I actually did manage to fill a few freezer bags with pumped milk with my second, which I ended up donating because we had so few opportunities to actually give the baby a bottle. My husband worked long hours, we didn't have a budget for hiring a babysitter and going out often, and the few times we did go out, the baby wouldn't take the bottle anyway!
With my third, I resolved to pump for donation and, again, so we could leave him with a sitter, and that time I found even less opportunity and motivation to pump and ended up not putting much aside. He did get some bottles of expressed milk as a newborn, but after a few months, he, too, no longer took a bottle.
So, this time, I vowed I would find a way. One of the biggest difficulties many women have with breastfeeding is the feeling of being "tied" to the baby. You can never go out without the baby because you have to feed him. It's frustrating. Pumping and storing milk toward this eventuality can help. I bought myself a Hygeia EnJoye double electric pump, revived my hand expression techniques, and promised myself and my baby that I would find one time a day to pump and that he would get bottles often enough that we could leave him with a sitter and go out.
Now, obviously the situation is different if you work outside the home and are away from your baby on a regular basis. In that case, the baby is receiving bottles almost every day, and you're pumping instead of feeding during the time you're away from baby. That's not to say it's easy! Just different.
Here are tips for pumping/expressing milk when you stay at home with baby!
- Pick a time of day when you're pretty sure you'll be able to take 15 to 20 minutes to express milk on a nearly daily basis. Many women have more luck pumping first thing in the morning, so if that's an option, it may be a good choice. I tend to pump in the afternoon, but that's just easier for me because we're not rushing to get out the door.
- You may not need a fancy electric pump if you're only pumping once a day. Hand expression can be very effective for many women (myself included). You may also want to try a manual pump, which generally run $30 to $50, rather than a pricey electric pump. Check out my video on hand expression (NSFW) if you're not sure how to do it.
- You can start pumping as soon as your baby is born, if you want, but wait to introduce the bottle until breastfeeding is established, usually around 3 to 4 weeks of age.
- Give the baby a bottle at least every other day or so. This is the mistake we made with both baby #2 and baby #3: If you don't keep giving a bottle, the baby will forget how to use it or will simply refuse to take it, preferring your breast (understandably so). Have someone else give a bottle when the opportunity arises. I had my 7-year-old feed the baby one evening while I made dinner, for example. Baby may not take a bottle from mom but might from someone else. I did manage to give him a bottle myself the other night, but it sure felt weird to me!
- If you have trouble producing for the pump, or you have trouble finding a time between feedings to pump, you can try pumping while you nurse. Latch baby on one side and use the pump on the other side simultaneously. I find this to be extremely effective. Your baby will achieve the letdown for you, and you don't have to keep baby waiting to eat while you pump! It's a win-win. It is, admittedly, somewhat awkward, though, and it may take a few tries to get the hang of it. You can also use this method to help your body "learn" to respond to the pump if you're having difficulty getting letdown for the pump alone, and you can use it to help increase your supply if you're having supply problems.
- Massage and do breast compressions while you pump. If you are pumping just one side, or you have a hands-free pumping bra (highly recommended if you're double-pumping), use a free hand to compress and massage the breast while you pump. Find the full ducts and put pressure there to push the milk forward. This can greatly increase the amount you extract. I find using a combination of pumping and hand expression yields the highest volume in the shortest time for me. Milk removal is the trigger for milk production, so the more you remove, the more you'll produce!
- Remember that your supply will adjust to the demand. You can pump extra and have enough to feed your baby, but only if you pump consistently to tell your body you need that extra milk.
- At first, you may find it difficult to express a large volume of milk. Pump as much as you can, then keep pumping for a few minutes after you've "run dry" to let your body know you want it to make more milk. You should find your milk volume increasing if you pump daily. Be sure you are hydrated!