up at night hungry. Breastmilk is digested faster than formula and your baby will need to nurse more often than formula-fed babies, especially during growth spurts!) Learn to love these sleepy night feedings. You will miss them someday! Those moments are sweet and few.

10. BE HEALTHY: Get plenty of food, rest, and keep hydrated! Take care of yourself too, mama.

11. EXTRA PUMP PARTS AND GOOD STORAGE: Buy extra pump parts so you don’t spend a lot of time at work cleaning the parts. If you have a Medela pump, you can buy extra parts straight off their website. Remember to pay attention to how long your milk is good for. Thawed (from completely frozen) milk should be used within 24 hours when kept in the fridge, while refrigerated milk (never frozen) is good for three (ideal) to eight (acceptable) days. Frozen milk however, can stay frozen up to three (ideal) to twelve (acceptable) months. Make sure to use appropriate sterile breastmilk bags for storage and squeeze out as much air as you can from the bag before freezing to keep it fresh. (Lay bag flat to freeze for optimal storage space.) (Check out more guidelines from the La Leche League here: http://www.llli.org/faq/milkstorage.html)

In the end, you may not be able to keep up with baby’s need. But, this is okay!!! Don’t be discouraged!!! ANY breastmilk is better than none — even if you only have time to pump every 4 hours or even only once a day — stick to it.

*Please contact a lactation consultant or perhaps the La Leche League if you have questions or concerns with your supply or breastfeeding. Contact your pediatrician if you’re concerned about your baby’s feeding/nursing habits or health.*

Good luck! And happy breastfeeding! 

My Own Worst Enemy: Perinatal (and Postpartum) Anxiety, OCD, and Intrusive Thoughts

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It was dark, the house still, and Tali’s room lies quiet in anticipation of a new child. Tucker was already fast asleep, but I lie awake, my heart racing and my eyes trying to focus in the dark room. The hall nightlight casts a golden hue that reveals the only detail I can focus on, the texture of the carpet by our bedroom door, the white trim, the open bedroom door beyond it, Tali’s room. Suddenly, the light is gone, and back again, dancing. Then, a few seconds later, a man’s tall silhouette. In his hand, a knife… and before I can move, before I think to cry out, before I can do anything, he’s on us. I close my eyes tight, but I see it all. I see every thrust of his hand. I see bright red among the dimly lit gray washed room. I see that we are no more.

The thoughts came in waves, drowning me, suffocating the life from me, paralyzing and constant. Day or night, they didn’t discriminate. I would be awake, walk around a corner, and see such a vivid, violent scene play out in front of me, and I had no choice but to watch, and be helpless. I saw everyone I loved, every day, be killed in horrific, violent ways. I knew it wasn’t happening of course, but my mind was like a projector, projecting my deepest fears into whatever room I was in.

It began a few months into pregnancy after we moved into our own rental to start our family. I thought I was going crazy, honestly. It wasn’t easy to talk about. I was ashamed and embarrassed about it. What if this is me? The new me? What if I must suffer like this forever? I didn’t tell anyone for awhile. I just suffered alone. Often I found myself trying to find the perfect keyword for Google to find me answers, but I couldn’t. When I clicked on search hit after search hit, nothing quite fit. During pregnancy. Never before. Day time too. Not just while asleep. Violent…daydreams? Not hallucinations. Scary thoughts about others harming me, or a loved one. Not just passing thoughts, scenes. Played out. Vividly. Detailed. Graphic. Violent.

These scenes would play out at inconvenient times too. Sometimes mid conversation, other times during work. I would tear up while trying to hold back the flood of emotion… but it would be “normal” because I was pregnant. Pregnant people tear up all the time randomly, right? No big deal.

I hid it.

Finally late one night, I did tell Tucker, the night I had the thought I described above. We decided to pray over it every night before bed, out loud. He would wrap me up in his arms and we would pray. We prayed that the Lord give me peace and rest, that the lies and fear be washed away, that I could rest in His promises, in His love, in His mercy.

I didn’t seek professional help. I should have.

I’ve never felt so much fear in my life. Perhaps I didn’t seek help because I had no term to pinpoint what was going on. I often searched online for answers, and was surprised how difficult it was to find them… perhaps because others, like me, were too ashamed to speak out.

But eventually, they subsided before Tali was born. As quickly as they came, they all left.

So what was it?

It wasn’t until after Tali was born that I finally found something. I wasn’t okay with not knowing so I continued searching. I finally found my keywords. In fact, there were several related terms: Perinatal Intrusive Thoughts, Anxiety, OCD, Postpartum Depression. I was comforted to know I wasn’t alone, and I wasn’t alone in feeling alone. When I found one article, it led to blog after article after testimony, etc.

The Research (A Quick Review):

One of the most interesting articles I found was “The Postpartum Brain” by the Greater Good Science Center based at the University of California, Berkeley. This article reviews research on intrusive thoughts and depression during pregnancy and postpartum. Although I do not relate solidly to the behaviors mentioned in this article, it did shed light on evolutionary ideas of why some mothers suffer, suggesting that “a period of high alert may have helped parents protect their babies from environmental harm in times when this was a treacherous and all-consuming task” and thus by survival of the fittest, the babies of mothers who were more cautious tended to live and passed on the trait. Surprisingly the article reveals that “in the weeks before delivery, 95 percent of mothers and 80 percent of fathers reported OCD-type thoughts,” but although these behaviors could have once been beneficial, a ‘practice’ for likely scenarios years ago, “sometimes certain behaviors persist beyond the point that they’re useful.” Although heightened awareness is still beneficial for new parents, too much may be detrimental and distressing. (Read more here: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/postpartum_brain)

Several articles highlighted that these conditions, such as heightened anxiety, intrusive thoughts, and obsessive thoughts and behaviors in new parents, could be more common than we thought. Catharine McDonald, MS, NCC, LPS states that “Perinatal OCD and intrusive thoughts are much more common than we hear about— some researchers estimate as many as 11% of women experience these disorders (Miller, Chu, Gollan, & Gossett, 2013), and almost all parents have a fleeting intrusive thought at some point in the perinatal period (pregnancy through early postpartum).” (Read more here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/motherwoman/perinatal-ocd-and-intrusi_b_3360501.html) Postpartum Support International suggests that “Approximately 6% of pregnant women and 10% of postpartum women develop anxiety. Sometimes they experience anxiety alone, and sometimes they experience it in addition to depression.” (Read more here: http://www.postpartum.net/learn-more/anxiety-during-pregnancy-postpartum/) More pertinent to me, however, was the Postpartum Support International’s description of Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: “Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is the most misunderstood and misdiagnosed of the perinatal disorders. It is estimated that as many as 3-5% of new mothers and some new fathers will experience these symptoms. The repetitive, intrusive images and thoughts are very frightening and can feel like they come ‘out of the blue.’ Research has shown that these images are anxious in nature, not delusional…” and include such symptoms as “obsessions, also called intrusive thoughts, which are persistent, repetitive thoughts or mental images related to the baby. These thoughts are very upsetting and not something the woman has ever experienced before.” (Read more here: http://www.postpartum.net/learn-more/pregnancy-or-postpartum-ocd/)

The Bottom Line:

 I didn’t get help, and I should have. Although these conditions are often temporary during or after pregnancy, they are NOT a condition to wait out as I did. No one should have to suffer through this without help. Tell someone close to you to hold you accountable for seeking a medical professional’s help. These conditions are treatable.

Resources and Support (in no particular order):

“Perinatal OCD and Intrusive Thoughts: A Troublesome Secret to Many” Catherine McDonald, MS, NCC, LPC http://www.huffingtonpost.com/motherwoman/perinatal-ocd-and-intrusi_b_3360501.html

“Hope For Moms with Postpartum OCD & Intrusive Thoughts” Katherine Stone on Postpartum Progress http://www.postpartumprogress.com/hope-for-moms-with-postpartum-ocd-intrusive-thoughts

“The Postpartum Brain” Anna Abramson and Dawn Rouse, Greater Good Science Center, University of California, Berkeley  http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/postpartum_brain (Great comprehensive research!)

“What if I’m having Scary Thoughts?” The Postpartum Stress Center http://postpartumstress.com/get-help/are-you-having-scary-thoughts/

“Dropping the Baby and Other Scary Thoughts: Breaking the Cycle of Unwanted Thoughts in Motherhood” by Karen Kleiman and Amy Wenzel http://www.amazon.com/Dropping-Baby-Other-Scary-Thoughts/dp/0415877008

(These last two are also great and much simpler! They include a short definition, and a list of symptoms and risks.)

“Anxiety During Pregnancy & Postpartum” Postpartum Support International http://www.postpartum.net/learn-more/anxiety-during-pregnancy-postpartum/

“Pregnancy or Postpartum (OCD)” Postpartum Support International http://www.postpartum.net/learn-more/pregnancy-or-postpartum-ocd/

That “Crazy” Mom Without a Hobby

Tali,

You’re almost one! And this momma is in tears. I’m crazy about you. For nine months, I rebuilt my life to prepare for yours while you were in my tummy. Mommy and daddy moved twice, changed jobs once, and finally settled in a place we knew you’d be safe. I felt your first wiggles, your first hiccups, and heard your heartbeat. I watched you put on a show for mommy and daddy the first time we saw you on the ultrasound. I wrote about you, dreamed about you, talked about you, and celebrated your new life. You took your time in my belly, pushing me into 42 weeks and I gained over half my original body weight. Baby girl, I couldn’t even roll over in bed then! I was too big! The day you were born I labored for 23 hours. I had the epidural put in twice, was put on oxygen, and had numerous other unexpected complications along the way. I cried when I learned I wouldn’t be able to continue, and we were rushed into surgery for a C section. My body was wrecked, but my love was overflowing. I don’t remember seeing you for the first time; mommy wishes she could remember, but I had so many drugs in my body and was so exhausted my memory didn’t hold on. But I remember holding you in the hospital, I remember your perfect nose, lips, fingers, wiggly toes. I’ve never seen so much beauty in my life. During maternity leave, I couldn’t walk. My body was having a hard time healing. Daddy would get up and bring you to me. I would nurse you and pray over you. Pray over your safety, your happiness, your future, your faith. We went on our first walk a few days after being home. I only made it a block before I doubled over in pain, but we finally made it out of the house together. I loved being home with you. I loved holding you while you slept on my chest. We couldn’t go anywhere or see anyone because you were a little fussy, but I gladly gave up seeing my friends to hold on to you. When I went back to work four weeks later, I cried. I had the smell of you on my shirt, a picture of you in my agenda, and a pump to try to continue to give you nourishment. Every three hours I went to a room at work and pumped because I knew that this was the best way to nourish your body and keep you healthy. For many weeks, I also cried in these moments. I felt like I abandoned you. It felt so wrong to be away from you. I missed you so much. I wanted you with me. You got the flu a few months into your life. I was so scared. Your tiny little helpless body. I didn’t know what hurt, I just tried to hold you, and comfort you as you squirmed and cried, and then cried because you couldn’t breathe because your nose was stuffy. Mommy cried too. Mommy and daddy got the flu too. You kept mommy and daddy up all night and it was hard to function with the flu and no sleep, but we did it together. We saw your first smile, heard your first laugh, saw you roll over, heard your first babbles, saw you first play with toys, saw you first sit up on your own, and held your hand for your first steps. Mommy took so many pictures of you… probably too many. Mommy couldn’t stop telling everyone about your accomplishments. You celebrated your accomplishments too — you would wrinkle your nose, grin, and clap your hands looking from mom to dad for approval. You’re still working on walking though; you’re a little wobbly and you kind of look like you just got off a Merry Go Round, but you’re almost there. Don’t worry, I have plenty of film to show your friends someday. I always thought that my grades, my career, my volunteering were what made me alive, what made me significant, but I never knew this type of love, this type of happiness. YOU are my biggest accomplishment and being a mom my greatest blessing. I don’t want more. In fact, I want less—and more time with you. Of course I posted pictures of you almost everyday! I couldn’t think of greater beauty in the world, and I wanted to share it.

Tali someday you won’t understand why I want to know every detail of your day, why I pray for you every moment I get, why I will cry when someone hurts you, why I will jump with joy for your accomplishments, why you will catch me staring at you when you get all dressed up with bouncy curls, why I will want pictures of you with every new step in your life’s journey, but it’s because although you were born on an early morning in September, you will always be a part of me, you will always be with me. You will always be my better half. My life was perfectly adjusted to fit you in it, and God picked you for me and me for you. Someday, you might know this love too, but in the meantime, I guess I’ll just be a “crazy” mom “without a hobby.” That’s okay though. I’m okay with that. Someday you’ll understand. Until then, I’ll keep taking my photos, writing in the memory book, celebrating with you, weeping with you, and teaching you all I know about life. I love you Tali bug.