Last chance..If you’re not on the breast-feeding train….or pumping…or milk sharing…you can skip this as I’m writing it for those who need the information/support on the matter If you are…I hope you enjoy and get some good info!
For a couple weeks, all we could do was feed W a drop of milk through a tube and put milk on a q-tip on his tongue so he could taste it.
Since W was in the NICU for 110 short days, I had a lot of pumping to do. It started day one. He need a DROP the first day. Literally. He was fed through a tube for a very long time. He wasn’t able to actually attempt to breast feed for many weeks due to his size and is inability to be able to ‘suck, swallow, and breath.’ He never was able to get on board either despite the months of trying and therapy. Wasn’t in the cards for us so I became an exclusive pumper!
While W was growing, I was pumping. Religiously. Every 3 hours around the clock. All day. All night. At home. In the NICU. In the car. Whatever I was doing at the 3 hour mark, I’d stop and pump. 15 minutes on the dot. It’s what I was told to do I did it for almost 2 years.
During our NICU stay I saved all of the milk. EVERY DROP. I figured we’d get into it someday. I had NO idea that I’d actually have THAT much milk!
We counted and then lost count… thousands of ounces! The NICU staff said they hadn’t seen someone with that amount of milk in a looooong time! Lucky me Really, I believe that.
We had to buy an upright freezer from Lowe’s in order to store all of the milk!
So here’s my advice, if you want it, on pumping, storing, sharing and everything else I’ve learned.
- What kind of pump should I get? If you’re going to exclusively pump, make sure you get something that’s going to last you a while. I use the Medela Pump in Style Advanced. It is worth EVERY PENNY if this is something you’ll be using often. **** A little hint on Medela—> if a part breaks, CALL THEM! They will usually send you a replacement if it’s the first time you’ve asked. I was able to get a new adapter after mine was dropped and cracked.*** Do some research on other pumps if you won’t be using it 8 times a day like I was! There are others that are single pumps, hand pumps and smaller sizes.
- What kind of storage bags should I use? I have used a LOT of storage bags. Target, Medela, Nuk, Lansinoh…They’re pretty much ALL the same in regards to function. The only issue I’ve ever had is sometimes they’ll have a hole from freezing and leak when you defrost them. A simple fix, defrost them in a ziplock bag and you won’t waste a drop. EASY. So you can pretty much buy any bag you want.
- How do I freeze the bags? When you store your milk, lay the bags flat as opposed to standing up. You’ll save a TON of space that way and they’re much easier to store. You can stack them, line them up, file them whatever fits your freezer! Find storage tips here.
- Organize! Make sure you label each bag with approximately how many ounces, date, and time you pumped. It’ll really help in the end when you’re trying to figure out what to use first. Or, if you’re going to donate, the receiver will be able to know the same info.
- We used gallon sized ziplocks and wrote months on them. Then we’d fit as many milk bags as possible from that corresponding month. We also used plastic containers to keep the bags in order. I don’t think there is one perfect method. As long as you can remember what is oldest and use that first, go for it!
- How do I help my milk supply? There are a lot of ideas of how to up your milk supply and things that have been shown to work. For me, I drink a lot of water, eat oatmeal, I supplement with fish oil and vitamin C daily. I also take a prenatal with a lactation support pill made by Gaia. There was a time when my supply was tanking. A couple of days after I started taking these, I was back up. It contains Fenugreek seed, fennel seed, raspberry leaf, Blessed Thistle herb and Marshmallow root. It worked really well for me! This was ME. There are a lot of different kinds of supplements and I’d advise you to ask your doctor or lactation expert. ** Always ask your doctor before taking any supplement.**
- Pumping takes time. Be patient and find something to occupy your pumping time. I have read so many blogs and posts from people who simple don’t pump because they feel it is a waste of time. WELL, while you’re pumping, bust out this calculator and figure out how much money you’re saving! Google the ways breast milk is so good for your baby… there are a lot of health benefits! Catch up on emails and social media if you like that. Read. Watch TV. Catch up on Netflix. 15 minutes goes by fast than you think! It’ll feel like forever at first but it does get easier and it’s totally worth it! Not only for your baby, but for your wallet! Breast feeding is FREE!!!!! Pumping sucks, but you’ll save in the end. If you’re worried about the cost of a breast pump, check out the info on donating milk and pump reimbursement. Oh did I mention “they” say you burn up to 500 calories a day making milk?! SCORE!
- Pumping on the go. If you’re going to pump in the car, invest in a car adapter! It is a lifesaver! I’ve tried the battery adapter but it doesn’t cut it! It sucks the batteries dry before I’m ever done…not to mention the power is cut in half! You can buy wipes to clean your pump parts while you’re on the road. I’ve also just rinsed with water in a pinch. Bring extra everything and don’t forget lids or bags!
- Moisture in the tubes and Replacement Tubes for your pump. The tubes on the pump I mentioned above get moisture inside of them. You can dry up the drops by leaving the pump on for a couple of minutes after you’re done pumping. Make sure you check the tubes once in a while for mold and replace the tubes every few months or so. I’ve even seen replacement tubing on Groupon so keep your eyes open!
- How long is frozen milk good for?? The most common question I’ve been asked and researched myself! I am not going to give my personal opinion because I don’t want to be responsible for anything… BUT you can read the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation for freezing and storing milk here. They also provide a lot of additional information on breastfeeding and its benefits. There are many websites and blogs about what is right and wrong. Ask your doctor and do what you feel is best for you and your baby.
Donating Breast Milk
There is a lot of conversation about donating breast milk and whether or not it is a good practice. In my opinion, it is an extraordinary thing to be able to do. When I filled up an entire deep freezer, I knew I would never be able to use all of the milk. I was making enough to feed triplets. I was very fortunate to have so much milk and I wanted it to go to good use. Throwing it out was out of the question!!
I’ll share what I’ve learned and what I have personally done that has worked for me. **THIS IS WHAT WORKED FOR ME, PLEASE DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH BEFORE YOU DONATE/SHARE**
- Where do I donate breast milk? There are MANY places that you can donate breast milk. For a list go here or google it to find out what works best for you. I decided to donate to the National Milk Bank. I initially was attracted to them from a friend and was pleasantly surprised when I learned about their pump reimbursement program! I was pretty excited! The National Milk Bank was a GREAT experience. They are very thorough in their screening process and medical testing. They sent a nurse to my house to do my blood work. That was very helpful since my son was on oxygen and leaving the house was difficult. They send everything to you free of charge. Find out if you qualify to become a human milk donor! You can rest assured that your milk is going to very sick babies in NICUs around the country!
- What are the benefits of donating? Number one, helping babies in need. Your milk is going to very special little ones that need your milk more than anything. NICUs all of the country receive this human milk fortifier and studies have shown that babies who receive human milk when compared to cows based milk, do better.. From Prolacta Bioscience:
“The milk that is collected through affiliated milk banks is tested, pasteurized and formulated into nutritional products exclusively for in hospital use. The formulations are made specifically to feed critically ill premature babies that are in the NICU. The donations do not serve as substitutes for mother’s milk if a baby is not under hospital care.
Donating will also earn you a reimbursement for the very expensive pump you purchased. If you donate with the National Milk Bank you can participate in this program. You must donate a minimum of 300 ounces to qualify for the $300 reimbursement. CHA-CHING!
Any other questions I missed???? Send me a message in the comments and I’ll try to answer the best I can!
Quite the topic, I know. Some people think it is unbelievably weird to share breast milk with people. This is different from donating. I donated to the National Milk Bank for quite sometime until I was talking with a friend whose milk supply stopped. She had a 3 month old and was having to give him formula because she just couldn’t get the milk, no matter what she tried. And she tried everything. I decided to start sharing my milk with her and her baby! It’s a lot easier than you think. Here’s what to do:
- Get a sturdy box. I’ve found that no matter how many times you write FRAGILE on a box, they just toss it around anyway. Multiple times did the box arrive at my friend’s house mangled… with a couple of milk bags cracked and exposed, rendering it useless and had to be tossed. I started using Pampers diaper boxes. We’ve ordered diapers on Amazon for a long time and it seems like those boxes are pretty sturdy.
- Get an insulated bag for the milk (optional). I buy that $3 insulated bag from the grocery store that they sell at the registers. It isn’t totally necessary but it’s a good way to keep all the milk together and keep the dry ice in place.
- Get dry ice. Dry Ice is NECESSARY when sending milk. I usually buy 2, 5 lb blocks of dry ice the same day that I’ll be sending the milk. Typically I’ll be shipping around 100-160 ounces and those 2 bricks have been enough. The freezers they use to store dry ice at the store are much colder than yours at home and it will start to dissipate if you leave it in your home freezer. “They” say that dry ice will last up to 48 hours…I don’t risk it and send everything overnight.
- Packing your milk. I put one block of dry ice at the bottom of my insulated bag. I then load up the bag with milk and put the other block on the top. Zip up the bag (most have zippers) and place it in your box. Lately, I’ve been packing paper around the bag inside the box hoping that it’ll reduce the risk of the frozen milk cracking. They have literally CRACKED in half!
- Ship Fed Ex if you’re sending more than 5 lbs of dry ice. UPS will only allow you to send 5 lbs of dry ice, and that simply isn’t enough to keep the amount of milk I’m sending frozen. If you’re sending a small amount, UPS is about the same price. The difference has been a couple of dollars at most. They just limit the amount of dry ice you’re allowed to send. FedEx has been great so far and I ALWAYS ship overnight. It is the best way to go to ensure that your milk arrives frozen. I drop off my milk around 9 or 10am and my recipient will usually get it before 10:30 am the next day. Make sure you tell FedEx or UPS that you’re sending dry ice. If you don’t, you could hefty fine and possible jail time! It’s serious stuff! As long as they know about it they don’t care that you send it!
- Sharing your milk is really easy if you do it like this. I’ve read many places that it doesn’t work and milk thaws…I’ve never had that happen so far doing it as I’ve stated above.