Pretty much immediately after you give birth, the midwife or nurse basically shoves the newborn against your chest and tells you to see if he or she will latch. In that moment, it’s an amazing feeling, holding this little blessing and doing one of the most natural things in the world. In that moment, you know that you and your little one are going to be okay. Fast forward a couple hours later and the nurse will continue to help you breastfeed every two hours, reassuring you that the pain is totally normal and the baby just has to learn how to latch. After a couple of days in the hospital, I figured I would get the hang of breastfeeding and the pain would die down. By Day 3, the pain turn into the worst, stinging pain I had ever felt. After going back to the hospital for the baby’s first checkup, the nurse noticed how badly I was infected and immediately told me to stop breastfeeding and start pumping for a few days to allow my body to recover. The moment she turned on the pumping machine in her office, I literally sobbed tears of joy from the relief. After pumping for about four days, I tried to go back to breastfeeding. For days and days I did everything I possibly could: shields, creams, butters, new positions, etc. But my little guy just wouldn’t latch. After a couple of weeks, I began researching exclusive pumping, only to find very little information. Hence the reason why I wanted to write this blog post: I wanted to show new mamas that there are other options out there when it comes to feeding your baby.
No one, and I mean no one, told me that I could exclusively pump milk for my baby. After feeling like a failure for weeks, I started to realize that exclusive pumping was actually working for my family. Not only did it provide breastmilk to my child, but my husband—who was on a night shift at the time—could spend some one-on-one time with our son, while I got an extra hour (yes, one hour) of sleep. Although it did take some getting used to, I eventually developed a feeding/pumping schedule that worked for us. I pumped every two hours, mostly after each feeding, until around 6pm, then I would pump every 3 hours at night. I was tied up to a couch for most of the day, but in all honesty, when the baby was asleep, I caught up on “This Is Us” and zoned out for a bit. Another surprising benefit of pumping? I lost all of my pregnancy weight within the first few weeks.
Whether you’re breastfeeding, exclusively pumping or offering formula, feeding an infant is hard work. One thing I didn’t really anticipate was how hard it would be to be tied up to a chair multiple times during the day. When my son was really little, I would have to put him in his little bouncer next to my feet as I pumped, and I would sometimes have to gently tap on the bouncer in order to get him to stop crying until I could finish. It was ROUGH. I hated that I couldn’t just pick up my son when I wanted and I felt like I was imprisoned to couch every single minute of the day. Another thing I didn’t anticipate was the constant clean-up. From boiling bottles to sanitizing every piece of the pump, I spent at least 15-20 minutes cleaning after every pumping session. It was absolutely exhausting: I would feed the baby every two hours, then pump for about 20-25 minutes, then clean, then do it all again in 45 minutes. Again, I must emphasize, it was ROUGH.
I exclusively pumped for three months. In the scope of a year, it’s not a very long time, but I am happy that I did it for that long. I decided to wean the baby off breastmilk by Christmas 2016. With my husband back at work on night shift, I felt a bit of the baby blues, and I soon realized that the only way I was going to be a good mom was to give myself a break. I have a couple of friends who pumped for way longer than I did, which is an amazing accomplishment! All it takes the right amount of discipline and a consistent schedule. Looking back, I am glad that I researched other options after realizing that traditional breastfeeding might not be for me. Though all of this, I’ve learned that the saying, “Fed is best,” is 100 percent true. I hope that my experience can provide a little piece of mind to other mamas in the same situation.
Any other exclusive pumping mamas out there? How did you cope?