Finally, after a prolonged absence due to a smidge of travel (Zoya had her first road trip – yay!) and a cold that swept our whole family, I am back to write the second installment of my top tips for pumping success!!!
To read part one, you can access the earlier post here. Those ready to dive into part two, let’s do this!
5) Create a milk organization system that makes sense for you and your family early on in the game. Any sort of confusion surrounding storage of breast milk is just plain stressful.
When I initially began pumping, I inadvertently had an oversupply because my tiny NICU baby only required about an ounce per feed. I was doing a lot of freezing, but did not have a systematic method to the process. In fact, I did not even realize the necessity to record the amount of ounces in a bag (face palm)! My freezer was a disorganized mess.
Pinterest has a wealth of information on maintaining a beautifully organized freezer stash as well as user-friendly ways to store fresh milk the fridge. There are also a lot of apps that help keep track of the running total of pumped and frozen milk; Pump Log is a favorite. Once I figured out a system that worked, I needed to go back and reorganize my deep freezer. This was an hours-long process that could have been avoided had I done my homework ahead of time.
4) Find your support system. We can’t do any of this mom stuff completely on our own, so this is imperative. For me, the central support figure was definitely Vlad. He woke up in the middle of the night to feed Zoya so that I could pump simultaneously. He washed pump parts. He bought me a deep freezer. He was invaluable.
However, a partner certainly does not have to be the main support (or at all, if they aren’t present).
I had girlfriends who had done the pumping gig come alongside me, nurses in the NICU who cried with when I was engorged and frustrated, and a whole other slough of people I drew from when I needed to.
Funny enough, someone suggested joining a pumping support group on Facebook. Even though I thought it was kind of silly, I went ahead and requested to be a member of the Exclusively Pumping Moms group – and it was a great decision. A whole community of women who were going through exactly what I was going through, sharing tips, stories and humor opened up to me. Having that network proved to be ever so important as I ran into problems or just needed someone who had been there to hear me out.
3) Never quit on a bad day – this was a saying prevalent in the pumping support group. I found myself repeating it to myself fairly often.
Truly, there are going to be days that you want to quit and never look back. Days on which you need a shower but can’t get one, days on which there are more tears than smiles, days that you can’t find a bit of the beauty of motherhood everyone talks about.
I know I had all of those days – more than just once. They evoked some very intense emotions that I knew could cloud my rational judgment and ultimately influence my commitment. The last thing I wanted to happen was to quit out of frustration and be wrought by major regret. If I was going to wean, I wanted to come this conclusion when I was truly ready, not at a time when I was overwhelmed by a crappy day. Looking back over the months, I am confident that sticking to the resolution of not quitting when I felt like it most actually allowed me to keep pumping way longer than I have otherwise.
2) Walking up a hill is so much easier than climbing Mt. Everest, is it not? Therefore, set small goals for yourself. Out of the gate, I thought I was going to pump exclusively for a year. As I realized how truly tough exclusively pumping was, one year seemed impossibly far. I frequently told myself,
“Just get through this day. Ok, now get through this week.” Reaching these seemingly tiny goals was actually a big deal because of the created a sense of accomplishment. Plus, every small goal completed is really just an excuse to celebrate your hard work and reward yourself accordingly. Now, I know we can all get behind that.
1) Finally, if you do nothing else, simply acknowledge that your pumping journey is unique. Comparison is the ultimate joy thief – especially when it comes to freezer stashes, post partum bodies, and the like.
Your merit as a mother is not measured in ounces.
You are doing the best that you can and working hard to provide food for your little one. You know what is best for you and your family – more so than any other human. Don’t allow others to disregard the hard work that you are doing. Or to set the rules on how you should be doing it. Use any ignorance regarding breastfeeding or pumping that you come across as an opportunity to educate others.
Remember to give them grace, and save some for yourself as well.
Thank you for allowing me to share the bits of wisdom I have gained on this topic as I have gone through the months exclusively pumping for Zoya. Our journey is drawing to a close. However, I am still available as a resource to anyone who may need it. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you need advice or just to vent – it can be very therapeutic, trust me!
Pump on, ladies.