Making the milk

Most women have a love/hate, or love to hate, relationship with pumping. How can you not, when you look like this:

Simple Wishes Hands Free Breastpump Bra

Photo courtesy of Simple Wishes Handsfree Breastpump bra, a product I stand behind (or in, ha ha).

Because who doesn’t want to take their boobs out at work and attach machinery to them? This picture is as glamorous as it can possibly look.

And then there is the matter of frequency — i.e. having to pump every time you miss a feeding (or so, depending on your body), which means you are pumping what seems like all the time. (A typical schedule is once every three hours, with each pumping session lasting 20 minutes).

With Beatrice, I couldn’t help feeling ridiculous nearly every time I pumped. Even though I believed in it (because you’ve got to believe, otherwise it’s too easy to quit), I often felt ashamed, or silly.

But since pumping allows your baby to have breastmilk and eat and grow and essentially live, it’s kind of important. A friend of mine put holds on her work calendar and labelled them “Food prep” because she that’s what she was doing, not just getting a free break. (And since most women work while pumping it’s definitely not a break).

On my maternity leave, once I got my feet underneath me (around five weeks), I pumped every morning after Blythe’s morning feeding. I’d lay Blythe down in the co-sleeper, and sit cross-legged on the bed facing her, and pumped as we played. Beatrice would usually join us, and the first time she saw me she asked what I was doing. I said I was making milk for Baby Blythe for when I was gone, and Beatrice reached out and respectfully cupped the one of the bottles. “It’s warm!” she giggled, and seemed impressed. From then on she’d always come in and join us, asking “You making the milk?” And I’d say, “Yep, I’m making the milk!” Her frank admiration of the process made me look at it in a different way. Because it is cool — pure white milk coming out of your body and collecting in bottles! Milk that makes your baby fatten up before your eyes.

So this time around I’ve felt much better about pumping. I feel more matter of fact about the whole business at work, too. I used to slink around with my pump parts, surreptitiously washing them or finding secret ways to rinse them in my office. Now I’m still discreet about it (I carry them around in a mesh bag), but yes, I’ll stand at the office break room sink and wash them up properly without shame. I’m making the milk here, folks. It’s just what you do.

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  1. Rebecca says:

    Awesome blog! I enjoy reading your posts during our ~3am feedings. I appreciate this article on pumping, in prep for going back to work in 6 weeks, and plan to pump. Where did you get your mesh bag? How does everything air dry in prep for the additional pumps throughout the day? I appreciate any tips on the gear and methods I should use for washing and drying the equipment in the office. Thank you!

    • Thanks for the nice comment! The mesh bag I use is pretty much like this one. It’s handy for carrying the pump parts to the sink for washing, and then I just set them by my pump in my office to air dry. I also have a spare yellow valve and white value cover at the office, since it’s easy to loose the little white plastic cover and I had the yellow part break on me once. Medela also sells microwave bags you can use to steam clean the parts; they work fine but I prefer a good hot soapy water scrub. And you really do need to take off the white valve cover and yellow part off to really get them clean, otherwise milk residue can build up and get gross (I learned that the last time). I also have a bottle brush and small dish soap (Mrs Meyers, from Target’s dollar bins) that I leave in the cabinet below our office sink. What has really changed my life for the second baby is having two pumps, tons of bottles, and two sets of all of the parts, so everyday I’m only bringing back and forth the cooler with the ice pack and four bottles and caps, and I have spare bottles and freezer bags at the office if I forget that someday.
      Way to go Mama! Pumping is a bit weird to figure out at first, so don’t hesitate to ask your mom friends (or us!). I know I did the first time around.