My Breast Pump and I didn’t get Along
Can I Pump my MILK? Should I? …
or Not. Even. Bother.
My Own Struggles with Pumping and Working
and doing what worked for me
Welcome to September’s Carnival of Breastfeeding!!!
I have this post AND an additional post All about Pumping including choosing a pump and how to Practice Pumping before going back. After you read this, check out the other posts on this month’s theme of “Breastfeeding and Work” linked at the bottom of this post. All links will be added as I get them hopefully by the end of the day Monday, so be sure to check back for the full list!
A little history
As far back as I can remember, the only breast pump we had around in nursing school or when I first started working on the maternity unit was this thing that looked like a bicycle horn. This picture above is for an old “Breast Reliever”. It is glass with a rubber bulb to squeeze for suction. This particular antique is from the earlier half of the 20th century. We actually had a similar type glass model in Nursing school and on my 1st OB unit in 1974. Historical use of breast pumps shows the first patent was issued in the 1800’s and a patent for a mechanical version was issued in the 1920’s. Information was scarce then. Not too many nurses knew much about it. Mother’s were instructed to use it if they got engorged. I can’t believe it would have been very helpful.
We got a newer plastic version of this pump in the 70’s but still didn’t have any clear instructions for use. I was never taught by instructors or fellow nurses, so all I could do for the patients in my care was review the instructions on the box with them! I don’t even remember what that said. Those old horn pumps were trouble. They were traumatizing to the breast and the rubber bulb was just a trap for bacteria.
I remember one mother in particular in 1975 had been readmitted with bleeding, gone to the OR for retained placental fragments at 2 weeks postpartum. She was breastfeeding and having trouble. I took care of her postop. She said “I can’t believe how much milk I have, what can I do?” I promptly went for the only pump we had and went over the directions with her. She was saying it hurt but felt better at the same time because it did help to drain some of the milk. I didn’t much know then about how the retained placenta can delay hormonal shifts and your milk coming in. She and I both thought at the time it was because of being separated from her baby!
By the time I had my first baby in 1979, (YES- 30 years ago) I had become more familiar with pumps because I had a friend pumping and now I was very personally interested. I wanted to pump just like her! I want to store milk for my baby when I went back to work. Her baby was 3 months old and she had gone back to work. She pumped in front of me once to show me how easy it was. She used a cylinder style hand pump similar to this picture. She got 8 ounces of milk in about 10 min!
It had one chamber inside the other. To pump, you would place the cone over your breast and pull the outer chamber up and down. This was a very popular style pump at the time. Easy right? I promptly went and bought one! I can do this!
My son was born weighing 6 lbs 9 1/2 oz. Breastfeeding got off to a great start, there were no problems at all. I was very confident about that and had great support from my best friend. My son weighed 7lbs 2oz at 2 weeks and nearly 10 lbs by 6 weeks.
I had plenty of milk!
None of which hit the bottom of the chamber when I first tried to pump…. no matter what I did! I knew nothing about the technique of pumping. I worked and worked at it. I could playfully squirt milk across the room. I had squirting contests with my sister. We cracked up laughing! I could not get any milk with the pump.
I had never practiced. I thought that once I was away from my baby, I would just pump… thought the milk would just come out like my friend. I went to work, let myself get a full feeling and tried. Nothing. I woke him up when I got home and made him eat! The next day… same thing.. Nothing. Luckily I only worked 2 days a week so I nursed him all the rest of the time. I kept trying- week after week– I thought I just had to get used to it. I am sure I was very stressed each time, never using any of the tricks I teach moms today. I still never thought to practice when I was home with the baby. The most I EVER got after 45 min of pumping was one ounce. I gave up and only fed formula while at work. My body adjusted and I was happy doing what I was doing.
I wrote a guest post over at Breastfeeding Moms Unite on pumping including choosing a pump for you and practicing to pump. All moms are so different and many have no trouble at all expressing their milk. Others have trouble releasing their milk to this plastic “thing” on them that doesn’t feel like their baby. It’s just not the same! In that post I say:
I have found it’s important for mothers to understand that pumping is a substitute for the real thing and that it takes practice for lots of moms. I always say to expect hardly anything the first time you try then whatever milk you may get is wonderful! One very important point to realize is that whatever you see come out with a pump or hand expression is NOT a reflection of how much a baby gets in a feeding when he is well latched and effectively feeding. What you see come out with the pump is what your body released at that moment in time. Even women with a great supply and healthy growing babies can have trouble learning to pump. The baby is the master … you are merely trying to imitate him! The type of pump used and when you pump in relation to the age of the baby as well as the time of day, frequency etc. can have a big impact on your results.
My second baby was born in 1985 . Another 6 pounder at birth with rapid weight gain, a great milk supply for me. I had some improved pumping results with him partly because of better pumps and mostly by sheer determination to help him heal through major surgery at 3 months. The Children’s Hospital had a hospital grade electric pump, a pumping room and directions on what to do. Because I was able to provide milk for him in the hospital, I had renewed faith in myself that I could pump once I went back to work.
There were different pumps, better pumps available. I tried my old pump and some piston style pump like above. I don’t remember the name of that either. I tried many…still waiting to pump again till I had eventually gone back to work. There were some battery/ AC adapter electric ones to buy. I had one, but don’t even remember the name. I had to push a button to make the suction go on and off –> otherwise there was constant suction on your breast and no control on the degree or amont of suction. Some people told me to keep the suction on till it started to flow then push that button on/off.
Well it didn’t flow, it hurt. I never released any substantial milk for any of these pumps. I wasn’t able to keep it up. I ended up doing the same as I had with my first son. I made a routine which worked for me of nursing all the time at home and formula when I was at work. We didn’t have any hospital grade mechanical pump until the 1990’s at my hospital, long after my third baby and after I became a Lactation Professional.
I had dealt with so many other issues after my third baby that pumping was never much of a thought in my head. I simply fell back into the routine that had worked for me with the first two babies. She is the baby that nursed the longest even after I went back to work!
Looking back, I think if I had access to the information I know now, and the availability of today’s high quality pumps…I might have, possibly would have had better success pumping. The most important point is that I still felt successful and was happy with my breastfeeding relationship for all my children!
After all, I could squirt my milk the farthest!!
More Carnival Posts:
- Ask an LC: What About Pumping? My Guest Post over at Breastfeeding Moms Unite
- Breastfeeding At My Family Daycare by Melodie at “Breastfeeding Moms Unite”
- A Job where Everyone Breastfeeds by “The Milk Mama”
- Sorry, Facilities Guy by “Momnesia the Book”
- Taking Your Working Boobs to Work by “Marshins”
- Working and Breastfeeding a Toddler by “Strocel.com”
- Working and Pumping by “The Marketing Mama”
- Breastfeeding and working is possible, and you can make it work by “Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog”
- Do you really need a pump? by “Chronicles of a Nursing Mom”
- I Think This Officially Makes Me a Mommy Blogger by “Vanderbilt Wife”
- What about Breastfeeding When I go Back to Work? by “babyREADY”
- Tips for Breastfeeding and Working by “Breastfeeding 1-2-3′
- Breastfeeding and Working in the UK by “Breastfeeding Mums”
- The 5 biggest mistakes working & pumping moms make by “Blacktating”
- This is a Breastfeeding Office by “MumUnplugged”
- Beating the Employment Booby Trap by “Best for Babes”
- Nursing Mothers Need Workplace Support by “My World Edenwild”
Trackbacks & Pingbacks
- Ask An LC: What About Pumping? | Breastfeeding Moms Unite
- Breastfeeding At My Family Daycare | Breastfeeding Moms Unite
- A Job Where Everyone Breastfeeds – The Milk Mama
- » Working and Breastfeeding a Toddler Strocel.com
- Taking Your Working Boobs to Work « Marshins
- Tips for Breastfeeding and Working : Breastfeeding 1-2-3 - Breastfeeding 1-2-3: A Blog for Breastfeeding Tips and Support
- What About Breastfeeding When I Go Back To Work? | babyready
Congrats on squirting milk the farthest! Thank you for sharing all this. I have been a breastfeeding mommy for over two years and still loving it. It is interesting to hear what it was like when I was a baby! You did it three times, despite the fact it was much harder than it is today. And now you are helping other mommies. You kick butt!
Thanks Johanna! I strive to my best to pass on the prize!
I Love the old breastpump photos! Very cool! You should send the 1st one to Jennifer James to post on her blog (if you can) of historical breastfeeding pictures. I bet she’d be so excited to see it! Do you know the url? I think it’s http://www.mothering.com/jenniferjames/
Thanks Mel, I will check out her site!
I have not had much luck pumping. When my first daughter was in the NICU and I was using the hospital grade pump I could only ever get half as much as they said she ‘needed’. But when I nurse at the breast the babies are fine and growing and happy. Pumping is hard for some of us, and those moms that move heaven and earth to make it work have my utmost respect.
Ditto! We have similar experiences.
I love your stories — you have such a gift and can even make something like a breast pump interesting! Please always keep writing.
Thanks Gayle! That’s a much appreciated compliment!
I do love hearing the stories of the history of pumping. I have never thought about it. It makes me wonder if formula became more prevalent in the 70s & 80s, because pumps weren’t so user friendly for women who went back to work back then. My mother didn’t breastfeed any of her kids and still doesn’t understand why I do it or how it works. Thanks for the history lesson!
Thanks Amanda, Having lived through that time, you may have a point. I think there were many who did make it work with a lot of these old pumps that were not helpful to me personally. The mindset of many moms becoming working moms was as mixed then as it is today…. some wishing to pump and others never trying. The newer technology available to moms today does offer far better options. Makes you wonder about it.
Whoo boy, does that old-fashioned pump look like a torture device or what? OUCH!
Wow, I hated my breastpump, but for another reason–I really just wanted to breastfeed my baby and not sit around with plastic flanges stuck to my boobs. I am glad that I didn’t have to work with those scary devices!
That’s one great story to tell even the new generation would appreciate the joys you had rearing your kids. Im amused by the squirting part… the younger generation are fortunate we now have good breastpumps making breast feeding a lot more convenient.
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