Confessions of an Exclusive Pumper
I never expected to become an exclusive pumper.
I didn’t even know what one was until a few weeks after the birth of my daughter. I was diagnosed with preeclampsia during delivery, and as a result of related complications, my milk supply was late. So, I was put on a rigorous pumping schedule while still in the hospital to try and get my milk in and my daughter’s weight up.
When we got home, I struggled with nursing, but really appreciated the predictability pumping offered. I did a mix of nursing and pumping (but mostly pumping) for awhile, but then I made the big switch to becoming an official EPer when my daughter was 4 months old, and I kept exclusively pumping until she was 11 months old. Along the way, I had hours (and hours and hours) to think about pumping and my relationship to it. Here are my big takeaways and tips:
Four Fantastic Things about being an Exclusive Pumper:
You are still breastfeeding your baby.
I loved knowing that my baby was getting my milk and all the good nutrients that went along with it, and I felt lucky that I was able to get and keep such a good supply in order to feed her in that way. And I don’t feel that we missed out on what some describe as an irreplaceable bond achieved only through nursing; I was still sacrificing my body, time, and energy in order to breastfeed, and the fact that we weren’t nursing did not take away the special time spent feeding and cuddling her during meals.
You know exactly how much your baby is eating.
When you have an underweight baby, it takes a long time to get over the fear that they are not getting enough to eat. Pumping took away pretty much all of that fear and anxiety because I knew exactly how much she was eating in a given day or week. I could tell when she was going through a growth spurt, and I could tell when her eating habits were changing, which helped me plan how much milk to have available or to freeze.
You can create plans around pumping.
Even though my pump was a chain at times, once I created a realistic, sustainable schedule, it became easy and even enjoyable to make plans around my pumping schedule. I knew exactly how long I could push it, or I could make adjustments as needed by doing an extra pump at a different time to make sure my breasts stayed comfortable. Also, you can step away from your baby because they are not relying on your body itself for sustenance. It was wonderful that my husband was able to take the baby for long periods of time and feed her with a bottle of breastmilk - great bonding for them, and a great break for me.
You are less likely to flash strangers than your nursing friends.
I am all for normalizing nursing, but sometimes - especially when you throw in a squirmy, fussy baby - you just don’t want the whole world to see the goods, amirite?
Four Tips for having a good experience with Exclusive Pumping:
Keep to your schedule.
The best way to keep your supply up and avoid clogged ducts is to create a pumping schedule and stick to it. The body is amazing and it will regulate according to a good schedule, even if you are pumping less often than a typical nursing mom feeds. But if you play around with the timing too much or miss sessions completely, you will likely see either a drop in supply or a clogged duct - possibly both. I would highly recommend Amanda Glenn’s site: http://exclusivepumping.com/ for sample schedules and overall good info.
Make it as convenient and comfortable as possible.
As an EPer, you will likely spend hours hooked up to your pump. As such, make it easy on yourself. First, if you are concerned about the quality of your pump, I would recommend researching to get a new/second one. They definitely are an investment, but depending on how long you are planning to pump, you don’t want to be in a lurch if your pump goes out on you at a bad time. Second, I would highly recommend getting a hands free pumping bra. This allows you to actually do other things while pumping - I would often sit by my baby and play with her while pumping, or if I had a minute to myself, eat lunch or read while pumping.
Get your partner involved
Sometimes being an EPer can be lonely and/or annoying: lots of time needs to be spent doing this one solitary activity, and there are lots of parts that need to be cleaned all the time as a result of it. Find ways that your partner can contribute - maybe that is washing all the parts each day, or getting you a favorite snack, or doing a different productive chore at the same time that you are pumping. Also, share your pumping schedule with your partner - it’s important that they help honor your sacrifice and commitment by not scheduling things - especially fun things - during your established pumping times.
Know when it’s time to quit
I went through waves of disliking pumping. But then I would make a little tweak to my schedule to make it more sustainable, or find another fun thing to do while pumping and I would get back into it for awhile. But the final straw came out of the blue when we had friends over who stayed waaaay later than expected, pushing back my usual pumping time by a lot. And sure, I could have excused myself to go pump, but I didn’t want to miss out. After that evening I knew I was done. So, I made a weaning schedule and stopped pumping two weeks later. I was proud to be an EPer and I knew I had taken good care of my daughter by providing her with my milk for as long as I did, but now it was time to take care of myself by stopping. And it was one of the best decisions I have made as a mom.
Written by: Kaylan Adams