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…

JENNY’S IN THE (MOTHER) HOOD

In the (mother) hood

It’s back!! Y’all be pleased to know the supposedly-weekly (but not at all weekly) ‘In the (mother) hood’ feature has returned! This is where we get the opportunity to virtually meet and get to know the Mamas we’ve been busy stalking a little better, learn what motivates them and be inspired etc.

This week all those boxes are being ticked because we have the wonderful Jenny from Top Five Baby on the blog sharing her story and experience of Motherhood thus far. Be warned it’s not all rose-tinted as Jenny and her husband sadly lost their beautiful little boy Elliott at just ten days old. Here Jenny talks about how those experiences have shaped her journey and how she’s managed to turn the loss of Elliott into something positive for Great Ormond Street Hospital in his memory…

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Name: Jenny Walker

Age: 32 (although my daughter tells everyone I’m STILL 21).

Location: North Derbyshire now, near Bakewell (was Stoke Newington until recently, all my babies were born in London)

Number of Kids: This is always a tricky question for me, if I give the most honest answer this confuses people and stuns many into silence, but I’m a mummy to three and always will be. My second baby, a little boy called Elliott, died at 10 days old and I have two girls now.

Names and ages of aforementioned: Nia age 4; Cora, 20 months (born a year and a day after her brother) and Elliott.

Was motherhood planned, a lovely surprise or somewhere in the middle?

Very much wanted and planned for all three.

Initial feelings on finding out you were pregnant?

Pure delight.

How did you tell your partner?

I can’t remember exactly but I’m pretty sure I waved my wee stick in his face (probably every time!)

His reaction?

Very happy too (at least he seemed to be!) he was probably not too pleased about the wee stick in his face.

Did you glow your way through pregnancy or was it a complete bitch?

All three were nauseating for the first 14 weeks and then much better during the second trimester, followed by obstetric cholestasis (again all three pregnancies) at around 37/38 weeks. So not exactly dream pregnancies but as is always the case, I remember them being a lot easier than they were.

Tell me about your birth experience?

All three were hospital births at the Homerton in East London.

Nia: horrendous induction followed by epidural and forceps. Yikes.

Elliott: induction again but this time without pain relief (not on purpose) and a much calmer, happier experience. I gave birth standing up and he (sort of) fell onto a pillow. I did a lot more reading about being relaxed during birth (thank you Ina May Gaskin) and approached the whole process in a more accepting way (contractions = rushes/sensations etc).

Cora: another induction but I had my superstar midwife Cate (who had been my midwife with Elliott so knew my history) by my side. She knew what I wanted and was so gentle, kind and wonderful throughout the whole labour. I am grateful to her every day and am now very lucky to call her a friend. We pinched her name for Cora’s middle name. She’s Cora Cate.

Describe motherhood in a few words:

Awesome, happy, hard and the best thing I’ve ever done.

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Can you share any highlights?

Seeing my girls interact with each other and love each other so much. My four year old gets into bed in the morning with our 20 month old and (sort of) reads her stories. I watch and listen on the monitor and giggle in bed as it’s hilarious. Cora shouts for her big sister in the morning sometimes instead of us. Win!

Can you share any low points?

When my 4 year old tells me to “stop texting Mummy!” leading to the guilt. Why do Mummies have to have the guilt? I really don’t like the guilt!

What do you do when the baby sleeps?

At night I sleep! During the day I try and squeeze in some time to work on topfivebaby.com see below!

Have you got a business? 

I have spent much of the past year setting up a review site bringing together the best baby kit. It is called topfivebaby.com

I know there are other review sites out there but topfivebaby.com aims to make the research process super simple by doing all the leg work and narrowing it all down to five items in each of the categories covered.

Do you have another job (besides being a Mama)? 

Currently, trying to make topfivebaby.com a success! After everything we went through with Elliott I vowed never to return to an office. I’d been made redundant whilst pregnant with Elliott, and looking back it was the best thing that could have happened to me as it gave me an excuse to live in a much happier way.

After Elliott’s death I focussed most of my efforts on fundraising for Great Ormond Street Hospital where he had been treated. We have raised a lot of money and managed to put in place a special end of life care room at GOSH in Elliott’s memory for families in similar situations to ours (nothing like this existed when Elliott died).

I squeeze all of this in around the little people so I never really feel like I’ve finished a job, but I’m learning that this is actually ok.

What’s the best bits of being a Mama?

The cuddles and the kisses. I never want them to stop.

What are the worst bits?

Currently breath-holding. My youngest Cora, is punishing us with this. She breath-holds whenever she really hurts herself and it is terrifying for all of us to see because she passes out and goes blue. Given everything we’ve been through with Elliott we all panic every time it happens.

And losing a child. It really is an unearthly pain which very few people fully understand. We are extremely lucky to have had incredible help from Great Ormond Street after Elliott’s death. For anyone reading this who might be struggling, please do ask for help, it helps make something incomprehensible, eventually bearable.

What do you find hardest about being a Mum?

Trying to get on with “normal” life after Elliott died.

If someone agreed to mind your kids for a week what would you do?

Go to a beautiful spa hotel and relax. But I’d miss them if it was a whole week. A couple of nights would be enough (I think).

Have you got any advice for mamas-to-be/new mamas?

Go with your instincts, if you have just a tiny clue about what you’re doing then that should be enough. But if you’re still struggling, ask for help.

What’s do you reckon the most essential item mamas-to-be need to pack in their birth bag?

Lots of knickers, nursing bras, maternity and breast pads. Oh and all the stuff for the baby to wear plus nappies. I can’t think of just one thing, sorry!

What’s been your best baby product? 

I have to give you five 😉

1. The Medela Swing breast pump. It is really, really good.

2. The Stokke Tripp Trapp, so incredibly well designed and ergonomic. It allows your baby to be up at the table with the rest of the family right from the start (if you buy the newborn set).

3. Aden and Anais swaddles, they’re quite pricey but wonderful. We still use ours as bedding in the summer as they’re so lovely against the skin.

4. BabyBjorn soft bouncer. It is unobtrusive, easy to store, looks great and is a perfect, simple design.

5. I love my Ergobaby. Both our girls (still) go in them which means we can get to places we otherwise wouldn’t go with tired little legs.

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What was really useful in the early days?

My husband (he’s still useful though).

Did you make any baby-related /pregnancy hormone induced purchases that you regretted / were a total waste of money?

Yes, I bought our first buggy second hand thinking I was saving money. It was broken when I bought it (the brake didn’t work). I couldn’t do a thing about it as I had no receipt. I’ve spent more getting it fixed than if we’d bought new! So annoying!

What’s your ultimate mum product? 

Again another five!

1. Lovely smellies. I adore Neal’s Yard and recommend Seaweed and Arnica for post birth sore muscles. I also recommend their citrus hand wash and hand lotion. It is antibacterial and kind to hands that need washing every five minutes.

2. Concealer: I use Clinique’s All About Eyes. It’s really gentle, super easy to apply and seems to last forever.

3. Liz Earle hot wash cloth and cleanser. It makes cleaning my face super quick (including removing mascara!) with no need for anything else other than moisturiser and also lasts forever.

4. Bio Oil: not just for tums and thighs. I apply mine to my forehead and eye area at nighttime to discourage the wrinkles from getting any more obvious.

5. Eight hour cream. Massive “mum” cliche this one, but it seems to cure every little issue for all of us (Nia always seems to have an invisible scratch that needs attention) so I always have it on me.

Who inspires you?

My mum who managed four kids and a career and my sister who is doing the same.

Plus I’m constantly inspired all the time by friends just doing their best at this mothering malarkey, whether they go to work and do it, whether they’re running their own business and especially if they’re managing to get through full time without anything else but being a mummy superstar.

How many children do you dream of having?

Just one more.

If you could go back to your pre-child life,  for a short period of time, what would you do?

Cliche again, but I’d take a few more long haul flights!

What do you miss about life before kids?

Not having to book a babysitter whenever you want to go out and drink wine.

What do you love most about being a Mum?

The fact that I’m their mum and that I know no one else (apart from their dad) loves them like I do.

What do you wish you were better at when it comes to parenting?

There is a constant pressure on us all at the moment to “be more present”. What does that even mean anyway? Putting pressure on yourself to enjoy all the moments can make those moments a lot more stressful.

 

A big thank you to Jenny for sharing her journey with us; she is one brave, strong and inspiring lady! If you’d like to make a donation and support the family’s fundraising efforts for GOSH, then just visit their page here.

Also do make sure you check out Top Five Baby before making any baby-related purchases! I for one think it’s a FAB idea. I’m sure I speak for most mums when I say we’re a time-poor collective so anything that makes the process of deciding which bit of baby paraphernalia to buy a little easier, is surely a winner. You’ll also be happy to know the site is very clean, simple and user-friendly. Check it out!

Finally, if you’d like to feature on the blog as part of the ‘In the (mother) hood’ series, just drop me an email: thedoublemama@gmail.com