pump it up: our feeding experiences thus far

May 24, 2012

this post was written in advance for blogher/huggies, but is mostly still true! i’m getting a bit more than i mentioned in this post — 3 oz this AM — but still not tons. just wanted to clarify the timing since annabel is now 7 weeks old!

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as i write this, annabel is 24 days old. clearly i am NO pro at this yet, but i thought i would share our experiences with feeding/pumping thus far. i am open to any tips / tricks / suggestions and would love to hear how it’s going for you — and if you have any tips for a breastfeeding mom headed back to work in a couple of months month!

starting at the breast
honestly, i had heard so many different takes on breastfeeding [it hurts / it’s very hard / it’s easy / it’s natural / i love it / i hate it!] that i had no idea WHAT to expect at the earliest stages. in the end, my final take on the initial stages was that yes, it hurt, but not nearly as much as i thought it might. i did get some blisters and cracking, but hydrogel pads were incredibly soothing and helped heal me up within a week or so. i do enjoy just feeling close to my baby and knowing that she is getting exactly what she needs from me.

it does feel natural. and nice. and at this point, it doesn’t hurt at all. it’s also convenient — i don’t have to mess with bottles in the middle of the night, and i don’t have to worry about keeping things fresh. if i were a stay-at-home mom, i would go so far as to say it’s actually the easiest solution. it’s certainly not the only solution, and i fully respect women who have reasons not to breastfeed. but for me, it certainly feels like the right choice.

the plot thickens
but . . . i WILL be going back to work — at the end of june. i’d like to have a good enough freezer stash by that point that i don’t have to stress about not having enough milk to send with her to day care [although obviously i’ll also be pumping throughout the day at work]. i also will be attending an overnight conference in houston right at the end of that time frame and would like to leave annabel for that weekend with an ample supply.

we’ve been lucky that she had absolutely no issues taking the bottle. [in fact, as i mentioned before, it hurt my feelings a little! but i’ll get over it.] we introduced her first one at 3 weeks exactly — dad gave her about 2.5 oz of pumped milk. she hasn’t had any issues going back to the breast after that either; right now our routine is one pumped bottle per day, given around bedtime, but she takes the rest of her feedings at the breast without protest.

it seems that she just likes to eat — and doesn’t really care where it comes from!

the challenge
i think the major challenge for me will be the classic supply issue. annabel’s weight gain has been fantastic so far, so i know she’s been able to get what she needs from the breast. but will i be able to surpass her needs and build up enough stock? that is something i wonder about.

currently, i’ve been pumping ~3x/day — and i get anywhere from 0.5 oz [depressing!] to 1.5 oz per shot. i get 2.5 oz only when i pump when she’s not eating [i.e., when she’s getting her pumped bottle]. it’s still very early in the game, but i really haven’t been able to build up any considerable stock yet. and of course, i read about moms pumping 4, 5, 10 [!!?] oz between feedings and it makes me paranoid that we’re going to have issues.

obviously, it’s still early and there’s plenty more i can do at this point! i probably need to ramp it up to pumping after most of her feeds, if not all. maybe my timing also needs work. i’ve been pumping right after she eats so i don’t ‘steal’ from her next feed, but maybe i should be waiting a little longer?

other strategies to potentially employ:

fenugreek. this herbal supplement is known for increasing milk supply. it also makes you smell like maple syrup, apparently. but i suppose there are worse things to smell like . . .

increased hydration. i’ve been pretty good about downing a glass of water every time i feed or pump, but maybe i’m still falling short. i could work on doubling this.

reglan (metoclopramide). hopefully i won’t need to go the pharmacologic route, but at least the option is out there if i get desperate
and finally,

formula. i really, REALLY don’t want to go this route, but if in the end i have to supplement, i will try as hard as i can to not beat myself up about it.

pumping veterans
as always, i’d love your thoughts and to read about your experiences! if you have words of wisdom, please share.

Find more posts from bloggers sharing their experiences of motherhood on the Huggies page on BlogHer.com.


  • Reply Christi March 10, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    Building up a supply is tough! When I went back to work, I tumbled into daycare with a bunch of freezer bags with only 1-2oz each in them. The good news was that once I got through the first couple of days, it seemed I could pump enough each day to keep my babies supplied for the next day. So hopefully your .5 – 1.5 oz pumpings will start of your stock just perfectly and you’ll stay on top of it from there. Good luck!

  • Reply Alison March 10, 2019 at 7:18 pm

    Fenugreek worked wonders for me…and be careful with hydration, my doctor said OVER hydration can actually decrease supply (which I can not figure out for the life of me..) She said to only drink when thirsty and not to force fluids just in the name of supply building. (who knew) I was worried about my supply the entire time I was home with my daughter (now 10 weeks) and the week before I went back to work she started sleeping 12 hours a night…and, while it wasn’t a ton of fun to pump while she slept, it did get me ahead of her and since then we have had a pretty big surplus. Main point is, everything will likely fall into place just exactly when it needs to! 🙂 Don’t stress!

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:19 pm

      wow, 12 hrs/night — i am impressed! we are NOT headed in that direction just yet but it would be a wonderful surprise!

  • Reply katie March 10, 2019 at 7:18 pm

    Oatmeal for breakfast and more water than I have ever drunk before! I made it to a year of pumping at work with focused hydration, some fenugreek, oatmeal, and pumping 2-3 times a work, once after the first a.m. feeding and once right before I went to bed. Good luck!

  • Reply Ana March 10, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    Great advice above (though I’m stunned by the comment about overhydration reducing supply—I definitely experience the opposite) but also remember that while breastfeeding is natural, and most women do produce enough for their babies to be exclusively breastfed while physically breastfeeding, pumping is a whole different (and less effective) stimulus for your body—everyone reacts differently to the pump stimulation, so try try try not to be discouraged or compare to other women’s pumping output. I am still trying to internalize this 7 months in with baby #2, its hard not to feel emotional about it, but its simple mechanics/hormone feedback loops/etc…

  • Reply Bree March 10, 2019 at 7:18 pm

    I’m almost exclusively pumping for my twins. (they were early and had latching issues) The key for me is creating demand, so I pump a lot, and nurse when I can manage. I started taking More Milk Plus two weeks ago and think its helped. Pumping when I go back to work will be near impossible, so I hope to still give them some breast milk in the mornings and evenings.

  • Reply Emily March 10, 2019 at 7:18 pm

    For me: Oatmeal, ground flax, lots of water, and a lot of extra pumping. Also, if you can get her to nurse mostly on one side after her longest stretch of sleep (hopefully first thing in the morning), you can then pump from the other side. Your body will get use to the pump and produce more for it. Some people say to look at videos, smell one of her blankets, etc but I do best when I am totally distracted while pumping and don’t think about it or the baby (reason number 5067 why the iPhone is my favorite thing). Another idea is to pump 10 min on/10 min off for about 3 or 4x—hopefully while she gets a bottle or is w someone else. I am reaching the end of my pumping journey as of July 1 with enough milk in the freezer to go until at least September when my baby turns 1. A large part of it is luck, but I also worked really hard at it. Sometimes it felt like my life was ruled by nursing but I think it has been worth the effort. It sounds like you are totally on top of it and should be fine for what you want to do.

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:42 pm

      thank you emily! i didn’t know that about flax!

  • Reply erica March 10, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    I just started back at work this week (baby was 8 wks old) and I was having similar pumping issues before, getting very little (though always more in the morning). A week before I started back, i began taking more fenugreek and another herb called malungay (sold as Go-lacta) . My first day at work, I pumped 3, 3.5, and 3.5 oz. The next day, I got 4 oz at each session! Remember that right now you are pumping extra on place of what you are already giving through nursing and whem yoi replace a nursing session with a pumping session you will get more. And we make more milk during the day than evenings! Oatmeal hwlps and I started brining instant oatmeal to the labfor my morning snack.

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:42 pm

      very encouraging to hear — thank you!! luckily i’ll be in the lab too so 3x/day pumping is doable!

  • Reply erica March 10, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    Oh and like a previous poster said, I still always pump after the first am feed because there is ways extra and its a good backup in case you can’t get as much as you need.

  • Reply Murq March 10, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    I am fairly new to your blog (love it!) and was wondering if you posted what type of pump you are using?? I’m currently in medical school, and will only get 6 weeks before returning, so I def am on the look out for pumps when the time comes… but there are so many! This is actually probably my primary fear, not providing enough for the baby as a result of limited maternity leave (i.e. pushing rotations around and hoping she doesn’t come early!). Any advice? Its great to hear from someone in a similar field albeit further along!

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:42 pm

      i also have a medela pump in style advance!

  • Reply Sharon March 10, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    Is annabel sleeping through the night yet? I remember when Iris first started sleeping from 10pm-6am without a feeding my breasts would get so engorged by morning because they thought that Iris would need it in the middle of the night. So what I would do is pump and feed first thing when Iris woke up in the AM (Iris on one side, and pump on the other-at the same time!) , because I don’t know if you noticed, the other breast leaks while feeding. Iris seemed happy with one engorged breast, and I got maybe 4oz from the other breast, and I would continue waking up engorged because my body kept thinking iris was taking both breasts in the AM. It was uncomfortable, but it was better than waking up in the middle of the night to pump.

    I also pumped one last time before bed, an hour or two after Iris would go to sleep so I knew that I wasn’t taking away from her needs. I think I only got maybe 4 oz total from both breasts.

    I don’t think I ever pumped enough in-between feedings (maybe 0.5-1 oz from each breast), so I just never bothered.

    I remember drinking a LOT of water and eating well. I didn’t take any supplements or meds. Once I went to work, I was pumping 6-8 oz total (3-4 from each breast) during my pump breaks…which was only twice in a 12-hour shift. I would pump before I left work, and then pump the moment I got home as well. It was sooooo time-consuming and exhausting! And then you have to wash all the parts! I can’t believe I got to my 6-month goal, but I made it. A lot of my nurse co-workers were amazed that I even bothered pumping at work because it was always so busy, but Iris always came first and I made sure I made the time to pump no matter how crazy work got. (It helped to have some sympathetic co-workers to cover me while i took my breaks)

    Your milk supply will grow as Annabel grows, and remember she is the one dictating how much comes out of your breasts (the more nipple sucking, the more milk is produced…natures way of providing for growing child), so don’t be alarmed if you don’t think you’re making enough now…it will get better. just don’t supplement with formula because then you are not giving your body enough nipple stimulation to create more milk.

    good luck!

  • Reply Lisa March 10, 2019 at 7:18 pm

    Best of luck!!! I have pretty much stopped pumping as Miss C has no interest in the bottle 🙁 While I am lucky that I can work from home – it means I can never leave her for longer than 2 hours!

    but when i was pumping, I would only get similar amounts to what you have been getting…. knowing that some people get over 5oz astounds me lol

  • Reply Brittnie March 10, 2019 at 7:18 pm

    Love reading these comments. So helpful to read others experiences. I am new to the nursing/pumping thing too. My girl is three weeks old. My lactation consultant told me to pump after each feeding. My baby typically eats her entire feed on one breast so then after she’s done I just pump on the other breast (not both). I do give her one bottle per day now and during that feed I will pump on both sides. This is such a tricky thing to figure out!! Thanks for posting this topic.

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:19 pm

      wish i could give her one side but she has never been satisfied after one! ahh well. sounds like things are going well for you!!

  • Reply Dana Tunnell March 10, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    Hi Sarah! Its Dana from med school. I posted back when you first announced your pregnancy since I was two weeks ahead of you in mine! Well Aiden is now 10 weeks old and I’ve been back at work for a month. I am an exclusive pumper so I have some experience with pumping while working full-time. I exclusively pumped for a full year with my other two and I plan on doing it with this one too. I too nursed for the first three weeks before giving Aiden a bottle. I didn’t really pump during that time because it WAS hard to figure out when to pump. I was afraid he’d want to nurse right after I pumped and pumping distorts things and makes it difficult for babies to latch on. But I only had 5.5 weeks of leave so at 3 weeks I had to start somewhere. It was also difficult for me emotionally to nurse bc I felt constantly attached to Aiden and couldn’t spend as much time with my other too. I don’t remember how it happened but I think it just started steamrolling where I replaced one nursing session with a pumping session, and then another , and then another and before I knew it I was back into exclusively pumping mode. It didn’t help that Aiden didn’t like nursing once he got the bottle, he was frustrated with me that the milk wasn’t coming fast enough, so I didn’t really have the motivation to continue nursing.
    The pumping definitely takes dedication and I started off with maybe 3 oz per session but currently my days go like this (and Aiden sleeps from about 10-7 most days now): wake up at 5AM and get 10 oz (its been 10 hours at this point), then pump at 9AM, 1AM, 5PM and 9-10PM and get 6-7 oz per session. There is some variation on the weekend but I try to keep my pumping sessions during the day to around every 4-5 hours. I pump for 15-20 min and I DO pump in the car WHILE driving. Its not the safest way to drive but this way I don:t have to worry about it once I get home from work and have the other two to take care of. With this baby, I finally have the luxury of having my own office and pumping while I work, which is easy for a pathologist since I’m just looking into a microscope all day. So I have to admit that sometimes my pumping sessions at work may get a little drawn out bc I get lost in the work. I don’t take any supplements at the moment. I bought Fenugreek and have it available if I need it but I had read that it can make the babies gassy so I really didn’t want to take it. I am not the best at keeping myself hydrated and I tend to be an anxious person so I have a few things against me that could affect my supply but so far I have been able to give him what he needs and we currently have somewhere like 12 bags of milk in the fridge at any one time, each with at least 5-6 oz of milk. He drinks about 4-5 oz at a time so I am ahead of him right now but eventually he’ll be taking more and who knows if I’ll still be able to meet his needs.
    I did take a medicine called domperidone with my other two…it is a GI motility agent that has the side effect of increasing lactation. My sister is a pharmacist with 6 kids and she recommended it. But I am trying to not have to take something this time around. Alex, my oldest, was 5.5 weeks early so I didn’t have the benefit of nursing him from the beginning. Then with Sadie, she was full term but I was worried about supply issues and took it for her as well. My OB is willing to prescribe it for me if I want but I haven’t asked for it yet and hope to not to.
    So that’s my experience, I have an average supply, no oversupply issues here, but I know that it can be done while working full-time. Also, with my other two, there were a few times when they would need a formula bottle but that was when they were older and I could probably count those times on two hands. So I always have formula around just in case. If you have any questions you can always email me at tunnelldc@gmail.com!

  • Reply Emily March 10, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    Oh, and look at this: http://newborns.stanford.edu/Breastfeeding/MaxPro
    It has some helpful techniques for maximizing milk output.

  • Reply Casey W. March 10, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    One of the most salient pieces of advice I have gotten is "don’t stress about it" this of course is the hardest to follow! I will say that I was in your situation almost exactly – pumping what seemed like not enough even though i tried at least once each day to work on building my supply through pumping before returning to work – 6 months ago. My son is now almost 8 months old and I am able to freeze 2-4 EXTRA bottles EACH week from pumping. As Anabelle gets bigger, she will need more milk at each feeding and your body will compensate because she is much better at getting it than your pump will ever be. As long as you are persistent with your pumping (which I am sure you will be!) you will be fine!
    A few things that I found helpful
    – because supply is better in the morning, i feed from one side and SIMULTANEOUSLY pump from the other. Even if she needs to go to both breasts, she will get what she needs out of the pumped breast even if you have pumped already. This is challenging to finagle, but you get more milk because your pumped breast goes through the same let down as the one she is suckling from. I do a modified football hold – sit crosslegged with the middle of the boppy under my right knee. One side of the bobby goes between my legs and his head rests on that and the other side lays perfectly for his feet on the other side of my leg. She may be small for her feet to fit that far but i promise this works!
    – I also pump after he goes to bed, which will be easier once she is sleeping more.
    – If you continue to have concerns about your supply, oatmeal, and hydration are both good, also making sure you are eating enough. This one can be hard but i definitely see a correlation.
    – if you want to try herbs, consider looking into what your supply problems are. My biggest problem is that my let downs are few and far between. I have plenty of milk but when pumping i can see that i will have an initial let down, then stop, then another let down after about 5 minutes or so, and so on. Some herbs, like fennugreek, help your supply, and others, like Blessed Thistle, help initiate let down. Also be cautious because most herbs that help with breastfeeding also can affect your digestive system.
    – you’re still in the prime time for your body deciding how much milk to make, so keep pumping as often as you can – try to find at least one time per day that you can consistently add in a session. Your body will catch up to what you are asking it for!
    It can be frustrating not having as great a supply as other moms you hear about – I still only produce 5 ounces or so in my BEST sessions and Ben drinks 7 ounces per bottle.
    You are doing awesome! It’s not easy, especially once you return to work, but it’s worth EVERY SECOND!

  • Reply Jamie March 10, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    Don’t sweat, there is nothing wrong with your supply. Pumping takes practice, the more you do it, the more you will yield. Don’t overthink things. Just pump around the same times each day and your body will figure it out and the order will be placed. I don’t really get that much from pumping either, but my supply is regulated for what the baby needs. I collect small containers, get enough for an occasional bottle and freeze it once it’s getting too old. Eventually if you keep pumping and saving the milk, you will have an overage and will be able to freeze it. It just takes time! Don’t worry!

  • Reply blog post March 10, 2019 at 7:16 pm

    I don’t remember how it happened but I think it just started steamrolling where I replaced one nursing session with a pumping session, and then another , and then another and before I knew it I was back into exclusively pumping mode

  • Reply Alison March 10, 2019 at 7:17 pm

    I built up my stash before returning to work by pumping after his middle-of-the-night feed. He didn’t eat as much and my supply was strongest then. I "respond" really well to the pump though, so that is a major help. Maybe you could start giving her a bottle only a couple times a week and freezing the extra pumped milk instead?

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:19 pm

      yes actually we’ve started not doing a nightly bottle – she gets that just 2x/week, if that. i’ve found i always come out behind when we do it because i can never pump as much as she takes!

  • Reply Liz March 10, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    Oh and forgot to add that before I went back to work and was trying to build up a stash–I would pump in the morning when I woke up–no specific amount of time after the last feed. And then I would pump while my husband would feed my son the bottle. The morning pump yielded the most milk (and still does). But I was able to build up a big stash just pumping twice a day. I went back to work when my son was 14 weeks old. But I really didn’t need that big of a stash–I really only needed like a day or two’s worth.

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:42 pm

      liz that is super reassuring because i think i am stressing way too much about the stash. thank you!!

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