An infant patient’s mom recently told me that she and her breast pump had a “desert island relationship.” She explained that before traveling anywhere she looks around panicked to make sure she packed her pump. “It’s the one thing I need to bring everywhere,” she said with a twinge of resentment. “You know… it’s the top of the list of things I would pack for a desert island.” I nodded with empathy, thinking about how I recently tucked my pump into my purse while going to a doctor’s appointment, afraid to be apart for more than a few hours.
Our conversation made me start thinking about what things a new mom absolutely needs for pumping. What should she pack for her desert island trip? With a few new mom friends around me, I have been running through this list to help prepare them, because motherhood shouldn’t be an island. We talk about things that I never knew existed pre-children: breast pads, nipple cream, and nursing bras.
In that discussion, we have talked extensively about breast pumps– which ones we like, which are covered by insurance, which are most portable, which are good for hands-free pumping, which accessories are worthwhile and which are unnecessary. While it seems like it should be as simple as here’s your pump, there are actually a lot of options! None of the pump options though are as “elegant as an iPhone and quiet as a Prius,” as a recent NYT Motherlode blog post pointed out. Instead, it feels like you are making a choice from a collection of outdated machinery that one would find on a farm. Of the options out there, I really like my Medela Freestyle for home and Medela Symphony at work.
Like many things a new parent encounters, pumping has had its own learning curve. After choosing a pump came the challenge of how to actually pump! I remember when the nurse in the postpartum unit wheeled a pump and supplies into my room and left it there as if intuitively I would know how to use it. Besides connecting all of the pieces and placing them to my chest, I had to figure out the dials and buttons that controlled the pump intensity, duration, and stages. Then once I found myself plugged in like a dairy cow, I realized I had no idea how long I was supposed to actually pump. Even now, 22 months of pumping later, I find that I am still learning things!
One of the many perks of breastfeeding is the ease of not needing to buy formula and wash bottles. However, breastfeeding isn’t so straightforward for a working mom. My breastfeeding journey includes my pump, bottles, milk storage bags, pump cleaning supplies, a charger, pumping bras, a drying rack, and the universal symbol of a mom returning to work: the black Medela pump tote bag. When I’m not pumping, I’m storing, thawing, or cleaning. I wake 30-minutes earlier than my baby so that I can pump and make a bottle for her morning. My pump and I have a love-hate relationship. I love that it allows me to provide breast milk for my daughter while we are separated, but I hate that it consumes my free time.
A friend recently asked when my pump and I would be parting ways… 1 year? sooner? later? Much of this depends upon how long my baby and I decide to breastfeed. With my son, I stopped pumping at 1 year. Packing up my pump felt great and I look forward to doing that again, however, that also means the end of breastfeeding, which has been one of my most rewarding parenting experiences. So while putting the pump away will be liberating, it also is a huge milestone. Until then, we continue our desert island relationship.
[I have no affiliation with Medela. I was not compensated for this post and all opinions are my own.]