By moms. For moms.

12 Things I Learned on My Exclusive Pumping Journey

12 Things I Learned on My Exclusive Pumping Journey

exclusive pumping

my exclusive pumping journey

tips for exclusive pumping

exclusive pumping journey

You will learn the hard way that there are no outlets in airplane bathrooms; your tour group at Alcatraz will leave you behind; you will cry over spilled milk; your waiter will lead you to an outlet in the back of the kitchen when you ask for a place to pump (and you will pump there, as you chat with the short-order cook) – these are just a few of the adventures you may have on your journey as an exclusive pumper. 

At least I did.

You will also learn that you are stronger than you think and you can accomplish a lot on only four hours of sleep. And you keep going because one look at your little one, who now perfectly imitates the “swoosh” of your breast pump, reminds you why you set out on this journey in the first place. 

exclusive pumping

My journey began when my son arrived five weeks early. I was exclusively breastfeeding every two-to-three hours, but he was not gaining weight. Four lactation consultants, numerous pediatrician visits and weigh-ins, various mommy blogs, much health care advice (often unsolicited), many tears, and even more self-affirmations later, I learned my baby was not able to suck strongly enough to get sufficient milk, and I began pumping in addition to nursing. 

Triple nursing (nursing, pumping, and bottle-feeding) is as exhausting and time consuming as it sounds. I tried to keep at least one nursing session a day, hoping my baby’s suck would strengthen, but the truth is, I started dreading it. I was so tired, and the session was often unsuccessful and disheartening.  

I knew this couldn't work long term, so after three months I gave myself permission to stop nursing and pump exclusively. To do that, to choose to exclusively pump, I needed to change my perspective on what breastfeeding - and breastfed babies - should be. I let go of my hopes for nursing and embraced the idea that I was continuing to breastfeed, just in a different way. 

My baby’s now 15 months, and I’ve found a balance to my pumping, a rhythm even; it’s just part of my day. I’m beginning to wean, and it feels hard to imagine a day without pumping.

exclusive pumping

After exclusively pumping for a little over 12 months, I’ve learned many lessons, some hard-won. To commemorate those 12 months, I wanted to put together 12 bits of advice to help exclusively pumping moms on their pumping journeys:

1. The struggle is real.

Exclusive pumping

Let’s just acknowledge it. You will be tired. Your life will revolve around your pumping schedule, and that may mean pumping in the middle of the night or pumping 12 times a day so you increase milk supply (like when I tried power pumping to mimic cluster feeding). It's a 24 hour / 7 days a week gig.

Your hormones and emotions will be all over the place. You may struggle with intimacy. You’ll miss out on moments with your little one because you need to pump for longer.

I never thought exclusively pumping would take as much strength, discipline, and dedication as it did. Find a support system that will lift you up on your journey.

2. The dishes are endless.

cleaning pump parts

With all the breast pump pieces that need cleaning, your sink will always be full. If you have a partner, put them in charge of washing baby bottles and pump parts.

3. Every day is Mardi Gras without the beads.

pumping in public, pumping at work

From friends to coworkers to neighbors, they will all get used to seeing your breasts and hearing your pump. I learned to laugh at the awkwardness of it all, even embrace it, and I’m still waiting for someone to get me some beads.

4. Get on a first-name basis.

breast milk feeding

After about nine months, my double electric pump got a name, Peggy.

5. It is that time again.

pumping constantly, no hands pumping

It may always feel like a bit of drag to pump, even when you’re weaning. Try to not be discouraged. I would often pump while driving or schedule pumping sessions around social plans so I could fully enjoy my time between sessions.

6. Bad days aren’t the days to make decisions.

exclusive pumping

My husband and I made a rule that things we said in the middle of a long night when our son was up every hour could not be held against us in the morning. I had a similar rule with pumping: I couldn’t make the decision to quit on a bad day.

7. Missing pump pieces can make for bad days.

Missing pump parts, pump pieces, nipple shield, breast shields

Forgotten breast shields are not the end of the world, but they can certainly feel like it. There were days when a missing flange made me feel so defeated I didn’t know if I could keep going.  

I would have to remind myself to never quit on a bad day. I learned to keep extra bottles and pump parts at home, at work, and even in my car.

8. People will constantly give you unwanted advice.

unwanted advice, exclusive pumping

I wish unwanted advice and inappropriate comments only pertained to pumping, but let’s be honest: people will give you advice on pretty much every single thing you do as a parent (often several times per day, even when your baby gets older!). You know yourself, you know your body, and you know your child better than anyone. Just keep telling yourself that.

9. Put your hands down.

hands free pump bra, pumping bra

Click the photo to check out our Hands-Free Pumping Bra!

If you don’t have a hands-free pumping and nursing bra, you need one (or three!) now. And lucky you! Kindred Bravely has the best pumping bras

10. Netflix and chill.

Netflix n chill, self-care

Pumping breast milk is hard work. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Eat, drink water to stay hydrated, and take time for yourself when you can. 

I used my nightly pumping sessions for chocolate and terrible reality television (even if it was only for 20 minutes until I passed out), and I think I’m a better mom for it.

Try to make your pumping sessions more enjoyable, whether that means having a treat or indulging in a TV show or great book.

11. You are strong.

breastfeeding difficulties, nursing and pumping

I know you are tired. I know your body never really feels like your own when you’re hooked up to an electric pump multiple times a day, but you are strong, you are determined, and you can do this. 

12. Be proud of yourself.

pumping sports bra

Click the photo to check out our Pumping & Nursing Sports Bra!

No matter where you are on your pumping journey, whether you are a week or a year in, you are amazing, and it's okay to stop. Your milk production may dip before you feel ready, your body may stop, but know that you did great.

Every day that you were able to feed your baby - whether exclusively nursing, exclusively pumping, occasionally pumping, or exclusively formula feeding - is a day you should be proud of. 

I am thankful to have been able to supply my little one with breast milk for this long and to watch him grow stronger and healthier each day. I’m proud of myself and my body for supporting me during this period of time. Exclusively pumping hasn’t always been easy, but it’s been worth it.

I hope my story helps you because the stories of other exclusive pumpers were what got me through. I think I’ve been motivated by how strong we are, by the fact that we’re all in this together, each doing the best we can on our own journeys. 

If you’re a pumping mom, I’d love to hear your pumping story! Please comment below to help encourage other pumping mamas on their pumping journeys.

PS: We designed super-cute, printable door hangers in case you pump at work (even if you're working from home right now!). Click on this link or the button below to download and print them. Pump on, Mom! (And don't forget those extra pump parts ;)!)

pumping at work, privacy door hanger


Disclaimer: This content is not intended to be a substitute for personalized medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment; it has not been reviewed by medical reviewers. Always seek the advice of your health care provider.

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