Friday, April 25, 2008

The Art of Pumping

For those of you who don't know much about nursing, it seems to have changed quite a bit since my mom's generation experienced it. Back in the day (when my parents were walking to school uphill both ways barefoot in the snow as the story goes) they didn't have electric breast pumps, and probably not even electricity -- okay, just kidding about that part -- but they had to pump manually. And breastfeeding wasn't encouraged back then because someone decided (probably someone in marketing no less) that formula was better for babies. The list of benefits from nursing is quite impressive and includes passing antibodies from mom to baby to help boost baby's immune system. It is also a great way to bond and gives you a major advantage over dad since he can't compete with your huge knockers. He can just envy them and dream of getting a turn someday.

Now, of course, times have changed and I've heard there is actually a law that gives every infant the right to breastmilk. There are breastmilk donors and breastmilk banks even. With the increase in the popularity of nursing and society slowly starting to accept public breastfeeding, I decided I'd give it a try. And I'm not sure how many of you have seen the price for a can of formula these days, but nursing your baby saves some serious cash.

Knowing the difference in how breastfeeding was perceived from when I was born to today, you can imagine my mom's surprise when I arrived home from the hospital and ran around topless for a few days. After having just been through labor, all concerns for privacy were out the window and I really didn't care who saw me naked. And when you first try to breastfeed you realize that it isn't easy and it isn't for everyone. Some people have an easier time of it. Some babies just don't want to cooperate. I was lucky that it came easily to me and Ada took to it right away. But it was still very painful in the beginning and tearful at times. As you can probably imagine.

For those of you considering nursing, I highly recommend you give it a try and request a consultation with a lactation consultant while you're at the hospital. They can really help get you started. There is also a book called The Nursing Mother's Companion: Revised Edition that is a good reference. And be sure to have some Medela Tender Care Lanolin on hand for when your nipples get sore. The truth hurts and so do your nipples for the first few weeks. But if you can get the baby to latch on correctly from the get go, you'll have a much better chance of lasting through those painful times. The first week is the most important as that is when your body produces "liquid gold" which is colostrum - a thicker milk that has all the yummy good stuff baby needs to stay healthy. And if you can make it through the first month, you're in the clear for the most part. But be sure to ask for help and get the number of someone who has done it or your local La Leche group or a breastfeeding consultant because you need someone to cry to when the going gets rough.

And just remember, it does get better (for most people, not everyone). By three or four months the pain is gone and you can't wait for baby to feed because you're bursting with milk and need the release.

As far as milk production goes, my mother was again surprise that contrary to popular belief, little boobs can produce as much as big boobs and for once in our lifetime, size doesn't really matter. Unless you're my husband who just thinks breastfeeding is the coolest since I am frequently flashing boob around the house and I've increased a few cup sizes along the way. Lucky guy.

As for my single friends, who come to hang out at my house and get a glimpse of baby Ada, I've shocked most of them as I either latch Ada on a boob or have to pump when she's asleep. I try to be respectful and not flash too much skin but sometimes that is easier said than done. I know I have amazed many a friend while pumping since it is such a foreign concept for most. One night at knitting club I hooked up my pump and quickly was compared to a milk cow. The pumping action intrigued some while freaking the crap out of others. It can be a great form of birth control too as being milked isn't high on one's list of things to do in life.

And many a friend, and even cousin Ted, have noted that the rhythmic noise the pump makes sounds like the pump is saying something. I mostly hear "find a penny. find a penny." but it says something different to everyone. Cousin Ted heard something more like "gotta pee. gotta pee." I guess it all depends on what you're concerned about subconsciously.

So to the point of this whole entry, the art of pumping is just that. An art. Many of my friends have been amazed at how much I can accomplish while pumping but what they don't realize is that I have found this nifty little gadget that makes my pump hands-free. Easy Expression Hands Free Bustier Nursing Bra. It is a tube top with a zipper up the front and a hole cut out for each nipple. (Sexy I know. Austin Powers should be envious. Yeah, baby!) This gadget holds the "funnels", as I call them, to your chest so that you don't have to. It is quite comfortable and really adds to my productivity. Just this week I amazed myself by pumping in the bathroom while putting on my make-up. It was a lot easier than I though and has taken multi-tasking to a whole new level.

We'll see how this art form continues as I face two new challenges. One is Ada getting teeth and how that will effect my comfort level in the coming months. The other being a need to pump while out and about in the city while Ada is at daycare. Supposedly Nordstroms on Michigan Ave has a mommy room I can use to pump if I'm ever in that area. I've only had to pump while out and about once thus far and I did so before getting a one hour massage so they gave me access to the massage room beforehand. I can only imagine how difficult it can be for working mothers who don't have facilities specifically for nursing. I know first hand how frustrating and disgusting it is to nurse Ada while standing in a dingy bathroom that is anything but mom-friendly. Inhaling the smell of the nasty bathroom air freshener with every breath as you try not to touch any cootie covered surfaces. All while averting your eyes from focusing on the nasty partial toilet seat and hoping your back doesn't give out as you stand holding your rapidly growing child in your arms for anywhere from ten minutes to an hour as the little one drinks from the fountain of mom.

Moral of the story: Nursing is a great experience that is not for everyone, plan ahead to find nursing-friendly locations when you are out and about, and splurge on the hands-free gadget or make one of your own as it really is a fabulous thing.

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