To exclusively pump or not breastfeed at all.
Breastfeeding is often portrayed as this natural journey, that encourages an incredible bond between a mother and her baby. What is not discussed, are the sore nipples, cluster feedings, and other complications that can come with breastfeeding. This is especially true for mothers who decide to exclusively pump and feed breast milk by bottle.
Exclusively pumping is not something I expected I would be doing when I decided to breastfeed. I was an exhausted new mother, with a very stubborn child. In order to save my breastfeeding journey, I made the decision to exclusively pump. Exclusively pumping was and still is one of the hardest things I have had to do. I felt alone, inadequate, and like I was failing my child. In the end, the many hours I have spent attached to my pump, have been worth the stress, tears, and exhaustion I have felt.
Emotions are Ok
Chances are if you are reading this article, you are exclusively pumping, either by choice or force. Being a new mother often means that you have little control over your emotions. Breastfeeding mothers face additional pressures to produce enough milk to adequately feed their child. The stress is even greater if you have to exclusively pump to feed your child. It is important to remember that although exclusively pumping is hard, it is doable!
Your pump can be your best friend or your enemy (in my case both). As a new mom, you are on an emotional roller coaster and you have very little control. Remember the baby blues is a normal occurrence during the first couple of weeks after you give birth.
It is important to get into a good self-care routine early. Otherwise you run the risk of neglecting yourself and becoming more of an emotional wreck. It is also ok to grieve the loss of a traditional breastfeeding journey.
We are often mom shamed for not doing something to the standards of others. The fact that you made the decision to exclusively pump and bottle feed your child is something to be extremely proud of! It is no easy task and it is something that is often minimized by people around us.
Be proud Momma! Exclusively pumping is a super power that a small percentage of breastfeeding mothers have!!!
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Set goals and a schedule.
After making the decision to exclusively pump, identify your pumping goals. Do you want to 100% feed breastmilk? Are you ok with supplementing with formula? How long do you want to breastfeed your child?
Naturally, as we start to attain goals, we receive a boost in self-esteem and the motivation to continue to work towards our goals. Setting goals also helps you to make a stronger commitment to exclusively pumping. Make the goals simple. Write them down and refer to them whenever you may be struggling with exclusively pumping.
Creating a pumping schedule is key to being successful with your breastfeeding journey. Remember you have to move milk to make milk. This means that the more milk you express, the more milk your body will make. The initial weeks after you give birth, it is recommended that you pump every 2-3 hours. Once your body regulates, as late as 12 weeks, pumping times can be spaced out.
Set pump reminders and keep a pumping log to help you keep your schedule. Once you learn your body, you will be able to better time your pumping sessions. It is important to remember to pump until you are empty.
It helps to view pumping as another daily task that has to be completed. Look for things to do to occupy your time while you pump. This can be a form of self-care and can make your pumping experience something to look forward to. Some ideas can include: identify tv shows that you will only watch when you pump, read, sit in silence, listen to an audio book or music, or take care of online tasks (shopping, paying bills, ect).
Have spare parts.
When you are an exclusively pumping momma, the dishes are never ending! Between pump bottles, feeding bottles, and pump parts, you spend a great deal of time washing pumping supplies. We will not even discuss the daily household dishes.
Here are some helpful tips that will save you some time at the kitchen sink:
Purchase a couple sets of pump parts (flanges, collection bottles, membranes) This way you can rotate through parts and not be obligated to wash after each pumping session
- Pre make feeding bottles for the day and keep them in the fridge.
- Store all milk pumped during the day in a larger sterile container or pitcher. After you make the bottles needed for the day, freeze the left over milk.
- Stored used pump parts in a container in the fridge. Use the parts throughout the day for your pumping sessions. Wash one time at the end of the day.
- Pre setup supplies needed for middle of the night pumping sessions. This will include an insulated bag or lunch box with ice pack for any milk that may not be consumed overnight. It makes it easier to wake up, pump, and go back to sleep with less interruption. Also remember, that fresh breastmilk can be at room temperature for 6 hours.
- Always have an extra set of tubing, membranes, and a power cord. As exclusively pumping mommas, we put our pumps to work! At some point these parts will need to be replaced. You do not want to be in a position where your pump is not working and you have to break you routine to go purchase new parts (plus it is way cheaper to purchase these items ahead of time on Amazon).
- Utilize the dishwasher. Place all your pumping items on the top rack and household dishes on the bottom rack and run one cycle per day.
Invest in accessories
There are many accessories on the market that can make your exclusively pumping journey a little easier to handle. Three important accessories are a pumping bag, hands free supplies, and a car adapter.
The pumping bag is a must to carry all of your needed pumping supplies. It can also double as a purse, which means you will have one less bag to carry. With all the supplies needed to pump, pumping mommas can look like bag ladies. I jumped on the opportunity to have one less bag!
Hands free bras and/or freemie cups allow you to pump without having to occupy your hands. Using these items makes is easier for you to multitask (or do nothing) while pumping. They also allow you to perform breast massages while pumping.
The car adapter in conjunction with my pumping bra are my favorite accessories! Pumping in the car is a great way to save time, but also allows you to stay on schedule. The drive to and from work, long car trips, running errands; there will be a time when it is necessary for you to pump while you are outside of your home. Take advantage of 20+ minute car rides to get in a pumping session.
If you drive and pump in the car, please make sure you are safe and using hands free options. If done correctly, you should not experience any distractions while pumping.
Don’t get caught up in the numbers
Women who traditionally breastfeed are not aware of how much milk their baby is getting. Exclusively pumping mothers are more likely to track every ounce of liquid gold they are producing. While it is important to know if your baby is consuming enough milk, being obsessed with how much you produce can cause unnecessary stress.
Remember you have to move milk to make milk. If you are concerned about your output, first check to make sure you pump parts do not need to be replaced. If your production continues to be a concern, try power pumping once or twice a day for a couple of days.
Babies who exclusively receive breastmilk do not need to consume as much milk as formula fed babies. The fat content and other properties of breastmilk change over time. So it is not necessary for a baby to drink more milk as they get older. It is also helpful for you and anyone who will be in charge of feedings to be familiar with PACE feeding. It is possible to overfeed breastmilk from a bottle.
Utilize your support
Many moms often feel the need to be in control. We sometimes view the need to ask for help as a weakness. Being quiet and not asking for help can be detrimental to your mental health and to your ability to successfully exclusively pump.
Set up a routine with your significant other to help you with your pumping journey. Your SO can help wash and prep bottles and pumping supplies. They can take over feedings. They can also be a listening ear when you are feeling overwhelmed.
If you have extended family or friends who are offering their support, accept it! Use their help to give yourself a break and focus on you. This can be for a few minutes or a few hours, any amount of time can be helpful. If you do not have a support system, build one.
There are many motherhood groups on Facebook that have been helpful for me. Some even are for exclusively pumping mothers. Many of these groups have great advice for struggling moms. They also are a good way to let you know that your experiences and struggles are normal to many new moms.
You can have a life and exclusively pump
Just because you exclusively pump, does not mean you cannot continue to live your life. Sometimes it can feel like you are attached to a pump all day. This is why it is important to set a schedule and establish a pumping routine. Make sure your pump has portable options so that you can pump on the go.
It may not always be easy to pump in public, but is doable. It will soon become a new normal. Make a mini plan of how often you will need to pump while you are away from home. Set reminders so that you can stick to your routine as much as possible. It is also ok if you pump early or late on occasion.
Don’t be afraid to speak up!
Pumping in public can be intimidating. There are laws in every stated that protect breastfeeding mothers. I have found that many places of business are accommodating to breastfeeding mothers. Ask for a private area to pump. Do not be afraid to say no to the bathroom!
Look into the breastfeeding laws of your state so that you are fully informed of your rights.
Any breastmilk that you provide your baby is good enough.
The exclusively pumping journey comes with many ups and downs. The pressure to produce enough milk for your baby can be overwhelming and add additional stress in an already stressful time. Any amount of breastmilk that your baby receives, provides great benefits for him/her.
Remember you ARE breastfeeding
Do not let anyone tell you that you are not breastfeeding because your baby takes breastmilk from a bottle. Breastfeeding in general takes hard work and dedication. As an exclusively pumping mother, you have made an even greater commitment to ensure your baby receives breastmilk.
It is a great feeling to be able to provide your baby with breastmilk. Keep working momma! Your baby will thank you later.
For additional Support
There are very few breastfeeding resources that focus on exclusively pumping mothers. Pumping Mom Academy is a program developed to educate exclusively pumping mothers and increase their chances of being successful with their exclusively pumping journey. This course is filled with information that took me months learn. It is a helpful resource that provides much needed support for exclusively pumping mommas.
Look at your baby….it is all worth it! How is your breastfeeding journey? Share with us below.
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