From the first cry that echoed around the delivery room to the tiny fingers that clung to mine, I knew that my life had changed forever. This was just the start of a wonderful journey.
But as soon as I took my first tentative steps into motherhood, I realised my journey wasn’t going to be exactly like the one I’d imagined during my pregnancy. This was real.
And as joyful as becoming a mom for the first time was, it felt a bit like starting a road trip without a map. Many of the plans I’d made with my partner about nurturing our baby worked, others didn’t. And one of those was breastfeeding.
When I had decided to breastfeed my baby, I’d assumed it was the most natural thing in the world–it would be easy. I soon learned that breastfeeding is a skill. For me and my baby, it was a skill we couldn’t master. Whether it was our positioning, latching or my let-down that was off, I couldn’t tell. But it was clear it wasn’t working and my anxiety around feeds was growing.
The Beginning of My Pumping Journey
My breastfeeding journey had to change course. And that’s when I made the conscious decision to exclusively pump breast milk for my baby. It was a choice that has been profoundly rewarding for me, my baby, and my partner.
Do you want to know the most important thing I learned?
That exclusive pumping is still breastfeeding. In fact, pumping gave me the beautiful breastfeeding experience I had imagined during my pregnancy: feeds became a calm experience for us both, we were able to bond, and I was still providing my baby with the liquid gold of motherhood.
Now, I want to share with other mamas how I started to enjoy breastfeeding by exclusively pumping. And what I learned to make living the “pump life” even easier.
My 5 Top Tips For Exclusively Pumping
1. Get a Pump That Works for YOU
My breastfeeding experience hadn’t started how I’d hoped. So I wanted a fresh start with the best pump I could afford. I knew it would help make my next breastfeeding steps stress-free. Luckily, I found a hospital grade pump that was surprisingly affordable.
I learned that lowering stress could improve milk production. So, I focused on creating a relaxing pumping environment. I played soothing music, read books, and even practiced deep breathing exercises while pumping. It was my small oasis of calm in the whirlwind of new motherhood.
The fact that my pump was completely hands-free meant that even when I became more confident I could continue doing the things I loved—reading or watching my favourite shows—while expressing.
2. I’ll Take That To Go!
If you’re like me, though, you might not have the luxury of always staying home. My journey through exclusively pumping introduced me to a range of hands-free breast pumps and other necessities that made the process easier.
I invested in a portable pump that meant I could express on the go. It fitted inside my specially designed pumping bra which made life so much easier! Being able to pump outside of home gave me a sense of freedom—I could go out and still stick to my pumping routine. I was able to visit friends and family, go to my postpartum classes—do whatever I needed to do—and didn’t have to deprioritize my baby’s needs.
I also became besties with breast pump accessories like storage bags, nipple shields, and different flange sizes. It was a steep learning curve but the knowledge I gained allowed me to fine-tune my pumping routine, making the whole experience much more efficient and comfortable too.
3. The Bond of Breastfeeding
Exclusively pumping breast milk wasn't just a physical journey, it was an emotional one as well. It gave me so much joy when I saw my breastmilk fill a bottle, knowing that it was a gift of nourishment for my baby. Because of the anxiety that had surrounded my direct breastfeeding experience, I felt that exclusively pumping had actually strengthened the bond between my baby and me.
But there was another benefit of exclusively pumping that became clear as soon as I started. It meant that the baby bond was opened to my partner. Some might say that the breastfeeding experience is exclusive to us moms, and that’s fine—if you want to be the sole provider of your pumped milk, you can. For me though, it was amazing to see my partner provide our baby with my milk from my body and know that it brought our new family even closer.
4. Make the Fridge Your Friend
To make my baby’s feeds as efficient and healthful as possible it was necessary to learn a few tricks and hacks. One of those was to make a new bestie of my fridge freezer. If you’re pumping milk at home or on the go, you’re going to need to store your milk at the correct temperature and in air-tight containers. It’s better, too, to be able to write at least the date and time of pumping so you keep on top of your stored milk—mom life is busy, sometimes we forget stuff, and that’s ok!
My fridge freezer wasn’t huge but I made it work by using milk storage bags. They take up very little room in the fridge, they indicate temperature, are double-zipped for extra safety, and they have a tab for writing down data. What’s more, they could be frozen which was a game changer.
5. A Labor of Love
My exclusively pumping journey was a labor of love, that helped me provide the best for my child and it can for you too. It took away the fear that I wasn’t doing a good job and gave me a beautiful bond with my baby. It was a journey filled with smiles, gurgles, and countless ounces of liquid gold. And, through it all, I learned that resilience and flexibility are also essential parts of the love a mother has for her child.
To any mother embarking on a similar journey, I offer my support and encouragement. Exclusively pumping breast milk is not just a means of nourishment—it's a beautiful expression of love.
Embrace the challenges, celebrate the milestones, and remember that every ounce you provide is a gift that will shape your child's future in ways you can't even imagine.
You've got this, mama!