Saturday, May 17

Tips For Exclusively Nursing AND Pumping

Last night was a very sad night in our household.  The indoor freezer and the garage deep freeze finally ran out of storage space.  With Callie we learned the hard way when we had to throw away close to 1,000 oz of milk after it expired.  This time around we decided to donate excess milk to a milk bank that benefits premature babies; a cause very close to my heart. (Click here for more information on Milkin' Mamas)  Little did I know, the application process is quite lengthy and has taken much more time than I had expected.  Because of that we are now having to toss milk out due to lack of space.  I'm trying not to feel TOO bad about it though because it's the milk that was pumped right after Kellan's birth and it has trace amounts of pain medication in it.  Anyway, I posted  this picture to my Facebook and Instagram and had a few people ask how I built my milk supply.  Here's what worked for me (both times).  My mother was never able to breastfeed so naturally with my first I was nervous that I wouldn't be able to either.  Little did I know I would soon become a dairy cow! Kellan is just now 8 weeks old, exclusively breastfed and I've pumped around 2,000 ounces total. 

For those of you who don't know, both of my babies were born premature.  My body isn't able to hold pregnancy to term because of an irritable uterus.  Because of that, both were taken from me immediately after they were born.  It's nearly impossible to feel like a mommy when your newborn isn't around for you to hold.  I instantly asked the nurses what I could do and they all had the same answer; start pumping!  Before getting into details it is important to note two very important things;

1. My first tip for making plenty of milk is DRINK, DRINK, DRINK!!!  You need a TON of water in your body to hydrate you enough to make milk.  I'm talking way over the daily suggested amount.  I have a water bottle from the hospital that holds 28 oz and I try to drink 5-6 of these a day on top of other liquids.  When I first started to pump I would get insanely thirsty, but as your body gets used to it you stop feeling the need to gulp it down.  You have to always be aware of how much you've taken in and never go anywhere without your water... Other liquids are good, too, but  nothing will replace water! 

2. Right after water intake is definitely eating.  I thought my appetite was huge during the first few weeks of pregnancy but it is NOTHING compared to the raging hunger pains after delivery.  On many occasions I told my husband that I could eat a cow if he brought me one.  You are using up precious calories to make milk and if they aren't replaced, or you aren't eating enough, your body won't be able to produce enough milk.  Think of it as supply and demand.  I really don't "watch" what I eat... If it sounds good to me, I eat it.  With Kellan I crave a lot of protein; peanuts, peanut butter, eggs, chicken, etc... So that is what I eat.  I truly believe that your body tells you what it needs if you truly listen to it.  Sometimes my body tells me to eat copious amounts of ice cream and Oreos... I think that's just because I'm a woman though. :)

Ok, back to how I built my supply!  Because my babies weren't there for me to nurse right away the pump had to do.  I was determined not to use formula, especially because they were born prematurely and I knew breast milk would be the best thing for them.  I set alarms in my phone and followed a pumping schedule to the minute... Every 3 hours I would use a hospital grade double electric breast pump (Ameda in both cases).  Each pumping session would last at least 15 minutes.  The hardest part of the first week is forcing yourself to continue pumping even when nothing is coming out.  I will be honest with you, it's painful.  Especially if you've never done it before.  Your nipples can and probably will bleed, your toes will curl with the pain but I promise, it gets so much better... just keep on pushing through it!  At first you'll only get a couple of mL's, if that.  DO NOT throw this stuff away, it is filled with really great nutrients your baby needs.

This was my first pumping session, four hours after Kellan was born.  I was able to get about 11 mL 

About 3 days in your milk will change from thick and yellow to thinner and lighter in color.  Every day you should be able to see an increase in what you're expressing.  

One of the most difficult things is making sure you continue pumping every 3 hours, even through the night.  Again, it is supply and demand.  If your body thinks it needs to make more it probably will, as long as you stay hydrated and eat plenty of calories.  Most mommas are immediately concerned with losing weight and therefore limit what they eat.  DO NOT DO THIS!!!!  Nursing will naturally help you lose weight.  If you are hungry, eat!  Eat until you aren't hungry.  If you are hungry an hour after finishing a meal, get a healthy snack of trail mix to help amp up the calories you're getting.  Listen to your body!

Once my kiddos were able to start nursing I would let them nurse from one side for as long as they could manage.  Keep in mind, I had premies so they weren't able to stay awake for an entire feed right away.  After they finished nursing I would grab the pump and get excess milk out.  By this time the engorgement was painful if I didn't express the left over milk.  Most exclusively nursing mothers don't do this, and eventually your body realizes you don't need that much milk and production slows to only what the baby is eating during nursing sessions. 

Now that my sweet boy is two months old he is on a schedule.  I highly recommend keeping your little one on as strict of a schedule as you can both manage.  It really does help keep sanity when you're pumping AND nursing.   To cut down on time, I nurse and pump simultaneously.  While Kellan nurses from one side, I pump the other.  After about a week of pumping for 15 minutes each time, the lengths of each session went down drastically.  I am now able to pump for an average of 5 minutes resulting in an average of 5 oz per session.  The first five minutes of each nursing/pumping session is a little bit of a juggling act, but after a while you get the hang of it and are then able to enjoy the rest of your time focusing on your little one. 

 The trick is to alternate sides as you go which can get really confusing when you're running on fumes and very little sleep.  My secret is keeping track on my phone.  There is an app called KidFolio Pro that is meant to track anything from immunizations to diapers and feedings.  The thing I love about this app is that it tracks both feedings AND pumping sessions and you can time them together.  It really helps keep me sane when I can barely keep my eyes open long enough to get him latched, let alone remember what side he nursed from last.  Here's a screenshot from the app that shows you how each session alternates sides.

 I am also able to track how many ounces of milk are going into the freezer for later.  On average I am now able to store just over 200 ounces per week. 

I plan on returning to work in the fall which is when all of this will come in handy!  Bonus is, even if I stop nursing at 1 year like I did with Callie, there will still be breast milk for Kellan to have in his cereal/food and bottles. 

I realize this is a lot of information but really it is simple!

  • Drink TONS of water
  • Eat what your body is craving
  • Pump every 3 hours (both sides )for 15- 20 minutes for the first few days after delivery
  • Once milk is established; nurse from one side while pumping the other, alternating sides at each session
 At two months we now have over 2,000 ounces stored for the future and I'm also able to donate excess milk to premature babies!  
Here is a picture of Kellan at 1 month and 2 months... As you can see, he is not hurting at all with this system.  He gained more than 3 lbs and 2 inches in just one month!  Thank you Lord!!
I really hope this post is able to help some of you with building your milk supply.  It can be so difficult to keep up at times, but once you get the hang of it, it's really not that bad.  The end result is SO worth all of the time/effort it takes to upkeep.  Feel free to email me with any questions/concerns/comments you may have!  I am by no means an expert, but hopefully this is helpful to you!  Thanks for taking the time to read this overly lengthy post and good luck!! 

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Kristin said...

Thanks for these tips! I'm pregnant with my second daughter and I'm going to do everything I can this time to breastfeed longer. I only was able to go til 5 months with my first and even then we had to supplement. I don't think I was drinking nearly enough water just because I was so exhausted. And eating cookies for breakfast I'm sure didn't help either. Congrats on your baby boy!

Nicki Morgan said...

Kristin, congratulations on your second! Girls are just so much fun, I can't imagine getting to have TWO! Best of luck to you in your breast feeding endeavors. Staying hydrated WILL help, a lot! Cookies for breakfast is always a good thing... just also add some good proteins too! :)

Anonymous said...

This is such a helpful post! I am having my second, and while I was able to exclusively nurse my first, I was unable to produce with a pump. I think you're right, water is a huge factor! I also love the pump on one side, nurse on the other. Such a time saver. Thank you!

Casi said...

Thank you for this I am exclusively breast feeding my now 3 week old boy (third child). And was trying to figure out how to build a stash and continue nursing! Will definitely try pumping one side and nursing on the other! Thank you again for this post!!

Unknown said...

I only wish i had found this article sooner. My son is 3 months now and i do breast feed him from time to time but have to top it up with formula. Not sure if its too late but I will try giving it a try.

Anonymous said...

I find it difficult to pump AND breastfeed at the same time. How did you work that out?

Anonymous said...

This system is what worked for me, my son was born at the end of May. We have about 1500 ounces in the freezer and since returning to work full time I'm able to pump 3 times a day and still make plenty to send with him to daycare. The best way I found to working it out is feed on the one side, and once the feeding is done then I do my pumping, because I'm not a very good multitasker when it comes to trying to do both at the same time, it just never worked for me.

LaToya Howard said...

Thank you so much for these tips. I'm going to start today. My little girl is a month and I only breastfeed and want to keep it that way as I'm not a big fan of formula. I hope to produce enough in two weeks so that I can send it along with her to nursery. Good bless you & your little ones ♡ ^_^

LaToya Howard said...

Thank you so much for these tips. I'm going to start today. My little girl is a month and I only breastfeed and want to keep it that way as I'm not a big fan of formula. I hope to produce enough in two weeks so that I can send it along with her to nursery. Good bless you & your little ones ♡ ^_^

Sandrine said...

Thank you for the info.
Question: how did you manage to use the frozen milk after going back to work and when did you use it (for each feeding?) and for how long?
Thank you for answering :)

Anonymous said...

Will this work to help boost supply if you have already been nursing for some time?

Seanie said...

I'm currently nursing my 10 month old. It's been a tough road. Recently when I pump while he's nursing I only get 2 to 3ounces. He plays a lot but I'm busy and hardly have time to pump anymore. I'm lucky if I get one session in a day. I'm really trying to increase my supply for the home stretch. Will this help my current supply issues? I used to be able to pump 9 ounces in a session. Idk what happened. I see other moms who get tons of milk and I feel so sad and intimidated.... help

CarissaMillard said...

I wish we could be friends! I don't know why but I cried reading some of this. (hormones from breastfeeding) LOL Anyways you are awesome and this helped me a ton. I am currently going on 8 months strong of breast feeding my second baby and I plan on much longer. I am a full time working mommy so pumping is necessary. It is so stressful sometimes but even more rewarding. Thank you for this cute article and for all the great info! I sure do love breastfeeding me sweet baby Myla<3