Breastmilk and the Bottle

I have breastfed both of my girls from birth to about 15 months. I started each time with the goal of doing it for one year. Usually by about 15 months is when I start feeling like I’d really like to have my body be my own again. Up to that point, I am usually happy and content about sharing myself so much with my little one, but 15 months seems to be when those feelings fade away. That’s just me. There are many things I love about breastfeeding: knowing that I’ve giving my baby the best food she could have, the much cheaper price of breastmilk over formula, the convenience of being able to feed my baby at night without getting out of bed, the convenience of not having to haul around bottles and worry about warming them up, the convenience of not having to wash/sterilize bottles, and the snuggly bonding time

However, after my first was born I had to go back to work for two weeks to keep my insurance benefits for her birth. And there have been those rare times when my husband and/or I have wanted to go out somewhere without a baby in tow. During those times, I would pull out my Avent hand pump and try to pump milk so we could leave a few bottles with Granny or Memaw. And every time it was a total nightmare for everyone involved.

I am not saying that pumping breastmilk can not be done successfully; I am just saying it has never been very easy for me. But I do not want to encourage anyone who wants to feed their baby breastmilk but needs or wants to continue working to skip straight to the formula. I have gleaned a few tips and things to consider from my botched attempts and the successful experience of others for those who want to use breastmilk and the bottle.

#1 Start with the right kind of pump.

If you intend on going back to work or leaving your baby with a caregiver regularly, you will need to shell out the money for an electric/battery-powered breast pump. They are much faster than a hand pump and you will still be able to flex your hand when you are done. Some hospitals and pharmacies rent out electric breast pumps but you will have to pay for bottles and sanitary attachments. I in my arrogance thought I could get buy with the cheaper hand pump, but this is one thing the “experts” have right in my opinion.

#2 Set a certain time(s) every day to pump as soon as possible after your milk comes in.

First of all, the earlier you start pumping then the faster you can build up your storage supply. In fact it usually takes a week or so for your body to self-regulate its milk supply once it comes in, so it is a really good time to build up a storage supply. Secondly, once your body does get on a schedule with your baby’s hunger needs, you’ll want to treat that pumping time as an extra feeding that involves your pump instead of your baby. If you do not keep that appointment to pump at least once every day, your milk supply will diminish, and it will be harder to get it back up again. Not impossible, just harder. Remember that breastmilk works on supply and demand. The more milk that is regularly demanded by your baby and pump then the more that will be supplied. (This is also why babies go through periods where they nurse more often; it’s their way of telling your body that more milk will be needed soon to feed a coming growth spurt.)

Pumping at the same time(s) every day also teaches your body to expect it. Your breasts will develop ESP; I am not kidding. About ten minutes before your baby gets so hungry that she will start fussing, your breasts will suddenly get very full and ache. During those times when I have run out to do a few errands without the baby, I have often just beat a cell phone call from home by minutes thanks to the breast ESP. You want your body trained to prepare for pumping time.

#3 You need help.

First of all, you will probably need someone to take care of the baby while you are pumping, especially when you first start. It takes some time for your body to adjust to the slightly different suction of the pump compared to that of the baby. And while sometimes having the baby on hand can help jump start your letdown (aka milk ejection) mechanism, you may need two free hands to actually do the pumping with. Also, it is usually best to pump before feeding your baby, so you may have a very grumpy baby on your hands. The stress of hearing your baby cry for you might make it harder to pump.

You will also need someone else to start feeding the baby bottles with you in another room or maybe even outside the house to get your baby used to taking them. If she/he sees or hears you in the area the baby will probably want you and reject the bottle. And from more experienced pumpers, I hear that it is best to start your baby on bottles sooner than later. I know many “experts” recommend not t do it before six weeks to prevent nipple confusion, but by six weeks many babies have established nipple preference and may completely refuse to take a bottle at all. So bottles need to be worked in to the regular daily schedule even if you aren’t going anywhere. In fact, a prime time to pump may be while someone else is feeding a bottle.

#4 Office Space

You will need to talk to your employer before you deliver about setting up a private place for you to pump, an empty office perhaps. The only place that I could find to pump with any privacy during my last two weeks of work was a bathroom stall. You also need to keep in mind that you may need more and/or longer breaks than before. Even if you baby is not there, your body will still be wanting to eject milk at regular intervals. If you do not pump, you will feel very uncomfortable and possibly leak. Consistent skipping of pumping may also cause your milk supply to diminish.


On a personal note, the last time I pumped was when dd#2 was about 6 weeks old. I pulled out and sanitized my hand pump and a few bottles. Then I attempted to pump some milk about 30 minutes before she was due to eat. Unfortunately, my milk would not letdown. So I put my baby on one side while I worked the pump on the other. As I expected her nursing got me going. But then I needed two hands to balance the pump so as not to make a mess, so I set her down. She was not happy to have her meal interrupted and started crying. So I spent 30 minutes hunched over in a chair holding my baby’s very heavy head with one hand on one side and working the other hand on the pump to get about four ounces of milk.

Why did I put myself through this? Because I really wanted to go see Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in the movie theater. The saddest part is that they absolutely butchered that movie. It was one of the best books (at the time) and ended up being the worst movie of the series. It was so not worth the sore back and arms and mental stress I endured to go see it. By the time Half-Blood Prince is released this new baby will be about six months old, so maybe I can get her by with a jar of baby food for one feeding. We’ll see…

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