Below is Dina’s story about switching to exclusive pumping after getting exhausted with the “triple feeding” approach. You can read more exclusive pumping stories here. Thanks to Dina for sharing her story!
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Why did you decide to exclusively pump?
My daughter was born via c-section two days before Christmas (such a surprise since I was not expecting her until early January). She was a perfect 6 lbs 4 oz and healthy despite being considered “late pre-term.” I was taught how to breastfeed in the hospital, and I was able to do it pretty easily with the help of the nurses and lactation consultants.
Once we got home, breastfeeding was hit or miss. Sometimes my daughter would latch on, sometimes she wouldn’t. It was a constant battle, and feedings started to become a time of anxiety for me (not to mention my sore nipples)! So I used the resources the hospital provided and made an appointment to see a lactation consultant the next day. The LC had me go through my process of breastfeeding, checked the baby for lip/tongue ties, and found that I was doing everything correctly. She noticed that my nipples were a bit inverted and suggested I start using a nipple shield. She also had me do a “triple feeding” approach: breastfeed on each side for at least 10 minutes, pump for 20 minutes, and then supplement with formula. I was overwhelmed with these instructions but made it work with the help of my husband who was home for two weeks.
Well, after a few days of triple feeding, using the nipple shield, and my baby still getting frustrated at the breast, I said to myself, “Why am I doing this? Isn’t breastfeeding supposed to be a pleasurable experience for both of us?” Since it was mostly a painful and anxiety-ridden experience, I decided to start exclusively pumping. I was doing it a few times a day anyway, so why not do it all the time? There were so many times I wanted to switch over to just formula, but my husband really pushed me to continue breastfeeding – we both knew it was the best thing for her.
How did you make exclusive pumping working for you?
I bought Stephanie Casemore’s book on exclusive pumping and read it from cover to cover. I started with six or seven sessions per day at about 20 minutes each. The book said to start with eight, but there was no way I was going to be able to fit that many in! I tried to space them out at about every three to four hours, but sometimes when my daughter was napping I’d take the opportunity to pump, even if it was only two hours since my last session. I figured I should get in a session while I can!
I purchased an app and was able to track my pumping sessions, the amount of milk I produced, my freezer stash, etc. When we had an outing that I had to attend, I would pack the night before, making sure I had all my pump parts, freezer packs, bottles, etc. It was exhausting, but I knew I was doing the best thing for my baby.
When we had her one month checkup, she had gained so much weight the doctor actually told me I was doing a great job. I almost broke into tears because I knew my efforts were paying off. Having someone other than my husband tell me I was doing a great job really meant a lot to me and it encouraged me to keep going.
What was your biggest challenge with exclusive pumping?
The biggest challenge was having to pump in the middle of the night and/or first thing in the morning when all I wanted to do was sleep! My husband would lie in bed and cuddle with the baby while I put my robe and slippers on and dragged myself downstairs to my pump. It was the dead of winter at the time, so it was extra hard getting out of bed and going downstairs. But I knew if I didn’t pump, my supply might suffer, and my breasts would be painful.
The other challenge I faced was when we had plans to go out to a friend or family member’s house or even just out shopping for the day. I was always trying to figure out when and where I could squeeze in a pumping session. Sometimes I would even bring the manual pump and pump in the car in a parking lot if there wasn’t anywhere for me to plug my pump in. It was hard, and I sort of became a hermit during this time.
How long did you exclusively pump?
I exclusively pumped for six months. I started working again when my daughter was about five months old, and pumping and working full time was tough. I knew that I had to cut it off at six months for my own sanity. Plus, summer was coming and I wanted to enjoy it!
What advice would you give a new exclusive pumper?
Take it day by day and it gets better! I found that sometimes I would even enjoy it because it was my “me” time where I would read a book or catch up on my favorite show while someone else watched the baby or she napped.
Don’t quit on a bad day. But, if you really can’t stand doing it and the negatives outweigh the positives, then quit. Your baby needs you to be happy and healthy in order to care for him/her!
One of the biggest time savers for me was putting my parts directly into the fridge after a pumping session and washing them once a day. When I learned this tip, I knew it would be a lifesaver! [Note: The CDC recently issued new guidelines regarding cleaning pump parts.] Also, set up your pumping station so that it is always there when you need it. My station was right in the living room near the couch so I could watch TV. I didn’t care that my house was a disaster. I had my pump, my bag of parts, books, magazines, water, snacks, you name it! When I wasn’t using my pump, I would just leave it on the end table and didn’t care who saw it or if it was out when someone came over.
Are there any other thoughts about exclusive pumping that you’d like to share?
Just that you can do anything you set your mind to. I thought I’d be done by month three, but with the encouragement of my friends and family I made it to six. Be sure to explain to your friends and family why you are doing this and ask that they support you along the way. Anyone who has negative comments should be kept at a distance because you don’t need someone making the process harder for you! You got this!