How to pump enough so mom can sleep for once?
January 27, 2009 9:56 AM   Subscribe

Breastfeeding and pumping filter: How can I get ahead in pumping so my husband can I take over a nighttime feeding and I can get a full night's sleep even just once a week?

We had some trouble getting off to a good start --- unplanned and unwanted c-section with traumatic components (lots and lots and lots of pain during the procedure), baby having a really small tongue and weak cheek muscles, mom having small nipples that baby's small tongue couldn't draw out, baby losing too much weight at the hospital (then regaining at discharge only to lose even more after a week at home).

Under the care of an LC, I've been using nipple shields (weaning him of those now that he's bigger and stronger!), giving an oz of formula at each feeding initially (now down to only 4 -5/day from 8 with hopes to have him completely off soon), pumping for 10 min after each feeding and giving him that back immediately.

Now that he's nursing better and the formula's been cut, he's started to nurse more and for longer periods of time --- up to an hour, taking a half an hour break, starting back up with the nursing again. With this schedule he's decided on, I can't get much if any pumping in both in terms of time and having enough milk at the time of pumping, though it's great that the nursing is going better and he's gaining weight again!!! --- added difficulties include having an amazingly fussy baby who wants to be held all the time (wearing works outside but he'll have none of it inside). This also means by the time he sleeps at night, I sleep the 3 -4 hours I can get before he wakes up for his first night feeding and then I sleep the 2 -3 hours more I can get before his second, after which he's onto his day feedings.

My husband is more than willing to take over one feeding each night or a few times a week, but I'd have to have at least 3 oz pumped and ready in the refrigerator for that if not closer to 4. At most I can only get an oz/day because of how the baby behaves, how often he's eating, that he won't give me two hours between feedings so I can pump at the one hour mark. How can I work with this to get enough pumped milk that my husband can feed the baby and let me get one really very much needed night's sleep each week??

Baby is 6 weeks now.
posted by zizzle to Grab Bag (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
At most I can only get an oz/day

That's more than enough to meet your goal of a full night of sleep once a week; you just need to freeze it. There are little plastic baggies just for human breast milk. Assuming you have no lipase issues (freeze, store and thaw an ounce to check the taste) you should be able to get 7 ounces of the course of the week. If you only use 3.5 oz once a week, you'll have a nice freezer stash for emergencies.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:16 AM on January 27, 2009

Wow, you sound really tired. Obviously you've gone to great lengths to get feeding established, so kudos for that. Given that you've supplemented with formula before, is there some reason you can't have hubby give that in the middle of the night? Or feed only formula for a couple daytime feedings so you can pump instead and get ahead a little bit? Breast is best and all that, but formula isn't poison; it will certainly fill his tummy and hold him off for a bit so you can get your backup supply sorted.

I'm not a great pumper, but I have breastfed two fat, healthy babies. I will say it sounds like your little guy is a big "comfort nurser" and may not actually *need* to stay on so long. My first was like that, but the second is more no-nonsense. Sometimes she's on and off in under 10 minutes for a full feeding!

My first stop for breastfeeding info and advice is KellyMom -- I think I've read all the articles twice and they have forums now too. You might try there if AskMe's advice comes up short.
posted by libraryhead at 10:18 AM on January 27, 2009

I'm sorry to hear that the c-section was so difficult and painful; it's hard enough to have to come to terms with that and then to have an infant plus feeding problems. Wow.

Anyway, I'm no model for perfect pumping, but what worked for me was to use one of the Medela pumps (not a hand-pump, an electric one) and pump *while the baby nursed.* That was the only way I could get pump an adequate amount while breastfeeding fulltime. I know it can be difficult because you're worried that the baby won't get enough, but they say that your body will adjust after a day or so and make enough (moms with twins do it, right?). Maybe you're already doing this, couldn't tell from the question.

I'm sure other moms will have a lot of good advice, too. Best of luck, and hang in there. It will get easier. Congratulations on making it to 6 weeks!
posted by dreamphone at 10:19 AM on January 27, 2009

i'm not sure if this would help but there are women who donate their extra breastmilk to breastmilk banks. if your baby has been having health issues (which it sounds like he has), you may qualify to get some extra breastmilk.

i know that sounds weird, but it's true!

here's a link i found doing a quick google search breastmilk bank

perhaps your husband or a friend could do some legwork for you on calling some places?
posted by sio42 at 10:23 AM on January 27, 2009

One more thing: Consider co-sleeping. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but you will get so much more sleep once you learn to nurse lying down. Sounds like the kid wants a lot of touch time, so letting him sleep next to you might help with the constant needing to be held, too. Hang in there! Six weeks is tough. It will get easier.
posted by libraryhead at 10:25 AM on January 27, 2009

6 weeks is still early in breastfeeding time. I found that the 6-week mark was just when we were hitting a stride (with both of my kids), and have heard that from other moms as well. So maybe give it another week or two before you start trying to up your production. And a couple more weeks could be all baby needs to settle down a bit and give you some free time.

When you're ready, drink lots of fluids, and eat really healthily (things I assume you're doing now). Even if you're only getting one ounce a day, you could put that in the freezer until you have 3-4 ounces and then stick it in the fridge to defrost. It's a start, and the more you pump, the more you'll end up producing. Seconding the Medela pump. You can rent them at pharmacies.

Also, seconding libraryhead up there: can you use formula while you're upping your milk production? I certainly wouldn't feel badly about it, and didn't, when I was doing the same thing with my son.
posted by cooker girl at 10:32 AM on January 27, 2009

I was often able to pump very different amounts depending on the time of day or night. So you might try pumping at different times and see if there's any time that gives you more output. For me the sweet spot was about 2-3am. Baby was up anyway, nursed, then I pumped. One of the reasons it worked for me was that in addition to getting more milk then (sometimes 8oz!), I finished early enough that I was able to get back to sleep. I'm an early waker, so anything after 4-5am would have just kept me up until daybreak.

We also had feeding issues, used an SNS, nipple shield, etc. for weeks. Congrats on making it though that set of hurdles! I'm not a formula advocate, but I also thought what about just giving formula for the one feeding a week, especially since baby's already been on it. Sleep is severely underrated, and I think a bit more sleep rather than a bit more breast milk might be best for everyone.
posted by cocoagirl at 10:38 AM on January 27, 2009

Oh, forgot to mention fenugreek for upping production. Also seconding KellyMom for advice. Lifesaver.
posted by cocoagirl at 10:39 AM on January 27, 2009

I was about to suggest co-sleeping too! Even if its just for part of the night, once you can master the side-lying latch, you can get a lot more sleep while baby nurses and comfort nurses. Once I got the hang of it, I was able to wake up when he cried, latch him and be back to sleep 5 minutes later.

As for pumping more, well there's a couple of things to consider here. One easy option would be to do as libraryhead suggests and use formula for one of the middle of the night feedings. However, I feel obliged to point out that this means you are sleeping through a time when you would normally be pumping or nursing, which can compromise your milk supply. At 6 weeks, its hard to say whether this would be a problem or not, you're early enough that your milk supply is still hormone driven, but it sounds like you have been having some supply issues, so I just wanted to mention it as a caution. Generally the more you nurse/pump the more milk your body makes. Of course YMMV. However as a counter to this, often an exhausted mother produces less milk than a well-rested mother, so you might find the converse, that if you allow yourself some more sleep you will get a better supply as you have more energy. I guess just experiment and see.

Ooh ooh another tip - your milk supply is generally at its highest in the early hours of the morning, so another option would be to have you husband bottle feed him during those hours, and you get up and pump at the same time. This doesn't gain you any extra sleep, but perhaps if you do this for a few days you can build up some extra milk to refrigerate, and get ahead of yourself.

One more recommendation, there is a wonderful yahoogroup I am a member of, who helped me enormously when I was having trouble . I am sure you will get some good suggestions there too. Bonus, reading breastpump-related emails when pumping passes the time more quickly ;)
posted by Joh at 10:44 AM on January 27, 2009

Seconding libraryhead above. I got off to a terrible start with breastfeeding but night-feeding together allowed my baby and I to have some chilled-out time together. One night I forgot to put on the nipple shield and she forgot that she needed it. Bingo, never needed it again.

Six weeks was such a stressful time, I remember. I felt like it should all be 'clicking' by now, but it still wasn't. As others have said, do hang in there, it gets so much easier (for me it was around the 9/10 wee mark when everything started slotting into place.

Back to your question, early morning is the best time to pump if you can - straight after the first morning feed. Also, you will get better at pumping with practice (not the pumping itself, but producing more milk, that is).

Keep up the great work!
posted by dogsbody at 10:45 AM on January 27, 2009

Congrats on all your hard work! Your little one sounds like mine was at that age!
How about letting hubby give a formula feeding; that would give you the opportunity to pump in place of that feeding. When hubby does get the chance to give a feeding w/ the pumped breastmilk, that gives you another opportunity to pump. This is the only thing that worked for us at the time. As a breastfeeding mom, I tended to go with whatever worked (formula supplementation and nipple shield) to get through the feeding issues we had, so that all could be as well fed and well rested as possible!
And it's important that baby get some bottle feedings regularly (whether they're formula or breastmilk) so that he doesn't later reject the bottle. And duly important that you begin to catch up on your sleep.
The extra-fussiness does wane after the 10th week. Here's hoping you get your much-needed rest!
posted by esunshine at 10:55 AM on January 27, 2009

Clarifications from the husband/father: she's already on fenugreek, plus a bunch of food things that supposedly help, and the baby actually will only sleep on top of her anyway. But so far he hasn't done well trying to feed lying down, though she's still trying.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 11:05 AM on January 27, 2009

I had a miserable time trying to nurse my first child. MISERABLE. I did, however, learn a great deal and subsequent kids went much more smoothly.

There was some advice up there to pump *while* you are nursing the other side. That's absolutely what you need to do. Spend a couple hundred bucks and get a Medela electric pump. It will be completely worth it. Your body will make as much as you need, so don't worry about pumping depleting your supply.

Also, TONS of water. Drink TONS. Stay away from any kind of caffeine. It is a diuretic and it will make you dehydrated. If you get a cold, NO ANTIHISTAMINE. It will dry out your nose, but it will dry UP your milk supply.

Good luck!! Six weeks is really early still. You are about to turn the corner. :)
posted by Edubya at 11:06 AM on January 27, 2009

Kudos for sticking with breast feeding. My wife and I have a 7 month old and the beginning was a bit of similar situation for us too. Also unplanned/unwanted c-section.

We were lucky that our hospital here in Toronto had a breastfeeding clinic that you could go to to get help in what we were doing wrong, etc.
Once we got on ok going with breastfeeding she was able to pump before going to bed and I was able to feed my son around 10:30pm from a bottle and he was happy about it. It also gave us a little bonding time without him wanting to go to his mother for feeding.

My wife found that drinking a big glass of water before pumping/feeding increased the amount milk out and that was recommended to us by the breast feeding clinic.
posted by boomcha76 at 11:09 AM on January 27, 2009

As my husband mentioned, we've been co-sleeping since the day he was born --- the only place he'll sleep comfortably is on top of me. He wakes up if he's placed anywhere else, though occasionally he'll sleep next to me near the end of the night, or during a nap when I'm sitting/lying next to him.

Also has husband said, taking the fenugreek religiously (have to take it now actually).

Due to baby's weight loss, the LC got us a hospital grade pump for a three month rental covered by insurance, which she recommended we only use for a month as my insurance would give us a Medela Pump in Style Advanced to keep if we returned the hospital grade within one month. So, we have the Medela all set up and free of cost!

I'll give the pumping while nursing a try and see what that can't do and maybe see about giving him one full formula feed at night since he's still on enough to cover one and half feedings/day.

Thanks for all the suggestions!
posted by zizzle at 11:34 AM on January 27, 2009

Lots of great advice above. Nthing the fenugreek, the early morning pumping, and the co-sleeping. Little babies grow at an astonishing rate, but you will get past this and things will slowly get a little more sane.

The most fabulous piece of advice that my Lactation Consultant gave me was to take a nap, every afternoon, before 3pm if possible, and to take the baby to bed with you. (She felt that early afternoon rest would improve my supply in the evening hours.) She actually told me to strip down so that the baby could choose which breast he wanted to nurse at, and I could side sleep while he nursed. Those afternoon naps saved my sanity during those early days when he was a voracious little eater. Sometimes I only slept for 20 minutes, but sometimes I'd sleep for two hours, wake up and find my little guy sound asleep next to me.

The other tidbit my lactation consultant passed on to me was to really watch the ratio of sucks per swallow. Two or three sucks is fine; but if the baby is suck suck sucking seven or eight times before swallowing, he's working too hard for the milk, and she said that young babies can actually expend more energy trying to nurse than they get if there are too many sucks per swallow. I know it can be hard to cut off the comfort nursing, but if it is exhausting for both of you, that's not so great.

The third thing that occurs to me is that when I arranged an overnight at a nearby hotel to get a good night's sleep, I still wound up having to get up and pump at 3am because I became engorged and it was too uncomfortable to sleep. So while having a full night's sleep is a wonderful goal, even when you do manage the pumping supply, your body might not cooperate with your plan for eight hours of uninterrupted shut-eye.
posted by ambrosia at 11:38 AM on January 27, 2009

Just keep pumping, that's really all you need to do.

We were in exactly the same situation at that stage: a number of early feeding problems, and my wife was getting a little desperate and felt like she was never going to be able to keep up with our son, but it gets easier. You're at the hardest point right now; the more time you spend either feeding or using a pump, the more your production will increase (and the faster it'll go -- what takes an hour to produce now will take a few minutes later on.) Even if you're not producing more than a few drops at a time, just leaving the pump on will help increase it later. (My wife spent a few days basically pumping the whole time she was awake, which was boring as hell for her but did the trick.)

They make pumps that strap on to both breasts, which if you're feeling like you're spending all your time plugged into a pump, can turn that into spending only half your time plugged into a pump. (Hey, every little bit counts.) There are even hands-free models, which look (and apparently feel) a little ridiculous, but are convenient if you want to be doing something other than spending all day holding a pump to your chest.

If you follow the advice above about switching to formula for a brief period, that's fine, and can give you a head start of supply in the freezer which is comforting... but make sure you don't forget to keep pumping during that time so your production doesn't slow down.
posted by ook at 11:40 AM on January 27, 2009

There's some great advice up there already (Pump in the morning, have a hospital-grade pump, fenugreek, etc - sounds like you're already doing a lot of it). I just wanted to give some words of encouragement and support since I had a totally sucky time with breastfeeding and know how stressful is can be. And then adding in the fact that you're recovering from surgery and have a newborn baby who is plastered to your side and it sounds like you're doing a GREAT job. Figuring out the pumping and having the time to do it will still take some time but you'll hit your stride and it sounds like you're well on your way to where you want to be. Best of luck!
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:55 AM on January 27, 2009

I pump in 2 ways:

1. I built up my freezer stash by pumping after baby had eaten. Drinking a huge glass of water helped a lot to make the "second" time go better. Your 6 week old won't need all that you produce.

2. After baby eats in the morning (or whatever his longest stretch is for you), I would pump and not be engorged anymore. Woo.

The LC said to add a feeding in during the day to pump.
posted by k8t at 12:30 PM on January 27, 2009

First, congratulations on your new little one! I had a horrible, painful c-section & lots of nursing troubles & poor weight gain, so you have my full sympathy.

Fenugreek just made me crazy, but I found that oatmeal really boosted my supply. Two or three oatmeal cookies for a snack pretty reliably got me another oz or two of milk later in the day.

Also, there tends to be a growth spurt around 6 weeks, so even if you feel like he's eating constantly & you'll never be able to get ahead & build up a stash, things will even out soon.

In addition to the KellyMom site mentioned above (which is great!), you might want to check out the forums at - I found them very helpful.

Good luck! Email is in profile if you ever need someone to commiserate & tell you it's going to get better. :)
(Typed while nursing my 20-month old)
posted by belladonna at 4:58 PM on January 27, 2009

I am sooo sorry you've had such a rough go. Your initial nursing problems sound a lot like the ones I had; it took me six weeks to get him nursing exclusively. In the interim, I gave him expressed breast milk, so I spent a LOT of time pumping during those first few weeks. One thing my lactation nurse showed me was to gently compress my breast in different spots while pumping. That made a huge difference in my output.

I've got to second Ambrosia's third point above. Our original plan was for my husband to regularly take one of the night feedings so I could sleep. But I couldn't make it through the night! YMMV, but you may find yourself so engorged that you have to get up anyway.

Pump first thing in the morning, check out kellymom, and do your best to not get stressed out over it. I obsess over my baby's eating habits way more than my friends who didn't have nursing issues. I think there's a whole lot of guilt, anxiety and feelings of inferiority that gang up on you and tear you down, which also interfere with your milk production. Relax and remember that your life will not always be this way (my mantra during some long nights!).
posted by wallaby at 4:41 AM on January 28, 2009

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