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exclusive pumping story

Below is Tara’s story about exclusively pumping for her preemie twins and a singleton. 

Why did you decide to exclusively pump?

Initially, I didn’t choose to exclusively pump. My girl/boy twins were born at 28 weeks, and pumping was the only option at that early of gestation.

I worked very hard to get my milk in – I pumped, massaged, and squeezed the hell out of my breasts every 2 hours around the clock for the first two weeks. Every single drop (and I do mean every tiny drop) was collected and put into an eye dropper for my twins. I would put one drop at a time on each of their lips during feeding time.

Until my full supply came in, the twins were on donor milk, which I am forever grateful for. It took two full weeks for my supply to come in. Once my supply came in I was a cow. Literally! I produced 70oz of liquid gold a day. I pumped 6x a day for an hour – full time job right there.

Since my twins were never able to drink that much in a day, and I was running out of freezer space, I donated my milk and fed 6 other babies. I did try to nurse the twins once they were able to but they both kept falling asleep at the breast and wouldn’t drink enough. Pumping made it easier to monitor how much my twins were drinking.

My singleton was born at 37.5 weeks, so he was a term baby. I chose to exclusively pump for him because, like the twins, he kept falling asleep at the breast. Plus my good friend’s supply was drying up, and she asked if she could have my milk if I chose to pump again. Her baby was a month older than my singleton.

How long did you end up exclusively pumping (or, if you haven’t weaned yet, how long do you plan to)? What made you decide to pump for this long/set this goal?

I pumped for 14 months with my twins. I would have pumped until 18 months, which was my goal, but my nipples started to bleed and I was just done at that point.

With my singleton I pumped for 10 months. During those 10 months I was able to fully feed my singleton and my good friend’s baby as well. My plan was to pump until 14 months, but my iron levels dropped, which caused my son’s to drop as well.

How did you make EPing work for you? Was there anything in particular that made it easier for you (products, tips, etc.)?

I had to gather everything I needed for the next hour before I sat down to pump each time. I sat on my couch, set up Netflix, had my drink and food on my end table along with my pump, bottles, and pumping freezer bags. The only pump that worked for me and fully drained me was the Medela Symphony. I had to pay $75/month to rent it, but it was so worth it. I tried 3 other pumps, and they all couldn’t get me fully drained, so I kept getting mastitis.

When I would get clogged ducts, I would use hot washcloths and put them on my breasts for 10 min. I kept the washcloths as hot as I could tolerate, and then massaged each breast while pumping, focusing on the clogged area(s).

What was your biggest challenge with exclusive pumping?

Being able to pump until I was drained, which took a full hour. One (if not both) of my twins typically would start to cry during my pumping sessions. My body would literally stop my letdown whenever one of my twins would cry. Midstream stop! It was so frustrating.

What advice would you give to a new exclusive pumper?

It’s a full time commitment and you can do it!! It’s much harder than nursing, in my opinion. Pumping requires double the work. You pump and feed the bottle to the baby vs baby to boob.

We all scream we want to give up, we hate pumping, can’t do it anymore – but you can do it and you will love yourself for sticking to it! Best benefit for your little love(s). Plus it gives daddy the chance to bond with the baby(s) during feeding time as well.

Anything else you’d like to add about exclusively pumping?

Dr. Brown bottles are amazing – yes, the extra parts are a tad annoying, but they are worth it. Also, the Lansinoh pumping bags are the best. I’ve tried just about every single bag out there, and Lansinoh are great. They don’t rip from being frozen, they hold more milk, and they thaw faster.

A big thank you to Tara for sharing her story! Pumping for twins isn’t easy – and neither is pumping for a singleton when you have older twins to care for. Awesome job!

Amanda's Exclusive Pumping Story

Today we have another exclusive pumping story! Below is Amanda’s story about exclusively pumping after an emergency c-section. 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about motherhood, it’s that nothing goes as planned. I never expected to have my water break at home. I never expected to be diagnosed with late onset preeclampsia while I was in labor and end up with an emergency c-section. And I never expected to end up as an exclusive pumper. All of these things just sort of happened, and I was along for the ride.

I had to have a c-section because my blood pressure got too high, and medication wasn’t bringing it back down. It also did not go down after delivery, so I was in the hospital for 5 days and wasn’t allowed to get out of bed much at all. Also, during that time, my son was restricted to the nursery for two and a half days due to an oxygen level drop shortly after birth.

A lactation specialist came by the day after Levi was born and suggested I start pumping to help my milk come in and then the nursery could feed him my milk instead of formula. When I was finally able to try nursing him, he wouldn’t latch. Several weeks of lactation appointments didn’t fix the problem, so I finally just accepted that I would have to pump and bottle feed.

Deciding to Wean

I had hoped to breastfeed until at least 6 months – longer if it was going well – so that was my tentative goal for pumping. I made it to 3 months exclusively pumping before I decided to wean. I had mastitis several times, and each time my supply would completely tank. I would work hard to get it back up, only to get another infection. Once I was back to working full time (after 6 weeks), I had a hard time pumping often enough to keep up with my hungry little man.

I also struggled with the fact that someone else was almost always feeding my baby for me. Once I was back to work, the only way I could keep up with exclusive pumping along with housework and everything else was for me to pump while my husband (or someone else) fed the baby. I felt like I never got to hold or cuddle him. I decided that while breastmilk was definitely better for my baby, the toll it was taking on mommy wasn’t worth the benefits.

I sometimes still feel guilty for “giving up” after only 3 months, but my baby is still a healthy growing boy and that’s all I can ask for.

Making Exclusively Pumping Easier

If you find yourself as an exclusive pumper, there are several things you can do to have an easier and more enjoyable (if that’s possible) experience:

  • Refrigerate your pump parts in between uses so that you don’t have to wash them as often. I stored them in a ziploc bag and washed them once in the morning and once in the evening. This is a major time saver and will literally save your sanity.
  • It really helped me to ‘milk’ my breasts while I was pumping. A pump will never do as good of a job emptying your breasts as your child would, but using your hands to massage your breasts in a milking motion definitely releases a lot more milk than just pumping alone.
  • Several people told me that if I was pumping away from my baby I should look at pictures of baby to remind me what I’m working for. That didn’t seem to help me much but videos sure did. I believe I got more milk during a session when I watched videos of my baby, but even if that was just my imagination, at least it made the time go faster!
  • Get a hands-free pumping bra. I actually made one from an old bandeau that I already had, because I was trying to save money. I’m sure a real pumping bra would be even simpler and easier to use. Being able to fold towels, eat, or just read a book while pumping was a great time saver.
  • Don’t stress about ounces! If you have to supplement with formula, it will NOT hurt your child. And counting the drops of milk falling into the pump bottles will not help you produce more; in fact, the stress will make you produce less.

If I could go back in time, I would have researched exclusive pumping while I was still pregnant. I had no idea what to do or expect and with my and baby’s health issues, it would have been easier if I was at least familiar with what kind of commitment I was making. I wasn’t expecting a c-section, latch issues, or to spend the first two and a half days away from my baby.

So no matter what you’re planning for your birth and breastfeeding, arm yourself with knowledge about all the other possibilities, like how to have a successful breastfeeding relationship after a c-section, exclusive pumping, tongue tie/latch issues, boosting milk supply, and even formula feeding. Birth never goes as you planned, and you will be glad you were prepared.

Take It One Day at a Time

And above all else, take your pumping journey one day at a time! Some days you may find yourself feeling overwhelmed and tired of pumping. But instead of thinking about the big picture of making it to your goal, ask yourself if you can pump for one more day. If your answer is yes, great! If your answer is no, that’s fine too.

No matter how much you produce, or how long you pump, you’ve done something wonderful and loving for your child, and that in itself is a huge success.

This is a great story about doing the best you can with the cards that you’re dealt. Thanks Amanda!