Happy Pump Day! Huh? The other day at work I overheard one woman greet another by saying, “Happy Pump Day!” Having had a terrible pumping day myself, her words stirred up startled feelings of self-consciousness. Relief and a bit more self-consciousness set in when I finally realized it was Wednesday and what she had actually said was, “Happy Hump Day!” I may need therapy.
The La Leche League book on breastfeeding that I read while pregnant said there would be days like this – bad days, when I’m barely able to pump an ounce. What the book didn’t mention, or what I failed to comprehend in the optimistic glow of prenatal innocence, was that the inability to pump might have nothing to do with my supply. That there would be days when the milk was there but simply unable to release. As stated in a previous post, if you know anything about milk production (human or otherwise), you know that’s a problem. While my body’s ability to produce milk may stretch to meet Hiccup’s demand, its ability to store milk comfortably caps at around six ounces (about four ounces on the right and two on the left – don’t ask). Pumping’s not as simple as sitting back and pushing a button though. You have to actually relax while doing it; something we have already established I’m not too good at.
Now that Hiccup is on solid foods, I’ve cut back to two pumping sessions instead of three. Even so, on a good day, I can still net 10-14 ounces (for those without a point of reference, that’s an enviable take). A bad day however looks more like four ounces which means dipping into the freezer stash next time I’m away. On what turned out to be the hump day of pump days, I took home only two ounces – in the cooler that is. The day began promisingly enough. Around eleven o’clock, I drew my screen, turned on the wave sound generator, and got pumping. Normally, 15 minutes later, I’d be bagging 4-6 ounces of milk and getting back to work. Instead, I sat there for 20 minutes growing increasingly agitated by the fact that, though my girls were full, the milk would not come. Barely an ounce had leaked out. At noon, my coworker and I headed outside to play a weekly inter-office game of bocce (I know, I know – what aristocrat died and left me their life?). Someone on the other team asked me about the baby and BOOM! Release. There I was the winner of my own personal wet t-shirt contest. The same thing has happened in meetings. Thankfully, I always carry a sweater. Heading back to my cubicle after the game, I fired up my pump expecting great things only to be disappointed again.
Looking at pictures of Hiccup helps; closing my eyes and visualizing him in my mind is usually more effective; and even more poignantly – picturing him a little bit sad and holding his arms out to me seems to be most successful at stimulating a release. Some days though the stress that comes from continued sleep deprivation, various work issues, and certain familial pressures just gets to me and focusing on the baby becomes impossible. The cold, clinical nature of pumping doesn’t help either. You try relaxing to the mechanical whooshing and whirring of a plastic pump motor which on my darker days sounds like the whispered chanting of redrum, redrum, redrum…
That evening, after coming home to my little boy and sitting down for a cuddle, all was well. I was even able to pump five ounces from one side while Hiccup nursed on the other. My goal is to continue up to his first birthday and then retire the pump. Just two and half more months to go.
Lastly, and really as just a side note, I think we should stop saying “Hump Day.” We could probably remove the word hump entirely from our vocabulary and things would be just fine.