I was so unprepared to start our exclusive pumping journey. It wasn’t a decision which I had made prior to Molly being born, it was a decision which I made because Molly struggled to latch, so I made it very spur of the moment. Because of this, I was totally ill-equipped for the first few days of our journey, and had to conduct a lot of research in order to get started properly. I did find that the information online was pretty limited, and there are definitely some things which I wish I had known about exclusive pumping before I got started, so I’ve put these together in a list which you might find helpful if you are considering exclusive pumping.
- It’s going to be really time consuming
You are going to feel like you spend ALL your time hooked up to your pump, especially in the early weeks. In order to establish a decent milk supply you’re going to have to be pumping every 2 – 3 hours, around the clock (yes, that means through the night as well). You may grow to resent your pump and you may feel like it’s all you do; because it pretty much is to be honest. Exclusive pumping becomes a cycle, between washing, eating and household chores you’ve got to find time to pump, then feed your baby as well. I wish I had realised how much time it takes up in the early weeks. Finding ways to make pumping more enjoyable is definitely the key; watching Netflix, eating and scrolling through social media all make the time go faster!
- You will feel like quitting every single day
I wish someone had been brutally honest with me about how hard exclusive pumping is. I genuinely feel like, or think about, giving up almost every day. But then I remember how special it is to be able to provide my baby with breastmilk and the feeling quickly goes. I think I will know when the time comes for me to hang up the pump, whether that’s 2 days, 2 weeks, 2 months or a year down the line. Any amount of breastmilk is a bonus for your baby, and pumping is hard work, so no matter how long you exclusively pump for remember you go mama!
- There’s a lot of washing up and sterilising involved!
There will be bottles and breast pump parts everywhere. They will be coming out of your ears! When I come to the end of my pumping journey I think I’ll be happy to never see a pump part again. Getting into a good routine of washing and sterilising works, but it’s still the most boring, mundane job ever. I hate it.
- You will become obsessed with your milk supply (but this isn’t necessarily a good thing)
During the first few weeks of pumping life, I got so excited by my supply (that sounds so tragic!) Watching my supply increase little by little, day by day, was like an achievement. Christ, when I pumped more than usual I actually did a little happy dance inside. But after that, it just gets boring and you realise how much your supply can be affected by little things. Stress is a big factor that affect supply, which is difficult because the more you stress about how much you’re producing, the less you produce, but then you stress because you’re producing less and it become a vicious cycle. Try not to stress over your supply and find ways to take your mind off of it! I think for me, accepting from day 1 that there may be times when I would have to supplement with formula if I didn’t produce enough milk really helped to take some of the stresses away (and I actually haven’t had to supplement at all yet, woo – go me!)
- You will become a ‘pro’ at pumping in the most bizarre places
There are often threads in the exclusive pumping community about the most bizarre places people have pumped and my gosh, there’s been some interesting places on there. Personally, I have pumped at music festivals, on the beach, in the cinema, on a train to London.. you name it, I’ve probably pumped there and my journey so far has been relatively short in comparison to some. Invest in a good feeding cover and you’re good to go – Where do you think is the most bizarre place you’ve pumped?
- Other people will be confused by the decision you have made
People will constantly question your decision and will not be sure whether to class you as breast feeding, or bottle feeding. So many times have I heard the phrase “so wait, are you breastfeeding then?” Yes. Exclusive pumping is breastfeeding, it’s just not nursing. I’ve had this exact conversation with my Health Visitor (who does not have a clue about exclusive pumping by the way). You will probably also be asked why you have chosen the hardest option, without people realising that you probably chose this option because it was the best one that worked for you. Ignore the haters and remember pumping mama’s are awesome!
- You will experience a lot of emotions throughout your pumping journey
I have previously spoken about how during the first weeks of exclusive pumping you experience every emotion known to human kind, and I was not joking. During the early weeks I felt like an exploding ball of emotion, only I wasn’t sure if I was going to explode with happiness or despair. (I should probably actually thank Steve for sticking by me and supporting me during this time because I think I was easier to deal with when I was actually pregnant!) But once you adjust to pumping life, the journey gets easier and so does dealing with all of the emotion involved!
- It can be an expensive option, especially at the beginning
There’s this assumption that breastfeeding is the cheap option, because it’s free. But as an exclusive pumping mama you need to take into account the purchases of a decent breast pump, spare parts, extra bottles for storage, a bag for carrying all your equipment around; not to mention the hoards of snacks and the Netflix subscription that you’re going to need to get you through! I had not anticipated the cost of these items, and the initial outlay can be pretty hefty! But once you’ve got the equipment, you’re good to go and the ongoing costs aren’t so bad; it’s mainly just new parts when yours wear out and the ongoing snacks!
So there, that’s 8 things I wish I had known about before I started this journey and I’m sure there’s plenty more things that I’ll think about along the way. Is there anything you wish you’d known about exclusive pumping before getting started? Or is there any advice that you could give to other e’ping mama’s?