Today we have another exclusive pumping story! Below is Amanda’s story about exclusively pumping after an emergency c-section. You can read more exclusive pumping stories here.
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!