Pumping in Triathlon- Breastfeeding and Racing Endurance Sports

I wanted to write this specifically because when I was trying to find information about breastfeeding and pumping and endurance sports, I only found an E.T.-handful of articles (two, if that was too obscure). Screaming Rabbit is seven months old and has two meals of solids a day but is still nursing otherwise.

Upfront disclaimer, I had a lot of help. My husband is more of a gym rat so we can trade off pretty easily, and our gym has childcare hours. She also goes to daycare and since I work shifts, I can usually get a workout in during the week either before or after I drop her off or pick her up. Still, it’s not perfectly easy. I try to pump every 3-4 hours during the day and if she gets hungry while I’m working out and I miss a feeding, I have to pump. If I’m taking her to childcare I try to either time it for right after she eats or to “top her off” before I go, which also means I am dressed and packed for the gym before she nurses.

The Training

I did two sprints, a swim, and an oly this summer. With each of those, I pumped on the way there and on the way home. I kept a lunchbox in the car with ice packs in it to keep the milk cold and used Medela wipes to clean my parts, or I’d bring a second set of parts.

The Plan

From my training, I knew I was going to be really slow at the 70.3 distance and that I’d need to pump at least once during the race. My goal was to pump as close to the start time as I could, pump again in T2, and then as soon after the race as I could. I bought a second pump from eBay to stash in my car and had the other one in transition and a manual pump with my morning clothes bag. The pump in transition I had set up with everything connected so all I had to do was put on my pumping bra and hit the on button on the pump. I had an insulated lunchbox in the tent with multiple ice packs to keep the milk cold as well and prevent it from spoiling.

I also asked Ironman about a place to pump and they actually set up a tent just for me to use to pump in private. I thought that was so huge of them. He said they get requests infrequently but it’s not unheard of. He also offered to let me pick where to put it (within reason, of course) and it ended up next to the volunteers applying sunscreen right by the run start.

How It Went Down

Race day I screwed up two things: I forgot the second set of pump parts and also didn’t put the manual pump in a big enough ziplock bag to keep it clean. The first meant that I had to use the transition pump and parts before the race start which meant that the T2 pump session was contaminated and had to be dumped. The second meant that when I got my morning clothes bag, I had sand in the manual pump, so it was dirty as well and needed to by dumped.

BUT, I still took home two bags of pumped milk for my kiddo kept cool with ice packs in an insulated lunchbox. I also was able to complete the event without breast pain and keep my supply up. I am really proud of myself for not only finishing my longest distance event ever, but also for doing it seven months postpartum and feeding my daughter.

Just Keep Swimming

I credit a lot of my swimming confidence not to being a good swimmer, because I’m nothing special and I know my technique is pretty terrible, but to just starting early and being comfortable in the water. When I was a kid we’d visit my grandparents and go swimming in the lake and my grandma would have me swim to her but she’d keep stepping back and forcing me to paddle further and further. I also took swimming lessons for a few years and that helped me at least learn to freestyle and rotary breathe though again, nothing to write home about. But swimming lessons with my mother is one of my favorite memories and one I wanted to share with my own daughter.

Last year while looking for a pool to swim at I found Dolphin Academy, a swim school that offers year-round instruction for all levels and ages starting from six months. Today was LO’s very first class and I was so excited that I made enough excitement for both of us.

It was a pretty simple class and the first half is singing and playing games with the babies and all about getting them comfortable in the water. The second half is free play where you can work on things or play with toys in the pool. They had floating mats for tummy time or to crawl or sit on, noodle boats to float on, and many other things to play with. We did some more “swimming” on our front and then a little on the back. She didn’t like having the water in her ears, but she did great and by the end of the 30-minute class was splashing the water with her hands and laughing.

One of my absolute favorite things about being a parent is seeing her discover things and experience things and it was so sweet to watch her try to take it all in. She was so interested in the other babies and parents and loved the songs and swimming games. I can’t wait for our class next week and someday I hope she is able to look back and remember us going to her swim lessons together.