Exclusive Pumping: My Journey

Let me kick this off by saying FED IS BEST. It doesn’t matter HOW a babe is fed. A full baby is a happy baby and that is ALL that matters. You’re doing great mama. 

Over eight months ago I sat on the floor at our infant course with my baby bump and learned all about breastfeeding from the local lactation consultant. I was actually pretty jazzed about breastfeeding but have to admit the class was a breath of fresh air because I was totally clueless. This was my first and I had no idea how complex breastfeeding could actually be. The IBCLC mentioned exclusively pumping as an option but jokingly called it a full-time job. I shrugged at the idea thinking that wouldn’t be me.

To be honest, I envisioned myself as this baby-wearing “natural” mama who bed-shared and breastfed on demand. But Logan had other plans, and while it took me some time to accept that, it’s actually not that bad now that I am on the other side. Although, I completely sympathize with EP moms out there — it’s HARD work! Today, I’m talking about our pumping journey in hopes that it brings awareness to exclusive pumping and helps other moms out there. Breastfeeding has it’s challenges and it’s nice to know there are other options out there.

WHY EXCLUSIVE PUMPING

Many mamas encounter difficulties during nursing that lead them to a tough decision. They must decide whether to forego traditional nursing and pump, or quit breastfeeding altogether. It can be quite the shock to a mom’s heart when she realizes that breastfeeding may not be in the plans for her and her child. That’s basically my story. Logan and I had a very long labor. One that started at a birth center and ended in the hospital. When she was born, we did delayed cord-cutting and an extra-long golden hour.  Both these things are said to better your chances of baby latching. But Logan never latched. She would fall asleep on me or start screaming every time I tried to nurse her. I saw a lot of lactation consultants the first three months of her life but ultimately she had tongue and lip tie, which we discovered very early on and had both revised (by laser). I hoped this would help her latch but 9 times out of 10 she would scream at the breast and rebel until I gave her the bottle. I tried cutting out dairy, you name it but nothing seemed to work. We even did OT, chiropractic and craniosacral massage therapy. After three months of dedicated lactation support, I gave in and decided to exclusively pump baby girl.

MAKING THE CALL 

Breastfeeding envy is a real thing — let me tell ya! I thought I was pretty alone in this but my Instagram tribe quickly let me know otherwise. I was overwhelmed by the amount of DMs from some of you who shared similar experiences. If you are one of those people THANK YOU! Now, when I decided to tell my doctor my choice, I didn’t quite get the same support. I had no idea the amount of pressure pediatricians give their clients about breastfeeding. It’s overwhelming. To me, it seemed a little disheartening because she was literally getting breastfeed only from a bottle. I get it though, it probably seemed odd to her since only 6% of breastfeeding moms decide to exclusively pump. Even though she doubted me, I assured her I could do it!

SCHEDULES AND SUPPLIES 

I’m not going to lie, the beginning days were the toughest. You’re new to the entire parenting thing, you’re extremely tired and you’ve got all that postpartum recovery going on. But If you can make it through the first three months of exclusively pumping, it gets considerably easier.

Right away, I ordered the Spectra 2. If you aren’t doing “hospital grade” Spectra in my opinion, is the best option for EP moms. It helps keep supply steady and strong. In the early months, I pumped 8-10 times a day. Basically every two hours even in the night. This process is stressful because I’d feed Logan, play with her and then put her down for a nap then I’d pump. During the night I’d feed her, then pump, clean my parts, hop back in bed and then 30 minutes later or so she’d wake again. It was exhausting to say the least. I remember wishing I had the Willow cordless pump because we’d go out on little adventures and I’d have to bring my pump with me in the car and a cooler + bottles. If you plan to go this route, I highly suggest ordering a second set of pump parts and flanges to just make life easier. Cleaning parts and sterilizing them can make you go crazy when you do it by hand so many times a day. I know a lot of people who stash their pump parts in a ziplock bag in the fridge between sessions to avoid washing as frequently but I only did this in the beginning during the night.

Most exclusive pumpers should aim for a minimum of 120 minutes of pumping per day unless you are weaning. So just divide 120 by the number of pumping sessions you have, and set that as your goal.

Newborn EP schedule:
7am, 9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm, 5pm, 7pm, 12am, 3am, 5am

3-4 months:
6am, 10am, 12pm, 3pm, 6pm, 10pm

4-5 months:
6am, 9am, 12pm, 3pm, 10pm

6-12 months:
6am, 10am, 2pm, 10pm

I overproduced so I moved down to three long pump sessions a day at 5.5 months
7am, 3pm, 9pm

PUMPING IN PUBLIC 

I have pumped in my car lots of times. I have a friend who even pumps while driving. I’ve also pumped in mall bathrooms and airport nursing stations. I really do wish there were more private places with outlets. I found these hard to come by and as a result, have some pretty funny stories I’ll share another day. This is when a cordless Willow pump would be really convenient (but they are $$$). It’s too bad insurance companies don’t allow them to be covered. A combo of the Willow and Spectra would be golden for an EP mom.

STORING PUMPED MILK

Because I overproduced, I typically made double what Logan needed in a day. This meant I could easier create a stash for her. Any leftover milk I had would get labeled and frozen. I followed the 4 hours at room temperature rule for leaving milk out after pumping, otherwise, it got put in the fridge or freezer. It’s good in the fridge for 3-5 days. I store all my milk in kiinde twist pouches from Amazon. They have a great pouch warmer also!

I had so much milk that we ordered a cheap deep freezer and I began to collect enough for her so that I could stop pumping earlier. She’s now almost eight months old and I pump twice a day (60min total). Pumping only twice really kills your supply. I now only produce 10oz a day.

I’ve just now tapped into my July freezer stash so I’ve got a lot left to use. I’ll keep pumping 2-3 times a day until the well runs dry. Honestly, It’s a bittersweet feeling. I love knowing that those annoying pump sessions are coming to a close but I also am sad that I no longer will be nourishing Logan myself with fresh milk (that I made for her).

 

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