Emma blogs over at @alifewiththethompsons_ And I thought that it would be interesting to hear about her feeding journey as she is exclusively pumping … “So we are currently one month into our exclusive pumping (E’Ping) journey and you guys have been asking us lots of questions in relation to this so I thought I would take some time to do a little Q&A, based on the most popular questions we’ve been asked.
- Firstly, what is exclusive pumping?
Exclusive pumping is the process of removing milk from the breasts using a pump, and feeding it to your baby via bottle, tube, syringe or any other means by which they are not feeding directly from the breast.
- Tell us about your breastfeed journey, what led you to exclusive pumping?
I had never planned on being an exclusive pumper, I’d not even really thought about it being an option prior to giving birth and if I’m honest, I didn’t really know what it involved at first. I had always planned on breastfeeding, but in the days after giving birth, it became apparent that Molly was struggling to latch correctly and she’d spend ages just sat chewing my nipple without getting much milk. When I took her away from the breast and tried to latch her deeper she would just end up gagging, shaking her head and arching backwards. Not wanting to give up on our breastfeeding journey without trying, I spoke to midwives, health visitors, breast feeding consultants and referred to my trusty friend, Google, in order to try and sort out the issues which we were having. We managed to rule out tongue tie and the professionals all told me to persevere and keep trying different positions and techniques in order to sort out Molly’s latch. Everyone seemed to have a new technique, a method, an ‘answer’ to our problems. However, after a couple of days it was becoming apparent that none of these were improving the issue and my nipples were still just being chewed; causing them to become dry, sore and cracked.. the pain was unreal! I started to dread Molly’s next feed, as soon as she latched I’d end up in tears because the pain was too much. I’d become so reluctant to feed my baby from the breast, and surely this was not how a new mother should feel! I tried all sorts to help with the pain; Lanolin cream, cabbage leaves, heat, warm showers… you name it, I tried it! But nothing seemed to be helping.
At the point of feeling utter despair, and with Molly having lost 7% of her birth weight, that’s when I thought that I would dig out my old breast pump and express some milk for her, A. to ensure she was getting some milk and B. to give my poor nipples a little break. That first time I pumped, I still had every intention of giving feeding from the breast another go, I remember thinking ‘I’ll give it a couple of days to let my nipples heal and we’ll try again’. But that never really came. During the few days I was exclusively pumping whilst I let my nipples heal, we saw such a change. Molly was actually gaining weight, I was able to relax knowing that Molly was getting the milk she needed, Steve could help with the night feeds now Molly was drinking expressed milk from a bottle and it meant I could get a few hours of well-deserved sleep! It was at this point, when Molly was just over 10 days old, that I made the difficult decision to becoming an exclusive pumper for my little girl and we haven’t looked back since!
- What is involved in exclusive pumping?
A lot of pump parts, a schedule and a lot of determination!
Professional advice recommends that when a baby is newborn, you should pump every 2.5 to 3 hours (including through the night) in order to mimic how a baby would nurse at the breast and that you should be pumping for a total of 120 minutes across the day. This means pumping between 8 and 10 times a day at the beginning, which is tough. Because milk production works on a supply and demand basis, the more you pump the more milk your body produces and this is especially important in the early days whilst your milk supply is becoming established. As you can imagine, having to hook yourself up to a pump 10 times a day can feel like it’s a chore, but I always try to make my pumping sessions as fun as possible – watching Netflix, reading a book, eating chocolate, catching up with friends on social media.. anything to pass the time!
- How does exclusive pumping make you feel?
Exclusive pumping is HARD, really hard. I honestly think it makes your feel every emotion you experience as a parent all at the same time – Unconditional love, fear, worry, hope, determination, euphoria.. the whole spectrum of human emotion. It takes dedication to be an exclusive pumper. It takes dedication to get up in the middle of the night whilst your whole family is sleeping, to pump some milk for your baby. It takes dedication to sit somewhere hooked up to plugs and wires for 30 minutes every 2.5 hours to build up your milk supply. It takes dedication to keep pumping at all hours when your body is telling you that it’s exhausted. It takes dedication to keep going when every health professional is telling you that ‘it won’t work’, ‘you’ll run out of milk’, ‘you won’t be able to keep up’, ‘your baby will be lazy because you’re bottle feeding them.’ (Yes, one health professional did tell me that.) But I am so determined to prove every single one of them wrong and knowing that my body is providing my baby girl with everything she needs makes me feel amazing!
There have been times when I’ve felt like I must be the only person in the world who is exclusively pumping. It can be such a lonely place at times. It’s exhausting, emotionally and physically draining (excuse the pun) and you definitely need support from family and friends in order to keep you going! I’ve also found, and joined, some amazing instagram and facebook support groups which have been a massive help too.
Please don’t get me wrong, I love that I am able to express my milk to help Molly grow and I wouldn’t change it for the world, I just wish it wasn’t so exhausting at times!
- Have you ever felt like giving up?
Almost every day! If I’m being brutally honest with you. Like I said above, exclusive pumping is incredibly hard work and it takes a lot of self- motivation and perseverance to keep going. There are high days and low days, but I’m told it does get easier the longer you keep going for. My lowest day so far, the one where I came really close to giving up, was during the mega heat wave a couple of weeks ago. We were about 2 weeks into our journey of exclusive pumping and I’d gone on a day trip to the beach. I hadn’t built up the confidence to pump in public yet, so I decided I would go back to my car and pump there; forgetting it would be a sweltering sweatbox in the heat. Trying to juggle 10 pump pieces, whilst attempting to keeping myself covered for dignity, with sweat running down my face and sitting at an awkward, uncomfortable position in a 36 degree car was hell and definitely not a highlight of my pumping journey. But, as I was sat there almost in tears about the state of myself, I realised that I couldn’t let one bad pump, or even a bad day, impact my whole journey and I think this was definitely a turning point for me.
- How long do you plan to exclusively pump for?
I haven’t actually thought about how long, at the moment I’m taking each day as it comes. We have just achieved one month of exclusive pumping and that’s a massive achievement in itself. I would like to think that I could make it to at least 6 months of exclusive pumping for Molly but I’m going back to work when she is 3 months old so I am not sure how this would work logistically with my job role. I really hope that I can find a way to keep pumping after I go back to work, as I love knowing that I am feeding my daughter with 100% breast milk.