I’ve heard it said that although breastfeeding is natural, it doesn’t always come naturally. It can be difficult to learn the particular dance of mother and baby: establishing the perfect latch, learning to be comfortable in the various nursing positions, and knowing how to follow your baby’s hunger cues.
Add a breast pump to the mix and suddenly it’s easy to feel like what’s supposed to be so very natural is far, far from it.
After my middle child was born, I worked full-time in a counseling center. I was very lucky to have a private space and a nursing-friendly work environment. I was dedicated to breastfeeding, so I spent time between sessions attached to my pump, writing client notes and making phone calls. It wasn’t always easy and it took a little getting used to, but after a few months, I was a pumping pro.
For those of you who may be facing a return to work soon, I thought I’d share some tips that I found helpful. I hope they’re helpful for you, too.
You may need to check your expectations. Pumping sessions can be long and tedious. And while the rewards are also there in the form of several ounces of “liquid gold,” keeping that in focus can be difficult. Make sure your expectations are realistic. I know that I struggled with this; I missed out on social time with coworkers during my lunch breaks for many months. As soon as I reframed my perspective and recognized that, at least for the time being, all my “free” time at work would be spent attached to a breast pump, I was able to make the best of the experience.
It’s important to stay hydrated. The importance of drinking enough water while breastfeeding can’t be overstated. It makes pumping much, much easier and more productive. Splurge on a fun reusable water bottle and fill ‘er up!
Get comfy, because it takes a while. Since the setup, pumping, storing and cleaning process took me between 45 minutes and an hour (and that was once I had my routine down!) I knew I was going to need to settle in and get comfortable. A friend told me that she brings her nursing pillow to work to use during pumping sessions. I surfed the internet, read a book, browsed the pages of gossip magazines — basically used the time to relax and decompress.
It can help to visualize your baby. I always found it helpful to visualize my baby while pumping. Not only did it remind me why I was doing what I was doing, it helped me relax. Look through a baby photo album or watch videos on your phone or computer…whatever works!
Pumping can be difficult, but as you can see there are things you can do to make the experience more natural. Like everything in motherhood, it’s a process. Looking back, there are things I miss about my time with the breast pump: I knew I was doing the very best for my baby, and there’s nothing more rewarding than that.
What made pumping more natural for you? Share your tips in the comments!