There are many reasons why women choose to breastfeed and I share most of them. Mainly I cherished the breastfeeding relationship that my child and I share; it's a bond that is unlike anything else in my life.
When I went back to school at 28 in the hope of eventually attending dental school, this wasn't on my mind. I was determined to perform as well as I could to get accepted to schools. But like I said, I was 28, married and the reality set in that if I was lucky enough to get accepted in my first try I would be starting dental school at 30. I didn't really want to wait until after dental school to start our family. My husband and I decided together that if we put our minds to it, we'd be able to manage a baby and dental school. After 2 miscarriages, in October of 2014, we got pregnant.
Our daughter, River, showing herself to be headstrong from day 1 was born 10 days late, and 10 days before dental school orientation. I had prepared the best that I could, but welcoming a new person into the world is something you can never really be prepared for. Headstrong myself, I was determined to breastfeed her for as long as I was able to. For those first few days of orientation, I got to know my pump as well as I got to know my classmates.
I've run the numbers on this and I recommend you do the same, because the sheer amount of time it takes to produce the milk your baby needs if you start pumping early is ridiculous. I wasn't lucky enough to be a high producer, so I pumped in 20 minute bursts, with breaks in between and more pumping to try and maximize my output. I pumped on the bus on my way down to school, I pumped during any breaks in my schedule and I pumped during lunch. On many days, between classes, I would run out a few minutes early, walk in a few minutes late and I would pump in the bathroom stall between classes. I pumped in the middle of the night after she would eat just to have a little more.
All told, I spent about a third of my waking hours attached to my pump or feeding my daughter. Between learning about craniofacial biology and human anatomy, I scoured websites for tips on latching, pumping, and storing my breast milk. It became something of an obsession for me: I wanted to know that I had a enough breast milk for my daughter.
Before I go on, let me just say that if I needed formula, I would have used it. Before my first day of school, I made sure I had it in the house, just in case. Because although breastfeeding was important to me, I know that being nourished was more important to my daughter, so I made sure to have food available for her no matter what. Formula is wonderful because it would have fed my daughter if my pumping regimen got to be too much for me and believe me there were days when I questioned the sanity of what I was doing. I didn't view formula as evil and I made sure it was in the house just in case.
But like I said, I'm headstrong and I try to reach the goals I set for myself. Maintaining a breastfeeding relationship while trying to work full time is not easy. Don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise. During this time, I met many other mothers who, like me, struggled to balance our work with the time we needed to provide the milk for our children. We struggled with some guilt for being away from our kids and we constantly talked about how much milk we were pumping, and how much we had in our "freezer stash" for a rainy day, just in case we had a low producing day. Every pumping woman I know had a freezer stash and we worried when it dwindled, and we lamented when it expired: both strangely proud that we hadn't had to use it, and yet disappointed that the time needed to pump it seemed wasted. We've been told that "you can't really have it all" but that doesn't mean that we can't try.
One night, after nursing my daughter, I frustratingly remarked to my husband that there had to be a better way than stacking frozen bags of milk in a freezer, digging through them to find the oldest one when I needed to, and constantly losing milk to expiration. In that sort of dazed way that two new parents do, we fantasized about a storage system that would simplify it all, and my husband, who is a software engineer and always optimizing for efficiency, remarked that there should be a connected device that would help mothers to monitor their input and output and always know how much they had. For as fantastic idea as I thought this was, nothing like it exists.
With the help of our mechanical engineering friend, we've developed a device that stores milk in an innovative way and fits into either the refrigerator or freezer. We've also manufactured bottles that fit perfectly into the tray, but also fit directly into the Medela pump and are easy to use. My husband a developed a connected app that monitors how much milk you have at any moment and, using the latest evidence-based research (2016), tells you when you can expect it to expire. This is a "first in, first out" system that enables you to know exactly when milk would expire, but instead of losing it, you get to use it and replace it with whatever milk you made that day. At the end of your pumping days, you'll have milk that's still good, and if you choose, you could donate to a hospital for babies who need the extra help.
I want this to exist because being a working mom is hard enough. Maintaining a breastfeeding relationship is hard enough. This makes it easier. It lets you know what you have, when you need to use it, and to keep a rotating supply. It enables you to maintain and extend the breastfeeding relationship longer. It does this with less mental energy required than any other system I've seen. I hope that if you're a pumping mom, or know someone who is, that you'll be as excited about the potential as I am, and that you'll help us to make this idea a reality by supporting our KickStarter.
Finally, there's an app for that.