Below is Kelly’s story about exclusively pumping for her third baby, who had a tongue tie. You can read more exclusive pumping stories here.
Why did you decide to exclusively pump?
For us, it wasn’t really a choice. I knew I wanted to breastfeed my third baby. I had the time to do it being a stay at home mom this time around. And because I just enjoyed breastfeeding.
However, this little guy had a tongue tie and a really shallow latch. Despite a number of lactation consultant visits and having his tongue clipped, we never got the latch right. My nipples were cracked and bleeding, and I was in tears every time I had to feed him because it was so painful. So, after a roller coaster of about a month or so of this, I quit nursing and started pumping.
He was happy. I was in far less pain, and eventually no pain at all. He was still getting the breast milk and it just ended up being the best decision given the circumstances.
How long did you end up exclusively pumping (or, if you haven’t weaned yet, how long do you plan to)?
I pumped for about 8 months. Again, it didn’t really end up being a choice to stop. Around 5 months, my milk supply took a dive. I tried everything out there to get the supply back up. I think prior to that I had oversupply, because I was able to put away about 120 bags of milk for my freezer stash that I’d planned to use when I finally weaned from pumping. My goal for that had been a year and then to use up what was in the freezer and call it a day.
I tried every trick in the book to make more milk, but at around 5 months I was pumping just enough for him to eat, so we were breaking even. Then around 7 months, my supply took another dive and eventually I was only pumping enough for 1-2 bottles a day. After a few more weeks of trying to bring the supply up again, I decided I was driving myself insane and quit pumping. We worked through my freezer stash and I started transitioning to a homemade formula that he loves (and it’s totally delicious).
How did you make EPing work for you? Was there anything in particular that made it easier?
As far as products go, I lubed up with coconut oil so that made pumping chafe so much. I tried those angled flanges that everyone loves [Pumpin’ Pals] but couldn’t get suction on them. So, nothing in particular as far as special products really.
I had a Medela pump that I got through my insurance. At night, I eventually found a good system of pumping while feeding. I’d end up doing one side at a time as opposed to both sides like I did during the day, but it worked out fine. I had the baby on a pillow next to me on the couch, and pumped one side while giving him his bottle. Then I switched sides while I burped him and patted him back to sleep. I almost never made a special trip down in the middle of the night just to pump. I did it when the baby woke up.
I made my own pumping bra by cutting holes in a sports bra. That worked out pretty well, though I found that if it wasn’t fresh from the wash, it tended to let the flanges leak a little sometimes, or break suction if I bumped them.
What was your biggest challenge with exclusive pumping?
Well, I have two older kids, aged 8 and 13. My 8 year old was constantly offended by his mom’s boobs hanging out all over the place and he wanted nothing to do with getting anywhere near breast milk. He wouldn’t even touch a bottle.
I’d say finding the time to stick to a schedule was the biggest challenge. I hated pumping away from home, so mostly, the entire time I was doing it I was tethered to the house on a 3-4 hour schedule. It worked out all right, since it was for the most part over the winter, and I didn’t really go anywhere for very long anyway. I had a hand pump stuck in my diaper bag just in case, and I had to pull that out a few times.
We eventually settled into an 8am, 12 noon, 4pm, 8pm, one more time before I went up to bed, and once overnight when the baby was up, schedule that worked out for the most part (after those crazy newborn days settled down a bit that is). Before then I really just pumped whenever the baby wanted to eat to mimic his schedule and build up a good supply.
What advice would you give to a new exclusive pumper?
I’d say, it’s going to feel like a lot of work, because let’s face it, it is. You may want to give up at some point, or not – it could work out spectacularly in your case. In the end, it’s a personal decision how long you pump, and the important part is that your baby is fed, not just how they’re fed.
I know I felt super guilty when I stopped pumping for a few days afterward. Super SUPER guilty. But once I saw that he was just as happy as with the milk I was making him, that’s really all that mattered.
It’s okay to cry over spilled milk when it’s a full bottle of freshly pumped breast milk. (Not that that ever happened here!) Find a comfy spot to pump and a good series on Netflix! Also, your husband will laugh at you that one time you decide not to wear a bra, and the baby cries, and your shirt is suddenly soaked. It’s okay to throw something at him when he refers to your sudden letdown as a primitive animal reflex.
Excellent advice re: “primitive animal reflex”! Thanks Kelly for sharing your story!