Pumping Wars

March 1, 2015

Deciding to forgo breastfeeding certainly reduced the stress on both Anna and me.  And this wasn’t going to be an issue.  I still had the pump that I got when I was pregnant with Sofia.  You may recall that there was a breast pump shortage back in September of 2013.  I really wanted to get a Medela, but they were nowhere to be found.  The supply company where I got my pump said that the Ameda was rated almost as highly.  So it might not be the gold standard of pumps, but it should be good enough.

At coffee before planning the henna party, Sheri told me that her Ameda pump had been next to useless.  “It has no suction.  Get a Medela,” she insisted.  “Your insurance should cover it.”

But I figured I’d try it.  Plus, I wasn’t positive that my insurance would cover a new pump.  And finding information about the breast pump benefit is next to impossible.

Sheri was right.  My Ameda was good for less than a day.  And then the diaphragms that control the suction stopped fully inflating… sometimes.  It was increasingly unreliable.  I’d check that they were working before I started pumping, and then as soon as I did start pumping, they’d stop working.  I made sure that all of the bits were thoroughly dried.  I went online.  This is a common problem with Ameda pumps.  No one had a reliable fix.  The only suggestion I hadn’t tried was to pump only one side at a time.

And this is where it gets kind of sad.  I was pumping one breast using the electric pump while my mom was using the manual Medela pump we got at the hospital on the other breast.  Guess who was able to pump more.  Yes.  The manual Medela worked better than the electric Ameda.

I called the clinic as soon as they opened the next morning to get a prescription for a new pump.  I called Access Medical as soon as they opened (30 minutes after the clinic did) to make sure they had Medelas in stock.  I called a member of the Granny Brigade to come watch Anna while my mom and I ran over to Borgess to pick up a new pump.

I was right about my insurance.  They’ll cover a new pump every three years, but not less than that.  I didn’t care.  I’d already decided to pay out of pocket if it didn’t.  The good news is that my prescription meant they could sell it to me tax-free.  I was expecting to spend at least $100 more than what I wound up paying.  And my new Medela works perfectly.  No weird quirks.

There was only one little problem.  I couldn’t figure out a way to free at least one hand.  But Issa was going to come for a visit while my mom when to Meijer, so I figured I’d ask her about what she used for hands-free pumping.  But then one of her sons got sick, and she was not going to come and share his germs.  Yes, we’re still a little sleep-deprived; it took a few minutes for me to realize that I could just text her to ask.

So the next day, another member of the Granny Brigade arrived to watch Anna while my mom and I went to the Bronson Breastfeeding Center to pick up a Simple Wishes Hands-Free Bustier.

And now I’m good.  I’m not expressing as much as I’d like, only about half of what Anna needs.  But it’s better than nothing.  And I know from experience that there’s nothing wrong with formula.  I was a formula baby.  So was my brother.  And my mom tells me that she was, too.  So I’m pumping for at least 30 minutes every four hours.  Sometimes Madge and Dorcas are insistent that they have plenty to give, so we pump longer.  But despite the advice that an exclusively pumping mother should go no more than three hours between sessions, I found that that was too frequent for the girls.  If this turns out to be not frequent enough to maintain my supply, so be it.  More frequently made me feel like all I did was pump, and there was always at least one session each day during which I wasn’t able to express anything.  And unlike breastfeeding, pumping has a physical tether.  We’ll see how long this feeding routine lasts.  But at least things are starting to settle into something that resembles a routine.


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