Below is Kate’s story about switching to exclusively pumping from the beginning after struggling with finding a latch in the hospital. You can read more exclusive pumping stories here. Thanks to Kate for sharing her story!
Why did you decide to exclusively pump?
I had my daughter via c-section five days late. I wasn’t too keen on having surgery to have her, as I’m sure no one is, but it was the safest option for her and myself. She was perfect, healthy, and beautiful; everything was great. I knew I wanted to use breast milk in whatever capacity was easiest for us for two reasons: first, it’s good for my daughter because it helps build up her immune system and she was born right in the middle of flu season, and second, it’s cheaper than formula, plain and simple.
My daughter had a difficult time latching, I have shallow nipples, and my daughter is like me – when she’s hungry it’s time to eat NOW. So struggling with finding a latch on top of her being frustrated because she was hungry caused me huge anxiety. I had a wonderful lactation consultant in the hospital who put zero pressure on me and worked with me to determine what would be easiest for us both. We both determined that pumping from the get-go was going to be best, that she would take formula in the hospital and I would give her what I pumped.
My milk came in the night we were discharged from the hospital, and I’ve been exclusively pumping ever since. It has just worked better for us; I’m a very type-A personality, so I was happier knowing exactly how much she was eating, and my husband was able to feed her as well.
How did you make exclusive pumping work for you?
One day at a time, one pump at a time. I did a ton of research both on Pinterest and online on various topics, such as how to build my supply, how long milk could be kept in various places, how often I needed to pump, etc. I have two hands-free pumping bras and three sets of parts, which has been great so I’m not having to wash them all the time. I use different size shields for each breast (a bigger one on my right than my left).
I was off work for about ten weeks after she was born, so maintaining my schedule and her schedule was easier. I am a full time x-ray tech and we do a combination of 9 and 12 hour shifts. I knew going back to work and pumping would be difficult; thankfully, I have a wonderful boss who was very understanding and wonderful co-workers. I established a solid routine once I got back to work and attempted to stick to it as much as possible.
What was your biggest challenge with exclusive pumping?
Attempting to maintain my schedule when I returned to work. When I first returned I was pumping five times a day, of which three were at work. There were days I only got to pump twice at work which changed my schedule the rest of the day. I had to get rid my night pump earlier than most schedules I had researched suggested, but with my work schedule, sleep was a must.
The stress of working in healthcare also sometimes caused a dip in my supply, which caused even more stress: the worst Catch-22 ever! I’m now down to pumping three times a day – just once at work – so it’s become a lot easier.
The mental aspect of it has also been difficult, mainly when I’ve had a dip in supply or when I went out on a date night with my husband and had to pump and dump after consuming some alcohol. The guilt I felt was awful, I was always so worried – “what if after I dump this one and my supply goes down?” Trying to find a balance of being “me” and being able to provide for my daughter was difficult for me.
How long did you exclusively pump?
My daughter is 9.5 months old currently, and I have pumped the entire time. We have enough frozen to last her 50 days so I will be done pumping in less than a month.
What advice would you give a new exclusive pumper?
Pumping is hard. Very hard. It’s difficult to be around family and have to disappear for 30 minutes to pump, and you have to pump in very strange places at times.
You HAVE to have a good support network, whether it’s family or friends or online communities. Once you realize that you’re not alone in this journey, that it is doable, it helps create a mindset of empowerment that you can do this.
Research as much as you can, you don’t have to implement everything you find, just whatever works for you. And routine, routine, routine. That is so huge.
Get a good microwave steam sterilizer, which has been SUCH a blessing to have.
If you have to supplement with formula, you are not a bad mom. I’ve seen the slogan “Breast is Best,” but I believe in the slogan “Fed is Best”. As long as your baby is fed, happy, and healthy, you’re doing a great job as a mom. We just started having to supplement with formula three weeks ago. I initially felt some guilt but then realized that as long as she’s fed, that’s all that matters.
Are there any other thoughts about exclusive pumping that you’d like to share?
Download games on your phone or tablet to do while pumping. Distracting yourself is the easiest way to get through a session, especially at the beginning when you have to do it so often. Whatever makes you feel good, do that while pumping!