I have debated writing this post for awhile now. However as of late, I feel as though my thoughts on the matter may ease the way for others who are just beginning the journey of motherhood. So here it is, my thoughts and feelings about that initial mom guilt that I faced and what I did about it.
It is no secret that a pregnant woman is a hormonal mess for the 9 months she is “turning food into a human” (one of my absolute favorite lines from Modern Family that I repeatedly said to my husband while we were expecting). It SHOULD be no secret, but for whatever reason people don’t seem to warn you of this – that it is really AFTER the baby is born that the hormonal flood gates of Red Sea proportions open. You bring life into this world and IMMEDIATELY your emotions are pinging all over the map. One minute you are happy and the next crying over ….. ? Who knows. Who cares. You just know it is worth all of your tears, until you find yourself laughing again (5 seconds later) – pinging, am I right?
It was during this time that I struggled with how to feed my child. All I had heard for years was how important and beneficial breastfeeding is. And for good reason. I completely understand the bonding that takes place during feedings, the nutrients the baby gets from the mom, etc. Formula also has quite a following and camp, and it feels as though you can’t mention the topic anymore without having the two extremes start yelling their reasons for your immediate support at you.
However, thanks to modern technology and insurance companies who provide you with one, pumping is becoming more of a norm. Especially for the working mom. I tried breastfeeding, I honestly set out to do it as long as my body would let me. Unfortunately, my hormones were out of whack, I was a zombie (not an octopus) and very confused by everything going on inside and out; that the initial struggle of getting my LO to latch successfully and satisfy her hunger was more than I could handle. So I turned to my little black box, and set out to exclusively pump. That’s right. EXCLUSIVELY pump. While this method of feeding a child may not be for everyone, it was ideal for our family. Not only was I able to measure out and keep track of the exact amounts of food my child was consuming, but she was still getting all of the nutrients as if she were breastfed. Another HUGE plus was the fact that my husband, in laws, parents, grandfather, friends, etc., could also feed her. This especially made it possible so that my husband and I BOTH were able to “bond” with her while feeding, as well as our family and friends. It also allowed me time to go out and run errands, go for walks, take a shower – you name it, without feeling as if my life was being timed. I also enjoyed the crazy “lazy girl” work out I got from it. Between working full time and spending my off hours with my family, working out was (okay still is) hard to squeeze in. Pumping (as is nursing) was a great way to burn calories.
Below are a few things that I found extremely helpful in making exclusive pumping work.
- Women’s Lightly Lined Racerback bra by Gilligan & O’Malley / $14.99 – Target / A slight change from the traditional nursing bras, these front closing racerback bras are great for easy pumping access. They also come in a variety of fun colors and lace styles that make them feel a little more “normal” which I found imperative to getting back to “me”.
- Lanisnoh Disposable Nursing Pads / $9.99 for 100 ct. – Target / These disposable pads are thin in size and very absorbent. They have a light adhesive so that they can be safely adhered to the inside of your bra without slipping.
- Medela Replacement Tubing / $11.89 – Amazon / I noticed that after awhile moisture would get into the tubes and cause mold. It became a staple of sorts to our Amazon orders to buy replacement tube sets for when this happened. I would also recommend having a second set of the the breast shield valves on hand. This way you can have one for your pumping on the go and one at home, or one always available when the other is drying.
- Philips ADVENT Microwave Steam Sterilizer / $20.49 – Amazon / When we first brought H home from the hospital, we had a pot of hot water on the stove all day long for quick and easy sanitation. As I am not a huge fan of clutter, this drove me crazy – not to mention posed a big safety concern for sleep deprived parents. Thank goodness for Amazon. (Seriously, what did people do before it?!) We quickly ordered this steam sterilizer and it was a game changer. Even though it took up some space on the counter, it was quick and easy to use and did a great job of fitting lots of pieces in (bottle parts, pump parts, and pacifiers) at one time.
Now of course nothing is perfect. Pumping is a complete mentality for those that choose to pursue it. You turn into a squirrel of sorts, becoming a maniac about maintaining a supply in your fridge. If you are lucky, you might make enough to store in the freezer for MONTHS down the road. Breastmilk is safe to freeze for up to 6 months in a regular freezer, and 12 months for a subzero freezer. Kellymom.com has a great chart that lays out specific temperatures and time frames for safe milk storage and consumption if you are interested. We got into the routine of putting the newest batch in the back of our fridge, slowly moving the back vials forward. By doing this we ensured that milk was being consumed in an appropriate time frame.
In the end, I was fortunate to be able to pump exclusively for a year. It was a learning process from start to finish, at times hard and frustrating, but in the end I am very thankful that my body allowed me to do it. I am not a doctor, nor am I an expert on this matter. Simply, I am a first time mom who found something that worked for me and my family. My hopes for writing this piece are to enlighten others who are just starting this journey.
Finally, my best piece of advice on all things motherhood, is to do what is best for you and your family. Every baby is different. Every circumstance is different. Do your research, weigh your options, and choose what is best for you.