Stories and guest posts

Guest post: JJ’s boring tale of pumping and geeky Excel use

JJ and her son breastfeeding on the beach.
JJ and her son breastfeeding on the beach.

Today’s guest post comes from a friend of mine who is much, much more anal than I ever was about pumping. But, hey, it worked for her! Sometimes knowing and tracking the numbers is a comfort, and while I’m an advocate for breastfeeding that’s as gadget-free as possible, there’s no denying that certain women feel better knowing the inputs and outputs.

When my friend Tipper asked for boring breastfeeding stories, I knew I had the story she needed. Not that my son’s nursing career was uneventful (there was a tongue tie, and mastitis and mommy had an ER visit with some nasty meds). But the key to successful breastfeeding for us was the most boring of workplace staples: the spreadsheet.

I was fortunate to have a breastfeeding-friendly workplace. I work in public health and one of my co-workers was a breastfeeding advocate who was able to secure a shared hospital-grade breastpump for the office when three of us became pregnant at the same time. (I swear, there was something in the water.) While I worked in a shared space, we were able to dedicate a teensy empty office as a pumping space, complete with network cables so we could all plug in our laptops and work while pumping. Maybe not the most fun thing in the world, but it was efficient and I was happy to have so much support at work.

Sitting at my computer with the pump hooked up that first week, I popped open Excel and started a spreadsheet of my pumping output. At first, I just wanted to make sure that I was giving his caregiver an appropriate amount of milk, similar to what he’d get in a day feeding at the tap. But as time went on, I kept going with the spreadsheet. It kept me honest. It would have been all too easy to stop an ounce or two short, especially on a Thursday or Friday when my milk supply dipped a bit. If I was particularly busy or had a meeting, it would be so easy to cut five minutes off my morning pumping session and then forget to make it up in the afternoon. But I had the spreadsheet. Like a food log for a dieter, or a blood glucose log for a diabetic, my pumping spreadsheet kept me accountable. Each week, I pumped what my son had eaten the previous week. No more, no less. I could communicate clearly with my caregiver about how much milk she should give. If he was having a growth spurt, he could make it up in the evening, nursing from the tap, or when he was older he could eat more solids. And if I was short an ounce or two at the end of the week, I knew about it and could make it up with a little hand expression on the weekend. No big deal.

At the time, it just plain worked for me. Now that I know a little more about nursing vs. pumping, I know that matching supply and demand is so important to maintaining a healthy supply in working mothers. Pump too much and you can end up with oversupply on the weekend and mastitis by Tuesday. Pump too little and your supply can ever so slowly decrease; which might be a problem if your goal is exclusive breastmilk for the first 12 months. (If your breastfeeding goals include mixed feeding while you work, this might not be a problem for you.) You don’t need to pop open a spreadsheet each time you disconnect the pump, but some sort of log, even just numbers scrawled on the back of a receipt, is really helpful in balancing out supply and demand.

I wish I still had that spreadsheet. I’d print it out for his baby book. Or maybe make you guys a pretty graph. With standard deviations to graphically depict the slight change in supply from Monday to Friday. But sadly, my workplace was subject to a major theft incident and my laptop was stolen from a locked cabinet (we’re pretty sure it was an inside job) along with several thousand dollars in other computers and equipment. So, the spreadsheet has gone, and all I have now is a sturdy five year old, who wants to build himself a Millenium Falcon. How boring.

JJ does not have a mommy resume. Deal with it.


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