(While I’m snuggling my new baby, I’m delighted to share this guest post by JessieLeigh from Parenting Miracles.)
I jokingly refer to myself as an unofficial expert on ways to feed babies– I have exclusively formula fed, exclusively pumped, and exclusively breastfed. Of the three, it is my opinion that pumping exclusively is the most challenging. It seems to involve all the work of both the other options without some of the fun perks. Still, it is sometimes the best or only option a mother has. Such was the case for me when my second baby arrived four months early and was fed through a feeding tube.
If you find yourself in a situation where you must rely on pumping for all or most of your baby’s feeding needs, whether because of a medical condition or work situation, I do have some tips to help you establish a successful pumping relationship!
3 Tips for The Exclusively Breast Pumping Mom
1) Take care of yourself.
Eat nourishing food and drink plenty of water. It is sometimes harder to make the connection between pumping and baby than, say, nursing at the breast and a baby. Still, your body is working every bit as hard and burning extra calories. Make sure you’re meeting those needs.
Try to rest when you can and realize that, especially in the beginning, successful pumping requires getting up a few times during the night just like you would if you were nursing a newborn. This can be challenging as it’s not nearly as fun to sit with a pump as it is to snuggle a sweet baby. Know that, just like if you were able to feed the baby at your breast, these sessions can and should move farther apart with time.
2) Make sure you have the proper equipment.
If you’re going to be pumping once or twice a day, you may very well be able to get by with a standard pump you’d pick up at any baby store. If you’re going to be pumping all or nearly all the time, it’s worth it to look into renting a hospital grade pump. These pumps are more powerful, efficient, and customizable. Update: Check with your insurance company to see if they cover a breast pump.
Be sure, too, that you have comfortable, easy-to-maneuver nursing bras that will work well with your pumping equipment. You don’t want to be fumbling around or struggling to fit the pump properly.
If you’re away from your baby, you may also want to keep a photo of your little one or a worn article of clothing nearby. The sight and smell of your baby will help stimulate let-down and will make the first few minutes of pumping easier.
3) Surround yourself with encouragement.
You’re doing something wonderful for your baby and it’s important that you feel supported. Seek out the people who provide that encouragement– these might include your husband, nurses, or women who’ve walked in your shoes. Don’t diminish their compliments and be willing to pat yourself on the back.
On the flip-side, try to avoid the nay-sayers. There may be some people (likely women) who try to make you feel bad for using a bottle in any capacity. Realize that these people are not in your corner and are not going to help you. Smile and move on. You’re doing something wonderful and hard. Don’t let anyone make you feel like “less” for it.
Bonus Tip from Rebekah:
If you are doing any amount of pumping and milk storage, be sure to educate yourself about excess lipase activity!
Pumping can sometimes feel like a challenging, thankless job, but, for babies whose mamas can’t be with them all the time or who can’t yet eat at the breast, it can be a huge blessing. Realize that, no matter how much or how little you are able to express, you are giving your baby an advantage and fantastic nutrition through your efforts. As one who managed to successfully pump and provide breast milk for the entire first year, I am a huge supporter of women who use this feeding method and I wish to provide nothing but encouragement.
Have you ever relied on pumping for some or all of your baby’s feedings? What was the greatest challenge you faced?
A mother of three, including a 24 week preemie, JessieLeigh is a determined advocate for even the tiniest of babies. She can be found celebrating life’s (sometimes unexpected) miracles and blessings at Parenting Miracles.
All Photos by JessieLeigh.