Monday, 26 October 2020

The Pump It Project ; Weeks One to Four

Pre - giving birth, I quite honest did not imagine I'd be sat here thinking I'd write a blog post / series about pumping breast milk... if you'd of asked pregnant Jess, I'd of probably told you I couldn't think of anything worse than detailing the ins and outs of bodily functions.

Then my birth happened. It didn't happen quite the way I thought it would and subsequently, my breastfeeding journey was pretty non existent from the get go due to a traumatic birth.

Before I was even pregnant, I knew I wanted to breast feed both for the benefits health wise for my baby, but also for me; breast cancer has affected my family, and from knowing that breastfeeding can reduce your risk of breast cancer, it was one aspect of motherhood I was not willing to compromise on. 

We had a truly horrendous experience whilst in hospital. When Jude was born, he had some health issues after going through a traumatic c - section. For the duration of our stay in hospital we had a complete mix of messages from varying midwives and consultants regarding feeding and caring for Jude, which started hours after he was born... one minute we were told to not feed him, the next we were being told off by another member of staff for not feeding him yet. We tried to feed him formula, but he was reluctant to take it. A few midwives on different occasions tried to get Jude to latch on ... both times he screamed and screamed and the midwives tried to force him on, which resulted mentally with me feeling more and more broken (whilst already dealing with birth trauma and the after effects of this), to then stop and say 'well it's probably due to c - section why he's not eating' or 'it's probably the anaesthetic in your system or x pain relief that caused it', with promises to try again during their shift, to then never see said midwife or anyone else again. I asked to use the hospital pump, but kept being told breastfeeding will work when the pain relief was out of my system and the milk would come in, so don't worry we'd try again - but then no one would come back. My milk had already come in too, as I'd had colostrum come through in my third trimester and it was coming through in the hospital. We were given syringes to collect the colostrum, but were given no support with this. Something which infuriated me with this, is that whilst I wouldn't expect special treatment or extensive support with breastfeeding, especially during a pandemic, you are very much treated like breastfeeding should come naturally and on my post-natal notes, the midwives recorded that Jude successfully latched on and fed twice - which was a lie. On one occasion, using a nipple shield he latched on for about 30 seconds. That was it. 

In the end, I asked Brad to bring my Elvie pump to the hospital, and I pumped on my third day in hospital, showed the midwives the milk and finally I was brought the hospital grade pump to use. When we fed Jude the breastmilk, he also started displaying hunger cues and seemed to get a hunger which wasn't there in the first few days. 

I didn't produce a lot of milk, and asked for advice on how to up my supply - I kept getting told so many different things to do. We combination fed (and am still combination feeding on the date this is published) which was fine as I was happy that I was able to give Jude breast milk and us both some of the benefits of breastfeeding.

Pre - giving birth, I wasn't particularly bothered whether I breast fed or pumped as my way of feeding milk for Jude; I actually felt I'd of preferred to pump as anxiety wise, breastfeeding in public worried me to no end, I'd been contemplating when to end maternity leave and had an idea of how long I wanted Jude to be breastfed for and I also liked the thought of other people being able to feed him. 

What I wished - I'd have been more prepared for pumping and that there was more support. 

Since giving birth, I can hand on my heart say I've been met with a lot of resistance towards pumping from my stay in hospital and once at home. There's an undertone of 'well you clearly haven't tried hard enough to breastfeed' which is not the case in the slightest. Sometimes you do not have t

e support or facilities to make it work especially during Covid times where a lot of support is virtual aka not useful when you need to see a lactation consultant or go to a support group but on a very basic level you shouldn't have to justify why you aren't breastfeeding or why you've chosen to pump. 

Upon coming home from the hospital, I'd rented the Medela Symphony, which is the hospital grade pump they use in the hospitals, for £47 a month as my milk supply was really low, I knew I'd need more than the Elvie to try to achieve exclusively pumping. It arrived the next day, so five days after Jude was born, I was able to properly start my pumping journey. 

I've made it to two and a half months so far pumping, and I thought it would be an idea to start keeping a diary of experiences which brings me to The Pump It Project. I had the idea quite early on, and wrote myself a note on my iPhone where I detailed ideas, challenges, wins and a structure soon came together. Each month, I'm planning on sharing my achievements, challenges and a round up of resources with things I found useful. 

Disclaimer: Every feeding journey is different. This is my personal story and experiences of pumping breastmilk. Fed is best and there is zero judgement for any parent out there who is or isn't breastfeeding. I wanted to write something that is true to me, and if it helps one other parent who's contemplating pump feeding or combi feeding then I'd be happy. If you are unsure on anything, please consult your GP / Health Visitor for any advice.

Any products that I link in this series that are affiliate links I will mark with a * and for more information on my use of affiliates, take a look at my disclosure page. 


🥛 Being able to express breast milk and seeing Jude actually get hungry after having it for the first time; it was the first moment of motherhood where I felt I could trust my instincts and know what was best for him. 

🥛 Setting up a pumping station and areas of the house for bottles and pumping - this helped us majorly as it gave us set places and helped us feel that little bit more in control. It did take us several goes at finding the space to get right and what worked for us; we started with the above ... the Medela Symphony on our bedside drawers and a dining chair upstairs so I can sit upright. I tried setting up in my utility room, the kitchen and now I have a trolley where the pump sits on top, and all things breastfeeding and pumping are on the trolley itself. One thing I am so glad I bought was Joseph Joseph Extending Dish Rack* ... upon arriving home from the hospital we realised we didn't have any dish racks, and I saw this one on Amazon and from working at Debenhams on the home department back in the day, knew Joseph Joseph are a good brand, and figured I'd take the plunge ... it is seriously the best for bottle drying. I'll share some photos of my pumping set up at home in the future. 


🥛Finding. the. time. I seriously struggle to think where I found the time to read up about pumping, order the pump and get the hang of it in between dealing mentally with a lot of issues post - birth. 

🥛Finding a routine; one of the hardest challenges which I think will take a long time and probably will be something that will be ever evolving. Different health professionals have lots of different opinions over what the best routine is. The hospital and midwives were recommending setting every few hours as a target, including throughout the night and throwing in skin to skin time too, my mental health team were advising against it as they were adamant I needed to try and sleep as much as possible through the night to boost my iron levels and help my panic attacks and mental wellbeing recover, whilst the health visitor wanted me to pump once in the night. I was cautious at over pumping in the early days too as I'd heard lots from podcasts and social media regarding avoiding mastitis and due to a delay in starting pumping, I didn't want to overdo it and make myself even more unwell when I was struggling with a c section recovery. At times I felt quite faint in my recovery, so I ended up typing out and adjusting a routine for pumping, c section recovery and for the basics such as meal times to keep my energy up and when to take antibiotics. 


🥛Leaks; all of the leaks too ... the bottles leaking, leaking through clothes, leaking all over the hospital bed, leaking all over the house. I had to suck up the uncomfortable feelings pretty sharpish on this one. 

🥛Missing pumps; where my routine was all over the place in the early weeks, missing pumps was an issue. I recall one day where I was so exhausted mentally that I went to bed early afternoon, woke up in the evening to breasts that were painful as anything and I'd leaked through everything. 

🥛Bottle washing - so combination feeding practically doubles the work as you are spending the time to pump milk, whilst washing and sterilising bottles and prepping formula. It was a lot to remember especially with a c section recovery to think about.  

Daily Pump Record Examples - 

I thought I'd include a couple of days worth of pumps... I keep a little jotter pad with a pen on my pumping trolley. In the beginning we tracked how much breast milk and how much formula we fed Jude. In time, we realised it was easier to only write down how much breast milk I'd pumped. We stuck to using the breastmilk first to feed Jude and top up with formula afterwards. The first day that I wrote down how much I pumped was on the 26th August. 

26th August; 

2.45am 50ml 

6.30am 40ml

10.50am 50ml 

2pm 50ml

4.20pm 30ml

7.30pm 30ml 

Total - 250ml 

30th August: 

1am 50ml 

5:30am 60ml

11.30am 60ml 

4:30pm 60ml

Total - 230ml

9th September: 

7am 80ml

10am 60ml

1:30pm 60ml

5:20pm 60ml

8pm 60ml

10.15pm 40ml 

Total 360ml 

Monthly ml overall for week's one to four - From 26th August and with multiple days where I didn't write down whatsoever what I'd pumped. I've totalled up across the first four weeks at least 5215ml pumped which to me feels like a lot as when you have days where some pumps were 20ml - 40ml, it felt like I was getting nowhere. 

In four weeks time I'll share what weeks five to eight had to hold in my pumping journey. If there is anything you'd like to know or any questions you may have feel free to send me an e-mail via the contact page, or send me a message over on Instagram @motherhoodcombined

Useful resources / websites - 

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