First off, I wanted to explain why Raegan can't breastfeed, not because I have to justify why we aren't breastfeeding, but to help you understand what she deals with each day to eat. She has a U shape hole in the back of her mouth. If you put your tongue on the roof of your mouth (hard palate) and move it back until it gets soft, you'll feel where Raegan's hole is. It is a blessing that it's just in her soft palate because that is muscle and not bone. The surgery to repair it will be much easier.
Since she has this hole she cannot get good suction. Imagine trying to drink out of a straw with a hole in it. That's how it is for her. She can get some milk, but not enough to sustain her. So she learned to eat from a special bottle and hasn't looked back since. She is very efficient and has even strengthened her suck. She can take a bottle down in 3 minutes if she's really hungry!
So while we were in the NICU I began pumping round the clock. Every time she ate, I pumped. At the beginning it was just colostrum, but soon after turned to yellow milk, then that beautiful white milk. And when it came in, it came IN! I was producing so much! And this brings me to my first tip.
1. Always pump after baby eats.
If you choose not to and go longer between pumps, you're not giving your body the right message and it may start producing less since you aren't pumping when baby would be eating from your breast if you were breastfeeding. I've done it and had to work hard to get my supply back up.
Next, well really this should be first, but it didn't flow with my post ;)
2. You need a good quality pump.
I have the Medela Pump in Style Advanced and when we were in the NICU I used the Medela Symphony which was amazing, but costs a pretty penny! If you ever have to rent a pump, go with the Symphony. It is big, but it's amazing!
I have the medela hands free pumping bra and it has changed my life! For the first few days I had to hold the pumps to me and I couldn't do anything while I pumped, but now I can eat, write blog posts, entertain the baby if she's cranky, and so much more! Doesn't this mom look like she's having a blast?
My designated pumping area is at our kitchen island. I have my pump, my pumping bra, my towel (things can get messy), my Lanolin cream, and my itzbeen timer to time my pump. And during the winter, my space heater, because who wants to have to strip down to pump in the middle of the freezing night?!
Let me explain. At the beginning, I was pumping 8 times a day which meant I was washing pump parts and bottles 8 times a day. After I pumped, esspecially at night, I just wanted to be done! Here's the solution. Pump, pour the milk into a new bottle, and put it all in the fridge. The fridge keeps any of the milk in the pump parts and pumping bottles cold so it won't sour. At the end of the day is when I will wash the pieces and then it'll be ready for me for the next day, ehh early morning.
Labeling your milk is important and using labels or masking tape with the time written on is messy and a pain to pull off. So use a dry erase marker. My only other piece of advice is to wipe it off before you warm the milk. For some reason the steam makes the ink not come off the bottle as easily. It made labeling so much easier!
One of the downsides of pumping is it's hard to leave the house because I'm on a 3-4 hour pumping schedule and if I'm out when I need to pump, I go longer between pumps, which affects my milk supply, and it can snowball from there. So I got a Medela car adapter and it's been amazing! I can't tell you how many times I have pumped in the car, and yes, I have pumped while driving when I had to be somewhere, but I had to pump. Guilty as charged! Wonder how that conversation would go if I got pulled over?
All of our family lives near us so we spend a lot of the weekend at someone's house, so I have to lug all of my pumping supplies with me. Having a nice big bag with plenty of space is a necessity. I use the Vera Bradley "Get Carried Away" Tote. It's very roomy with lots of pockets to put all my bottles and parts in. AND some of the colors are on sale for $42, regularly $92, you're welcome!
I love the Vera Bradley 3-1-1 bag. It's the perfect size and whenever I pump while I'm out, I just clean the parts either in the sink or with the Medela wipes if I don't have a sink, and put them back in the bag ready for the next pump.
Just like a nursing mom, you want to cover up the goods. So I have an adorable pumping cover from Etsy. You can find them everywhere! It was purchased for nursing, but works just as good for pumping!
I hope this list helps you if you've chosen to be an EP mom! Any other tips that have been great for you?