Below is Sarah’s story about exclusively pumping after struggling with nipple pain and transferring milk. You can read more exclusive pumping stories here. Thank you to Sarah for sharing her story!
Why did you decide to exclusively pump?
I took breastfeeding classes and was totally prepared to bond with my baby and connect with her in the most intimate way possible, but when my daughter AJ was born, she had a small case of jaundice. The nurses had me breastfeeding and pumping every two hours to make sure my colostrum was coming in so that she could get rid of the jaundice quickly.
By the time I left the hospital I had a split nipple (which became mastitis) and she had trouble latching on the left side. Something I never considered was how much breastfeeding would HURT. I also couldn’t sleep because I had to be up every two hours to feed. There were many times that I was crying with my baby. I went to lactation consultants and nursing clinics but could not replicate the results we were getting once we went home.
After three weeks, and with encouragement from my mom and husband, I chose to just pump. I knew it would be difficult, but I also knew that I couldn’t breastfeed.
How did you make exclusive pumping working for you?
I did my research and decided that exclusively pumping was the best choice. I didn’t want to use formula, because I was already producing milk and didn’t want to lose the opportunity to provide it for my daughter, even if she wasn’t getting it directly from the source. Luckily, my aunt had exclusively pumped for both her kids and she encouraged me to do what I felt was right for my body and my baby.
I would pump at the same time I was bottle feeding so that I wouldn’t lose the physical connection with my daughter. My husband was completely supportive and was able (and willing) to feed while I pumped during the night so that I wasn’t doing everything alone.
What was your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge came from my own head. I was so focused on doing whatever I needed for my baby that I forgot to take care of myself. I worried about everything that wasn’t important; mainly, what other people would think or how other people would react. It messed with my head, and I felt like I was doing something wrong, even though my OB and the pediatrician were both encouraging and supportive.
My baby was fed and happy, but I was still dealing with post-partum hormones and emotions. I felt judged by everyone (even if they weren’t or didn’t know me). I also started to worry that I wouldn’t produce enough to keep my baby fed and growing. All the classes talked about “supply and demand” and how my body would find the rhythm created by the connection with my baby, but I was connecting to my pump not my daughter. Fortunately, I was almost overproducing while trying the breastfeed so this quickly became a non-issue.
How long did you exclusively pump?
My daughter is currently 5 months old. I have pumped for the last four months and have a freezer with enough to last her at least another two months. I want to pump as long as I can, or as long as I would have breastfed her (around a year), but it depends on her food choices and our freezer space.
What advice would you give a new exclusive pumper?
The best advice I could give to another pumper would be to do what is best for you. Exclusively pumping was a hard decision but I would have lost my sanity many months ago if I continued breastfeeding. Even though you are completely 100% focused on your newborn, if you have to make the choice to save your sanity than it’s not really a choice. Just because the milk is coming from a different nipple doesn’t make it any less.
Are there any other thoughts that you’d like to share?
I wish there was more information about exclusively pumping, especially through nursing classes or lactation consultants. They make it seem like there are only two choices: breastfeeding or formula. Pumping was never mentioned, except for “going back to work.”
If I had had more information about just pumping before, I could have made the decision without feeling like I was losing anything. I also could have been more prepared when I realized that breastfeeding wasn’t working. I became so focused on “needing” to breastfeed and not wanting to use formula that I became desperate for another option.