Guest blogger, Anne, a two-time gestational carrier with Forward Fertility, shares her detailed pro-tips on exclusively pumping. These tips are good for ANY woman who is pumping breastmilk! They are tried and true.
In 2018, I had my first surrobabe and thought, “I breastfed and pumped while at work for my own kiddos, I can totally exclusively pump for a few weeks/months – should be a breeze!” and boy was I ever wrong.
I tortured my nipples, never quite emptied, and had so. many. clogs. Miserable hard lumps with rashes, fever, aches, and pains… plugged ducts are no joke. So, this time, I knew I had to do my research and get it right. So when a fellow surro recommended an “exclusive pumpers” group for surrogates only while I was preggo with round two, I spent HOURS researching in there – using the search function, reviewing the files, watching videos… and I learned so much!
1. Coconut oil on the flanges is ESSENTIAL – my nipples don’t hate me!
2. Seriously, do a full 30 minutes. I cannot believe I would stop at 15 minutes last time. The clock doesn’t indicate emptiness – it really does take about 30 minutes most sessions!
3. Flange size is everything. And flange style. I’ve experimented with Babymotion flanges, pumping pals flanges, and Beaugen inserts with the hard plastic flanges – and I alternate based on what I need for certain days/times and I think that has helped so much with actually emptying, too.
4. Massage the boobies! Constantly! Hold them and move that milk around – and get tools to help, if necessary. I have used both the roller and the massager from LaVie – got me through my milk coming in and establishing that initial supply.
5. Sunflower Lecithin (totally got just regular lecithin last time – rookie mistake). I take two in the morning and two at night. Now I have added vitamin C on another surro’s recommendation, too!
6. Label the bags before you put milk in – date, time, and any medications you may be taking.
7. Use the flange to pour milk into bags, while prepped in a cup – why did I not think of that? I have not spilled a drop this time – woohoo!
8. Cookie sheets for freezing flat and gallon bags for organizing (flat bottom ones, so helpful!)
9. Get enough supplies to be able to just wash morning and night, otherwise you will feel like you are CONSTANTLY at the sink with your hands in soapy water!
10. Put the milk in the fridge after each pump, then bag only once/twice a day (also to save your sanity) but it also allows you to combine some pumps for better storage (balancing the amount in each bag to like 4 oz early on, 5 or 6 oz later) and then you avoid the issue of combining warm milk into cold if you stock it up for a while, so you have multiple cold batches to work with!
11. When labeling the bags, the parents found it really helpful to number them. So much easier for organization, besides just trying to look at the dates/times that are also noted on each bag.
And when the inevitable first clog happened… this is how I got through:
1. Alternated acetaminophen and ibuprofen for the fever/chills/body aches and inflammation
2. Shortened time between pumps and pumped for longer (even though wasn’t getting as much)
3. Used the LaVie roller and the massager mentioned above, and begged my husband to help massage out the worst of the lumps, breaking through the clogs
4. Warm showers before pumping, but otherwise cold compresses on the inflamed area(s)
5. Increased frequency of sunflower lecithin to multiple doses throughout the day
6. Other carriers have shared that ice packs specifically meant for breasts, made of soft, washable fabric. The coolness provides relieve and keeps your frozen peas in the freezer for dinner!
But when the issues lasted for a few days and had switched from one boob to another and clearly progressed to full blown Mastitis, then I called my doctor and got a prescription to finally knock it out. Happy to say that I felt monumentally better within 24 hours of starting the medication, but taking it “on an empty stomach” has been tough – either an hour before or 2-3 hours after a meal is difficult when my “lactating hunger” seems pretty constant – but it is key to finish the entire course of meds. The last thing you want is antibiotic resistant Mastitis. So even though I felt better after 24 hours, I took the full 10-day course of meds… and now things are going so smoothly again – phew!
So I hope these tips help other people avoid my tough lessons and pitfalls. Exclusive pumping is a whole different ball game than breastfeeding and pumping sporadically, but it really can be exceptionally rewarding, too. I love that as a gestational carrier I can continue to help babies grow strong and healthy with a little bit of liquid gold 😉