Monday, May 27, 2013

Pumping to donate

One of the reasons I wanted to start this blog was to give information on how to pump in order to donate.
Most of the information that I found was either how to start a supply for a living baby, or how to stop the production. A lot of what I did in the first few days was the opposite of what the "stop production" information said.

Oliver was stillborn on Sunday May 10, and my milk came in overnight on Monday night, about 18 hours after the delivery. My breasts felt incredibly full, but when I went to pump nothing came out the first time. I had tried to hand express just to relieve the pressure in a nice hot shower but that did not help either. David went to the drugstore to rent a hospital grade pump so the first time I tried to pump was Tuesday in the middle of the day, and I got nothing.

Slowly I was getting a few drops, literally not enough to go through the funnel and into the collection bottles. But I knew that there was something in there, and the minimum pump rental was 10 days so I decided to give it all 10.

Then all of a sudden on Thursday I went from 4-5 drops to an ounce of yellow colostrum. I was so excited! That was the first positive feeling I had since losing Oliver, the first moment where thinking of my body didn't make feel totally betrayed.

Over the first week, getting on a pumping schedule was hard. When there is no hungry baby asking for food, it is hard to remember to produce! I tried setting alarms on my phone, but the convenience of the snooze button meant that they were off by hours in no time. Add to that the fact that I mis-read the instructions that said to sanitize the pumps once per day, so I was totally sanitizing each time. (better more than less though!)

As I have continued to pump my supply has gradually increased, but only if I look at my daily yields. The amount from each pumping session has not been as reliable, probably because of the somewhat irregular time intervals as well as other factors like food and temperature of my breasts, which are suddenly extremely sensitive to cold.

A tool that has helped me increase my supply by monitoring the pumping schedule is a baby app called Feed Baby Lite. A warning to those using it, it is a pretty painful reminder at first that you don't have a baby to feed. I turned off all the notifications, but I did enter Oliver's picture and name. I thought it might make me too sad to be reminded to feed him, but instead it is reminding me that I am doing this FOR him. That this gift is his.

For those looking for some advice on frequency and volume, I only have my experience to go on, but I set the app to alert me every 3 hours. My goal was to pump every 3.5 hours, so the 3 hour alert gave me time to make sure my equipment was set up and a show was queued up in the DVD player. The app goes 3 hours from the end of the last pumping, so if you are reminded at noon, start at 1230 and finish around 1 ( I am doing one side then the other all in one session ) the app will remind you again at 4, 3 hours after you finish.

I only pump once in the middle of the night. Once I fell asleep and poured almost an ounce of milk all over the bed, and I have noticed that the morning gives me a better yield anyway if I don't pump a lot overnight.

I hope this post can help give some information to someone who wants to do the same thing I am doing.

If you are reading this and you are not sure you want to pump and donate, I will tell you, it is inconvenient, and can be frustrating and sad. But I sit in bed pumping and think of Oliver, my beautiful baby and how he can help save another baby. I think of mothers whose babies are in the NICU, fighting for their lives and how if I can spare just one of them from going through this it is all worth it.

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