Today I am writing to the exclusive pumper. If you have had a baby and you are in this position, this is for you.
Ok… so I don’t normally share too much about this: breastfeeding, that is… but some of you know that I often write on my friend’s page: Holly from KidsActivitiesBlog… and today one of her readers was talking about how guilty she felt about not being able to breastfeed. It struck such a cord for me because I have been there. I was the mom that no one thinks about, the one that the doctors didn’t ask about, the one that didn’t fit in with the rest of the crowd… I was the Exclusive Pumping Mom.
I wasn’t ‘directly’ breastfeeding and I wasn’t formula feeding… I was the exclusive pumper. Yes, I pumped and bottled fed two of our children for a year. I hadn’t planned this. When I went into the hospital to give birth, I was pretty sure that I was going to be a breast-feeding mom:
My birth plan didn’t say anything about formula or about pumping and bottle feeding:
Instead of that picture-perfect idea that I had, I ended up bottle-feeding our son for 8 months and I bottle-fed our daughter for 12 months. Our second son was born with hypertonia. Hypotonia is a muscle weakness and it effects his ability to suck, among other things (like walking, crawling, etc…) He has extremely high muscle tone (see how he holds himself like that… you could hold him with one finger and he wouldn’t have moved).
The good, the bad & the ugly about pumping exclusively:
- Our children were getting breastmilk.
- I made more milk than anyone I knew (at least 20-32 ounces in a 15 minute session)… not to worry, this eventually moves down to the ugly list.
- Mickey was able to help feed him.
- I had enough milk stored by 6 months that I could stop pumping (this moves down to the ugly list, too, when I find out that he is allergic to what I was eating & had to throw it all out).
- I literally felt like a feeding machine. Like laugh if you want to, but it was the truth. I was putting milk into containers for someone to drink later.
- If you spill that milk, you will be the most unhappy mom in the world for the next two minutes while you realize that you just lost a whole feeding and have to really work hard to make it up. Liquid gold.
- You have to keep it refrigerated. If we were out, we had to take a cooler, because I had to refrigerate the milk somehow after I pumped it.
- I hated having to excuse myself to go pump. How do you explain that? I wasn’t taking a baby with me… nope… just a machine. It was embarrassing. I don’t know why, but it was.
- Everyone pumps in the hospital, but knowing that I had to do it at home was daunting… Which pump do I buy? How often do I pump? What if I get mastitis? (I did…)Looks like he’s figuring it out for Mom. ♥ lol! He thought the pump went on your belly button!
- I was disappointed. I didn’t expect it to not work out. I felt so alone. So very very alone. I actually feel into a mini-depression and I know that this was part of the reason. I couldn’t hold our babies while I pumped. I would wake up at 3:00 am to feed our baby and then stay away for 30 more minutes after I got them back to sleep and pump… and cry. You are already so vulnerable after you have a baby, but then to sit alone, in the dark, in the middle of the night and pump was terrible. Facebook was just starting and I don’t think I was even on it yet. I just sat, in our bathroom and pumped.
- I made SO MUCH MILK that it was very painful if I didn’t pump. I was taking medicine to lower my supply and using cabbage to reduce the pain. I couldn’t even donate it, because of the vitamins that I was taking to help our son.
So… to the exclusive pumper out there… I know just how you are feeling.
Here are some tips that might help:
1- YOU ARE FEEDING YOUR BABY!!!! That is what matters! YAY FOR YOU! Be happy about that (my first tip)
2- Get a GOOD pump!! Don’t skimp on this. It makes all the difference! Really. Here is the one that I wished I would have bought. I wouldn’t have had to sit in my chair or on the floor, because this one gives you the freedom to move around. That would have been so great! (It is a little pricey, but if you are exclusively pumping, it will save you hours and hours. Coming from someone that does not spend a lot… this is where you need to splurge.)
3- When you first start out, you want to build up your supply. Pump every 2-3 hours for the first 3 months (even at night). Soon you can back off, a lot. By about three months, I was pumping twice a day and getting the same amount. By 6 months, I was down to once a day (I had a lot of milk, so this probably isn’t the norm).
4- Buy a nursing cover. I pumped in the car while Mickey drove, I pumped in public restrooms, etc… I always just used my nursing cover. You can get one free here with the code YMF4:
5- Buy a nursing tank top. Wear it under your clothes. It makes life so much easier.
Do you know the crazy part? By the time that Allie came along, I made a decision to do both- she could have done either, but I chose to do both, because I saw how it made things easier. Hindsight is 20/20, right?
I pumped for her the majority of the time, but she also breastfed at times. By 8 months, I was exclusively pumping for her one time a day (it was enough to cover her feedings) and my mindset had completely changed.
I think that it kind of boils down to the WHY. I had to pump for Beau, because he couldn’t nurse… that’s why it was so hard on me, emotionally… the worry that came with it. By the 4th baby, I knew that pumping once a day was going to be more convenient than nursing four times a day, so I was able to choose that. With all things in life, it boils down to the why… and it boils down to what REALLY matters.
What really matters here? You are feeding your sweet, precious baby~ no matter how you do it, you are doing it and THAT is what matters. ♥
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