I opened up the big plastic container at the corner of our kitchen and started admiring the collection of electrical and manual pumps I have collected over the years like how a fashionista would admire her collection of Jimmy Choos.
It’s not an obsession, really, but to me, having the right breast pump can help a mother carry on breastfeeding even if she had to go back to a full time work after her two months maternity leave. Over a span of a decade, I have had six pumps to carry me through nursing of 3 babies and working at a demanding job all at the same time. With Cheeky Koko, now 11 years old, I inherited a first generation hand-held Medela battery-operated pump from my sister in law which did not work as well for me with its over powerful suction and overwhelming motor noise (To be fair, I heard Medela has since improved its design, ease and comfort of usage since then).
After just one month, I saved hard on every cent and decided to invest in the award-winning Avent ISIS manual breast pump. Although this was a manual pump, its cushy massage cushion was a delight to use as it encouraged a good let-down, in that I felt like my baby was with me although I was pumping in the office’s store room. Its excellent ergonomic design allowed a mother to control the pumping speed which mimicked the nursing rhythm of her baby.
When Pumpkin Mei-Mei came along, I continued using the same Avent breast pump for a good 8 months, before buying a new set of the same pump from a sale in Singapore (seriously, who could resist a great deal?!!) that came in a cool sleek black cooler bag. With Pumpkin Mei-Mei, I was slowly moving up the career ladder and as such had an office room to pump in absolute privacy. To make sure that I get an uninterrupted pumping session, what I’d do is to stick a nicely printed mini poster with a picture of her head next to a dialog bubble that said, “Please excuse my mom for 20 mins as she is making my lunch for tomorrow!”
With Baby B, I am using a Spectra Electrical Breast Pump now that has worked out just as well for me in terms of comfort, efficiency and low maintenance for a good 14 months before I stopped pumping altogether since Baby B likes all things fresh, and prefers only direct feeding all of a sudden as he turned one year old.
This is what I do daily with the expressed breast milk (EBM):
1) Get ready two milk collectors which come in handy when pumping on one side, and for collecting letdown from the other side of the breast. You don’t need these if you have a double pump.
2) Pump 10-15 minutes on each breast. If you can control the speed of pumping on the breast pump, try to start with a gentler suction speed for about a few minutes and once the let-down takes place, gradually adjust the speed to a comfortable suction level.
3) When done, carefully close back the lids of the bottles, clean up the surface, label and date the collected EBM.
4) Leave the used pump or breast phalange (the shield part that comes in contact with breast) with the EBM inside a half-opened cooler bag and store in the fridge until the next pumping session.
5) Take out the cooling/ice pack from the freezer and put it into the cooler bag to keep the milk cooler for a longer time (since no one can predict traffic jam in KL!)
5) When reach home, wash, sterilise and dry all the bottles and breast pump parts carefully.
6) Pack the breast pumps, the milk collectors, cooling/ice pack and milk bottles into the cooler bag to get ready for the next day’s labour of love. 🙂
All of the EBM from my pumping sessions were kept in small quantity of 2.5 to 3 oz per bottle, and kept in the office refrigerator to keep them chilled. Then just before leaving the office for the day, I would bring back 4 to 6 bottles of EBM in a cooler box or bag together with some cooling pads to help keep them cool until I reach home.
I would then store the EBM at the back of the refrigerator for the baby’s next day consumption. If it was a Friday, I would straight away freeze the EBM, since I nurse directly at night, on my off days and weekends. On Monday morning before I go to work, my MIL or the babysitter would thaw 3 bottles of EBM from the freezer by moving it into the refrigerator compartment and only heat it up about 15 mins before feeding.
Do work out a system of first pumped first served where the grandparent or babysitter knows exactly which bottle to thaw or feed first, and occasionally do remind them to shake the bottle gently before feeding to ensure that the super antibodies from mama milk that got stuck to the wall of the bottle will not be left behind during each feed. To ensure that the antibodies do not get destroyed by varied temperature in the fridge, do remember that the cooling coils are located just behind the refrigerator, which means the bottles with the EBM should NOT be placed in contact with the back wall of the fridge.
I usually pump once during lunch time at 1pm and another time at 4pm. I kept at pumping twice before the baby turned 9 months old and reduced to once a day after the baby turned about 8-9 months old and was taking solids well. I usually continue pumping until the baby turns 12 to 15 months old, before introducing formula as supplementary milk drink for day time, but I’d continue breastfeeding my baby until he or she turned two years old. Since we went with a child-led weaning, in Pumpkin Mei-Mei’s case, she only weaned at close to 28 months old. When she turned 24 months old I wondered when I could regain my life sans the nursing. But when she finally did get ready to wean, I had the hardest time letting go of this act! 🙂
Nursing needs not take a break just because mama has to work. Imagine all the mama milk goodness one can carry on providing for her baby even though she is at work. Of course, not every employer is understanding and kind enough to support one’s decision to pump at work, but with a little bit of persistency, persuasion (get them to see the economic value of you not calling in for emergency off frequently to take care of your bub since breastfed baby is healthier in general) and wonderful help from all these modern breastfeeding pumps and accessories, breastfeeding can be an easy yet nurturing act of ensuring our baby continues to get the best start in life.