Below is Renae’s story about pumping after she struggled with the idea of nursing. You can read more exclusive pumping stories here. Thanks Renae!
Why did you decide to exclusively pump?
Before I had my daughter I knew that if I ever had a child I’d never nurse. I’m not sure why that is, but just the thought of it made me anxious. I was still very keen on providing my baby with breastmilk and knew I’d do that through expressing instead. Fast forward a few years and my daughter was born. The hospital urged me to try and nurse, but I had such a reaction to doing it they encouraged me to express for the time being but to keep trying. I tried all sorts of things to make myself feel more comfortable with it, but after five days I still couldn’t bring myself to do it. Rather than stressing myself and baby out about it I decided to keep expressing and try again after we’d settled at home, and I was in my own environment.
The day after our first night back home, I was back in hospital with an infection. This put a real dint in my supply – which had only come in a few days earlier – and I was forced to supplement while still expressing to build my supply. Four days later we were allowed to go home, and slowly my supply started to increase. There were times when I considered putting her on the breast, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I remember telling my mum how I felt, and she encouraged me to do what felt right and if that meant expressing or formula feeding and not nursing than that was perfectly fine. I was also very lucky in that I had a supportive husband who was happy with me doing whatever made me the most comfortable.
I remember the relief I felt once the pressure to nurse was gone. My supply immediately increased, and I was so happy that I was still able to provide breastmilk for my baby without having to nurse her.
How did you make exclusive pumping working for you?
Initially, it was so tough, but once I got into a bit of routine things got better quickly. I pumped consistently during the day and overnight and stayed one pump ahead so I always had enough milk to feed her. I tried to pump at the same time as I fed her but I felt like I was missing out on some bonding time, so I made the decision to pump before she was due for a feed.
When my supply dipped, I added another session to boost my supply but made sure not to put too much pressure on myself if things didn’t go as planned.
What was your biggest challenge with exclusive pumping?
They told me at the hospital that exclusively expressing is a commitment and isn’t that the truth. For me, setting the alarm and getting up even when my baby was sleeping through at three and a half months was hard, and I can honestly say I almost threw in the towel more times than I can count when the 4 am alarm sounded.
I become a bit of a social pariah as I found it really difficult to leave the house because I wasn’t comfortable expressing in public. The few times I tried I had to stop and start so many times to resettle her that I stopped trying.
Probably one of the most unexpected challenges that came with exclusively pumping was when you’d tell people they’d just tell you not to bother and to just go with formula – like why was I even bothering. It was hard not to buy into what they were saying but deep down I knew I was doing what was best for my daughter. I learned very quickly to tell them that she’s my daughter and that I’d do what I wanted. Lots of people don’t like hearing that, though.
How long did you exclusively pump?
My goal was to exclusively pump for six months, but when I reached that goal my supply was better than ever so I decided to keep going. By that time I was down to five sessions which I found so manageable (in comparison to the 7 I had been doing) that I’ve kept going and am now at 12 months.
What advice would you give a new exclusive pumper?
It’s a commitment, and at times you’ll want to just stop – especially during the early days when you are expressing upwards of seven times a day. Don’t stop on a bad day and there will be plenty of them. It will get easier I promise.
Not everyone will understand why you are doing it and it’s ok if they don’t. You aren’t doing it for them.
Join a Facebook group (I’m a member of Exclusively Pumping Mamas) and it will be the best thing you’ll ever do. They have so many helpful ideas and suggestions and are there to offer you support and guidance through all things exclusively pumping – without the judgement you find elsewhere.
Are there any other thoughts about exclusive pumping that you’d like to share?
You’re all amazing mamas for doing what you what/need to do to feed your babies. Do what makes you the best mama for your family.