To Pump or Not To Pump

July 26, 2017

This is a question many new parents are faced with. People do not realize the amount of information thrown at new and expecting parents until they are expecting and new parents themselves.

One of the big decisions parents have to make is how they are going to feed their baby. It seems like most Americans consider breastfeeding. There are many obstacles that interfere with breastfeeding – that is a post for another day but let’s talk pumping milk.

I recall when I was pregnant with my first baby I took a breastfeeding class. I knew I wanted to breastfeed but did not have many role models so I listened intently on how to breastfeed. I remember the instructor talked about pumping and how it is best to rent a pump – I am not sure I remember much more. When Phoebe was born I struggled with how to get her latched and how often to feed her and I had a striped scab across one of my nipples and a hickey on the other from her latching onto the areola. I remember in a fit of frustration telling Rob WE NEED TO RENT A PUMP! NOW!


It took a few days for us to figure out how and where to rent a pump – this was 1995! Phoebe and I found our rhythm – she found my nipple I found how to listen to her cues. The pump arrived and I stared at it.


For three and a half weeks. We rented it for four weeks. I knew I needed to use it before returning it and having spent over $80 renting and buying parts. I put the shields on my breasts and was impressed that milk came out of my breasts.

Later that night Rob came home from work. This was summer and there had been a storm. The electricity was out. Phoebe started to root around. “You have to give her this bottle! Now! My milk is going to go bad and we do not have a refrigerator and it is 99 degrees!”

Rob grabbed the bottle and tried to feed our screaming baby. I walked out of the room. My breasts began to tingle and leak.  Rob was sweating, Phoebe screamed louder and louder. Her head spinning like Linda Blair in the Exorcist. I started to cry. I think Rob was crying, too.

“Give me the baby.” I latched her on and we both chilled out.

“What do I do with this?’ asked Rob.

“Pour it down the drain,” I told him.

It turns out I did not need to pump. The company I was working for went out of business so I became a full time mom.

I asked Rob if he felt he needed to feed Phoebe to bond. He laughed and told me he felt bonded with here.

Scan 6

And eventually I became a La Leche League Leader and then a Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).


As someone who has been in the breastfeeding business for two decades I have seen different trends. With the Affordable Care Act offering up pumps to expecting parents and with social media there is a big pumping culture. And there is so much information shared that it can all be confusing.

If your baby latches on, you feel comfortable and your baby is gaining weight there is no need to pump.

Conversely, I have seen women who were told not to pump for two weeks or for one month or whatever someone told them was a rule. Or no one told them to pump while their baby is being supplemented with formula. In some of these cases this compromises their milk supply. The bottom line is that the baby must be fed. But if your baby is being supplemented and you want your body to make milk then it is important to pump. Milk is made by removing milk form the breasts – this can be with a baby who has a good latch, by hand expressing or by using a good breast pump.


Let’s now talk pumps. Pumps are not all created equally and not everyone responds to pumps the same. I have worked with people who pump using their hands – hand expressing – here is a cool video:

hand expressing


hand expressing

There are hospital grade pumps, electric single user pumps , and hand pumps.


When should you pump?

  • If your baby is separated from you
  • If your baby is not gaining enough weight
  • If your baby causing you so much pain you cannot tolerate nursing
  • If your baby takes a bottle
  • If you are donating milk
  • If you are working away from your baby

There is no need to fill your freezer! Pumping is not an Olympic sport!

How many people compare their milk stash to those they see on Instagram?!

breastmilk stored

You really only need enough milk to feed your baby.

If you want to pump that is cool but if you do not want to pump and do not need to then don’t pump.

People can bond with a baby without a bottle. If you want your baby to have a bottle of breastmilk, then pump.

Each situation is unique and blanket statements do not help new parents. For help call an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) Find a Lactation Consultant or a La Leche League Leader.La Leche League International





The Power of Tears

January 10, 2015

You never know what may come out of your mouth and how it may impact another person

In my early years as a La Leche Leauge Leader I used to hold meetings in my apartment. One steamy summer afternoon I sat on the floor of my living room folding laundry as Phoebe napped. The buzzer jolted me as I wasn’t expecting anyone. It was the day after the Series Meeting. A voice over the intercom said “I am here for the Meeting.” I buzzed her in.

At my door was a petite new mom with auburn curls and a five-month-old baby asleep in a dark red Baby Bjorn carrier. Beads of sweat speckled her stiff body. Tension permeated her.

“I am sorry but the Meeting was yesterday. Come on in and have a glass of water,” I said.

Her face fell but her body remained at attention.

“Come on in, I‘m just folding laundry. Have a seat.”

“No, I don’t want the baby to wake,” she replied.

She stood in my living room as I sat back down on the floor and went back to the task of folding a load of pinks, greens, oranges and yellows.

“It’s hard being a new mom isn’t it?” I asked.

“Yes.” There was a pause.

Then, “and my own mother wants me to stop breastfeeding. She doesn’t understand me. I just want to cry,” she blurted out.

“Well, then, cry,” I offered.

“I don’t want to cry in front of my baby. I don’t want her to think I am weak,” she was incredulous.

“You know, there is strength in tears,” I said as I folded one of Phoebe’s flowery sundresses.

The floodgates opened. I didn’t know if it was five months of pent of tears or a lifetime.

Her body softened with each sob. Even her curls fell easier around her face. Her baby girl woke up and she sat on my couch and nursed her. At first she was stiff. I touched her shoulder and gently pressed her back into the back cushion. More tears fell.

This woman had traveled from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to the East Village. If you live in New York City you know that is quite a journey on public transportation, particularly for a new mom.

I never saw the woman again or heard from her but I learned the power of simple words that day.

I often cry with the moms with whom I work and I cry in front of my children. I always feel powerful after.

Bye Bye Breast Burka

March 23, 2011

Some of you have seen this but it bears showing from time to time: Katherine, a new mom, called me to discuss her milk supply. She was concerned with keeping up the demand of her baby. Then she asked me other breastfeeding questions. She was not sure how to nurse Sadie outside of her house. She thought it was because she needed her “special pillow.” The truth is she doesn’t know how because few women really breastfeed in public anymore. There was an orangutan at a zoo in Boston. The zookeepers mated her and she became pregnant. Ms. Orangutan had been raised in captivity. She had not lived among sister orangutans so she did not know what to do with her baby when he was born – the baby orangutan died. The second time around the zookeepers asked volunteers from the local chapter of La Leche League to nurse their babies in front of the primate.  When the second baby was born the primate placed her baby in her arms backwards but with some guidance from the staff quickly learned to feed and care for her baby. This is how we learn. We observe the behavior of others. When I was a pregnant with my first baby I had met a few breastfeeding mothers along the way including my sister-in-law. I took a breastfeeding class to learn as much as I could before my baby arrived. When Phoebe was born she was placed in my arms and we nursed for the first time for about twenty minutes. And then we nursed  – a lot. I felt awkward. I fumbled to unlatch my nursing bras, some of which were too big, some of which were too tight and one that broke. I bought dowdy nursing clothes. I wore button shirts. I still felt awkward. Phoebe was born on a hot summer day.  I am a gregarious person. I am best chatting with a group. As a new mother I felt isolated. I hungered for company That summer we had a few social events – a wedding, an engagement party – “showing off our baby” weekends. I noticed that wherever I went the host always had a “nice air conditioned room with a comfy chair” for me to go and nurse Phoebe. And Phoebe nursed all the time. I was even isolated in my socialization. Sandra, my brother’s wife had recommended attending a La Leche League meeting. The meetings had been a great resource for her as a new mom. I found the meetings helpful but even more important were the lunch dates after the meetings. Phoebe and I joined other nursing moms monthly at the Thruway Diner. We always sat at the big round table in the center of the bustling eatery. Six to ten moms and their babies smack in the middle of business suits, ties, skirts and silk blouses. This is where I learned to nurse out and about with confidence. I watched the moms with older babies. I saw unspoken communication between them. I saw how a baby might start to wiggle a bit and like Houdini the mom had unhooked her bra, lifted her shirt and latched the baby in seconds flat. It looked effortless and it also looked like there was a baby in her arms – no breasts hanging out, no cover ups – simply a babe in arms. I wanted to be like them. I wanted to feel that assured. I wanted to look that smooth and at ease. As I expressed my envy at their mastery they all assured me that they too had been awkward. They encouraged me to nurse Phoebe in front of a mirror and I did. I grew confident in my ability to nurse Phoebe whenever she needed.  At the next social gathering Phoebe started rooting and I said to Rob, “I am going to nurse her here.” He put his arm around me and kept talking. From there I declined offers for the “air conditioned room with a comfy chair.” I eventually became a La Leche League leader and then lactation consultant. I gave birth to two more children. I nursed them all over the place: the bus, the subway, Saks, Barnes & Noble, fancy restaurants, diners.  Usually no one except other mother’s knew I was nursing. I was not hiding behind anything just nursing my babies. When my youngest child, Finn, was about 6 months old I was at the pediatrician’s office for a well check up. In the waiting area were two new moms discussing a new product they had just discovered – “The Hooter Hider” one of them said in an embarrassed giggle. Then I started seeing breastfeeding covers everywhere. This was the antithesis of the Thruway Diner experience. A baby begins to fuss, the mother searches her bag for the cover, the baby fusses more, the mother opens the cover, ties it around her, by now the baby is wailing, the mom fumbles with the cover and the baby, the baby kicks about, perhaps not wishing to be under a tent. Now everyone knows what is going on under the fabric. How challenging this makes everything. Breastfeeding by its very nature is designed to be simple. We have complicated it. We have made it shameful and difficult.  Like the orangutan new moms today have no real life positive breastfeeding images. Courtney, another new mom, asked me a question about nursing in public. I asked her, “ Do you have any friends who are breastfeeding?” “Yes,” she replied. “So go hang out with them, learn from them,” I offered. “They use a cover or expressed milk in a bottle.” she answered. “Go to the thruway diner!!!” I want to scream. But that was another time, another place. I walk down the street and look into the windows of Victoria’s Secret, American Apparel and Abercrombie + Fitch – this is our provocative world yet we must put a tent around us to feed our babies? We flaunt our breasts to sell products. Breasts are sexy – until they become functional. Then we hide them. A few years ago I could spot a breastfeeding mom because I had a keen eye and I had been there. Nowadays anyone can tell a breastfeeding mom – she is the one hiding behind the overpriced piece of calico. Scan 121940003