Why Do We Need World Breast Pumping Day?

Today is World Breast Pumping Day, which maybe sounds a bit odd to some. If you've not pumped, you probably don't have a very clear concept of how much time, energy, and effort goes into pumping. Pumping is easily twice as time-consuming as breastfeeding straight from the breast, and results in the dreaded pile of dishes to wash (and sterilize!). 

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Snugabell Mom & Baby Gear created World Breast Pumping Day to recognize pumping moms and the many different ways we choose to feed our babies. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for feeding our babies. What works for some families, doesn't work for others. What works for one baby, won't necessarily work for subsequent babies. And what works for mom, won't necessarily always work for mom. It's a fluid relationship in more ways than one. Circumstances change, priorities shift, and all we can do is try our best to adjust. 

World Breast Pumping Day gives us the chance to celebrate our successes and mourn the loss if we don't meet our own expectations. 

How can you celebrate World Breast Pumping Day? If you're a pumping mom, a breastfeeding mom, a chest-feeder, combo-feeder, formula-feeder, mom-to-be, experienced mom who isn't feeding infants anymore, or a supporting player (so literally everyone is welcome, as long as you're not a creep), RSVP for the virtual event here. Invite your friends and help spread the word. Share your story. Encourage others who are struggling. (And enter the amazing giveaway that closes at 11:59pm PST tonight...hurry up!)

World Breast Pumping Day January 27th

Today is the first annual World Breast Pumping Day!

Pumping has been an important part of my breastfeeding journey with both of my babies.

I suffered (yes, suffered) with oversupply when Grady was a newborn. I pumped to relieve pressure, which triggered my body to make even more breastmilk because it's all about supply and demand, baby. I wish I had known then what I know now: pumping to relieve oversupply can actually create an even bigger supply. I would have saved myself a lot of engorgement (and maybe I wouldn't have stretch marks on my boobs now!). Grady couldn't drink all of the milk I produced (though he certainly tried; looking at his baby pictures always makes me laugh because of his giant, smooshy cheeks). I donated my surplus to the BC Women's Provincial Milk Bank.

This time around, I started with the same oversupply and then it suddenly dipped. I'm not sure if it was stress, my thyroid hormones, or the phase of the moon, but my supply started to taper off. I pumped to give my body a nudge to boost my supply and keep up with Poppy's needs. I'm lucky that my body quickly responded to the pump and my supply was sufficient in no time.

I'm lucky. My breastfeeding issues were fairly easy to manage and were resolved quickly with pumping.

There are a lot of women who aren't so lucky. Latch difficulties, structural issues with the breast or baby's mouth, emotional or physical trauma, baby loss, medical problems, separation, premature birth, the list goes on and on. Some women are unable, or choose not, to breastfeed. And that's perfectly okay. Women should make the choice that fits for them and for their family. But for some women, pumping bridges the gap between wanting to provide breastmilk for their baby, and not being able to breastfeed directly at the breast.

World Breast Pumping Day celebrates these women. The women who spend hours hooked up to a machine, literally draining themselves (both of breastmilk and energy!). The women who sterilize pump parts and bottles and nipples...and then do it all again the next day. The women who can tell you to the ounce how big their freezer stash is. The women who pump in offices; on airplanes; in bathrooms; while driving; at work; every two hours; while eating; for months. These women deserve to be recognized. These women are amazing.

If you want to show your support for moms who pump, there are a few ways to do it:

*GIVEAWAY* How to Hack Your Breastfeeding / Pumping Routine with #MedelaCanada's PTPA Award-Winning Trio

Pumping kind of sucks. Literally and figuratively. It takes a lot of time, effort, and dedication to pump breastmilk. There's set-up, clean-up, storage, sterilizing, and that doesn't even touch on the actual pumping (or feeding the expressed milk to your baby for that matter).

Pumping can be a pain in the boobs but it doesn't have to be terrible. Medela's PTPA award-winning trio of products can help you hack your pumping routine to make it less tedious and more productive. Skeptical? I was too until I gave it a try. I thought that after breastfeeding and pumping for my firstborn, I was a bit of a pro. I should have known better (I'm convinced babies are sent to keep us humble!).

What I've learned is new baby = new breastfeeding experience. Sure there are some similarities - I'm still rocking the same rack - but breastfeeding the second time around has been a much more involved process. 

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My first breastfeeding experience was one of managing oversupply. I pumped to relieve pressure. I stuffed my sleeping bra with nursing pads and slept on folded up receiving blankets to try to sop up the milk that leaked from my body. Grady couldn't keep up with my supply and my freezer soon became full of baggies of frozen breastmilk. After a long screening process, I was accepted as a donor at the BC Women's Provincial Milk Bank and I'd lug giant grocery bags packed to the brim with frozen breastmilk to the hospital to donate.

My body started making too much milk again this time but when Poppy was about two months old, it suddenly lessened. I don't know if it was stress (there was no sleep in the early weeks) or my thyroid hormone adjustments, but my supply seemed to level off and then start to dip. With the help of Medela's Freestyle double electric breast pump, Calma feeding system, and MyMedela App, I was able to hack my breastfeeding / pumping routine to keep my supply on track with Poppy's needs.

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Breastfeeding is all about supply and demand. For many women, following baby's cues is a great way to maintain a healthy supply. If anyone is struggling with their supply, my first suggestion is always get that top off, strip baby down to a diaper, and get in bed. Lots of skin-on-skin and breastfeeding are a great way to give your supply a bit of a kick start. This isn't always a practical solution though. If you're separated from your baby (because of work, illness, or you know, life) a double pump is the next best thing. Removing milk from your breasts (by breastfeeding or pumping) is the most effective way to trigger your body to make more milk. Put down the fenugreek capsules and lactation cookies and pick up a pump!

My supply is always fullest in the morning so adding an a.m. pumping session is a great way to build a bit of a stash for when my body can't keep up with Poppy, and to give my body a bit of a nudge. I use the Freestyle's handy single pump feature and hands-free getup to breastfeed Poppy on one side and pump on the other. My letdown reflex responds to her suckling and I find that I'm able to pump more milk than if I was just using the pump alone.

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The Calma feeding system is designed to help breastfed babies switch between breast and bottle with minimal confusion because the same orofacial muscles are engaged so baby can create a vacuum to start the milk flow (instead of the milk just flowing out like with other teats). I know that for my exclusively breastfed baby, drinking straight from the tap is the best case scenario. I appreciate the Calma for times when that isn't possible because it takes some of the pressure off of me. Feeding a tiny human with my body is a wonderful thing but sometimes the responsibility of it is overwhelming. It's reassuring to know that I've got Calma in my corner.

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The MyMedela App is great for keeping track of your baby's development (height, weight, sleep, feeding, diapers, etc.,) your pumping output (you can track how long you pump, how much milk you were able to express from each breast, which breast you finished your session on, and any other notes you want to make about your pumping session) and breastfeeding. If you aren't a data person (I'm not!) the app is also great for troubleshooting. There's a handy Problem Solver section which addresses common questions about breastfeeding and pumping. I appreciated the section on milk blockages; the issues I've encountered with breastfeeding (albeit minor, though it doesn't feel like it at the time!) always seem to show up in the middle of the night. The MyMedela App is a reassuring quick reference guide for those times when you just need a few tips or tricks to get you through. It's kind of like having a girlfriend or older sister on-call 24/7 to say "you're doing great, it will get better, have you tried this?"

And now for the good stuff! One lucky winner will take home a Medela Freestyle double electric breast pump (valued at $495CDN). Contest open to Canadians, excluding Quebec.

{Disclosure: I am part of the PTPA Brand Ambassador Program with Medela Canada and I received compensation as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.}