August 12

How to Know If Exclusive Pumping Is Right for You

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exclusive-pumping

originally posted August 12, 2017 | updated June 20, 2019

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There is no shortage of advice out there for new moms. While I was pregnant, I received a unique piece of advice from every mom I talked to. One of my favorites was to not let anyone tell you how to be a mom. You get to decide what you feel is right for your baby.

This is a lesson I’m still learning. One of my biggest examples has been breastfeeding. When you are in the position to choose how to feed a baby, you realize quickly that there is an abundance of opinions and complexity of emotions surrounding the subject.

First Time Breastfeeding Mom

Breastfeeding: the most natural, basic function of being a mom, right? Before having a baby, I thought so. I figured it would just work out naturally for me, despite mom friends’ varied stories of their own lactation drama. Fast forward to my first night being a new mom, and let the milk drama begin.

Prior to bringing Claire into the world, I focused on exactly one aspect of being a mom: my highly anticipated delivery. During my second trimester, my doctor told me to find a pediatrician and also recommended the best lactation consultant in the area. I put off thoughts of both pediatrician and lactation until it felt uncomfortably late to be thinking about such things.

My first meeting with my lactation consultant, Lori, was sometime during my third trimester. Lori provided me a wealth of information on the subject, but I simply nodded and went with it when she told me that babies eat about 8 times a day. The up-all-night reality of feeding, changing, and soothing a newborn was a foreign concept that I couldn’t absorb until it set in the first night of her life.

Nor could I even begin to understand the realities and frustrations of breastfeeding, not to mention the guilt of not getting it. But I was reassured by the fact that Lori made house calls, and planned on calling on her expertise if things didn’t work out perfectly once the baby arrived.

The Realities of Breastfeeding for the First Time

After our less than ideal stint in the postpartum department at the hospital, we were relieved to be released back into our natural surroundings, the best lactation consultant in town at the ready within hours of our return home. After a consultation with the expert, I was able to breastfeed during the first 5 weeks.

It wasn’t always perfect, but I stuck it out because I knew it was the best thing for Claire, and I wanted to be a good breastfeeding mom. I didn’t want to be a failure at something so natural.

But it wasn’t the dream I had imagined, nor the one portrayed by Rachel on Friends. After a few screaming baby not being able to eat moments, on top of countless middle of the night milk everywhere moments, Michael and I finally looked at each other and agreed to give up on it. I would still make modernized milk, but accepted the fact that the romance of being a breastfeeding mom, effortlessly feeding my perfectly content baby in restaurants, airports, and parks, was not going to happen for me.

The Final Second Guess for Exclusive Pumping

As the weeks went on, I felt happy and empowered by my decision to do the right thing for our family. We had a happier, less frustrated baby, and a mom and dad who felt less crazy with significantly less around-the-clock screaming.

Slowly My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow, which I loved, made it’s way up to the top shelf of my closet. My pump became more of a staple to my baby feeding routine. I started to relax about the need to supplement with formula every once in a while if there wasn’t enough milk to go around.

But I still had other breastfeeding gear that I didn’t really get to take out for a spin, like my breastfeeding cover-ups and new bras specifically designed to allow me to feed my baby. I hung onto the gear for the next baby, but still held onto the thought that maybe we could make it work with Claire.

After a few conversations about breastfeeding with (nursing successful) mom friends and exposure to a few effortless breastfeeding moms of older babies, I started to really wonder if I had made the right choice.

Maybe I gave up too quickly and there was still hope for me and Claire now that she was getting a bit older? I decided to give it one last ditch effort. I called Lori to come back one more time, thinking that if anyone could help us, it would be her.

My Breastfeeding Closure

Lori expertly assessed our situation and was able to finally give me the peace of mind I thought I had developed at 5 weeks. She offered us one more option to try, no judgment, and the reassurance that as a mom, I got to choose what was best for my baby. At the end of our consultation, I knew what I already knew but needed to be reminded of: I had already made the right choice for us.

We didn’t need to try one more breastfeeding prop, or put ourselves through the uncertainty of trying a few more things to get it right so I could proudly be a breastfeeding mom. We had already found our new, happy normal. I’m a happier mom, and Claire is a happier baby.

Before being in the position of figuring out breastfeeding, I will admit that I had my own opinions about how other moms chose to feed their babies. It’s hard not to weigh in on what others are doing in relation to us. To compare our unique experiences with theirs.

But I have to remember a yoga lesson from years ago:

Stay on your own yoga mat.

This is the perfect metaphor for life. We get to choose how to experience our own lives. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing, or what they might think about what we are choosing. We are empowered to choose what is best for ourselves, and if we have tiny people in our care, them, until they become empowered to do their own lives.

I am happy to have come to my own conclusion about how to best feed this baby. For the moment, we are working on staying on our own yoga mat.

If you are struggling with the decision of whether or not to continue breastfeeding like I was, I hope my story helps you come to your own conclusion about what is best for your own family. It really doesn’t matter what other people think. You get to choose and your choice will be the right one because as a mom, you are the person who knows what’s best for your baby.

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  1. A fried of mine is exclusively pumping with her first. It seems like it can be challenging but she is committed! Cuddos to all the moms making that sacrifice, pumping can be a bore, but we mamas do what we gotta do!

    1. Yes it is challenging! I remember sitting cross-legged at the table with our first newborn baby in my lap sleeping while hooked up to the pump. It’s especially tough when you are also trying to soothe the baby and pump. The worst is when you have everything set up and have to take it off to change a diaper or something. And it also can put you to sleep just as quickly as breastfeeding for sure!

  2. I had a NICU baby who struggled with eating from day 1. Unfortunately I was not able to breastfeed her, and i felt so guilty. The “breast is best” Mantra put so much pressure on me. I ended up exclusively pumping for 7 months before having to switch to formula due to different feeding issues. I’m glad you wrote this post!

    1. Oh thank you! I know – all the messaging about breastfeeding out there is intended (I think) to shed a positive light on the subject, but I think it unintentionally casts a judgy shadow on those of us who really wanted to do it but for whatever reason it didn’t pan out. Perhaps they need to also throw in there “but if it doesn’t work out, pumping is also best – and so is formula. Feeding your baby is best.” 🙂

  3. Aww, so cute! And yes, we all have to discover what is best for us. Babies start letting you know what they want pretty early, too. My daughter wouldn’t eat baby food from a jar — she yelled “No” when she was 6 months old, and wanted to eat the same food as everyone else. I had to watch real close so her brother wouldn’t feed her pizza!

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