Storing Milk

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There appear to be mixed messages about this but I tend to go by the advice found here:

http://www.breastpumps.co.uk/acatalog/storage___expression.html

I keep milk in the fridge for perhaps, at the maximum, two days and frozen milk stays in the freezer for up to three months.  To defrost, I generally leave it in the fridge overnight. 

When I was pumping during the night, I invested in a cool bag and a couple of those freezable ice things  so I didn’t have to even get out of bed.  I know that would probably have the Health Visitor running screaming but, it worked for us - no tummy upsets for Babybum and no nocturnal fridge visits for me.

If I’m going out for the day, I generally take a supply of milk in the cool bag and that has worked just fine.  I’m not sure what I’d do f the weather was extremely hot but, I suppose you’re always pumping a fresh lot so you’d have to pump then feed.

I did read somewhere on the Interweb that fridging your milk makes it slightly less full of all those benefits.  I have never taken too much notice of that, though  I do make sure my daughter has one lot fresh from the pump every day.

Tints and Hips

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OK, so here are a few things to help exclusive expressing work.  I can’t verify the efficacy of all of them but some are tried and tested.

  1. During a pump, when the milk seems to dwindle (in my case after about 10 minutes), don’t stop - squeeze the breast slightly, not hard enough to induce pain, but enough to squeeze out a few drops.  Very often I find this is enough to stimulate a second letdown and sometimes even a third. 
  2. Gentle massage can help with initial let down and some people suggest using one of those microwave heat pads prior to pumping.
  3. Apparently, looking at your baby or, if not possible, looking at a photo of your baby can also help with let down.
  4. Buy a car adapter - one that runs from the cigarette lighter.  Pumping becomes less of a bind when you can go out for longer periods of time than 4 hours.
  5. Remember that your pump will run on batteries too - you don’t always need the mains adapter.
  6. Relax (if possible) - this really does help to establish productive letdown.
  7. Sitting forwards is the best position - let gravity help you!

 

My Faithful Pump

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In hospital, in the early days, I was given a hospital grade Ameda double pump to use.  The only decent midwife I encountered in there advised me to get the Ameda Lactaline Personal - a personal version of the one I had been using.  I have found this to be fine for me but, then again, I have nothing to compare it with.  

You can buy them from www.expressyourselfmums.co.uk or from www.richardcassidy.co.uk

I have encountered a few problems with this kit.  The horns have weakened and cracked, once after dropping on to a slate floor and once just through constant use, I assume.  Also, the little white valves have split on a few occasions - I just couldn’t work out why the suction was less strong and then found tiny hairline splits in these valves.  

I would suggest that anyone joining us full time pumpers buys two sets of horns, valves, bottles etc.  If something breaks, you won’t then be reduced to using a single pump and also, you can reduce the amount of sterilising you have to do - bonus!

How much?

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The way I handled the how much question was to demand feed so I don’t actually know for sure how much Babybum took over a day (she probably averaged 100mls per feed for the first 3 months but was feeding pretty frequently and erratically).  In the beginning it took me a while to get a bottle ahead of her and it was mighty stressful but we got there and now I’m nearly always three feeds ahead.

When bf, you have no idea how much your baby is getting so I try not to get hung up on the numbers just because the milk’s in a numbered bottle.  If Babybum finished a bottle, I always offered her another just to make sure she’d had enough.  The worst days were growth spurt days and I did have to defrost my tiny supply of frozen milk to make sure she had enough :(  I would advise anyone not to take any notice of how much is recommended for formula fed babies - it always seemed like loads to me.

I’ve learnt that as the baby gets older, the amount of milk they take tends to plateau but, at nearly six months, on two solid feeds a day, my little girl is still taking between 500-600 mls a day.  Apart from the odd hungry day, the amount she takes has remained about the same from about 3 months I think.

Support, Ha!

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This is what the NHS web site has to say about expressing milk:

http://www.breastfeeding.nhs.uk/en/fe/page.asp?n1=3&n2=9

I’m sure you’ll agree with me that this is utterly useless when compared with the massive amount of information available about breastfeeding. 

Believe me, I was not supported when in hospital after my daughter was born.   She was doped up on pethedine which had been administered far too late (I was 8 cm dilated), she was jaundiced and therefore sleepy, she was tongue-tied (this was not picked up until she was three days old) and she was force-fed vast quantities of formula against my wishes.  This and my flat (ish) nipples meant that breastfeeding was no easy task and Babybum would get furious waiting for it to happen. Result?  One screaming, hungry and angry baby and one distraught, tired and crying mother.  The midwives were too busy and couldn’t give us the time we so badly needed.  At the same time, they wouldn’t discharge us until she was feeding.  The pump became my way out of the hell that was the post-natal ward of hospital. 

When we got home from hospital, my own midwife was great… for a couple of visits but, she too had a massive workload and just couldn’t give us the time we needed.  Perhaps it was already too late for us.  

I tried and tried and tried but we never managed to work it out for ourselves.  I even went to a breastfeeding support group in the local birth centre when Babybum was 6 weeks old and there the lovely midwife got her to feed for ten minutes (Oh! the joy I felt!).  However, I was dismissed because it was considered we were too far down the line to properly establish breastfeeding. 

If I had to do it again I would shout so much louder than I did at the time… You live and learn.

The best support I’ve found is that on the Internet - forums, especially.  The search term that turns up the most info is ‘exclusive expression’ or ‘exclusively expressing’.  For me it was an almost overwhelming feeling to find that other people did this and that I was not the only one.

Pumping in Your Dreams

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‘Twas the night before Christmas

When all through the house

Not a creature was stirring

Not even a mouse…

except for a new mother and a whirring, bleepy sound accompanied by a steady ‘drip drip’. 

The night-time pump is a onerous task, there’s no denying it.  My daughter was sleeping through the night from when she was three or four weeks old (what a star!) so for me, night time pumps were particularly silly and a little bit lonely.  However, it seems that this session is one of the most important. Here’s what is written on this site:

http://www.breastfeedingmums.com/Help_Me_Breastfeed-17.htm

Prolactin (the milk producing hormone) levels reach a peak in the early hours of the morning. So it is not a good idea to give expressed milk at night. The reason for this is that breastmilk is made on supply and demand and night feeds are an important way of increasing your milk supply.

I have been told that the pumps aren’t as efficient at stimulating supply as a baby’s sucking therefore, though a breastfeeding mother whose baby sleeps through doesn’t have to get up to express, exclusive expressers should.  To be honest, I’m not sure that anyone knows this for certain (information is so scant) but I certainly didn’t want to test the theory and risk dwindling my supply.

I’ve now dropped the night session but I did keep it up for 5 months.  I stopped because, on a few occasions, I found I had switched off my alarm in my sleep.  On other occasions, I found myself nodding off at the pumps, sat upright with my head drooping lower and lower.  It was definitely time to give it up.

I didn’t find that my supply dropped too much - perhaps 30-40 mls over all.  This might be because I carried on night-pumping for long enough that my milk supply was well established. Who knows?  

 

Frequency of Pumping

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In the first week, I was told by a midwife to pump every four hours night and day in order to establish and maintain supply. However, according to women writing here: http://messageboards.ivillage.com/iv-ppexcluspump, the advice from lactation consultants in the States is to pump at least every 3 hours for the first 12 weeks - this gives your milk supply the chance to settle.  My supply is verging on the low side (about 30 fl oz per day) so perhaps this would have helped me… You can always freeze if you produce too much and, if you don’t produce enough, then don’t feel guilty about supplementing with formula (plus there are ways to boost your supply).

In summary then, oh no!  That’s the extent of it - every two  to three hours for the first 12 weeks at least.  It’s a nightmare really but, feel noble and remember why you’re doing it.  When you’ve been doing it for a couple of months, it just becomes ’something you do’ and there are ways to make yourself feel better - forums and chocolate being the two I find most helpful.

These days, six months in, I’m still pumping approximately every 4 hours.  I do now skip the night-time session and am still producing about the same amount of milk.  I can’t really find any advice on when to drop pumps.  I believe it’s dependent on your supply. If you have loads of the stuff then obviously you can afford to drop a pump or two but, if you’re like me and supply is on the scant side, then dropping a pump might not be such a good idea.  Up to you…

 

Oats

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Oats are just good for you, lactating or not.  Here’s a recipe a woman posted on http://www.babycentre.co.uk/baby/breastfeeding/beginners/.  It’s for milk-making cookies:

Mummy’s Magic Milk Making Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup butter or margarine

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

4 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons flaxseed meal*

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3 cups oats

1 cup (or more) chocolate chips

2 tablespoons of brewers yeast*

*be generous

Instructions: Preheat oven at 180 degrees C. Mix together flaxseed meal and water and set aside for 3 – 5 mins. Cream (beat well) margarine and sugar Add eggs one at a time, mix well. Stir flaxseed mixture and add with vanilla to the margarine/sugar mix. Beat until blended. Sift together dry ingredients except for oats and choc chips. Add to margarine mix. Stir in oats, then choc chips. Scoop or drop onto baking sheet. (alternatively, scoop mixture onto baking paper and roll into a log – freeze, and simply slice when ready to bake) Makes approx 5-6 dozen cookies. Bake 8-12 minutes depending on size of cookies. (May take up to 20 mins if baked from frozen mixture)

Thank you kind lady from http://www. babycentre.co.uk

I haven’t tried these yet but I intend to soon.  I’ll let you know…

Spilled Milk

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Oh! How I cried the day of the first spillage.  It was winter and I’d gone out to Tavistock for the afternoon with Babybum and my parents and had carried along enough milk for my small, voracious child.  We were on our way home (a 25 minute journey) when DD decided her stomach thought her throat had been cut, so terrible was her hunger.  In those early weeks, if she didn’t get her milk immediately, the world would end so I pulled over the car so Mum could sit in the back and give her her bottle as we travelled in the dark.  All seemed to be going well and I could hear the right contented, slurpy sounds coming from the back seat.  However, after about two minutes, my mum said the bottle was empty and asked if I had some more. Now I knew that that bottle contained at least 140 mls which was more than enough for the hungry one.  I stopped the car to see what had happened and to my utter horror I found Babybum’s clothes completely drenched and a completely empty bottle.  The teat hadn’t been screwed on properly.  My poor mother was devastated and my reaction was not exactly calm.  

Since that first spillage, many more drops have fallen by the wayside and, although initially I still feel the horror as the white elixir of baby health pools on the floor, nowadays I just take a deep breath and get on with the next pumping session.

Bad Pump Days

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Oh yes, these happen.  I’d say at least once a week I hate my pump.  I hate sterilising.  I hate the four hourly sit down.  I hate the smell of milk.  I hate having to strip off.  I hate the whole bloody affair.

On these days, I’ll generally cry a lot, go beyond the four hours, feel guilty, eat lots of chocolate, shout at someone, go icy on someone (poor someone - he knows who I mean) and generally feel extremely sorry for myself.

Then I pump, go to bed, wake up the next morning, see Babybum smile and hear her coo and lo, the world is a good and happy place again (apart from the war-torn parts, of course).

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