Breastfeeding didn’t feel natural to me. Both my daughters latched on, but I personally could not continue. It was me. I couldn’t do it. It hurt, and I struggled. Honestly, I felt like a failure because I couldn’t commit to breastfeeding as other mothers can. I explored exclusive pumping as an avenue to feed them because I still wanted to give them my breastmilk.
Yes, it is difficult.
Yes, it is a lot of washing and sterilizing.
Yes, it is more time consuming, but it works for me.
The question I get the most often is, “How do you do it?” And nowadays, it’s “How do you do it with your toddler?” Truthfully, it is a lot of trial and error. I take it hour by hour, having two under two in my household. Nothing goes as planned, as you mamas may know! In the end, the reason I’m so successful exclusively pumping is because of my husband, my family, AND my pediatrician. Without their support, I couldn’t have made it so far.
Thinking about taking the road less traveled? This is how exclusively pumping works for me (and possibly you, too!)
- Schedule: I try to pump on a schedule. My pediatrician recommends to feed every 2-3 hours or pump every time your baby feeds. I pump every three hours during the day and every four during the night. Since my toddler is already on schedule, I tailor my pumps around her activities, so I can be available if needed. For the infant, I will either feed before a pump (which is ideal) or if I have to feed during (see Point #3 on how this is possible.)
- Occupy the Toddler: Make the toddler busy. Since I’m “stuck to the pump,” it’s obviously not easy to chase my daughter around. So I’ll turn on nursery rhymes on the TV or sit her at the table with arts and crafts. Or I will read with her or play with some Legos—something to keep her occupied for at least 15-20min.
- Pump On-The-Go: I invested in Freemies. The Freemie Cups are cup collectors that you put in your bra that attaches to your pump so you are able to move around better. Every now and then, I’ll use these if my toddler is being especially clingy one day and needs extra love. Or if the baby needs to fed and I have to pump at the same time. These are better for discreet pumping or a more affordable option to the Willow or Elvie.
- Download an App: I use Pump Log because it records not only my pumps but also my freezer stash, and when I could stop pumping to fulfill my goal. I personally would like a year’s worth of breast milk in my freezer. If you’re planning to pump exclusively, you will need to invest in a deep freezer!
- Support! : I said it once before and I will say it again because this is how I survived to get through the night pumps and the hectic days. Exclusively pumping is not easy. A lot of tears will be shed, and no one will understand. Crying over spilled milk will take on a new meaning. I found a lot of encouragement in a support group on Facebook. Without these women, I don’t think I would have lasted as long as I did the first time. I’m hoping the same this time around.
No matter how you feed your baby, I hope you know you’re doing the best you can. I know it’s’s said “breast is best,” but let it be known that “fed is best.” Your baby needs a happy and healthy mama. Don’t stress yourself out if you can’t do what society thinks you should be doing. Do what’s best for you, and everything will fall into place.