“This post may contain affiliate links. Meaning, I get a commission if you purchase through my links, at no cost to you. Please check out our full disclosure for more details.“
Let’s face it, exclusive pumping is not easy! I had no idea the emotional, physical and spiritual toll exclusive pumping would eventually take on me. I was unprepared for the feelings that made me constantly question my ability as a mother. Dealing with all of those emotions, healing from childbirth and coping with the life changing transition to motherhood was no joke! When I felt myself giving up, (which was more times than I care to admit), along came even more soul shattering emotions of guilt, regret and resentment. All due to self-judgment of not being able to handle the demand and pressure.
I was truly going through it. My confidence as a mother was shot and my stress level was through the roof. It was all negatively affecting my maternal experience and there did not seem to be anyone I could talk to about it all. I sought out exclusive pumping groups that met online and in-person and it all seemed like a complaining parties rather than a support groups. I am not for the misery loves company vibe, especially when solutions are always available. Getting real with myself, I decided to use my psychology degree and focus on what the core problems were.
First and foremost, a change in mindset is essential for any and every desired change especially dealing with motherhood. Aside from the mindset change, there were a few other changes I made to make this journey so much better for me. Making these changes reduced stress, improved my everyday flow, and enhanced my confidence in my abilities to successfully exclusively pump for my baby girl.
Check out the list of changes below!
1. Electric Sterilizer and Dryer
Who knew you had to sterilize breast pump parts every single day? OK, ok, I knew it too, it was just REALLY hard to actually do. Tending to a newborn, pumping every 2-3 hours, 7-8 times a day, and surviving off little to no sleep can make a mama very forgetful. At the end of my day, I really didn’t have enough energy to boil a large pot of water, and hand dry all parts. Yes, I was drying it all with paper towels because by the time I was due to pump again, nothing was completely dry! I came across some information that using paper towels to dry pump parts could be a potential health risk for babies due to germs, again, I had no idea. So not only was I driving myself crazy, I was endangering my sweet baby girl’s health. (Ok rant over).
This all changed when I purchased the Papabalic Baby Bottle Electric Steam Sterilizer and Dryer. While there were a lot of options, I chose to go with this one because of the amazing price and functionality. Not only can I dry all of my parts at once, I can also sterilize them at the same time, which helped when I had to sterilize more than once a day due to using multiple pump parts. This helped me create a better flow to my pumping schedule and my overall day. It also preserved my sanity and gave me peace of mind regarding my baby’s health. With the Papabalic, the work became easier.
2. Multiple Pumps
I’m sure you know this, but just in case you need some reminding: exclusive pumping means that you will be pumping ALL. OF. THE. TIME. You’ll be pumping at home and on the go. So, having just one pump might not do. As a matter a fact, having just one pump definitely won’t do! I learned this the hard way.
It may be hard to believe but I owned 6 breast pumps. While pregnant, I received two through my different insurance providers (one I gave away), I purchased two rechargeable pumps and a Haaka, and I currently rent a hospital grade pump. It may be even harder to believe but I use every single one of them, some more than others, of course.
- A better flow for my day to feel successful.
- Peace of mind that I was emptying my breast each time I pumped.
- To feel secure that I can feed my baby girl anywhere we were.
In order to accomplish those goals I needed a strong pump for the house, a reasonably sized portable pump to take with me on the go and a backup pump for emergencies. I know, I know. It sounds excessive, but believe me when I tell you, it has been a life saver!
3. Snack Corner
Ok. This one is important, and not just because I love to eat. What you eat and how much you eat significantly affects your mood, your energy and most importantly, your milk output. Having a snack corner in the areas where I normally pump has been a game changer for my exclusive pumping experience. Eating after 8pm has always been a no-no for me, but since beginning my pumping journey, it is a must. In the middle of the night, I have little to no energy to pump, let alone make a meal to supplement the calories lost and satisfy my ravenous appetite. So, I started to put wholesome snacks and plenty of water on my nightstand, inside the armrest of my car, and in easy to reach places where I usually pump.
Doing this relaxed my anxiety regarding my caloric intake and helped me control my milk output. I wasn’t hungry as hell all of the time, which gave me more sleep and was also able to keep my mind and body calm which is also very important while pumping. It’s a win, win… win solution!
4. Extra Pump Parts
If you take anything away from this post, please let it be this: have extra pump parts. Although this piece of advice compliments point #1 and #2, making this one change alone would have made my exclusive pumping journey easier. Having extra pump parts increased my productivity and lowered my stress tremendously. I keep one set of sterilized parts in my car for my spare emergency pump, one for my primary travel pump, and 2 sets to circulate at home between sessions. That way, one set is being dried and the other is being used. It is one less (or should I say 3 less) things to worry about.
Having extra pump parts has positively contributed to my confidence as a pumping mama and gave me back some control.
5. Hands Free Pumping Bra
The first month of my exclusive pumping journey, I would use both of my hands to hold the flanges to my breast for the 20-25 minutes it took for me to pump, I did this every 2 to 3 hours. I would do that and try to take care of my newborn baby at the same damn time. Yes, you read that right, it was pure madness! I was miserable. I started to dread having to pump and it was sabotaging my journey and mental health. It got old real fast. I knew I had two choices: to give up or find a solution. Giving up was not an option, so I had to focus on the latter.
I did tons of research and realized that I was basically doing myself a great disservice by not investing in a hands-free pumping bra. Upon learning that fact, I came across a hands-free sports pumping bra while scrolling through Instagram. Talk about grateful! I cannot believe the amount of freedom I did not have before using this bra. I could:
- eat and pump
- read and pump
- hold baby and pump
- feed baby and pump
- Think and pump!
I think this one goes without saying, if you want a huge portion of your life back, and to maintain a healthy mindset, get yourself one of these bad boys, and thank me later.
6. Keeping a personal journal
What the hell does a journal have to do with exclusive pumping and how does it help make it easier? Well, it can save you from going crazy, that’s for sure. Journaling is something I’ve done since I was 12 years old. When I reached my adult years and started to focus my attention inward in attempts to heal and elevate myself. I began to read my entries at the end of each week to check-in and assess how I was feeling, what needed my attention and what I could improve upon. Shortly after starting my pumping journey, I decided to dust off my journal and get back to writing. Doing this saved my relationship with myself and my baby, my sanity and preserved the beautiful feeling of motherhood.
Aside from the exhaustion, self-doubt, and lack of confidence exclusive pumping can evoke out of a mama, it can also bring about many other feelings (anxiety, isolation and depression to name a few) that may need to be worked through. Instead of risking your mental and physical health by holding it all in, talking to people who just don’t get it, or expecting empathy out of people who just don’t care, try journaling.
Journaling and assessing my emotions helped to raise my intuition, keep me aware of myself at a time when I felt I was losing a sense of self and helped me maintain my sense of purpose.
I like to use this journal for its heavy skin, thick pages and timeless feel.
7. Prioritizing my free time
Just for the record, I do not consider the time I spend pumping as free time. I consider the time I spend pumping as work. Why? Because if it looks and feels like work, then it’s work. When I say free time, I mean the time I spend not pumping, basically the time in between sessions. Pumping makes me damned tired and leaves me feeling too exhausted to get anything else done. Reflecting on those feelings, I realized I was using pumping as an excuse to be unproductive throughout my day. In order to properly show up for myself and my baby girl, I had to nip that in the bud.
I started to prioritize my time to get as much done as I could in between sessions. As soon as I finished pumping in the morning I would do little tasks. These task would include making my bed, organizing clothes for washing, writing or whatever else I usually put aside. In my journal, I’d write a to-do list for the week and knock them off the list each day. It felt good to get things done and feel accomplished. Prioritizing my time helped prevent the habit of self-sabotage. It also helped to change my mindset and my reality. Pumping became an opportunity for relaxation rather than a chore.
There you have it mama, the 7 things that made exclusive pumping easier for me.
I hope these tips inspire you and help to transform you into the badass mama that you are!