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Call for advice - Elizabeth Unexplained
Lots of data but no answers
Call for advice
The weeks are rushing by and I am going to have to return to work all too soon. That means I need to get pumping.

So far I've pumped on exactly two occasions. Once when Margaret was very congested and having trouble nursing, and once when I got the notion that I should start storing up breast milk in the freezer. I should have done the latter much more by now, but I haven't gotten around to it. I'm guessing that I need to change that.

Breastfeeding is going very well. The problem is that I have absolutely no idea how much milk Margaret is getting. I've been uncharacteristically laid back about my parenting, and thus so far I've been unconcerned about the exact quantity. As long as Margaret keeps dirtying her diapers regularly and doesn't go too long between feedings I am happy. Of course it's hard to stress about it too much because she nurses so frequently during the day. The frequent nursing also makes it tough to fit a pumping session in. The result is I have only one little bag of stored milk in the freezer and absolutely no idea what Margaret's daily intake is.

I need to know roughly how much milk Margaret needs during the day and build up a head start on the supply before I return to work. I suppose I could figure out the quantity not nursing and only pumping for a day, but I really do not want to do that. I don't mind the pump, but nursing is so much better. Also, even though I have a Medela Pump In Style, it just doesn't have the kind of suction that Margaret has. It is like a worn out dustbuster and my baby is like an industrial strength wet-vac. I can get 1.5 ounces out of each breast with the pump, but I'm betting Margaret is getting more.

So, any idea of how much milk I'm going to need stored up when I go back to work? I'm pretty sure that if I can find the time during the day supply won't be an issue, I just need to know how much. Then I'll need to figure out how to manage an entire day away from the baby I have barely let out of my sight for the past eight weeks...
4 comments or Leave a comment
enugent From: enugent Date: August 15th, 2008 04:11 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, you want as much stored up as you can manage, in my experience. But all you really need is one day's worth, so you can make the bottles for the next day and then replace them. But if that's all you have on hand, you're living right on the edge. I would try for 2-3 days worth, if you can.

As a data point, Howard has been drinking three 4-ounce bottles a day, although he got 4.5-ounce bottles today and he sucked those right down, too. When he's home, he nurses every 2.5-3 hours, and he gets bottles on a similar schedule. If she's still eating every 1 or 2 hours, you'll need more, smaller bottles.

If you want actual data, another way to do it would be to rent one of the super-accurate baby scales from the hospital for whatever their shortest rental period is (probably a week), and weigh her before and after feeds. A nuisance, but if it's only for one day it may not be that big a deal.

As a point of curiosity, have you been using Trixie Tracker? I remember you mentioning it a while ago. We have been using it with Howard, although the sleep data wasn't very accurate before he came home from the hospital. (Let me know offline if you want to see some real data and I'll make you a guest account for him.) I really like the pumping inventory control tool, although I have to use a kludge when making bottles - it doesn't support having more than one bottle going at a time, so I have to mark them all as "consumed" when I make them the night before, then edit them the next day to show the times that he actually drank them. But after the stress I had last time about always being on the point of running out of milk (and I did have to give Dorothy some formula when I was hospitalized that summer with some weird infection), it's incredibly comforting to have hard numbers on exactly what I have, where it is stored, and when I pumped it.
enugent From: enugent Date: August 15th, 2008 05:00 am (UTC) (Link)
I went back and looked at blog entries from four years ago, and at four months, Dorothy was generally getting 3-4 bottles at daycare, each of which was around 3-4 ounces, so pretty similar to what Howard is getting now. I would start out with 3-ounce bottles, and also bring in one or two "top-up" bottles with only an ounce or so in them that they can give if she still seems hungry after the main bottle. (You can also call and discuss this with your daycare, assuming that's what you're doing with her - they see a lot of babies and should have some idea about averages.)
outerjenise From: outerjenise Date: August 15th, 2008 06:09 am (UTC) (Link)
I ditto enugent in that you want as much as you can store, at least 2-3 days worth.

It's impossible to know how much milk Margaret consumes, but honestly, you don't need to worry about it. Start pumping a little right after you nurse her. One trick I often used was to pump one breast while the baby suckled at the other, taking advantage of the natural letdown. That will actually give you a rough idea of how much she's eating, too.

Build up a supply gradually. Assuming that you're going back to work when Margaret is 3 months old, I'd say you'd want a minimum of 6oz, and I'd be a lot more comfortable with 12oz or so. Then again, my girls are ENORMOUS with matching appetites.

Another thing: don't freeze 6oz altogether. Freeze 3 or 4oz at a time. Otherwise, you'll frequently end up with thawed mild leftover that you can't refreeze. That will change, too, as Margaret gets older.

As for managing an entire day away, you should do a few test runs. Get someone to mind her, and go to a nearby cafe for an hour. Then two. Then four. Get her, and yourself, used to the idea that you leaving her side is not a permanent situation. This will also give you some experience with what it's like to have your milk come in and not immediately let Margaret drain it off. Perhaps most importantly, it will give Margaret a chance to get used to a bottle. You may need to experiment with different bottle and nipple types, and you really want to find out what works for her in advance.

Good luck!
mijven From: mijven Date: August 16th, 2008 03:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Can you see my journal? For better or worse, I never pumped much myself - but having had folks on my friendslist go/going through this, I passed your request for advice along.
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