Feeding your baby is a unique to you experience. Every momma has to figure out what works best for their child. For me, my breastfeeding journey was far from what I ever expected. I went into it expecting breastfeeding to be an easy and natural process, however, that wasn't the case.
For the first month of Luca's life he was constantly at the breast. Feedings would last somewhere between forty five minutes to an hour and it didn't ever seem to be enough. He cried whenever he wasn't nursing and I was pumping in between sessions to give him more after he nursed. I started getting frustrated with myself and Luca. Exclusively breastfeeding started becoming less and less of an option for me. I felt extremely guilty because I didn't want to give up on our breastfeeding journey so quickly. I still wanted to give Luca all the nutrients and immune benefits from my breastmilk, but I wasn't enjoying the bonding time as much as I wanted. That is when I decided to exclusively pump.
Exclusively pumping is not for the faint of heart. I think every momma is a warrior, but now I have a whole new appreciation for momma's who exclusively pump. In the beginning I thought what's the big deal? It's just like breastfeeding. It is, but with six added steps. Every outing or family event became a whole new challenge. The coordination it took to figure out when I was going to pump and where I was going to store my breastmilk added to the stress of all the things a newborn needs when you leave the house. A trip to the grocery store became a race against time to see if I could make it home and stay on my pumping schedule.
After I had established a pumping and feeding routine is when I learned that Luca had an upper lip tie. The upper lie tie is what made it difficult for Luca to efficiently pull down breastmilk. I was relieved to know the cause, but after talking with Luca's doctor I decided to keep pumping instead of interrupting the routine we had established. He couldn't guarantee that fixing the lip tie would mean he'd take to breast feeding after having had a bottle for almost four months.
There isn't a ton of information available for women who exclusively pump. I had to piece together information that I found from different blogs and from the very few articles I found on google. That frustrated me. I knew that I wasn't the first mom to exclusively pump and I know that I won't be the last. A lot of what I learned was trial and error, sometimes ending in tears over spilled breastmilk (any breastfeeding momma knows this agony). Here are some of the things that I learned along the way that helped me tremendously physically and mentally.
One of the biggest savors for me pumping was Grandma's Lavender Nipple Cream. I used it every time before I pumped and I never had to worry about wiping it off. All the ingredients are natural, organic, and it contains no lanolin. It helped my nipples from becoming dry and cracked.
About halfway through I found out that your breasts might need a smaller or bigger flange size. I didn't know that your nipple should't be pulled halfway through and the flanges shouldn't be so big that they are barely pulling at all. I didn't like experimenting with the different sizes because I hated buying different sizes to try out and then end up not using. In the long run, it did help keep my supply up because my pump was able to empty my breast completely. To add to that, my son's pediatrician suggested that I try to put Luca to the breast occasionally. Even if it was for only five minutes a side it would help keep my milk supply up.
Cleaning the pump parts was one of the things I hated most about pumping. I was not thrilled to clean the parts after every pump, and it made me feel like I did nothing but pump all day. After doing a little bit of researching I found some moms who had the same issue and they refrigerated their pump parts in-between pumps. I did, however, deep clean and sanitize the parts at the end of the day. Going from cleaning parts eight times a day to one was a huge mental win for me because it freed me up just a little bit and made me feel less like a milk machine.
There are a lot of things I want to say about exclusively pumping that would be too long for one blog post; but I'll leave you with this, as much as pumping is physical, it is a huge mental battle. I had to learn that I wasn't going to be perfect. I would miss pumping times, sleep through alarms to pump, and cry in frustration about having to meticulously plan out every event. Don't be discouraged if your breastfeeding journey doesn't go as planned. Every journey is unique to each momma and baby. Keep your head up, don't be afraid to reach out and ask for help, and do the best that you can.
Owner of Grandma's Lavender