Oooh honey how I feel your pain! I could've written the same posting. I've been pumping 8x a day every 2-3 hrs since Oct 21st when my 24 weeker came early. Around 32 weeks we were able to do "dry breastfeeding" then after that now we're doing actual bf'ing and let me tell you it is worth it. When I go home though, the pumping still sucks. (Pun not intended there! HA!) My baby will be home soon and I'm so glad to have milk to offer him. :)
Can I give you my tips for making the pumping less challenging?
1. Get a hands free pumping bra! That way you can mess with your phone, ipad book and take your mind off the plastic. Makes you feel less lonely if you're distracted.
2. Do 4-5 hr breaks at night. My lactation consultants said that's okay for the sake of your sleep.
3. At night, bring your cooler and fill with ice packs. At 4am after you're done pumping you just throw the milk containers in there. That way you don't have to walk to the freezer and wake yourself up more.
4. If you're recording volumes somewhere, write L and R on each container before throwing in the cooler. That way in the morning you can record volumes when you're more awake.
5. If your husband is willing, have him do the "milk technician" work. He takes the parts and milk and processes it for you. You go to sleep. My hubby did this until he went to work. It helped so much.
6. Take fenugreek supplements! They will help keep your supply up during these stressful weeks. They have REALLY helped me.
7. Medela makes wipes that are safe for pump parts and baby. You could use those at night or at work if you don't have time to wash in the sink. Target sells them.
8. Alternatively, at night I leave my parts soaking in soapy water so I can clean in the morning when I wake up. You could even have 2 sets and wash both in the morning.
9. Listen to music to relax and allow your milk to let down while pumping.
10. Look at pics of your baby while pumping. It makes it worth the work.
I hope that helps! That is what has helped me get through all this darn pumping. It always bothers me when people say that comment about having to get up anyway for your baby. It is not the same at all. Because you'd have a baby to snuggle with when getting up. There's a direct, tangible connection there. Pumping with your baby in the NICU disconnects that and it's up to you to commit to the cause. We are strong ladies! We will get through it! Send me a msg if you have more questions. Good luck to you, my dear!