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The Secret Life of Exclusively Pumpers - Clumps of Mascara
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The Secret Life of Exclusively Pumpers

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Since pumping is an enormous part of my life, I figured I would do a post on it. In the baby feeding community, there are 2 kinds of mothers. Those who breastfeed their babies and those that formula feed their babies. Prior to having my own child, I was vehemently against the idea of giving my baby formula. Breast milk isn’t only the best milk but it’s free. There’s no bottle prep. It’s just…there. It’s the easiest option, right?

Wrong.

Breastfeeding is the the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. 9 months of pregnancy and having a natural childbirth was waaaaay easier. I could point my finger at many factors as to why breastfeeding was so difficult for me.

-Lack of knowledge.
-Very little assistance at getting Elle to the breast the hours and days after birth.
-Elle being born 3 weeks early.
-My huge boob + Elle’s small mouth = difficulty.
-Ineffective guidance from a lactation consultant.

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And it wasn’t like I didn’t try. My child had a poor latch. She made plenty of efforts to breastfeed but they didn’t result in her getting enough milk to be satiated. When she did latch, she would not only chew my breast into bits but she would erupt in tears every time. Which only devastated me. Talk about feeling inadequate. Here I am, a new mother, and I can’t even effectively give my child food. And lack of milk wasn’t an option because I was flowin’…

So I decided to enter the Secret World of EP’ing. I call it a secret because you don’t hear many women talking about it. It is perhaps the most difficult track to take when it comes to feeding newborns and infants. With breastfeeding, you just whip out a boob and feed baby. With formula feeding, you (or someone else – BONUS!) prepare a bottle and give it to baby. With exclusively pumping, I have to juggle between not only pumping to get milk but then I also have to find time to feed the baby. It’s a juggling act, really and it was the #1 reason that made the first weeks of motherhood difficult.

In order to keep my supply up, I have to pump to Elle’s schedule. That means I need to pump around the time that she would be eating or more. BUT – since I am back to work, I’d like for her to continue to receive breast milk while at daycare. And so I not only pump enough for her to eat, but I pump enough to freeze. Breast milk stored in a deep freezer has a shelf life of 6-12 months so that means even after I return to work and Elle goes to daycare, she will continue to get breast milk.

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I produce quite a bit of milk so what can’t fit in my freezers is donated to other mommies. That’s right! Thanks to the great community of Human Milk 4 Human Babies, I was able to find 3 mommies who were looking for a donor. These moms have adopted newborns or foster babies that had issues with formula but are thriving off of my breast milk. Some find it to be gross and unsanitary. I think not. In fact, Elle’s first few days of milk came from another mommy who had donated her breast milk to my birthing center.

So let’s rewind…

PRO’S of pumping
-I get to feed my baby breastmilk. I’m very grateful for the electric pump technology.
-I can SEE how much she’s getting and deliver that info to my pediatrician.
-Someone else can feed her which is awesome. Mama needs a break too, yo.
-Unlike formula, a bottle of breast milk can be left out for hours. HUGE pro.
-I can donate to other babies.
-I burn an insane amount of calories and pumping has lead to me being smaller than my pre-preggo weight.

CON’S of pumping
-The judgement I get from exclusive breastfeeders (Why don’t you try harder to make her latch?) and formula feeders (Why don’t you give her a formula bottle?).
-Very little sleep. I have to pump every 3-4 hours and haven’t slept a straight 3-4 hours since Elle has been born.
-It makes social outings difficult. If I will be out for more than 4 hours, my breasts become engorged and painful. I also risk a chance to getting clogged milk ducts which can turn into mastitis which I hear sucksssss. So yeah. My boobs are always on a ticking clock.
-Never-ending bottle washing.
-Pumping can be very lonely. You’re up by yourself in the middle of the night or have to excuse yourself to pump.

Why don’t I just give her formula? It’s simple. I don’t want to. I want her to have breast milk so while pumping is extremely difficult, I plan to only do it for a year. And I’m hoping I can make it to a year because I think about quitting every single day. But hey, everything happens for a reason and while I go through moments of being sad that I couldn’t breastfeed Elle, I am grateful for my abundant supply of milk. I’ve pumped over 31 gallons of breast milk that has nourished 4 children. It feels kinda awesome.

Feel free to drop questions in the comments. And lots of love to my fellow EP’in’ gals for motivating me to write this post!

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  • Nina

    You girl ROCK! Those who donate milk to other babies are superstars! Not all babies can use regular formula from bottles, there is allergies and other reasons and breast milk is better for getting resistans for allergies (you know there is recycle) Dont ever think pumping milk or donating is gross.

    I breastfeeded my girls almost year… and last weeks felt like it was gross ;) they chewed my nipples so I said now we stop this slowly up to 2 weeks and then walked with tick jumper on for weeks.

    • Brittany

      I don’t think it’s gross at all. I guess I’m just used to so many people saying “Ewwwwww, people feed their babies’ other peoples’ breast milk?” Ugh. Congrats on BF’ing for a year!

  • http://aliceinnappyland.com Alice

    I think it’s so sweet/generous/amazing that you’re helping feed other babies. It’s not gross at all! Think about it: You have an overabundance of a precious resource. Instead of hoarding it or charging for it, which I’m sure you totally could. You decide to give it away FOR FREE because other babies gotta eat too!

    • Brittany

      Thanks lovely!

  • http://www.mwatum.com Amina

    totally agree with Alice!You rock!!Donating your milk to feed others is simply amazing and a GIFT :)

  • http://www.seriouslynatural.org Sabrina @seriouslynatural

    Hang in there! I had the same issues you had with my first child and I failed at breastfeeding but by my second I was ready. I made sure everything was going to be great and he was going to latch on right after birth. I breastfed him for 2 1/2 years (he never took a bottle or pacifier) and I have never been happier for doing it. It is all worth it and you will be so proud of yourself for hanging in there. Those babies are thriving and will be healthier because of your sacrifice.

    • Brittany

      Something tells me I’ll do good the next ‘go round. I have learned soooo much. Elle actually latches now but she’s used to the flow of a bottle she’s far too impatient to sit on a boob.

  • Heather

    I had a friend exclusively pump for her twins and it worked out great for her and my sister in law is contemplating it as well! What a good mama you are :)

  • http://www.nailpolishtherapy.com Leandra

    you’re amazing. period. point blank. That’s all I can say.

  • http://tonsrandomspewings.blogspot.com Tonyette H.

    Thank you for posting about this option!! As a first time soon-to-be mom, I have been wondering what would I do if I couldn’t breastfeed my baby! This is wonderful option!

    Thank you again!

    • Brittany

      XOXO! Congrats on your bundle!

  • kazari

    Aw, that’s fantastic! and you’re right, EPers are like a secret subsection of mommies…nobody really talks about it. Honestly, if someone asks me if I breastfeed I just say yes, because that saves me the hassle of being judged and having to explain. And you know, in a doctor’s eyes, EPing and breastfeeding is the same thing, since in the end it’s still breastmilk that winds up in baby’s tummy.

    And I’m so jealous that you have so much milk so that you can donate! I would donate too except I’ve never been what you call gushing, haha. It’s not gross as long as the donor mother is tested and healthy. After all, it’s not so long ago that wet nurses were commonly used.

    And as I said before, in a couple months or so your breasts will adjust to demand and will quit being so obnoxious with the clogged milk ducts and whatnot, and you can also start stretching out the times between pumping while maintaining volume. Hang in there!

    • Brittany

      Oh yeah, I definitely consider myself a breastfeeding mom. I am already seeing some relief. I can go 4 hours without being painfully engorged. Before it was only like…2 hours. Yowsers!

  • http://www.nesheaholic.com LaNeshe

    I love all your mommy posts. Thank you for sharing.

  • http://www.beingmrsjones.com Christina

    As if I didn’t already think you were completely awesome, now I find out that you ALSO donate milk to needy moms and babies!? I was already incredibly proud that you persevered against those obstacles to provide your own baby with the best, but sacrificing your time and energy and sanity for others *wipes eyes*. Really, really, really awesome. You are. I hope you know!

    • Brittany

      Thank you soooo much, Christina. That means a lot. It took awhile but I do feel pretty awesome. Especially when there were many times when I wanted to quit.

  • http://renewedfitness.org Renisha

    31 GALLONS!? *faints*

    • Brittany

      I knowwwww. Actually it’s 34.35 now. Ha!

  • http://yummy411.blogspot.com kia

    good thing you are producing enouh milk! i had the same issues!!! then i almost panicked when i saw green milk a time or two 0_o unfort for me, the pumps didn’t stimulate me like the baby did to produce milk. good luck chica…. #teamfullcups ;)

    • Brittany

      Girl yes – I am an overproducer. Which is great now but will be painful (clogged ducts) when it’s time to wean. Green milk! I’ve gotten that before when I’ve OD’d on greens. It is also a sign of foremilk/hindmilk issues too, right?

  • http://topstylerreviewer.com/ Swarne

    Breastfeeding isn’t really an easy task to do. Don’t feel bad if you’re using a breast pump, at least you’re still able to feed your baby with your milk. It is healthier than the formula based milk as it would also cause problems in defecating especially if the infant has an allergy with a specific formula. That would be a very difficult situation.

    • Brittany

      Right you are! I’ve also come to the conclusion that if I ever have to give her formula, that’s okay too.

  • Elle

    Just want to join the bandwagon here and say how awesome you are for donating milk. And for getting by on so little sleep. And for hanging in there and making it work, even though it’s hard. I hope you have a strong support network and are going back to a job that is supportive of your pumping and gives you the space and time to pump.

    • Brittany

      Thank you so so much. I’ve got a great support system and while my job does provide a place for me to pump, I am actually more comfortable pumping in my car. Yep!

  • http://www.mumsfairy.com/ increase milk supply

    Thanks to my father who shared with me on the topic of this website, this blog is in fact amazing.

  • Jennifer

    I cried when I read this! Thank you for nursing your daughter but also for not being afraid to speak about your challenges and pushing through. :)

  • Aimee

    You are not alone! I EP’d for my son his entire first year after we had a rocky start to nursing. It does often feel like you don’t “fit in” with the other 2 main groups, but it’s awesome what you’re doing for your child! There are soooo many benefits for your child and for you. I remember many long days and nights of pumping and washing bottles and feel your pain. It will be all worth it! Keep up the great work and don’t ever feel like you’re not doing the best thing. It’s hard work!!!

    • Brittany

      Way to go, mama!! Thanks for sharing your story!

  • Rebecca

    Pumping as i type! :) my daughter was 2 1/2 weeks early and no matter what i did she fell asleep at the boob. While at the hospital recovering from my emergency c section my night nurse told me that Im starving my baby and i HAD to give her formula. After sobbing all nighti decided to talk to someone about pumping! My doctor told me the most pumpers only last 3 weeks onaverag. I am not an overproducer and have no stock in my freezer even tho pump every 3-4 hours ! My daughter is now 5 months old and is going to growing like a weed! :) its so much work and exhausting! I wouldn’t change it fir the world. Thank you for sharing your story. Keep up the amazing work! :)

    • Brittany

      You go, mama!!

  • AJ

    I’m re-reading this now that I’ve had my baby and I get it now. I’m an exclusive EPer and it sucks. Thanks for the motivation and letting me know I’m not alone at wanting to give up. I keep at it because I know it’s what’s best for baby.

    • Brittany

      Oh mama…. :( Gonna send you an email.

  • Stacie

    I exclusively pumped for both my children. My oldest was 6 weeks premature and wouldn’t latch, so I pumped for a year. My second, just wasn’t getting enough and I was having to pump to supplement. He realized it was easier to drink from the bottle, so I ended up just pumping to feed him. I pumped for 6 months, upon which I had to go on mess for the postpartum depression I had been suffering and had to stop. I know how difficult it was. I know how many people thought I was crazy. I know how I cried when I was forced to stop.

    • Brittany

      You’re an amazing mama!

  • http://www.beautybuzzdaily.com/ Marissa Lee

    I wish my mama breast-fed me for a year. She did it for a week and I’m still grateful for it. My brother got nada. Elle’s one lucky kiddo!

    My cousin’s pumping too because breast feeding’s too painful. She’s freezes her milk and there’s so much surplus that she’s even using it for her facials. Donating it to HM4HB seems like a more worthwhile cause though.

    • Brittany

      I’ve heard of breast milk being great for facials too!

  • Jamie

    Thanks a bunch, it was very informative as I look at this for an option for our first child!