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Stress & Pump do not mix

Right now, I am under a lot of stress.  A lot.  I am normally under a good deal of stress, but I am currently under so much more.  Work, kids, partner's work, house, diapers, etc.  You know how it is.

I finally found some time to pump the other day at the office.  I hooked up, and .... nothing.  Dribble here, dribble there.  Minutes felt like hours.  The time passed.  I thought I felt let down, but there was no surge in volume.  I kept imagining let down, but I just could not get flowing.  In a panic, I called my husband.  "Why don't you just take a break?"  WHAT?  A break?  I don't have time for a break!  sigh.

Pumping breastmilk as a working mama is not easy.  Pumping is even harder when the stress kicks in and depletes your milk production stamina.  Please: can you share your tips and tricks for calming down, finding a nice calm mental place so you can make some milk for babe?  Do you gaze at a photo of babe?  Do you close your eyes and think of her?  Or, just close your eyes and visualize a tranquil beach and hear the sound of a whooshing ocean?



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This might sound a bit strange but... Smell is powerful... how about bringing your baby's PJs to work and taking a few minutes of breathing the scent in, calmly, before you start pumping?

Stress is a killer, period. And while you can find temporary relief Via visualization or meditation, sometimes it simply isn't enough. While I don't pump...(have never had any success with it) I would think it will take more then the techniques listed above. I think your husband had the right idea.

Take a bath, read a book, get some SLEEP. Take some time for YOU. Yea, I know...your busy, we are all so very busy. But sometimes the only way to get rid of stress is by pulling out the bigger guns :-p

I SO wish I had some good advice! But I will tell you you're not alone... with 2 kids and a husband who has been out of work for the last year (sigh) I feel the weight of the world is on my shoulders. If I allow even the slightest negative thought drift into my head as I'm preparing to pump my milk pulls a vanishing act of Copperfieldian proportions! It does help a little to look at a picture of my sweet smiling baby boy... and reminding myself that because of his milk allergy he NEEDS me to be able to pump for him.

I've been streaming movies on Netflix to distract me while I pump. I've found that when I'm actively laughing I have much more pumping success -- so I've been watching a lot of SNL. :o)

Also, surprisingly, if something startles me (like something jumping out in a scary movie) I have a surge of letdown! lol

I read a book when I pumped. I would keep a book large enough to lay open by itself and put it on the table or counter in front of me. It helped distract me from hyper-focusing on the letdown.

I have found that usually when I am stressed I do not eat as well or stay hydrated. Maybe you could be sure you are getting enough to drink and plenty of fresh healthy snacks (or smoothies).
I have had a lot of luck with oatmeal helping with my supply. Maybe grab some oatmeal cookies and some calm tea for while you are pumping to enjoy a treat!

I am definitely not a person who can quiet her own mind so when I was pumping at work, I always read. I think what you read can help a lot. I tried stuff related to work and it was a no go. Instead I switched to young adult fiction and it worked like a charm. A lot of it is written to hold a easily distracted reader so its very engaging and the narrative moves forward at a clip--just what I needed for a 20 minute session. Among other things, I read Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now and ALL of the Little House on the Prairie books which were pretty fascinating to read again now that I'm a parent.

I think this is actually two separate issues. One is how to deal with the stress at the moment that you're trying to pump and while that was never my problem, I second the mention of the Little House books. Or Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. Seriously, anything that you would read to an eight year old who is having trouble relaxing is just about right for me when I'm going through a tough spot.

The second issue though, is how to deal with the larger world. If you're stressed at work when you're trying to pump it's because you're dealing with conflicting priorities, right? You want to prioritize taking care of your baby, but you also want or maybe need to work. And deal with an ill parent. Or a problem at school. Or finding a new rental because you're about to be kicked out. And oh, aren't you supposed to be exercising? And, in re our discussion of sex a few weeks ago, maybe you're stressing that you're not getting or giving enough. . . . the list of things on your mind can be endless.

So while there are tips and tricks for dealing with stress in a momentary way, really the problems pumping are just a symptom of a larger problem, right? The canary in the coal mine?

So you didn't write in and ask for advice about the other stuff that's going on, and goodness knows I'm not any good at managing the issues in my own life. The best I can do is a cyber hug--the mom equivalent of an "it gets better" video. You'll make it. So will your baby.

i had the same problem with my first baby and pumping at work. i had a boss who didn't understand needing to pump at all, and thought i should be done within 10 minutes. i watched my supply get less and less until it was gone. i wish i had stood up for myself, and my baby, and demanded the time that i needed and taken a few extra minutes at the beginning to do some breathing exercises to calm down and transition from work to baby. i did that with my second and i can tell you that it really helped, instead of rushing from my office to the pumping area and trying to get going right away. i also second the reading suggestions. also be sure that you're comfortable. i brought a pillow in. some people look at pictures of their babies, but that didn't really make a difference for me. good luck!

I used to have to bring a picture to look at and that always helped w/letdown.

i can totally relate. i think sometimes just being in my office stressed me out. not sure if you commute via car, but something that helped me was to go out to my car, put on my poncho and pump while listening to the radio or my ipod. i think just getting space from the stress can help.

I also like the other ideas of reading or watching tv/videos. for those of us with busy minds, meditation comes in many forms.

good luck and congrats for making the effort to take care of your baby in this way (although, if it's not working - it's not working and don't beat yourself up about that!)

I was never good at pumping no matter what I did, so I don't have much to offer in terms of that. But, I just wanted to say even if you can't pump enough to feed, you can give mixed bottles (breastmilk and formula) and still have a very good breastfeeding relationship for as long as you want. Whatever schedule you can create, your body will continue to meet that need. Knowing that half a bottle was all I was going to get helped keep my stress level down because I didn't stress about the lack of production!

My job makes it difficult to have a set pumping time, patients always come first. But, I do try to have a cup or two of mother's milk tea during the day and I try to enjoy the 5-10 minutes the pumping allows me to sit down, relax and take a few deep breaths.

When I have a tough time getting what babe needs, I have brought formula and breastmilk to the childcare provider. Knowing that I can do that helps reduce my stress, too. Also, I try to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

I also found reading to be the best solution. Fluffy magazines with pretty pictures were easy to flip through and distracted me enough to get my milk going. When I didn't have reading material, I'd just sit there and watch the milk drip, drip, drip slooooowly into the bottle while getting increasingly tense and working myself up into a snit that my baby was going to starve (he vomited up any formula we tried, so breast milk was it for us). Taking my mind completely off the task worked best for me.

I also found that I needed to feel "safe" in pumping, i.e. that no one was going to hustle me along or accidentally walk in on me. It ended up being kind of a nice 20-minute break from work, a time to read and refresh and feel like I was doing something good for my baby when the rest of the day was a frenzy. Ultimately, my attitude change of pumping as a "must do quickly and well" kind of thing to instead thinking of it as a time to recharge for myself and my baby was most helpful.

You are doing amazing work Mamas!

Oddly for me, talking to my own mom on the phone always worked best.

If any of you have an employer who doesn't understand, here is a link that could help you both http://www.nursingmotherscounsel.org/workplacelactationsupport.htm

Employers who support breastfeeding find that they have greater productivity from working mamas, and less time away due to a sick baby.

Distraction while pumping (surfing the web) always helped me. Women who have had breast surgery and therefore have nerve damage to their breasts have found fennel can help letdown.
There's more info here: http://www.kellymom.com/herbal/milksupply/herbal-rem_f.html

I work full time with a 12-month old at home with my husband, a SAHD. I pump twice a day. I find on the days that my son wakes up and *really* nurses before I go to work, I pump markedly less than the mornings where he is less gung-ho. I try not to stress about it, but rather, look at the whole day and what may be going on.

That said, I do have a photo of my sweet boy up in the room. I imagine are re-live recent snuggles with him. And I do a lot of what others suggest - mindless distractions (check email on a smart phone, read a magazine). Last, I think nwmom put it well - pump time is a well-deserved break that is as much for me as for baby. I try to use this time to relax and escape all the stresses of the day as much as I can.

I occationally had low-milk periods while pumping too. The most obvious fix is making sure to drink lots of water, which is easy to forget when you're stressed. Fenugreek woeks wonders for increasing milk production - but you have to take a lot of it.

When I pump I relax and imagine holding my baby that morning. I remember the feeling of her soft skin and envision the way she wrinkles her nose and the milk just starts aflowin'. Once the floodgates have opened, so to speak, then I check my email or read my book.

I always visualized water flowing - waterfalls, ocean waves, rivers. And if I found myself getting stressed over slow production, a little positive self talk, like 'I am good at this' or 'I can make milk for my baby'.

Reading helped me too...at least stopped me from staring at the drips barely dropping in the bottles! I pumped in the office too, and would just find something interesting to read on wikipedia while I pumped at my desk. Great ideas everyone!

I was very lucky to have an office with a door that locked and access to a computer, which (1) made me feel relaxed and secure that no one was going to barge in on me and (2) let me watch simple, distracting TV on Hulu or similar. If you can find a space that you know you are secure in and do something distracting like reading magazines or easy books or watching simple TV maybe that would help? I don't have any other advice, but I hope this works out for you.

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