I am the mother of a darling boy who surprised me by coming into my life, then surprised me by arriving 6 weeks early, and continued to surprise me by chewing my nipples off every time we tried to feed! After several bouts of thrush, latching difficulties, lactation consultants who scared the pants off me about my supply, a few good souls who helped me gain my confidence, and countless tears shed in utter frustration (not to mention pain), I became the full-time pumping goddess that I am today!I worship at the shrine of my Medela Pump in Style, knowing that every drop I express feeds this incredible little person I gave birth to. He is now 4 months old and I intend to keep pumping until at least 6 months.
Here are several snippets of advice to moms who want to pump exclusively:
1. Know that you are blessed among women. The courage, stamina, and dedication it takes to exclusively pump are saint-worthy.
2. Know that every time you feel exhausted, cheated, angry, sad, frustrated, bored, or start hearing your pump talk to you in the middle of the night — you are not alone. And it is all normal. I don’t know how many times I’ve decided to “just let my milk dry up” — and just as I decide to do that, it flows into those two bottles like ambrosia… The sheer physical and emotional energy it takes to pump exclusively require a special kind of inner fortitude. I have learned a lot about my inner resources through this experience. It is not for the feint of heart. You are a warrior-woman.
3. Know that if you do indeed give up, you are NOT a failure. The fact that we even pump as long as we do is a sign of our motherlove. Whether it’s 2 weeks, 2 months, or 2 years, you are doing the best thing for your child. Banish all thoughts of failure from your head (because they will be there, trust me).
4. Know that the key to supply is three fold: a regular pumping schedule, enough rest, and plenty of nourishment. These three things, plus the belief (I guess you could call it faith) that you CAN DO THIS is all you need to keep producing milk. (Fenugreek worked for me too, but watch for gassiness and tummy upset in you and baby after prolonged use).
5. Know that part of this experience means sacrifice: of your ideas about being able to breastfeed, about your time, about your autonomy as an adult, about being the one to directly feed your baby. But you can choose to see yourself as enslaved by your pump…or liberated by the inner journey it affords you (and the incredible sense of accomplishment, against the odds, when you succeed.) And know that helping hands — from a partner, husband, grandma, friend — are welcome. Weigh the sadness of not being able to cradle you baby as he feeds against the fact that because your husband is feeding him your milk at night, you can pump MORE milk for him.
6. Know that people might ask funny questions, or judge you, or not understand why cannot answer the phone right now…or you cannot come out of the public toilet stall right now…but keep your inner compass steady. You are doing this because you believe it is the best thing for your beloved child. So frankly, screw anyone who thinks otherwise! And let them wait — no phone call of angry toilet patron should force you to put aside this vital task. It is vital to your baby…and so it is more important than anything else!
7. Know that there is a sisterhood of women who exclusively pump, and share the knowledge with others around you. We are brave and bold mamas and we should sing our praises wherever we can.
Strength to you as you listen to the swishing gurgles of milk splashing (or dribbling) into bottles — and as you watch your little one drink down your milk and grow round and fat and pink and gorgeous…