Becoming a new mum is hard (with or without an international pandemic to contend with). One person who knows how hard it is, is our Marketing Manager, Rachel, who gave birth to her beautiful little girl Kennedy back in May. Three months on, we caught up with her to talk about the challenges and triumphs she's faced when comes to breastfeeding.
Mother and parenthood is a funny place. A hood shared by many yet everyone's journey is so wildly different, especially mothers. The journey to get there, your birth story, your feeding experience, the ideals, and the realities - no matter how much you read (I read A LOT) and what stories friends and colleagues tell you, it can only truly be appreciated when you move into motherhood yourself, especially for the first time.
Breastfeeding was always something I wanted to do; my mum breastfed all my siblings, breastfeeding friends made it look super easy and hassle-free, colleagues shared their stories, all reinforcing that it's a great thing to do. I had the books, did the NCT course with my other half, attended the free NHS workshop, you name it - I knew I wanted to breastfeed, armed myself with as much knowledge as possible and I knew I wanted to pump too.
What no one - or very few people tell you, especially ahead of your first baby, is that breastfeeding doesn't work out for everyone, and getting started isn't easy. It's something that needs to be learned and takes time and patience. A lot of patience. And perseverance. Asking for help in the hospital, as well as from health visitors and availing of free webinars from lactation specialists in the early weeks, especially in COVID times when face-to-face clinics were canceled until further notice, is one of the best things to help you establish good breastfeeding habits.
When you get into discussions about pumping with fellow mums, everyone has lots of advice, tips, and devices that worked for them. Whether it is the famous Hakka Pump or the hospital-grade Medala, even before my baby arrived, I knew Elvie Pump could offer me something the rest couldn't. Freedom and choice. The choice to have someone else feed my baby if I wanted and the freedom to choose when and where I pumped without needing to be plugged into the wall.
Having considered all the important advice from legitimate sources about ensuring feeding was well established and being mindful about confusion, I chose to start pumping to give my baby a bottle of expressed milk after bath time at around 5 weeks. And I'm pleased to report we got off to a good start across the board.
Just like breastfeeding, getting started with Elvie took some learning too. From one mother to another, here are my secrets to success with Elvie Pump.
Things to know before you order your Elvie Pump
1. Knowledge is power
If your night feeds are anything like mine, I do the most reading of my day in the early A.M. hours. I watched the videos from Elvie about everything from shield sizes to how to keep Elvie Pump clean to make sure I knew what I was signing up for.
2. When & How to Pump
Getting into the rhythm of pumping can be a little overwhelming in the early weeks, especially when there's so much to absorb and get your head around. There's no real right and wrong time to pump but balancing supply and demand is crucial. I really recommend following @FeedEatSpeak and Vanessa Christie of The Baby Feeding Book for great advice that's free and qualified, as well as excellent Q&A and webinars on infant feeding.
If you plan on exclusively pumping or giving more than one bottle a day, from my personal experience, I would recommend investing in the Double Pump. Babies go through a number of growth spurts in the first six months and I couldn't believe how quickly we went from a 3oz to 6oz bottle, so much so that I bought a second Single Pump to speed up pumping in the evenings.
3. Get your kit ready
Elvie Pump is the brains behind your pumping journey but there are a few other bits you may also want to consider. There are lots of incredible sterilising systems out there as well as hundreds of bottles and teats to choose from. Sterilising alone has a constant debate amongst the Elvie Pump Facebook Groups to ensure your parts don't warp. 10 weeks into our pumping journey, here's what my kit includes to give you an idea of what else you might need - with no warped parts.
- Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Microwave Steam Steriliser
- NUK 2 in 1 Bottle and Teat Brush
- Tommee Tippee Express and Go Breast Milk Starter Kit
- BabyD Drops
Tips for using Elvie Pump
The second hot topic in the Elvie Pump Facebook Groups is troubleshooting, which has a good section in the traditional user manual provided but there's nothing like other people's experience and support from Elvie's own customer service to help figure it any issues you may encounter. Tried and tested, here are my tips for a great experience with Elvie Pump.
1. Dry Valves
If there is a single droplet of water on your valve, it will prevent Elvie from getting the right suction. This can be one of the reasons why you might think your Elvie isn't working properly, but when you inspect it, 9 times out of 10, there will be one pesky droplet still there. Mum hack: Dry your valves with a cotton bud as it makes it much easier to get into each of the curves.
2. Visible Seal Edge
Just as minor but major to getting Elvie working successfully every time is the edge of the seal. To ensure you can get pumping straight away, before you put your shields on, make sure the edge of the seal is just above the neck of the hub.
3. Use the Spout
Baby brain is real. Any new parent will tell you the same. For weeks I had been taking the spout off and pouring it into the storage bags from the neck of the bottle. This was easy to do for the first few weeks with small volumes but as the volumes increased, it became a risky game. There's a reason it's called a spout. Remove the green seal and use the neck of the spout to pour your milk into a bottle or bag as needed.
4. Ready and Waiting
As a breastfeeding and pumping mum, I've feared the dreaded blockages and mastitis, especially when I introduced Elvie Pump. Our pumping routine worked well for us, however as growth spurts and night stretches become more common and yet sporadic, always having your Elvie Pump set up and ready to go means that you can pump whenever you need to.
5. Track Your Sessions
Elvie Pump's own app is pretty great: you can control your hubs, get useful tips, and even watch the various YouTube videos, however, the one area that needs improving is the volume tracker. It's a known frustration amongst Elvie Pump users that its digital tracker doesn't align with the real output. My tracker of choice, because I use it for other things, is Huckleberry. I track all of my baby's activity from naps to changes so tracking what I pump is no extra effort.