The Ups and Downs of Exclusively Pumping

July 6, 2020, Hailey Cain

In part two of my birth story, I shared my extremely difficult decision to stop breastfeeding and switch to pumping and bottle-feeding Delilah. Now that Delilah is four months old, I want to share my experiences with this decision.

Before switching from breastfeeding to pumping, I tried to research ways to make it successful. I was surprised that there wasn’t a lot of information that fit my situation. Most of the information I found were personal posts about pumping in addition to breastfeeding and the little information I did find about exclusively pumping wasn’t very encouraging. The posts were trying to honestly share about the difficulty of exclusive pumping, but most made it seem as though switching to exclusive pumping marked the inevitable end of your breastfeeding journey.

My plan was to do a slow transition to exclusively pumping by swapping out one breastfeeding session a day for one bottle feeding and pumping session. We made it to three bottle feedings before Delilah refused to breastfeed anymore and I was too tired and frustrated to keep trying.

So, we switched to exclusive pumping overnight, and the posts were accurate. It is hard!

It is recommended that you pump between 8-12 times a day to maintain your supply from birth to three months. I could barely fit 7 pumping sessions in one day and felt like I was glued to my pump with that amount. It was extremely hard to get anything done besides pumping and feeding. And I felt like I was failing at being a mom because I constantly asked for help with the baby so I could keep up with pumping.

Now we’ve kind of settled into a routine, though it’s not always perfect, and Delilah is a healthy and happy girl. I was not able to keep up with pumping 8 times a day, but luckily the only thing I’ve been blessed with is a healthy supply of breast milk. Right now, I’m able to pump all that Delilah needs plus a little extra with 5 sessions a day.

And the best thing was to invest in a portable pump with more discreet cups that fit inside a bra. With this pump I’m able to use my pumping sessions to get a couple chores done around the house. It’s also nice to be able to wear a shirt during the day because I was beginning to feel like I didn’t need them anymore with a traditional pump!

The most important thing I’ve had to learn in all this is to relax. Breastfeeding and pumping turned me into a paranoid stress ball. I’m constantly either afraid that missing a session is going to ruin my supply, or worried when I get less than I normally do. I’m pretty sure Joshua has to tell me to relax almost twice a day and he’s definitely right. But things are going well, even on the days where I’m a tired, milk-soaked mess, asking Delilah how she feels about formula.

One thing is for sure – I would not have been successful without the support of my family. Whether they are helping with the baby or encouraging me when I’m in a stress spiral, I can count on my family to support me.