Before my first son was actually born, I had all these goals and plans and expectations. Things rarely happen just as we want them to or plan for them, especially when children are involved.
I intended to breastfeed. Or rather, I intended to breastfeed via direct nursing. That was my plan all along. I never even researched other feeding methods. Everyone said it was going to be beautiful and natural. It was neither for us.
From the beginning, it did not come naturally for us. And it HURT. I thought for sure once we got home we would settle into that elusive beautiful nursing relationship that everyone talks about. I was wrong. It felt like his gums were sharp and grinding against my nipple with every pull. We saw his doctor, and another doctor at the practice, and a few lactation consultants. Everyone said his latch appeared fine. Every time I fed him, I inwardly cringed. We used a nipple shield. We used different positions. We latched and unlatched. It never came naturally or stopped hurting.
It was never beautiful. I don’t recall a single moment of looking into his eyes while feeding him and feeling that “bond” that breastfeeding advocates claim comes only with direct nursing.
By six weeks I was ready to stop. I couldn’t do it anymore. I turned to exclusive pumping, and through pumping, I found a way to not only give my son breast milk, but also BOND with him while feeding him. This became OUR version of beautiful and natural.
I ended up pumping for both of my boys, because pumping worked for me. I was told, “you will never make enough to provide exclusive breast milk by using a machine”, or, “your baby removes the milk better than a pump. You will quickly dry up!”
These were only more false tales filling my head. They were wrong.
Here are some tips that helped me get through exclusive pumping:
In the beginning, I just tried to pump as many times a day as my son ate. Some exclusive pumping mamas stick to a strict schedule. For me, watching the clock caused more stress. Evidence is emerging that exclusive pumping mamas may be okay pumping only 7 times per day. When I started, I was told 8-10 pumps per day. I was never able to manage 10 times a day and get adequate sleep. Sleep is so very important for supply! In the middle of the night, my husband would wake up with me to tend to the baby while I pumped, or I would pump while feeding him. It took time to learn to how to burp and lay the baby back down while pumping (and trying not to spill milk by bending over too much), but, with time, it became our “normal”.
I always made sure I pumped until I was empty. It takes practice to get used to what “empty” feels like. I also made sure I got at least two let-downs. Once milk stops flowing, I change the pump settings back to the “let-down” or the “massage” mode depending on the pump. If my second let-down doesn’t come within a few minutes, I turn off the pump for a few minutes, then turn it back on in “let-down mode”, which encourages the let-down.
Massage. Massage. Massage. This made exclusive pumping possible. If I did not massage, then it would take double the time to empty my breasts. I made a hands-free pumping bra. This made it easier to tend to my kids and also massage. Massaging downwards towards the flange also helps me become quickly aware of any clogs. Sometimes, I would use moist heat on my breasts just before I started pumping, but this didn’t make as much of a difference as massaging does.
I “pumped on the go” a TON. I got a nursing cover and a Spectra S1, because it has an internal battery. I would hook up to my pump in my car after getting the boys in their seats, turn on car and go. I would unhook once we arrived at our destination. For me, being able to pump on the way to or from our outings kept me from feeling like I was stuck at home pumping.
I often found myself stressing over how much milk was in the bottle and if I would have enough. If I let myself become stressed, it made things much worse for me, and it would take me much longer to empty my breasts. I went into my second exclusive pumping journey with no goals. No expectations. I knew feeding him was best and if I needed to supplement, then I would, and he would be completely fine. I would also use my nursing cover to pump at home quite often. I massaged under the cover and I would only peek in to see if milk was still flowing or not, but I would avoid looking at the ounces in the bottle.
It takes time and trial and error, but eventually, you figure out what works best for you and your family. Exclusively pumping is a perfectly adequate feeding choice for your child, albeit one that does have a few extra steps (and parts to wash), but one that works for many families, because #FedIsBest.
Resources for pumping: Power Pumping, How to keep your breast pump parts properly cleaned
HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT FED IS BEST
There are many ways you can support the mission of the Fed is Best Foundation. Please consider contributing in the following ways:
- Join the Fed is Best Volunteer group to help us reach Obstetric Health Providers to advocate for counseling of new mothers on the importance of safe infant feeding.
- Make a donation to the Fed is Best Foundation. We are using funds from donations to cover the cost of our website, our social media ads, our printing and mailing costs to reach health providers and hospitals. We do not accept donations from breast- or formula-feeding companies and 100% of your donations go toward these operational costs. All the work of the Foundation is achieved via the pro bono and volunteer work of its supporters.
- Share the stories and the message of the Fed is Best Foundation through word-of-mouth, by posting on your social media page and by sending our resources to expectant moms that you know. Share the Fed is Best campaign letter with everyone you know.
- Write a letter to your health providers and hospitals about the Fed is Best Foundation. Write them about feeding complications your child may have experienced.
- Print out our letter to obstetric providers and mail them to your local obstetricians, midwives, family practitioners who provide obstetric care and hospitals.
- Write your local elected officials about what is happening to newborn babies in hospitals and ask for legal protection of newborn babies from underfeeding and of mother’s rights to honest informed consent on the risks of insufficient feeding of breastfed babies.
- Send us your stories. Share with us your successes, your struggles and every thing in between. Every story saves another child from experiencing the same and teaches another mom how to safely feed her baby. Every voice contributes to change.
- Send us messages of support. We work every single day to make infant feeding safe and supportive of every mother and child. Your messages of support keep us all going.
- Shop and Fed is Best Foundation will earn cash back! We hope to develop our online safe infant feeding classes with these funds.
- If you need support, we have a private support group– Join
Thank you so much from the Founders of the Fed is Best Foundation!