Below is Taryn’s story about exclusively pumping after experiencing a great deal of pain nursing her daughter. You can read more exclusive pumping stories here. Thanks Taryn!
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Why did you decide to exclusively pump?
I had an all-natural childbirth with a midwife at a birthing center in Santa Clarita, California – so you can imagine breastfeeding was really important to me. My daughter had a lip and tongue tie, so her latch was super shallow and incredibly painful. We got her ties revised when she was just six days old, and there was no improvement. I saw countless lactation consultants, had one on ones, went to classes, etc., and there was no change. My nipples were scabbed and sore, and I would sob every time she latched on. Like other moms’ stories, my bond was really suffering because I felt like every time I held her she wanted to eat, and I DREADED breastfeeding.
After a particularly bad breakdown when she was three weeks old, my husband and the lactation consultants thought I should take a few days off and exclusively pump to give my nipples a break. My intention was always to try breastfeed again, but as soon as I decided to exclusively pump, my mood did a 180. I felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. So for my sanity, I decided to just keep going with it because it was really important to me to feed her my breast milk as long as I could stand it.
How did you make exclusive pumping working for you?
I got a free pump through insurance, and my sister gave me her old pump – having two pumps helped a lot. I had one upstairs and one downstairs. Now that I’m back to work, I leave one at the office and have one at home. If you’re going to exclusively pump, I think it’s worth it to invest in another pump.
I stopped obsessing about my supply. At four months, I decided I would stop pumping completely because I was going back to work and barely made enough for her anyways. So I went from six or seven pumping sessions a day to three, trying to stop my supply. My body had other plans because my supply didn’t change at all! I was so surprised! I thought, hey I can do three pumps a day, that’s nothing!
I’m now at four pumping sessions a day: 5:30am, 10:30am, 4pm and 8:30pm. There are times when I don’t want to, but generally it’s not really a burden to me. Sometimes I miss a pumping session, and I don’t obsess about it. If I’m going to a party during one of my normal pump sessions, I will just pump before and after and maybe adjust my other pumps that day. One missed pump for one day isn’t going to change anything; I just don’t make a habit of it.
What was your biggest challenge with exclusive pumping?
The beginning was really rough, my nipples were tender and sore for a good 2 months, if I remember correctly. I thought my nipples would never NOT be sore but now they aren’t sore at all! Once I dropped pumping sessions, life got MUCH better. I was never an over supplier, always a “just enough,” but I’m still producing what she’s eating and I have about a month’s worth of milk in our freezer stash.
How long did you exclusively pump?
Seven months going strong! I don’t think I’ll stop until she’s a year old, unless my supply has other plans. I’m happy to give her the liquid gold, but I’m also excited to stop pumping. It will be a nice freedom.
What advice would you give a new exclusive pumper?
It gets better! Stick with it if you can, you WILL get your life and your nipples back, I promise! Try and get seven or eight pumps a day if you can until 12 weeks to establish your supply and then you can start dropping them. I wouldn’t recommend dropping 3 pumping sessions at once like I did (haha), but drop one at a time and take it slow and see.
Stop obsessing about your supply. I stopped keeping track of how much I was producing months ago, and it helped my anxiety and stress a ton. If you have to supplement, you have to supplement. I felt like as long as she was getting some of my milk, I was happy with that!
There’s a Facebook group I found for exclusive pumpers that helped me a lot. Being able to laugh at ourselves together was great. This website helped a lot too, getting the newsletters and seeing other moms stories. [Thanks!]
Keep your flanges in the fridge in between pumps & wash them every 24 hours. This has been a huge help for me! [Note: The CDC recently issued new guidelines regarding cleaning pump parts.]
Are there any other thoughts about exclusive pumping that you’d like to share?
It does have its upsides – being able to feed her in the car has been SUPER convenient for us. Also, while I’m pumping in the morning, my husband will get her and our stuff ready for the day and daycare. If I was nursing, both the baby and I would both be occupied until she was done eating.
Don’t let your pump have the power! Once you take back control and don’t obsess about supply and missed pumps, etc. – I guarantee you it will get much easier for you. Happy mama and happy, fed baby is ALL THAT MATTERS.