I get a lot of questions about pumping, so I decided in honor of 6 months I'd do a little Q&A of a few questions I'm asked frequently!
Why do you pump exclusively? E was born at 29 weeks and spent 6 weeks in NICU. Babies don't develop their suck/swallow/breathe coordination until around 32-34 weeks gestation, so for a few weeks E was fed only by a tube. I pumped at first so he could get colostrom through that tube! Later as he started learning how to 'nipple,' the NICU nurses were still concerned about how much he was able to take in at a feeding. It needed to be measurable, so he got breast milk through a bottle. When he got bigger, we were allowed to practice nursing twice a day.
So why do you still pump exclusively? When we started nursing practice, E was still only about 4 pounds. He had a very shallow latch and the lactation consultants at the hospital told me he was 'just small.' When I brought him home, he was around 5 pounds and things were not much better. I had an appointment to see a lactation consultant on his due date, but everything happened with M and I was unable to keep that appointment because I was 2,000 miles away :). Between the stress of moving, the affair, and everything else going on, for awhile it was easier to just pump and not worry about nursing practice. When I started again, E rejected the boob. I would try to get him latched and he would pull away and scream. I finally got a nipple shield, and that helped since he recognized the silicone texture, but he was too impatient to wait for let down and the practice session usually ended with both of us in tears, and with E still hungry enough to take a full bottle. I gave up practicing about a month ago.
Okay, so we know why you don't nurse, but why don't you just switch to formula? Wouldn't it be easier? I don't switch to formula for a lot of reasons. It's expensive, it's inferior in composition (note that I didn't say it was poison! Just not as good!), and it's a pain to mix up. (I do know these things - E was on two bottles of Enfamil Enfacare per day until he reached his due date for the extra calories and iron.) Pumping itself is a pain too, but breast milk in a bottle is loads more convenient. It's stable at room temperature for 10 hours! I don't have to get up and mix bottles at night - I just put one on my nightstand before I go to bed, and it stays good all night. And then I have this weird psychological thing about pumping. I pumped every 2-3 hours the whole 46 hours that B was alive, only to have to try to dry up my milk after she died. After she died, I regretted hating pumping like you wouldn't believe.. I would pump 24/7 if I could have her back. So, after going through that it seems much more worth it to me to pump for E. If that makes sense. Plus, I love the extra calories it burns. I've lost a ton of weight without really even trying. It's fabulous.
I'm pregnant. Breastfeeding weirds me out, but I don't want to formula feed. Can I just pump? Theoretically, yes. Realistically? Unless you are 1000% committed, I'd bet you last two weeks before you throw in the towel. I was able to establish a great supply with a pump after E was born for a few reasons. First, I had access to a hospital grade pump (the Medela Symphony. I used the Medela Lactina with B. Both were great). This makes a huge difference. Secondly, E was in the NICU. He had an army of nurses to take care of his every need. I could kick back and pump while someone else dropped his feeds, changed his diaper, or re-inserted his pacifier for the first 6 weeks of his life. If you have a full term baby (which I certainly hope that you do), you will not have this luxury. Keep in mind that when you're taking care of the baby yourself, you not only have to pump but also feed. It takes up twice the time. You can't hold a baby and pump at the same time, so you have to hope your baby will sit in his swing or whatever for long enough. Sometimes, you have to listen to your baby fuss while you pump because you have to pump. It's not fun. It's also more dish washing - bottles and pump parts. Also, you have to plan outings very carefully to avoid going too long without pumping. I try to plan my life so I'm not away from home for more than 3 hours at a time. In summary, pumping is NOT the easy way out. It's very difficult, very time consuming, and definitely should be your second choice. Please, please put all your effort into nursing FIRST. Better for your sanity in the long run, I promise.
Are you sad that E won't nurse? Yes. Very. It breaks my heart.
What pump do you use? As I mentioned before, I established supply with a Medela Symphony for the first six weeks (you really should use hospital grade for the first twelve weeks, fyi). After that, I switched to my Lansinoh double electric pump for about 3 months. Then, a friend who had purchased a pump but decided to formula feed sent me her Medela Pump in Style Advanced, and that's what I use now. The Lansinoh is a great little pump for the price, and it served me well. The PIS is a fabulous pump though - a few more luxuries. But either of them would serve you well for EP'ing or going back to work. I bet the new Lansinoh is fab too, but I haven't tried it. I would also love to try the Medela Freestyle - seems like it would be perfect for EP'ers!
How do you keep your supply up? I struggle with it all the time, which is particularly discouraging for me since when E was in NICU I had a massive, massive oversupply. I try to pump at least 6-8 times a day, and I eat oatmeal for breakfast every morning. I drink about 90 oz of water/day. When I've been particularly stressed, supplements have helped me out. More Milk Plus and Reglan worked wonders for me (at separate times!), and Fenugreek on it's own didn't do a whole lot, but everyone is different. Also, I power pump on the weekends. Sometimes during the week, especially being in school, I get busy, E gets fussy, life happens and I miss a pump here and there. So by the end of the week my supply is a little diminished. I get it back up by pumping 10 minutes on, 10 minutes off for an hour, sometimes multiple times a day Friday/Saturday/Sunday. It always boosts my supply for the next week, and then I do it all over again. (It's best not to miss pumping sessions in the first place, but again, life happens.)
How long are you going to keep pumping? I hope for at least another six months! That is my goal. I would love to keep going after that, but we'll see how it goes when I get there. He'll be on solids and will need less breast milk, so I probably won't need to stress about my production as much.. it may get easier. Who knows.
My nightstand - lots of WATER, a container to warm bottles in, and of course, pumped milk!