Blissful images of breastfeeding ran through my head during my second pregnancy. I would breastfeed exclusively for a month, and when I was producing enough milk to put the nearest dairy farm out of business, I would start pumping. It would be so convenient. My freezer would be filled with liquid gold. Bring on the bottle-feeding! My daughter and husband would need to bond with the new baby. More importantly, I would need a break.
Reality check! I spent four hours pumping and ended up with 1-2 ounces a day for my efforts. I was convinced I had low supply, and a trip to the pediatrician only reinforced my worries. Thankfully, Jackson had a sudden and exponential growth spurt, and I knew my supply was fine. My breasts just closed up shop when the pump came out.
So, I asked all of my experienced breastfeeding mom-friends for advice, and soon I was a pumping machine. Okay, not really. But I learned to work with my disability anyway. Here is what helped me:
Repeat after me: My pumping sessions are not a reflection of my milk supply. It is very unusual for women to get enough milk from one pumping session for a full feeding. So, don’t pay any attention to those moms online that have a small milk factory operating in their living room. They are the few. Kudos to them.
Don’t Stress: Stress will make it worse. Listen to music, watch TV, surf the net, read this blog, stalk someone on Facebook, meditate, or do basically anything that distracts you from the machine actively sucking the life from your breasts.
Connect with Baby: Look at a picture of your baby or hold a blanket that smells like them. I actually made a recording of Jackson’s hunger cry and nursing noises. I would play it while I looked at pictures of him on my phone. Use headphones. Your coworkers or significant other will thank you.
Try Hand Expression: I found out I could express just as much milk in a few minutes with my hand as I could in hours of pumping. I also know a mom that tried a cheap hand pump with great success. Experiment! Just make sure you store your $300 double breast pump in a closet so it doesn’t mock you.
Be Persistent: Your letdown reflex will eventually respond better to the pump if you keep trying and stay positive. Don’t give up too soon.
Finally, realize you may never win a prize for the quantity of liquid gold residing in your freezer. Find other things things to be proud of. For instance, I’m certain I could have won an Olympic gold medal for longest trajectory of breast milk during letdown. *pats self on back*