“I use an Ameda Purely Yours with 25 millimeter flanges, but the white valves need to be replaced and it wouldn’t hurt to get a spare set of diaphragms as well.” If you haven’t clicked away from that mess of words already, and you are new to the world of breastpumps, you probably are wondering what on earth everything is! Since most people have had absolutely no reason to research breastpumps at any point in their lives before they had children, the lingo can be mysterious and confusing! Why are there tubes? What is a flange? Will I feel like a cow being milked? We will explore the basic parts of a breastpump below.
Maybe you’re currently breastfeeding, but need to go back to work. Maybe you’ve decided to be an exclusive pumper. Maybe you just want a backup stash of milk for a babysitter. Whatever the reason, you are in the market for a breastpump! Like many other baby-related items, you probably opened up Amazon.com in your browser and immediately felt overwhelmed by the number of brands and types of pumps available. What should you choose?
These are the cheapest pumps on the market, and it can be tempting for the budget-minded family to just grab one of these. After all, electric pumps can run $300 or more and a manual pump tends to be in the $30-$40 range! Manual pumps are also simple pumps—you have the pump itself which screws onto the top of a baby bottle, and that’s it! They are small enough to toss in your bag and you needn’t worry about keeping track of a dozen small pieces. This also makes them simple to clean.
However, manual pumps are powered by you. Most modern manual pumps require you to squeeze a handle, which draws out the milk. You may need to do this for ten or fifteen minutes, which can grow tiring very quickly. You may have health issues that do not allow you to physically do this. You can also only pump one breast at a time, which can be good if you just need to empty one side because baby has just nursed on the other, or it can be bad if you’re in a hurry and need to empty both sides quickly. Many mothers, however, like having a manual pump stored away as a backup. If their electric pump fails, it’s better to have a manual pump than no pump at all!
Many years ago, breastfeeding was on its way “out.” Advances in the nutrition and development of commercial formulas meant that children who needed to be on formula, whatever the reason may be, were able to thrive on good nutrition. However, with these scientific breakthroughs, and due to an enormous number of factors that I won’t do into in depth here, the general American public came to see formula as “better” than breastmilk, and women who chose to breastfeed were seen as weird, perhaps even “backwards.”
If you nurse, it will probably happen to you: You’re out and about and you THOUGHT your baby was fine, but…uh oh, he or she is doing that telltale “Eh, eh, eh” cry. Baby is hungry, you don’t have a bottle, and there are a thousand people around you! But how will they react to you stepping aside for a moment to feed your impatient child? If you’re like me, every horror story you’ve ever heard on the internet will come roaring back to you and you will grit your teeth until you have a headache and declare that staying at home until your child is weaned is the best course of action.
Nursing in public isn’t too bad once you get used to it. At a restaurant you can curl up all cozy in a booth, at a park you can sit on a bench, using jackets to cover yourself and baby if you want. In many states, nursing in public is even protected by law.
Traveling, however, can be an entirely different beast. Every few months another story makes its rounds on the news about a mother getting kicked off of a train or airplane by stern employees who insist that nursing on a plane isn’t allowed, and then if you make the horrific mistake of reading the comments on those news stories you’ll see dozens of people saying ignorant things like, “Well she should have just pumped a bottle before she got on the 10 hour flight, why did she need to nurse on the plane?” It’s enough to make anyone want to second-guess nursing while traveling, but you will probably travel at some point while you nurse a child, and your body will not stop making milk just because you hopped on a bus with sixty other people.
I really hate bra shopping.
Actually, I hate clothes shopping in general. A size large in one brand fits like a medium in another brand and I won’t even talk about what gigantic size I am in junior’s department clothing. Mostly, it’s a huge pain and bra shopping is even worse. Some bras have underwire, some are cut high, some low, some stretch and some don’t, sometimes you want a mix of casual and fancy bras for different occasions and sometimes even if you get measured for your correct size, some brands will just fit weird on you.
And then you get pregnant.
Your hormones don’t care whether you’ve decided to breastfeed or formula feed. Your pregnant body simply starts producing hormones which tell your stomach to start aching, your nose to suddenly hate the smell of orange juice and pork, and your breasts to start preparing for nursing a baby. It doesn’t matter that it will be about three-quarters of a year before you actually have a baby in your arms to nurse, your body just hops on that preparation ASAP. Thus, even if you have decided to formula feed your child, you will likely need to shop around for new bras at some point during your pregnancy.
We all know that breastfeeding is a benefit to our little ones, but what about for mom? It turns out that breastfeeding can be a healthy practice for mom as well.
We all want to lose a little weight after a pregnancy, and breastfeeding can help with that. When done correctly, we eat better while breastfeeding. We also burn more calories as we produce milk for our children. If we were to add routine exercise to our schedule we could be fit in no time. We just don’t want to go overboard with our dieting. That wouldn’t help either mommy or baby.
Less Work For Feedings
Making bottles in the middle of the night can be less than fun when we have a crying baby waiting to eat. Whether we prepare bottles before bedtime and put them in the fridge, or make the bottles at the time of the feeding, they still need to be heated to the right temperature, which can be problematic when we are a little groggy at midnight. It’s much easier to be able to sit in a rocking chair and pull out a breast to feed our child in less than a minute. An added bonus would be less bottle cleaning or the scent of bad formula. Nasty!
One day my husband came home from work. The baby was napping and the toddler was eating blueberry yogurt, “eating” being a broad descriptor of her actions, which included painting her nose with the yogurt on her spoon. The point being–both kids were occupied and so I was at my computer, staring at a blank Word document. My husband looked over my shoulder at the white screen, sensing my dilemma without needing to ask me about it. “Write about your nursing pillow,” he suggested. “It’s an old, crappy pillow, and I don’t like it,” I replied instantly, as I’ve complained about my nursing pillow many times. He raised an eyebrow. Oh, hey.
Is a nursing pillow a necessity? Nearly every baby registry website suggests that it is. They even get their very own section at the baby stores now, so they certainly seem on par with other must-haves such as car seats and high chairs. If you try to nurse a young baby without using a nursing pillow, you will probably find your arms grow sore in no time at all, especially if you happen to have a behemoth of a baby like my second child. The main advantage of a nursing pillow, no matter the brand, is that it’s U-shaped. This means it fits around your tummy and wraps around your sides a bit so there’s plenty of room to support your elbows and baby’s ever-growing body. Some brands have straps to keep it in place and pockets to store various baby-related things, but whether you want these features or not is personal preference. The draw is really the fact that it’s supposed to fit around your body.
When I discovered I was pregnant with my oldest child, I knew I was going to breastfeed her the same way I knew I was going to cloth diaper; the same way I knew that now I was going to be a mother I needed to spend less money on video games and expensive chocolates. How did I know? Honestly, I can’t quite remember two years later.
My husband and I had been actively trying for a child, so I had definitely been reading up on everything child-related. We’re not horrifically poor, but I knew I was going to quit my job after our daughter was born, cutting our family income in half, and apparently children were expensive. The Internet said so! Nursing would be much cheaper than formula, at any rate. I decided I would breastfeed my kids and thought little more about it, and learned that formula feeding hadn’t even crossed my husband’s mind, so we were in complete agreement.
Our daughter was born, all tiny and squalling. To my utmost relief, my daughter picked up on nursing right away and other than some initial chapped skin that healed within a couple of weeks,we had very few problems. I was relieved, but another nagging thought was always at the back of my mind.
When my daughter was 7 months old, we flew on an airplane to visit my family. I was petrified for a million reasons; what if she screamed the whole time and everyone hated us? What if I nursed her on the plane and a flight attendant kicked us off? What if she pooped for 4 hours straight? But the question that was REALLY on my mind was, “What will my family think when I nurse her in front of them?”
See, my grandparents are immigrants from a southeast Asian country. My grandfather in particular escaped severe poverty by coming to the USA. And while out of necessity my mother, aunt, and uncle wore cloth diapers, they were formula fed and when they grew up, they formula fed and used disposables on all their kids. It was the prosperous American thing to do! I was already aware that my parents were under the impression that we were nursing and using cloth diapers ONLY because they assumed we couldn’t afford otherwise and that we claimed that it was for the environment, etc, only to cover the embarrassment of being poor. Of course, it wasn’t true (I mean, I really DO care about the environment and so on) but I was acutely aware that this attitude was going to be present the entire time we were visiting.
When I considered breastfeeding before I had my child I didn’t bother studying up on different ways to hold my child while feeding him. I figured that I would just hold my child to my breast and that my child would do the rest. Flash forward to my worst day of breast feeding. I was trying to get my child to latch on to my breast and he was frustrated because he was hungry. As I raised him to my face to comfort him, he immediately latched onto my nose with the suction of a vaccum cleaner. While I was trying to gently extract my son from my face my husband came in and lovingly told me he wasn’t sure that was how breastfeeding worked. I had to agree. It was time to study some more.
I learned quickly that my son just didn’t enjoy the cradle position (the only position I thought I would need.) The cradle position was where we cradle our child in our arms and they latch to our breast. He seemed to hate this hold. Being willing to try a new hold, but hesitant to go too far out of my comfort zone I tried the cross cradle hold. It worked better. Instead of supporting my baby’s head in the crook of my arm, I would support his head in the hand of my other arm. It was awkward for me, but I notice that my son seemed to be less frustrated. This gave me confidence to explore other holds.
The Football Hold
I found that my son really liked the football hold or clutch hold. This is where the baby’s legs were tucked under my arm and he (facing up) latched on from the front. He loved this position. I would put a pillow under him to help support us both. I later found out that this was a great position for women who had just had a cesarean. It keeps the child from laying on sore and healing parts of our bodies. This hold worked great for my right side, but my son preferred a different position when nursing on my left side.
Let me confess straight off: Breastfeeding is “meh” for me.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m quite a fan of nursing for as long you can, because it’s cheap, there are nutritional benefits, insert other positive scientifically-based statements about breastfeeding here. I believe all that, I really do.
BUT so many people and websites go on and on about how wonderful it feels to nurse, how they feel relaxed and happy, how they look down into their child’s eyes and feel a loving, unbreakable bond as the baby literally sucks nutrients from their body, and I’m like, “You feel what now?”
It’s not that I hate nursing but am too poor to buy formula, or whatever other people might assume. It’s just that for me, nursing is…a thing that I do. A natural bodily function, like breathing or walking or whatnot. It does not feel special, or wonderful, or even out of the ordinary. My baby is hungry, so I put him or her to my breast and then read or putz around online while he or she nurses. That’s all there is to it.
When my daughter was fifteen months old, I discovered I was pregnant again. Pregnancy has never been kind to me and the first trimester is the worst. I got terrible migraines and swallowing pills whole made me barf, so I often sent my husband on nighttime runs to the store to pick up boxes and boxes of kid’s chewable Tylenol for me. On weekends I would sleep for 13 hours straight and wake up still exhausted. When I did throw up my face would be covered in bright red broken blood vessels that even makeup couldn’t cover up. And this time, the symptoms of the first trimester lasted long into the second trimester, too.
You might imagine how difficult it was for me to nurse during this time. I hated it. I may have been fairly apathetic about nursing before but the last thing I wanted to do while feeling utterly horrible was nurse another child. Luckily, my daughter has always been an excellent eater and was eating nearly everything we gave her, so I wasn’t overly concerned about her nutrition. And since she was more mobile and interested in the world around, she would nurse a few minutes and then run off to explore, instead of embarking on the marathon nursing sessions she loved when she was younger. It was easier, but not very fun.