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Pumping is Breastfeeding, Too

Pumping is breastfeeding, too! This mama shares her journey of feeding her first baby along with some tips and tricks for pumping.

Published December 15, 2017

by Maria Betsworth


My plan for a normal, natural birth ended in an emergency cesarean section. And the downhill spiral that was my birth didn’t get me off to a great start breastfeeding my new baby.

The first time we tried breastfeeding, it felt so unnatural.

The midwife came and held my baby to my breast, saying just try and “put her there.” But my baby didn’t want or show any interest. After a wriggle and some repositioning, my baby did half a latch and fell asleep. I cried and was sick to my stomach. I had imagined this day to be a beautiful journey ending with my baby and me breastfeeding in pure bliss.

We tried everything: every breastfeeding position, breast compression, you name it. After about 7 days, my baby recovered from her traumatic birth, and I felt a new motivation to get the hang of breastfeeding. Occasionally, she latched, but no longer than 5 minutes. So I pumped.

The feelings I had after the birth and now the failure of breastfeeding had taken away a lot of my confidence about this whole mothering thing. And when I pumped, I felt in control, I actively saw what I produced, and most importantly, I saw my baby drink and be happy and content.

As a mama, you would do anything to provide for your child. And I did; I pumped for 12 long months, day and night, with alarms set every two hours . . .

Tips for exclusively pumping mamas:

  • Use pumping to establish a good milk supply.
  • If you are exclusively pumping, you’ll want to stick to a strict routine of every 2-3 hours around the clock. Pump every time you feed your baby.
  • Expect an oversupply when your milk first comes in, and save it for later!
  • The amount you are pumping in 24 hours can significantly vary from mama to mama. It depends on the “magic number,” the number of times you pump in 24 hrs to effectively “empty” your breasts to reach the maximum milk supply.
  • Baby’s daily milk intake will grow slowly over the first 6 months and then stay around the same and decrease when introducing solid foods.
  • Do not panic when you start pumping and only see a little milk come out. Pumping is a skill you have to master first. Consistency and a good routine are the keys to building up a milk supply.
  • Pumping milk, like breastfeeding, works on supply and demand. Once you have decided to pump exclusively, it is important to have a strict routine and stick to it to reach a good milk supply to cover baby’s needs. The more you pump (demand), the more milk you make (supply).
  • If you’re concerned about supply, one tip for increasing milk supply is to do a “power pump.” Pump for 15 minutes on each breast, take a 10-minute break, and repeat. You can repeat as many times as you like for your milk production to spike a little.
  • Pumping is a big commitment. Find a way to motivate and reward yourself each month you reach a milestone. Invest in making your pumping spot as cozy and comfortable as possible with a comfortable nursing pillow, a nice-smelling candle, a dim night light, an eye mask, and an iPod full of relaxing music.
  • Invest in a comfortable and effective breast pump with various settings to mimic baby’s feeding behavior.
  • Learn how to hand express! Gentle breast compression and massage before and while pumping can help to increase your milk supply, as does holding baby skin to skin.

I decided to pump because it made me feel in control when I wasn’t in so many situations. And I desperately wanted to feed my child with my milk. The alternative it provided to my rather painful and heartbreaking breastfeeding journey helped me overcome thoughts of failure.

And pumping IS breastfeeding, too. Well done to all pumping mamas out there. You are doing an amazing job!

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  • Author

Maria is a qualified antenatal teacher, doula, and international board-certified lactation consultant (IBCLC). She has a BSC in Traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture, specializing in antenatal and postnatal care. Maria… Read more

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