The First 12 Weeks
While you're "˜establishing' your supply, you have to pump around the clock. Every 2 hours during the day and 3 hours at night, no matter what the baby is doing. Get good at feeding her in a nursing pillow or entertaining her with your pump parts attached because this is real life now.
You make the most milk between 1 and 5 AM. How mean is that? Not only are you exhausted from having a newborn, but you have to break up those precious hours of sleep to pump.
Random drops in supply. Did I not drink enough water? Eat enough food? Get enough rest? Am I going to get my period? A lot of the time there's not explanation, just drink up, eat up, oh yeah and get some rest. Easy, right?
Washing bottles. Same as you formula feeding mums, we gotta get those bottles washed and sterilized, ready for the next feeding too. Your kitchen will become a bottle washing machine and God help you if you put a plate in the bottle washing sink or on the sterilizing counter.
Washing pump parts. Yup, after every pump session. Add up those hours of dish pan hands to the mix.
Don't cry over split milk. If it's breast milk you do, and don't be ashamed of it. We have all done it. Knocked over a bottle of freshly pumped milk. Oh, the tears.
Missing a pump session. Passed out and didn't wake up to the alarm? Stuck in a long grocery line up? Your boobs are ready to explode at any second, hurry home to that pump.
It's isolating. This is probably one of the worst parts about pumping. How lonely it can be. It is socially acceptable to breastfeed your baby in public, but some people are still weird about the pump. Having company over? Upstairs you go to sit in silence for 20 minutes while you listen to the valves go up and down. Maybe you are lucky enough to have friends or family that are cool with it? Now you get to navigate the nursing cover and your tubes and cords, to get the pump session going. It's awkward, but at least you aren't banished to another area of the house like you have a disease.
You don't leave the house for months. It's hard with a new baby and constantly having to pump, that a trip the grocery store for bread and eggs is all you can manage for an outing for the day.
Finding a place to pump when you're out. No one wants to pump in the bathroom, that is truly gross, but we have all had to do it. Pumping in the back seat of your car on a road trip ends up being a good use of time. Asking your hostess at a dinner party for a quiet room to disappear too to get the deed done, can be really embarrassing.
You aren't a nursing mother and nursing mothers don't really understand your struggles. Just because you make milk, doesn't make you one of "˜them' apparently. They have their cliques and you aren't really part of that club because they don't really understand what you go through on a daily basis. Exclusively pumping is becoming more popular, but it's still not a popular form of breastfeeding. That's right, I said it, breastfeeding. All you pumping mamas out there are breastfeeding your babies too. You don't have to be at the breast to be a breastfeeding mother.
It gets easier the longer you do it. Those first 12 weeks are the hardest and looking back, I don't know how I managed, but I did. Once you can start dropping pump sessions and you get to know your body it definitely gets easier. I do look forward to the day when I don't need to pack my pump up to go for a day trip, but for now I will just continue to get more confident about what I need to do.
Find some support. While you may not know a lot of people who have, or are, exclusively pumping, but these rockstar mamas are out there! Keep your eye out for Facebook groups to help lend some support or answer questions when you have them.