So in preparation to go back to work, there were two things on my mind: 1- how I was going to stand being away from my baby girl for longer than 30 minutes and 2-figuring out the best bottle/pump/storage method for my breast milk. And although number one sure was, though, number two gave me quite a run for my money. Until then, I had been exclusively breastfeeding Avery on-demand…, or in other words, when she’s hungry. I feed her, no bottles, no pumping, no nothing. So about a month away from when Avery would be starting daycare, I began my research to find: a pump, a way to store breast milk, and a bottle that Avery would take. Now you can probably tell from my blog that I love to research things, it’s just something I’ve done for years, and now that I’m into the green scene, I’ve taken my research to a whole new level. But researching these things was different for me. Looking into bottles and pumping was just a reminder to me that soon I’d be away from Avery and I didn’t really like that. It was almost like it left a bad taste in my mouth. It didn’t help that the bottle market is seriously insane. I can remember saying several profane words when I walked into that section of Babies R’Us one day.
I put on a happy face in this picture with Avery, but inside I was screaming! There was seriously so much to choose from, and to make matters worse; it was nearly all PLASTIC! Cue the theme song to Jaws ” du-du, du-du, du-du-du-du-du-du-DU-DU-DU!” I’m a little plastic-phobic which you can see in this post, this post, or this post. And although most plastic on the market nowadays is BPA-free (which a great thing), I still didn’t feel comfortable using it..what can I say? I’m a glass girl! To make a long story short, I did some more research and was able to find what I think is a “green alternative” to the whole pumping, storage, and bottle routine, and I’m excited to tell you about it.
So here’s what I use, and then I’ll show you how I make it all work…
The first up is pumping! Great times I know. But seriously, if you’re a working mom and breastfeeding is a goal of yours, a high-quality electric pump is a must. When I was pregnant, I got a manual pump because I thought I would like the “naturalness” of it…talk about greenness too! But, once Avery was born, I realized that I love to do lots of different things while breastfeeding, like make calls, get some creative inspiration from Pinterest, and even blog. So to think about having to use both hands to pump while I’m at work did not sit well with me, and that’s when I realized I needed a pump that was “hands-free”. I ended up going with this pump by Hygeia (thanks to this post by Julia), which is one of the greenest pumps around because after I’m done using it, I can return the mechanical portion of it to the company, and they will reuse it with another mom or recycle it for you… No worries, all the parts that touched or were even remotely near my milk stay with me. The pump’s official name is Hygiea. Enjoy LBI Rechargeable Battery Pump (I got the Deluxe Tote Set for $319). Another benefit is that all parts that come in contact with the milk are BPA/DEHP free. Does it sound like it might be a good fit for you? Read more here.
Okay, so that now you know which pump I use, let me break it down for you and explain the parts…because a few months ago, I had no clue either! Here goes:
Here’s the pump, flanges, and tubing.
Here’s where you turn it on, and you can control
the speed and strength as well as where the tubing connects to the pump.
The tubing connects here in the back, and it is what controls
the suction…the milk does not go through these!
These are the flanges…you can probably figure out where
these bad boys go!
Now, although this pump is not hands-free, I purchased an Organic PumpEase Nursing Bra ($42) that can make my pump hands free, and it’s been awesome. Here’s a PG-rated view of it in action…
It hooks around in the front like a strapless bra…with
little slits in it.
The slits hold the flanges, then BAM!
Hands-free pumping fun!
After purchasing my pump, I wondered what was I going to do with all this milk Ias w pumping? Once again, I was confronted with my arch-nemesis….plastic! Plastic bags, plastic containers, plastic pots all for storing breast milk. Seriously, what’s with all this plastic? Normally I wouldn’t stress so much about something like this, but because it’s my breast milk and it would be undergoing extreme temperature changes (being frozen, then thawed out, then warmed up), I was so not comfortable with plastic being in the equation. In to save the day once again was glass. This time I got creative with my storage and called on a good friend…glass mason jars. Anyone else has a slight obsession with these? I know I do! Inspired by some “breast milk storage pots” I’d seen at Babies R’Us, I figured why not just use some little glass mason jars? They are about the same size and could be used in exactly the same way? So I got some from the store…a whopping $7 for 12 jars, and they have really been great! I also use large mason jars for my day-to-day breast milk storage, which you’ll see later.
Little 8 oz. mason jars for storing and freezing breast milk.
My little mason jars in action…holding some frozen milk in
Last on the research list was bottles, and as you guessed it, the only thing I felt comfortable with was glass. I use glass for so many things because although it is a bit heavier and the risking of breakage is higher than plastic, I feel like it’s safer. I can trust that no pesky chemical is going to come leaking out, or I don’t have to worry about the properties changing of the food inside of it if the temperature changes. Plus, after months and even years of using it, it can still come out looking sparkly clean, not cloudy and scratched like plastic.
My favourite glass baby bottle.
Now, if you look on the “green market” of bottles, there are some pretty fancy, schmancy glass bottles out there, some of which cost $15-20 per bottle! Ouch. I love being green, but not that much! That’s when I began to research again, and I came upon some bottles that I always kept seeing on my bottle shopping expeditions, but I always brushed them aside…Evenflo Classic Glass bottles. These little bottles are simple enough, they don’t have any fancy claims about mimicking the breast, or more preferred by new moms, but they are called “classic” for a reason. They’ve been around for 60 years! Also, I found some rocking reviews of them on Amazon.com that really encouraged me to give them a try. Now, although the company has come under fire recently in the blog world for a video they posted, I still enjoy using their affordable, simple, glass baby bottles (3 bottles for $7!). After trying these once, they worked for Avery, and I loved being able to breathe easy and know that I could freeze them, warm them up, or refrigerate them without having to worry about any chemicals leaking into the milk.
Okay, so now that you know the big players, let me tell you how I make it all work. Sorry if this is TMI for you, but if you’ve read this far, you must be cool with it-he he!
1. Before I leave in the morning for work, I always feed Avery one last time. Then about an hour later, after I’ve dropped her off at daycare, commuted to work, and got all my things put away, it’s time for my first pump.
Let me welcome you to my pumping station, which is located in the bathroom in my classroom. I feel so lucky to be able to have the convenience and privacy of this room, and although it’s not all roses and butterflies…since it’s a bathroom for preschoolers, I still love that I’m able to close the door and pump in privacy.
My pumping station…in the kid
bathroom of my classroom!
Now since the door doesn’t have a lock, I made this lovely little sign to hopefully give people a head’s up as to what I’m doing in there.
It reads: “STOP. It’s Avery Time! (aka…I’m pumping!)
Come back in a few minutes.” Avery’s quote reads: “Yep, that
milk is for me!”
2. When it’s time for this first pump, I bring in my laptop and set it all on a TV tray while I pump. Now it’s time to put on the hands-free bra, hook up the flanges, and connect it to the pump. Sometimes I’m in a rush to do this, and I feel like the pit crew of a NASCAR race…how fast can I do it?
Time to check emails, pump, and get ready for the day!
The view from above during a pump.
3. I usually set the timer on my watch so I know how long I’m pumping, and for the first pump, I go for about 10 minutes.
4. When I’m done, I pack up the pump and hands-free bra in the pumping bag that came with my pump and stowed it away until I need it again.
The pumping bag.
Usually, once a week, I try to remember and charge up the pump. Otherwise, the battery will die in the middle of the pump, which has happened way too many times already!
My charging station behind the bathroom
Here are the goods from my morning pump. Now it’s time to transfer and store.
5. Here I am transferring the pumped milk into my favourite thing…you guessed it, a mason jar!
6. Next, I break out this handy dandy little drawstring bag my aunt sewed for me (not for this purpose, but I’ve found it works great!), and I put the flanges and bottles in it.
My drawstring storage bag.
Makes a great hiding place for pump parts.
I keep these parts in this bag so that everyone doesn’t have to see my breast pump parts every time they open the fridge in my room. On another note, I do not wash the flanges or bottles from the pumping after each pump. I read that by refrigerating them. You don’t have to worry about bacteria growth, which works out great because I do not have time to wash them after each pump. Instead, I wash them when I get home.
I don’t see any pump parts, do you?
7. Then it’s time to teach! Fast forward 4 hours later, and it’s time to pump again, this time during my lunch break. So off I go to my pumping station with my laptop and lunch. Let the multitasking begin!
Today’s lunch…one of my favourites: “Cheese” Stuffed Bean Burgers” from one of my favourite bloggers, Mama Pea. These burgers rock! Alongside a baked sweet potato, some good ol’ organic ketchup, and of course, a cloth napkin.
Lunch for today…yum!
8. During this second pump at lunch, I pump for about 15-20 minutes. It’s kind of funny if you look closely at the bottles because you can see one side pumped more than the other side. This is pretty typical for me. But it doesn’t really matter in the long run. It all goes to the same jar!
Milk from the lunch pumping session.
9. Then I teach, teach, and teach some more. If Avery were younger, I probably would pump one more time, but now that she’s 4-5 months old, these two pumps give me just the right amount of milk to get her through the next day. When it’s time to go home for the day, I pack up my milk and put it in the insulated bag that came with my pump. That way, it stays nice and cool on my drive home.
10. Next, I drive home, pick up Avery and then head home. I unpack all my food/dishes from the day and transfer the pumped milk from the day to the fridge.
The milk has made its way home.
11. Then it’s time for my least favourite part of the day…cleaning up all the dishes, bottles, and pump parts from the day. But somebody’s got to do it. At least I get to put them to dry on my favourite “grass drying rack”…I love it! So green and cute. Its official name is Boon Inc. Grass Countertop Drying Rack in Spring Green and White ($15) which you can find here.
Least favourite part about pumping…cleaning the pump parts.
My fun, green drying rack.
12. The next morning, I stick the jar of pumped milk from the day before in Avery’s diaper bag, along with one glass bottle that milk will be put in throughout the day. So every day, she gets milk from the day before (on Tuesday, she gets Monday’s milk, on Wednesday, she gets Tuesday’s milk, etc.), except for Monday…for this day, she gets the milk I pumped Friday and kept in the fridge over the weekend. If it’s a 3-day weekend, I’ll freeze the milk. Otherwise, it’s fine in the fridge for the 2 days off.
You can’t forget to pack the milk in the diaper bag.
One glass bottle makes its way to the diaper bag as well.
13. Then the routine repeats!
Curious how long pumped milk stays fresh? Here’s the guide that taught me, and here’s the cliff notes:
Room temperature: 3-6 hours
Refrigerated milk: 8 days
Just thawed refrigerator milk: 24 hours
Frozen milk: 3-6 months
One last thing about milk…how do you thaw it? This part baffled me for a while. I obviously knew never to microwave the breast milk, but I was confused as to how I (or Avery’s sitters) would warm it up quickly and safely? I thought for sure I needed a bottle warmer, but after talking with others and experimenting, I learned that you so do not! Well, if you have a plastic bottle, maybe you could try one, but here’s an easy, green, and cheap way that I warm up Avery’s bottle.
My easy, green “bottle warming method”.
Just warm up a 1/2 cup of water in the microwave in a glass measuring cup. Then place the milk (mine is usually always at fridge temp when it’s being warmed up) in the warm water and allow it to warm to the desired temperature, making sure it’s not too hot or too cold. One last thing, if I ever need to use some frozen breast milk, I thaw it out by placing it in the fridge the night before. Usually, it’s thawed and ready to go the next day.
Wow…what a post. I think that wraps up everything about how I try to go green with my pumping, breast milk storage, and baby bottles. I probably went on and on with lots of details, but when I was entering the vast world of bottles and pumped, my head was literally spinning, and I wanted nothing more than to find mama, who was going through the same thing I could learn from. So I hope this helps someone out there. Got any other pumping tricks or favourite green bottles? Post them below. We’re all still learning in this…
Update: Now you know about my pumping and bottle routine for Avery when she was a baby…check out my latest post about how I continue to breastfeed and pump for her now as a toddler… “Nursing & Pumping for a Toddler”…
Nursing a 17-month-old= a whole new ball game! ( :