The nights a breast pump saved my life

motherhood, Reviews

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Breast pumps have been liberating women since their inception! Offering the freedom of a night off, be that to catch up on much-needed sleep, party (we can dream) or just work.

I remember vividly the first time I used a breast pump. It was February 2007, (almost 10 years ago- eek!!) and with my due date long gone I was eager to get my labour going and avoid an induction. I twiddled my nipples (it’s a thing look it up) and pumped using a handheld manual pump throughout the entire movie of Happy Feet in a desperate bid to get the oxytocin flowing. All I got was RSI.

That manual pump was hard work but later it saved my nipple from falling off. Breastfeeding was tough and painful at first, I’d probably got the latch all wrong and Oisin fed ferociously. I was determined to do it though so persevered through gritted teeth. The pump enabled me to keep feeding Oisin breastmilk whilst giving my nipples a break from bring gnawed on, thus allowing them to heal.

Second time round I bought a secondhand electric medela swing pump and it was amazing!! So easy in comparison. I discovered I could pump for 20 minutes straight without getting cramp in my hand or even breaking a sweat. I found I could pump whilst drinking a cuppa and reading a magazine with Arlo snoozing beside me. I had a pretty good set up going on if I say so myself.

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I pumped a lot regularly second time round because it was so easy. We got into a nice little pattern of James feeding Arlo expressed breastmilk on a Friday night to give me a night off (to sleep) and then early Saturday morning I’d pump to ease the inevitable engorgement from missed feeds then pop it straight in the freezer ready for the following Friday! God I loved those Fridays!! Living for the weekend took on a whole new meaning.

I also credit the pump for getting Arlo to sleep through the night. He used to wake so often at night and have these big long feeds then tiny top ups throughout the day. My milk therefore came in big time at night and not so much in the day. Because I couldn’t live a nocturnal life forever I had to switch things round. I took to pumping diligently; every single feed, every day, for about a week. This way I was able to ensure Arlo was getting all the milk he needed during daylight hours. Almost overnight he started sleeping better and eventually we cracked it! Whoop Whoop!!

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By the time my third came along I was offered a medela swing maxi to try out. The maxi is basically the double version. If the original swing was amazing then this was even more so. Now it was not only easy to pump one bottle, but I could get TWO in one sitting. Time saver. Game changer.

To be totally honest I don’t know what I’d do without the pump. It has been a genuine lifesaver. As a busy mum of three, juggling running a business with raising children, there are times when I have to be away from my baby. Without the pump I would have to frequently throw formula at the situation. Not that I have a problem with formula and I do sometimes use it, but my breastfeeding journey would probably have been cut short as a result, which would have been upsetting. I really want to be able to feed Foxy until he’s at least one. The pump has allowed me to continue breastfeeding but with time off. It’s been totally liberating and has saved me on many a night.

I’ve been recommending the medela swing for some time – both on my blog and to my mates – but now I’d say definitely look at getting the maxi. If you’re going to sit there pumping you might as well get two bottles for the time it takes to express one.

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So after clocking up a considerable amount of hours pumping over the past decade, here’s my TOP FIVE TIPS for a successful expressing session:

1. Make sure you’ve got a nice cup of hot tea ready and in position. This is ESSENTIAL.

2. Make sure you’ve got snacks to hand before you start. You need the calories when you’re breastfeeding, same goes with expressing. My choice of snack is biscuits but yours might be carrot sticks. Whatever. It’s all good.

3. Make sure you have entertainment to hand e.g. a remote for the TV or a magazine or a book or your phone. You probably don’t just want to sit there staring at a wall else it will feel tedious.

4. Ideally pump when baby is asleep so you don’t have to try and attend to anything else. Baby juggling whilst pumping can result in spillage of precious milk, which is more than a little frustrating (speaking from experience)

5. Best time to pump is in the morning. This is usually when you have the most milk.

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And remember you can store breastmilk in the fridge for 5 days and the freezer for 6 months! Further info on storing breastmilk can be found here.

Happy pumping Mamas!

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Bits for Boobies (& breastfeeding)

motherhood

On the whole breastfeeding is definitely the cheaper option when it comes to feeding and you certainly need less in terms of ‘stuff‘. But that’s not to say you need nothing. To make the whole thing easier and more comfortable here are the top bits I think you need (read essential) for your boobs and successful breastfeeding…

1.A comfortable feeding bra that also looks nice. You’ve grown, carried and birthed a small human, you’re exhausted and your body feels foreign, the very least you deserve is comfort. And if your nursing bra looks nice too then that’s a massive bonus. So many feeding bras are big, white, non-wired and fugly, which does zero favours for new mamas who are learning (or struggling) to love their postpartum bod. This one by bravado ticks all the right boxes for me. In fact after posting about my love for it on Instagram, a fellow Mum commented and said amongst her friends it is known as ‘the magic bra’. Enough said.

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2. Breast pads for those inevitable leaks. I find the washable ones from Boots to be great. They are softer against the skin than disposable ones and when damp they keep their shape. With some of the disposable ones I find when the ‘filling’ gets wet, it clumps together and sags at the bottom of the pad leaving you looking like you’ve got a bad case of lumpy boob. Also the washable ones are kinder to your conscience being more eco-friendly. Oh and they’re more wallet-friendly too in the long run. Win, win, win.

3. Nipple cream – I wasn’t expecting to have to use any time this time with baby numero 3 since I had no issues feeding baby no2. However I was wrong, which only goes to show that no matter how many babies you’ve had, you’re still learning as every baby is so different. What saved me (or rather my nipples and sanity) was lanolin cream. Luckily I knew the drill this time but I wish I’d known about this stuff from day one with my first. Aside from working real life miracles,  lanolin is totally safe for baby so you don’t need to wipe it off before feeding (although this does mean baby finishes a feed looking like they’ve wolfed down a greasy fry up rather than some wholesome mama milk!). If you’re really suffering, then use some nipple shields for a bit whilst your nipples heal. These really helped me. And if your nipples are in a really bad way and you’re in huge pain then you can always try expressing and feeding baby with a bottle until they’ve recovered.

4. Something good to watch on demand, since you’ll be feeding on demand, 24/7. Netflix, Amazon Prime, iPlayer etc. all offer good options. Last baby, I got through the night feeds with Orphan Black. This time I’m all about BBC4’s The Disappearance. It’s French and subtitled which is handy since you can watch it in bed with the volume turned down and not disturb anybody. It’s a classic whodunnit and it’s gripping, addictively so, but it’s still no Breaking Bad. I’ve found nothing on par to fill that void.

5. Breastfeeding-friendly clothes to wear like this top from Mamas Little Secret or this jumpsuit from Mothers Love Fashion. Honestly these items, designed by fellow breastfeeding mamas, are total game changers. If you’re worried about feeding in public then invest in something that will allow you quick access to your boobs so you can feed easily and discreetly. I literally love these two items. Absolute genius designs.

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6. A decent ELECTRIC pump. I had a manual one first time round and it was hugely time consuming and would give me repetitive strain injury after 5 minutes. Totally counterproductive. Nowadays I really rate the Medela Swing pump and seemingly so do the rest of the world, including Top Five Baby who consider it one of their top 5 baby essentials! It will literally LIBERATE you by enabling to go out sans baby (or even go to bed for some sacred uninterrupted sleep) safe in the knowledge you’ve left some of mama’s best in the fridge for them.

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Extra Tips!

Here are some extra tips that I’ve been given over the years which you may find useful…

For sore nipples:

Cling film – Use this to stop breast pads sticking to sore nipples. It will act as a barrier, allowing your nipples to heal.

And as mentioned above; lanolin cream, nipple shields, breast pump.

For engorged breasts:

Savoy cabbage leaves – use these to relieve the pain of engorgement, which generally happens around day 3-5 when your milk comes in. Simply place a big chilled leaf over your breast.

Breast pads soaked in camomile tea and refrigerated – yes you read that right. Soak the pads in camomile tea and then pop them in the fridge. Once cold, place them against your breast to relieve any discomfort. Camomile is well known for its healing and soothing properties.

For increasing milk supply

Placenta encapsulation – if you’re pregnant, seriously consider getting this done. I had mine encapsulated by Amanada Denton of Earth Bound Baby and I’d definitely recommend her. Studies have shown that consuming your placenta increases your milk supply as well as there being a ton of other benefits including increased energy, reduced risk of postpartum depression etc.

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Boo.B Smoothies – if the idea of eating your placenta doesn’t rock your boat or perhaps you missed the boat and already have the baby, then check out Boo.B Smoothies. You can order a box of sachets to be delivered straight to your door no matter where you are in the world. Then simply add a cup of milk and half a banana and whizz it up. The smoothies are packed full of ingredients which are known to boost your milk supply.

If you fancy winning yourself a box then take a look at my Instagram feed to find out how!!

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For the tough days:

As well as local drop in clinics or breastfeeding cafes, there are also lots of wonderful private lactation consultants out there such as Imogen Unger who can provide advice and support over the phone or in person at your home.

Finally this isn’t strictly a tip, but I recommend getting yourself something like this Boob appreciation mug from Mere Soeur to remind yourself each day what an incredible and amazing job you are doing. Especially on the days when baby won’t stop screaming.

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With it being National Breastfeeding Week, I will be posting one of my own breastfeeding photos each day over on my Instagram page. I hope this might encourage other Mums to feel confident about feeding in public and to support one another. Please go have a look and maybe even share one of your own…