Below is Norah’s story about exclusively pumping after her baby was in the NICU unexpectedly. You can read more exclusive pumping stories here. A big thank you to Norah for sharing her story!
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Why did you decide to exclusively pump?
It wasn’t a decision. My daughter unexpectedly wound up in the NICU with brain damage, and I was hell-bent on giving her breastmilk before she was even born, so I started pumping from day one!
How did you make exclusive pumping working for you?
I rented a hospital grade pump for the first month and stuck to a rigorous schedule. I keep an alarm saved with my current pumping schedule, and I update it as necessary. I also had a lot of help from my husband and family and support from a new moms group I was in.
My daughter was in the NICU for five weeks, so the early days were actually pretty easy. Once she was home it took a while to find a balance between caring for her, caring for myself, and pumping – all of the other stuff I put low on my list of priorities! Once I realized that pumping is breastfeeding, I had a huge shift in how I viewed exclusive pumping, and found myself much more positive and invested in the entire thing.
What was your biggest challenge with exclusive pumping?
I had a hard time letting go of the idea of being able to nurse my first child. I had dreams about breastfeeding while I was pregnant – it was one of the things that I knew would be really hard but was looking forward to the most. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be an exclusive pumper.
We were able to latch a few times and when she’s teething she still has the instinct to nurse, even though now she has no idea what to do with a boob right in front of her face! I treasure those moments but am also really proud that I’ve stuck with exclusive pumping and that I did what I thought was best for my child.
How long did you exclusively pump?
We’re 15 months in and I just recently dropped to one pumping session per day. I’m getting really bad anxiety while pumping – and have been since I started pumping less often but for longer – so I’m looking forward to weaning completely very soon!
What advice would you give a new exclusive pumper?
Stick to a schedule, be gentle with yourself, and splurge on anything that will make it easier! Find ways to get your partner/family involved in keeping everything clean and organized. Donate if you have a little bit (or a lot) of extra – it’s hard to say goodbye to the milk but it feels so good to know it’s going to a baby in need.
Are there any other thoughts about exclusive pumping that you’d like to share?
It’s okay to acknowledge and talk about how hard exclusive pumping is. Breastfeeding in general is no walk in the park but I often felt trapped at home because I was feeding my baby and pumping but not necessarily at the same time! It’s a time suck and requires carrying a lot of extra supplies around with you if you do leave the house.
Also, it can get lonely so it’s important to have a support system. One thing that really helped me was joining some exclusive pumping groups on social media where I could not only ask questions but answer others’ questions – it helped to feel like somewhat of an expert!