I was an exclusive pumper (EP) for my oldest son. He is now 4, so it’s been awhile for me. But I would like to offer some support / commiseration for any mamas who find themselves to be pumpers.
So here’s my story: I pumped for 5 months. Combined with being a first time mama and crazy hormones…these were some of the TOUGHEST months of my life. No matter how long you might pump for, you deserve a pat on the back because it is no easy task!
All throughout my pregnancy I WORRIED about breastfeeding. I read books. I went to a breastfeeding class at the hospital. I felt like everywhere I went, I heard “breast is best.” But I worried that it just wasn’t for me. I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to breastfeed.
When my son was born, I said I’d give nursing a try. In the hospital, my husband and I awkwardly tried to latch our newborn… but we really had no idea what we were doing. I had only even held a baby a couple times in my life, and holding my tiny newborn in the right way to feed did not come naturally to me.
Right after our little guy was born, he spit up A LOT. I’d attempt to latch him and get spit up on every time. I was frustrated from the get-go.
A lactation consultant came in to help, but my mind was already way over to the “I really don’t want to do this side,” so her input didn’t do much for me.
I was a mess over what I thought everyone else expected me to do. Was I going to be a bad mom if I didn’t breastfeed? At that point, I asked a nurse to bring me a pump. I remember pumping into those tiny Medela bottles and actually feeling excited when a nurse commented about how much milk I was already getting.
When I left the hospital as an EP, I had no idea how long I would pump for, or how tiring the whole process would be, but I felt like I was doing a good thing by providing breast milk for my baby.
During my 10 week maternity leave, I got into a routine of pumping for about 20 minutes every 3 to 4 hours. There were so many times when my baby was napping that I wished I could just take a nap too, but no…I had to pump first and then clean the pump. By the time I was done, there was hardly any time left for me to rest before my baby woke up. Pumping and feeding literally sucks up hours of the day.
When I returned to work, we had a friend watch our baby for 2 months. In addition to all the time it takes to pump, I drove from North Liberty to Marion (30 minutes or more with traffic) to drop him off, then drove to work in Cedar Rapids (15 minutes). And all over again at pickup time.
This 2 months was a blurr. I felt like I was in a hamster wheel. Pumping, bottle feeding, driving, repeat….repeat…repeat. And throw sleep deprived in there too!
I have no idea what kind of employee I was during that time. As a wife, I was incredibly snappy at my husband about everything. And when I got home from work all I wanted to do was sit and snuggle my baby.
Then we switched to daycare in North Liberty (where we lived) and life got much easier. A month after that, I quit pumping. It was as long as I could take.
I felt like there was a weight lifted on the day that I quit pumping. It was one of the happiest days of my life! I clearly remember standing in the kitchen, measuring formula, adding the water and shaking it up with a smile on my face. I was so relieved to be done pumping. After that I began to feel like myself again.
Looking back, I wish I could have made my decision with more confidence. This whole breastfeeding/pumping/formula feeding decision was one of my BIGGEST worries as a new mama. I wish I could have trusted MY feelings instead of being so concerned about what others might think.
In the scheme of things, 5 months is not a long time, but it certainly did not feel that way while I was pumping! However, when I think of my baby and how quickly he turned 5 months old, then it seems like time really flies! And now he’s 4. How is that possible?
I am probably not the best one to be giving advice about pumping, considering you just read that the day I quit was the best day ever. Sharing my feelings here is not easy. But maybe one other mom who reads this will have had similar thoughts and will now know that she is not alone.
Make the decision to feed your baby in the way that works for YOU and YOUR baby. Happy feeding!
Mamas: If you have any advice or stories about pumping to share with other moms, please leave a comment!