Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Boob Juice

After that first month home with Kaia where I was desperately trying to breastfeed I have basically given up the ghost. My girl, besides the occasional boob snack, is a bottle fed baby and I'm an exclusive pumper. I never really wanted to be in this camp, but here we are and generally it's working out. I remember thinking prior to having a baby "why would anyone want to bottle feed? You have to get up in the middle of the night, walk down stairs, heat up the bottle and then walk back up stairs. Wouldn't it just be easier (and cheaper!!!) to pull the baby into bed with you and breastfeed??!" HA! Jokes on me. Now I have to do all the work of a formula fed baby PLUS stay up an extra 30 minutes or more after Kaia goes back to sleep while I pump. Fun times.

The thing about being an exclusive pumper is that you become a little obsessed with breast milk and it's production. So I decided to devote a whole post to my boob juice!

I've recently dropped to 6 pumps per day. I pump around 5:30am, 10amish, 1pm, 4pm, 8pm and 11pm...but it's all adjustable based on what's going on that day. I started out pumping 8x a day, every 3 hours, when Kaia was first born and then dropped to 7 around the time of my grandmother's funeral in August. It's gotten easier to fit pumping into my life with each dropped session. I feel pretty safe that I'll be able to keep Kaia exclusively on breast milk for the foreseeable future as I haven't seen a huge drop in production as I've dropped pumps. According to a lactation consultant I met, your breast milk production is established in the first 6-12 weeks postpartum. Meaning that if you pump (or breastfeed) till you drop those first weeks, you'll reap the rewards of high milk production down the line.

My current long term plan is to keep Kaia exclusively on breast milk until 6 months corrected (so early March) when I will start some solids, however I don't know how this whole spica cast business is going to fit into our lives, so we'll have to see how easy pumping and dealing with Kaia is once we are in a cast in February.

Until Kaia came home from the hospital I was tracking how much I pumped per day to the milliliter (Brian has an app for that). I think I maxed out at around 1200 mls a day (about 42 oz), and currently pump about a 1L (35 oz). Kaia has never taken more than that in a day and I hope I'm safe with aiming for that as my daily goal. Kellymom, a site devoted to breastfeeding and breast milk has studies posted that show breastfed babies usually level out in their breast milk demands at an average of 75o mls/day around 1 month, and stay pretty stable until 6 months when it starts to decrease if you introduce solids. I would say this has shown to be pretty accurate for Kaia. She might eat more per bottle, but is having less bottles per day (and sleeping longer at night!! YEAH!!!)

Many women find they begin to know their bodies better when they start to track their ovulation cycles. Cervical mucus, headaches, breast tenderness, sex drive and period duration can be tracked ad nauseum if you're into that sort of thing (or if you HAVE to be into that sort of thing if you're TTC and it's not happening as quickly as you'd like). Now that I have a kid who I pump for, I have another body function I can watch and track until my heart's content. For example. I can tell when I haven't been drinking enough fluids just by how full my boobs are between pump sessions. If they aren't as 'full feeling' and my let down is slower at my next pump session, I know I need to drink more. Stress also affects these things. If I'm tense or trying to 'hurry' through a pumping session you can bet it's going to take FOREVER to get my usual volumes.

I can also tell you 'fun facts' about breast milk just by my own observations. A friend of mine who exclusively breastfed was talking to me about the prenatal class she went to prior to her daughter's birth. She said she didn't find it very helpful because they couldn't answer many of her questions. One of which was "how long does it take for your 'hind' milk (the fatty stuff) to start to flow when you are feeding?" I could now tell her that it depends on how long you've gone since your last feed (or pump) and how much milk is available overall. The larger the amount of milk to be fed or pumped (such as in the morning after sleeping 6 hours), the larger proportion of it will be watery 'foremilk'. In the morning I usually pump about 300 mls overall and the first 30 mls or so is pretty watery. However later in the day, when I might pump 150 mls, maybe only the first 10 or 15 mls or so is foremilk.

When you refrigerate pumped milk it separates out as it's not homogenized, which is done to cow's milk before it's sold. So human milk in a container will have the 'watery' milk on the bottom and will look almost clear. Then gradually it will get 'whiter' closer to the top. If you've left it in the fridge for longer than a few hours, the fat will separate out and form almost a 'paste' at the top. Brian finds it funny that sometimes this fat layer is so thick that when the milk is turned on its side, it takes a second for liquid milk underneath to 'break through' the fat barrier, creating a 'glop' sound. If you shake the milk the fat is quickly mixed in and the whole container will look like 'normal' milk again. I like looking at the fat at the top and thinking "see...that's the cookies I ate earlier today!" It's fun to see the fat come off me and be transferred into Kaia's cheeks!

Speaking of fat, the calorie content of breast milk is about 20 Calories per oz. So if Kaia is eating 750 mls a day (25 oz) then she is getting about 500 Calories per day. That's about 42 Calories per lb of body weight since she's about 12 lbs. If I had the same metabolism and was growing at the rate Kaia was growing this means I could eat about 5460 Calories per day. Think of all the Christmas goodies that is!

I pump using an Ameda Purely Yours double electric pump. The most popular one these days seems to be Medela as it's sold at Baby's R Us but I've been happy with my Ameda. The customer service was really good when I had to have a part replaced, so that was nice. It's held up very well too considering how much I use it, and it's pretty easy to clean all the parts which is good. I recently did the math and figuring out the number of pumps I do per day, and how long I've been pumping, I've used the pump over 1000 times. One thing that exclusive pumpers should be aware of is that if you suddenly notice a drop in supply, check the parts on your pump. They can wear out over time (as anything made out of plastic does), and may need to be replaced. Pumps and their parts aren't cheap either, mine (with the shoulder bag and cooler bag and extra bottles) was over $300 and I've spent about $50 on replacement parts since then. I'm hoping to get some money back through my insurance as the pump was considered 'medically necessary' due to Kaia's prematurity.

The thing I find hardest about pumping is 'what do I do with Kaia while I pump?' It's a challenge, I'll admit that. Generally when I wake up, it's because she's crying for food. However, as soon as I'm up my boobs start leaking everywhere...so what do I do first? Feed her or pump? Answer? I do both at the same time. First I get up and put on my pumping bra with the breast pads inside to keep me from getting my shirt all wet. Then we go down stairs and heat up a bottle and change her. Then I get my pump parts all set up and in position in the pumping bra. Then I put the boppy pillow on my lap and lay Kaia on it. She eats, while I pump and then we chat or she naps until I'm finished. I prefer not to feed and pump at the same time as it can be kind of awkward, but I do what I have to do during the week. On the weekend it's easier as Brian can feed her if I have to pump.

Speaking of Brian, I think that is the one benefits of exclusively pumping over exclusively breastfeeding. Brian is much more involved in Kaia's care and general well-being because he can bottle feed her. He spends more time with her and is comfortable looking after her on his own. I don't know if that would be the case if she had taken to breastfeeding. I'm glad that Kaia can be looked after by her Dad in the evenings and on weekends as it gives me a break, and I hope that it is the start of a special Daddy-daughter relationship.

If anyone has any questions about exclusively pumping I'd love to try to answer them. It has been challenging to be an exclusive pumper, but I'm so grateful it is working out and Kaia's getting the best I can give her!


  1. I'm so glad things are settling into a routine for you all. Once you've been at it for a while it sort of comes as second nature. I hope we get to see some more pictures of her chubby cheeks soon!

  2. You're a machine!

    So interesting about the hind-milk- you've learned so much about breast milk in just a few months, huh? I love that your hubby can share in the workload with you and that Kaia gets daddy-daughter time too.

    It's my hope I'll be able to pump and breast feed, though this may be a pipe dream... Hope you're doing well.

  3. I think it is absolutely awesome that you are doing this for Kaia. I was an exclusive pumper with my first and didn't last very long. I still have moments of guilt over that but luckily she is a healthy, happy kid, even with the formula. Caleb is b/f but has started solids and it does make it a bit easier although now one of my boobs is constantly swollen and waiting to be devoured.
    Congrats Emily!

  4. I was an exclusive pumper, too - and charted EVERYTHING as well. Glad I'm not the only one :) I have a detailed log of how much milk came out of each side at every pumping for the entire three months of our daughter's life. It was pretty interesting, especially to know that one of my boobs regularly produced twice as much as the other. Not sure I would have believed that without seeing the evidence.

    FYI, I had a good supply (900-1000 mL/day) established by week 6, so for the sake of sanity started cutting back on the number of pumps per day. By week 8 I was settled in to just four pumps a day with no loss in production, and stayed that way.

  5. I was a terrible pumper with my first. (I had a good supply, it just wouldn't come put by artificial means.) I got next to nothing unless she was nursing on the other side at the same time and then there was so much that I could literally just collect it in a cup. I totally admire the pumpers for all the hard work they put in.

  6. Great post! Pumping is hard work and you are doing good things for Kaia by being in it for the long haul.

  7. From ones exclusive Pumping Momma to another!! You Go Girl!!!

    So many people ask why I bother, since I have never really breast fed this is life for me and I don't know any different.

    If you end up with extra milk (I end up pumping twice what my son needs) check out an organization called Human Milk for Human babies, it puts moms with extra milk in touch with moms who need it!! I have been able to donate about 500 oz of milk to others!!