Since the baby’s one-month appointment, I had often times wondered if pursuing the exclusive pumping path was even worth it for me. I had been disheartened, annoyed at, and frankly envious as hell of so many stories I had read of other women who had already developed freezer stashes by the one month mark, meaning that they were already over supplying milk to their baby to the point that they couldn’t feed it to them in four days, which is the longest amount of time you can leave breastmilk in the fridge safely and feed to your baby. So they had to freeze the milk for later consumption.
My pumping output to date had been pretty miserable. Granted, I had realized late in the game, by postpartum standards anyway, that my flange size was not correct, but my output was pretty dismal and not something to write home about. I was lucky to get 1 ounce of breastmilk during a 20-minute pump session. That’s for both breasts just to be clear. There was one time when I got 2 ounces, and I thought that was incredible. Occasionally, I was getting one and a half ounces, but I attributed that solely to luck. I was also still tinkering around with the Spectra pump settings, so I had not quite mastered optimal settings for my own body. Because unfortunately, pump settings and even the pump itself is not a one size fits all situation. The breast-feeding and pumping experience is extremely unique to each person, so one set of settings and even one pump could be optimal for one person and really terrible for another, which makes this even more vexing.
The fact that this is process is more art than science is a huge frustration point for me, particularly because of the fact that women have been breast-feeding for centuries. This is not like some new thing that women are doing, so it’s ridiculous that we have not streamlined this process pretty much at all if you ask me.
So when the new Pumpinpal flanges arrived today, I got really excited and hopeful for the first time during this pumping journey. I immediately went to sanitize them and clean them, and I also knew that there was a learning curve in terms of the way that the section worked with these flanges, as a process of putting them on was not going to be the same as regular plastic flanges. You actually have to put each flange on one at a time and suction each on. The suction is actually what keeps the flange in place and provides the proper placement for the nipple within the flange, creating a comfortable set up for the nipple and just the right amount of movement for the nipple within the tunnel. If Pumpinpal flanges are placed correctly on the nipple, you should only see the tip of the nipple move in and out during a pumping session. They tell you that this is counterintuitive, which it is, and so I was interested to see how this all worked.
Having to place each flange on one at a time with the pump on was super frustrating initially. The learning curve being needed is definitely true based on what I read. The first few times I did this, I got really annoyed and wanted to give up. But granted, these flanges were not cheap: I had spent $66 on three sets of flanges in different sizes along with the spectra adapters. The reason they give you three sets in different sizes is they want you to see which size fits you best. The other annoying thing? Your nipple size may change throughout the day and depending on your mood or the amount of milk your breasts contain, so they also suggest changing up which flange you use based on this. I found out that two of the flange types actually fit me depending on what time of day it is. The extra small flanges always fit, while the small flanges fit occasionally and sometimes are even tighter than the extra small flanges if that makes any sense at all. So given the amount of money I had spent particularly relative to the amount of out of pocket I had to pay for the pump, which was $75, since insurance does not believe that you should have a battery to be mobile while pumping milk… I figured I had to be a little bit more patient than just trying he’s out for three times and then giving up. Plus, if I were to return these, I had to do it within 15 days and I would have to pay for the return postage, which I hate.
Probably about the fourth or fifth time I placed these flanges on correctly, I pumped for 20 minutes and was completely shocked: I had pumped over 2 ounces of milk. to be exact, I had pumped 75 mL of breastmilk. It was the most breastmilk I had ever pumped in a single session to date, and I was completely floored looking at the bottle of combined milk from both breasts. I recognize that this is a very small amount for a lot of women, but for me, this was almost life-changing. I was doing a little bit of breast compression, but I actually did not need to do as much as I normally did with the stupid plastic spectra flanges because… These actually fit correctly. That would relieve my cubital tunnel issues a LOT.
At last, during my pumping journey, I finally had a glimmer of hope with these flanges. Now, I had a reason to be excited for each future pump session. Maybe I actually could produce more milk. I just had to give these flanges and my breasts more time. I had only wished I knew that I had elastic nipple sooner, but you really do not know if you have elastic nipples until you start pumping, so this is not really something that you can check before you give birth unfortunately. There is hope now.