Mommin’ Ain’t Easy
Let me start off by saying whether you’re breastfeeding, exclusively pumping, formula feeding, or doing a combination of all three, you are a rockstar! When it comes to feeding our babies, we have to do what’s best for our family. And let’s face it, staying sane is what’s best for our families. So whether you pumped/breastfed for a day or 18 months, whether you formula feed from the beginning or after months of trying to breastfeed, I know that you’re doing what’s best for your baby, you, and your family!
Labor of Love
To my pumpers — my family — I understand that exclusively pumping is not easy (far from it). But it is such a beautiful labor of love that we do for our babies! When I found out about my daughter’s cleft lip and palate and realized I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed, I thought to myself, “Okay, well I’ll just exclusively pump then.” If only I had the slightest clue what all that would entail! If you’re looking for logistics on how to exclusively pump, head over to my Survival Guide for exclusively pumping. There you can find information on pumping schedules, increasing supply, must-have products, and more!
**Side note: whether you exclusively pump or do a combination of EPing/Breastfeeding/Formula feeding, this advice is great for you too! So keep reading!
If you’re looking for words of encouragement and advice on how to “just keep pumping” (did you read that in Dory’s voice? Because that’s how I wrote it), then you’ve come to the right place!
Encouragement and advice for all my pumping mamas: I turned to my community of exclusive pumpers to help gather these words of advice!
1. Find a community of exclusive pumpers
This is hands down the most important piece of advice. You can find women on Instagram or you can join private facebook groups, but this is so essential because these women can encourage you, give you helpful information, and just listen when you need to vent to someone who has BEEN there. That’s one of my favorite things about social media — you can find the love and support you need from strangers all over the world! So stop what you’re doing right now and go find a facebook group or some Instagram moms who want to help (but come back when you’ve done that because I’m not done with my advice :)) If you have trouble finding someone, go find me on Instagram — @raising_a_christian
2. Do not quit on a bad day
Let me repeat that: do not quit on a bad day. Throughout this journey of exclusively pumping, you will have days that you want to give up. It will be the day that you’re extra exhausted, the baby is extra grumpy, your nipples are extra cracked, your breasts are extra engorged — you get the picture. But do not let this day get to you. Push through. If you decide you do want to quit, that is perfectly okay.
Give yourself a couple of days to think on it. Chances are, your week will get better, and you’ll be willing to stick with it a little longer (and then a little longer and a little longer and a little longer). If you quit in the heat of the moment, you could decrease your supply significantly, and if you change your mind a few days later, it could be too late. So like I said, think on it for a couple of days with a level head, then make your decision!
3. The first 6-8 weeks are the hardest
They just are. Your entire body is getting use to the process. You’re leaking everywhere and engorged and your nipples hurt like hell, but it does get better. I promise! After you pass that two month mark, your milk supply will regulate better, which means no more leaking and less engorgement. It also means you can probably drop a few pump sessions while still maintaining your supply (but be careful doing this). And you won’t be buying lanolin by the gallons. Make that one of your earliest goals — to make it to that two month mark!
4. Set small goals
Don’t jump into this journey with the goal of pumping for 18 months. Start with a week. Then a month. Then two months. Don’t let a huge goal overwhelm you and make the task feel impossible. Give yourself a manageable goal and celebrate those small, but hard-earned victories!
5. Eat, drink, and make dairy (gosh my jokes suck)
But my point is, drink all the water. Eat all the food. Don’t worry about diets and counting calories. If you want to produce a good amount, you’ll need to be drinking at least a gallon of water a day and eating when you’re hungry. I try to drink a protein shake once a day too for extra calories. And I know a gallon of water seems daunting, but when you’re producing 30+ ounces of milk a day, you’re going to be so thirsty, so this part is easy!
6. Four words: hands. free. pumping. bra.
Invest in a couple because if you’re pumping exclusively, that’s a lot of time at the pump. Keep your hands free so you can flip through some channels, scroll through Instagram, hold your baby, etc. This will save your sanity and make the pumping session go much quicker since you’re not just sitting there hunched over holding your pump parts!
7. Your new best friend: the Pumparoo.
Sarah Wells created something called the Pumparoo, which is pretty much a bag that you can put your pump parts in and then put the bag in the fridge. The fridge keeps everything cold enough so you don’t have to wash your pump parts after every pump! And if you’re pumping 6-8 times a day, this is a huge time-saver! I use this at home and take it to work because I can store pump parts and bottles in my work refrigerator without freaking out the male teachers with “boob stuff”. The Pumparoo also has a staging mat for setting your stuff out on a clean surface. And, you can use the main compartment to wash pumping supplies — just fill it up with soap and warm water!
8. Design an efficient and easy way for you to leave the house (read: have a life).
Invest the time to create a system that works best for you on the days you want to be away from the house for more than 3 hours! This means investing in an awesome pump bag (I’m currently saving for a Sarah Wells pump bag!) and filling that bag with everything you need. In my pump bag, I have my Medela Pump in Style, a car power cord adapter and battery pack cord adapter, snacks, a Sarah Wells breastmilk cooler (to keep BM cold until I’m back home), a set of pump parts/bottles, and a pumping cover. Now I feel like I can leave the house all day, whether for business or pleasure, and still pump when I need to!
I hope these words of advice will encourage you as you journey this exclusively pumping path! Whether you pump for a day or pump for two years, just know that every drop of breastmilk you express is a gift and labor of love for your baby! You go mama! Now if you haven’t already, go find an exclusively pumping friend or a whole community of exclusive pumpers and get connected! If you have questions or want to connect to support one another, go find me on Instagram and slide into my DMs 🙂 — @raising_a_christian