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This post is a continuation of my previous post on how to stockpile breast milk and build a freezer stash. While my previous post focuses on the do and don’t tips, this post will focus on my actual story, lessons that I learnt along the way, and what I would do differently if I were going to do it again.
I started pumping when my baby was 3 days old. At that time, she had jaundice, and her jaundice is shooting up high. Without adequate milk intake, she would need to undergo phototherapy and be admitted to hospital again.
We didn’t want another hospital admission. So I started pumping, first, is to stimulate my milk production (it was just colostrum at that point of time, no white milk first). Second, is to establish and maintain my milk supply.
Jaundiced baby tend to be weak and sleepy, and sleep at breast a lot. That happened to my daughter. So, in order to compensate the ineffective nursing session due to sleepiness, I pumped in between feeding, and gave her the expressed milk by spoon.
Initially I only used a manual breast pump (here’s the one that I love), but soon found out that it is tiring to use manual pump to build up your supply. To empty breast, yes, great, but to pump even further, no please.
So I borrowed my sister’s Ameda dual electric breast pump and started to pump and nurse simultaneously and pumped in between feeding. While I did this every day, I didn’t have a fixed schedule though. It’s more like… whenever I have time.
As my milk started flowing and my daughter recovered from jaundice, I became lazy to pump. I stopped pumping for a while when she was one month old.
But then, she had a mega growth spurt when she was six weeks old. She started to nurse all the time again, almost every hour. And this time around, the growth spurt takes not only a few days, but more than a week.
Here I regretted something. I regretted that I stop pumping so early.
So I started pumping again. I think she was 1.5 months old back then.
Now my pumping goal is slightly different. I want to maintain my milk supply to be slightly higher than her need. And I want to start stockpiling breast milk prior to returning to work.
By the way, after one month mark, I did not use the Ameda breast pump at all, and I rely solely on my Avent manual pump. Curious to know why?
While dual breast pump is great for building up supply, I found out that with Ameda:
- I didn’t get let down easily with this pump, making longer pumping session
- The pump didn’t empty my breast thoroughly (I could get way more with my Avent pump)
- It is too slow for my preference (even at maximum speed)
But, I still want to do dual pumping because research has proven that dual pumping is more effective at removing more milk and also faster.
What to do?
I still want to use my Avent yet want dual pump? After some research, I decided that I would buy a single electric pump that I can use simultaneously with my manual pump. So, I bought Medela Swing (you can read my review here) and use both of them together ever since.
Note: Only recently I realized that why I had so much problem with Ameda because:
- I didn’t really know how to use electric breast pump properly (I always thought as long as you put the breast shield onto your breast and turn on the pump, the pump will do the job for you and we can just sit back and relax)
- I had poorly fitted breast flange
Perhaps if I were more knowledgeable about how to use electric breast pump effectively, I would love Ameda breast pump. But anyway, lesson learnt here (read more lessons as I tried to use my electric breast pump here).
Ok, let’s go back to the pumping story…
So, I told you that I started pumping again once my baby is 1.5 months old. While I don’t know exactly when I would start working again, I knew it would be some times after she turned 6 months old.
But.. It is difficult. Remember I told you that my baby was like nursing all the time. Then, when can I have time to pump?
So I began to analyse my baby nursing pattern. And I found that she nurse less and sleep more in the morning. To be specific, early in the morning is when she slept longest. And her late morning nap is longer than her afternoon naps.
So, I started to pump early in the morning, after her last morning feeding. This was done while observing her: would she be starved because I pump in this hour? It seems not. Yes, she began to nurse longer, but it is acceptable and she’s not so fussy. So, morning pumping becomes my routine (and hey, I am still doing this right now!)
Then, I tried to sneak another pumping session. I chose the time when she napped longest. Late morning. Instead of waiting for some time after her last feeding before nap, I started pumping right after I was able to put her down. Yeah, I may not get a lot of expressed milk, but I tried to trust my body and its ability to make more milk.
Then, I went to sneak another pumping session, this time is early in the evening. This is hard. Because evening is the fussiest time for my baby. I tried to pump to empty both breast thoroughly, but my baby seemed not happy about it. At the end, a lot of time I ended up giving my pumped milk at that session to her when her fussiness seems uncontrollable.
So, I tried different way. I pumped only one side of my breast so that she could still take the other side. While she’s still fussy, this time around it was more bearable. After pumping, I would sooth her and wear her in my baby wrap while nursing her at the same time.
At five months old, I stopped pumping altogether since I was in denial whether I should return to work at all. Leaving such a young baby is never easy to me. But since working full time is part of my scholarship contract, the choice is either to do now or later. And I don’t want to postpone any further.
So at 7 months mark, I started looking for job and hired a live-in babysitter. The pumping session began again. At this time point I have been accumulating about 40 bottles of frozen expressed breast milk (EBM), 100 ml each.
I started training my baby to drink EBM from bottle while utilizing my earliest-dated EBM. Whenever my baby get EBM, I would do power pumping to build and maintain my supply. Oh, I forgot to mention. I kept track of all my EBM bottles. Whenever I managed to get 100 ml of expressed milk, the milk went to freezer and labeled by date. I had a journal to record each EBM ‘earning’. And I would strike off the ones fed to my baby during bottle-training session. This is fun, and I think, becomes one of my motivation to keep going.
At this time point, my pumping schedule looked like this:
- early morning pump around 6 am
- late morning pump while baby naps around 10 am
- afternoon power pumping (around 2 pm)
- night time pumping after baby slept (around 10 pm)
After two months of job searching, finally I secured a job and my EBM stash increased to 60 bottles. And while the company prepared the necessary documentation to get me in board, I managed to pump another 20 bottles in two weeks, so in total 80 bottles of EBM, or roughly 266 ounces of milk.
I know, this number is not a lot. I’ve heard moms stockpiling up to 500 or even 1000 oz of expressed breast milk. But, as a mom who faced milk supply problem with first baby, this is such a huge achievement to me.
With this article, I would like to cheer up and encourage moms who struggle with milk supply to try out pumping as one way to increase your milk supply. If you also plan to go back for work and wondering how to start stockpiling milk, I hope this story inspire you that:
What are the lessons learnt in this story and things that I would do differently if I were doing it again
#1. Start pumping early helps to establish and maintain milk supply. I wish I started even earlier, say, the day I brought my baby home instead of waiting until day 3 when her jaundice worsened.
#2. I wished I didn’t stop pumping after 1 month old. Now that I know that typical baby goes through mega growth spurt at 6 weeks old, I would surely continue pumping until at least 2 months old (even if I don’t plan to return to work). This will make growth spurt easier to handle, well, just my opinion.
#3. I would invest in a good double electric breast pump and learn how to use it effectively (including choosing a correct size breast flange). I am currently in love with Spectra S1 breast pump (read my detailed review here).
Btw, I plan to create a few-week series on how to effectively maximise your pumping output, stay tuned.
#4. I wish I would feel more confident that my baby is gaining enough milk. Yeah yeah, I am the one telling you that you can gauge whether your baby is getting enough milk by monitoring diaper count and weight gain. But as a mom who was unable to exclusively breastfeed before, I was always haunted with fear whether any of my action would rob milk from my baby, including pumping. That wound from my previous breastfeeding experience is still there, and it surely takes time to heal.
#5. I would diligently take milk-booster supplements (or nursing tea). I did consume nursing tea (here’s what I tried) and fenugreek , but I stopped after a few months because I assumed I should get a huge boost with those supplements (which I didn’t). Along the way, I learnt that I should choose more appropriate (or should I say ‘more targeted’) milk booster food depending on what may cause your milk supply problem. That’s why it is important to learn what cause your milk supply issue and which milk-booster supplements are more suitable for your case (read detailed guide in this book).
#6. I would also incorporate rolled oats regularly in my meal (I know it works, but I, and I hate it). Now, more and more recipes are available to incorporate oat in your meal, such as this super-easy overnight oat that does not require cooking at all! Love it!
I guess, that’s about it all, guys. I’m not the most successful mother who accumulates tons and tons of expressed breast milk. But I want to encourage and cheer you up, that with discipline and hard work, it is possible to stockpile breast milk for your baby and start building your freezer stash now.
Have you had any experience on stockpiling breast milk and building a freezer stash? Please share your favorite tips here!
As always, if you have friends or relatives who would benefit reading this article, please share this with them. Nursing mothers need a lot of encouragement to keep breastfeeding going and by sharing encouraging article like this, you are helping them a lot. Thank you!