Someone asked me: “Is motherhood easier the second time around?” You would think so. But for me, it was definitely harder. Baby C has proven to me that “every baby is uniquely different”.
I successfully breast-fed my firstborn, E, for 15 months. Considering that I was aiming for six months, this was a superb bonus. I loved breastfeeding E. It was our time, our quiet special time. It was easy feeding E. She had a good latch, suckled well, was gentle on me, and patient while feeding. She made my breastfeeding journey easy.
So imagine my shock and horror when I discovered that Baby C was impatient, refused to latch, bobbed off my breast, and gagged while drinking. During the first month of nursing, I cried, despaired, was completely exasperated and pretty much convinced that Baby C hated me and my breast. Having a two-year-old dangling off you while trying to breast feed your screaming baby does nothing to ease the stress level.
The lactation consultant concluded that my fast let-down was the problem, leading Baby C to gag at my breast while trying to drink. So I tried different feeding positions, even standing and rocking while trying to feed.
Finally one day, between his crying and my tearing, I looked at him and said “Enough, okay. No more crying. Mama is not going to force you anymore”.
With that, we started our exclusive pumping journey. Result! Baby C became a much happier baby, contented with the milk he was receiving through the bottle. Now, at nine months, he is a healthy baby, weighing in at 10 kg and standing 73 cm tall.
For mummies thinking of exclusive pumping, here are 10 tips I’d like to share that could hopefully will make your journey easier.
1. Get the right flange size
This makes a world of difference in terms of comfort level when you are pumping on a regular basis. It may seem like an absolute waste of money to buy different sizes at first, but you really have to try them out and figure which suits you best. I have four different flange sizes ranging from 20 mm – 30 mm for Medela, Spectra flanges, and a Pumpin’ Pal super shield. For my first child, I think using the wrong size caused blocked ducts. Now I know, as a frequent pumper, that getting the right size is crucial to sustaining this journey.
2. Buy multiple sets of pump parts
The biggest complaint most mums have about pumping is the washing. Imagine having to pump, feed, wash, sterilise, and before you know it, it is time to pump again and the whole cycle continues. Having extras may seem like a waste of money, but it does make life easier and you never know when you need spares.
Disclaimer: The hubby and our helper would help to wash the pump parts. I have heard about mums who keep used pumps in a Ziplock bag in the fridge to re-use, with no problems. I have never tried this myself though.
3. Home pump vs. Travel pump
Because of work, I find myself having to pump regularly on the go. Having a light travel pump is the key. I was introduced to the Spectra line of pumps and bought the M1 direct from Korea. It is a lightweight, compact, electrical dual pump that is rechargeable. It has travelled with me on my overseas trips and frankly, made lugging a pump around so much easier. Below is what I pack in my travel pump bag. I will be sharing more details about how to pump while travelling at my blog.
4. Sterilising tablets
Put your pump parts in a Tupperware container filled with water. Tip: Make a mark of the water level so you will not have to re-measure in future. Drop a tablet in (I use the Pigeon brand) and 30 minutes later, the pump parts are ready for use. The solution is good for 24 hours. There is a slight chemical smell, so make sure you baby is okay with it.
5. Keep to a pumping schedule
This was the key to stabilising my milk supply in the beginning. I was pumping around 7 times per 24 hours and woke up at 4 am daily to pump for about four months to maintain my milk supply. It was absolutely exhausting, but the body does produce the most milk between 10 pm and 6 am so try to schedule one pump during those hours. To keep to schedule, I would pump anywhere and everywhere. I have pumped on flights, in cabs, cars, meeting rooms, classrooms, and cafes.
6. Care for your nipples
I still remember the very first time I pumped; it was when E had jaundice and had to be hospitalised. Out came the pump and I was shocked at how “stressful” it was on the nipples. Make sure you use nipple balms, hot or cold compresses to ease the pain (if any), and check frequently for blocked ducts.
7. Hands-free Pumping
I read about it online and gave it a try. There are several ways you can go hands-free, assuming you did not buy a hands-free pump set. I tried the Pumpin’ Pal; unfortunately it did not work for me. I tried creating my own hands-free bra. It worked for a while, but I realised that for me to get maximum milk yield, it was best to massage the breast while pumping.
8. Pre-pack Pump Sets & Pump corner
Pre-pack your pump sets into Ziplock bags after sterilising. Pamper yourself and create a nice comfy pumping corner. Pumping has become “me-time” where I indulge in a bit of video watching, Facebooking, and online surfing. Other times, I work it into my daily schedule, like reading a book to E while pumping. She flips the book while I read to her.
9. Drink lots of Fluids
Water is essential. Imagine the amount of milk you are pumping out, you need to replenish. I find it easiest to fill a big bottle of water and know that I have to finish that amount every day.
10. Learn how to Hand Express
I cannot emphasise how important this is. Your pump may not work and your baby may not latch. This is the key to releasing the pain in your boobs. In my case, after a while, the breast seemed too used to the pump and let-down did not come as fast, so the whole pumping period took longer. Time, for me as a busy mum, was not on my side. So now, I pump for about 10 minutes or so, and hand express the remainder.
“Your love is not measured by what you can pump”. This is what I shared at a breast feeding conference. But ask any mum, and you’ll realise that pumping comes with its own psychological battle. When you can quantitatively measure how much you are producing, you tend to be obsessed with the numbers. If my supply drops, I go into frantic milk boosting mode, swallowing all kinds of herbs and drinking loads of water to try to increase it. When the supply goes up, I do a jiggy dance to celebrate.
At the end of the day, we must remember what we are doing this for. If it is taking time away from spending quality time with your child, I’d ask you to consider what is important. Precious moments exist only if you are able to appreciate them.
Jacqueline Chow-Voo is a host, presenter, and actress with a Masters degree (that comes to nought when tackling matters of motherhood), mum to a fiercely independent turning three-year-old girl whose cheekiness never fails to amuse and a baby boy whose powerful kicks befit his birth zodic of ‘horse’, and wife to a wonderful husband who constantly tickles her funny bone. Jacqueline is represented by Fly Entertainment.