Pumping can be one heck of an unexpected adventure.
Moms who decide to pump or breastfeed typically all can agree on one thing: It is good for the baby. Being that breastfeeding can sometimes be a touchy subject for new moms, it is universally known that good ol’ boob juice has a couple nutrients that formula doesn’t. Even though those couple of extra nutrients are nice, sometimes breastfeeding just isn’t for everyone – and that is absolutely fine. If the baby is fed, happy and healthy – that really is what matters (as cliché as it may sound).
Even though a baby may be happy after consuming some pumped or stored milk doesn’t always mean the mom is equally as content. Many new moms expect pumping to be quick and easy when, in reality, that isn’t always the case. Pumping can sometimes be incredibly stressful for some moms while others find exclusively pumping to be the best choice they ever made.
For those moms who decide to venture into the wild world of breast pumping, they often discover some unexpected factors along the way. Some of these factors may add to their pumping success while others may add to their struggle. Every Mom’s baby-feeding experience is unique and no one knows everything when it comes to parenthood (and pumping).
20 Pumping Can Be Emotional
With hormones raging long after delivery, many moms struggle to find balance with everything going on in their world. While pregnancy is an intense transition in itself, the transition into motherhood with a newborn is a brand-new type of transition that can bring forward a million different emotions. Even the most prepared family is never truly prepared for that baby to arrive because every baby is unique, so they are sure to find ways to cause a little-unexpected chaos.
A mother who was interviewed through the University of Kansas explained, “Motherhood is thought to bring total self-fulfillment and happiness, and mothers are expected to perform their duties perfectly with little assistance from others”. Social media has made these unrealistic expectations and views of motherhood something that easily stresses out new mothers. Even for the women who often do not let social media and the views of others get to them, when hormones are in play – anything is possible.
It is critical for women to do their best to stay positive during the overwhelming weeks following the birth of their baby (or babies). Putting post-it notes with positive messages on your pump, mirrors (and that feisty scale if you have one) can help provide ongoing positivity when those emotional moments come out of nowhere.
And they will.
19 Finding A Good Pumping Bra Is Key
You don’t need to pull a Mean Girls moment and cut out circles on shirts or sports bras so pumps can stay put without having to be held (well, you could). There are many different types of bras and tank tops that are specifically made to hold the pump so hands are free.
Though these items are sometimes pricy, they are great products to put on the baby shower registry.
According to Best Products, some of the best pumping bras are the Simple Wishes Hands-Free Pumping Bra, the Daily Fairy Rose Hands-Free Pumping Bra, Rosie Pope Pump and Nurse Underwire Pumping Bra, the Medela Easy Expression Pumping Bustier and the Desirelove Nursing and Pumping Bra. When putting these items on your registry, you definitely want to put more than one on there because, well, leaking is an unfortunate reality of being a new mom. Also, if you are exclusively pumping you will want to be comfortable when you pump in public.
It isn’t really fun trying to lift your normal bra, place the pump covers under it and awkwardly hold the pump while sitting in a too small bathroom stall. That's a situation you will want to avoid as much as possible.
18 Women May Feel Judged
Some moms turn to pumping because they couldn’t get their little one to latch or simply because they didn’t feel the desire to breastfeed. Because of these personal choices, some women feel as if others are judging their choice not to breastfeed. The saying is repeated constantly all the time: Breastfeeding gives a mom a deeper connection to their baby. Even if that saying were true for some, it is probably not the best thing to say around a mom who does not breastfeed.
And there are also many, many ways for a new mom to connect with their little one that do not include breastfeeding – or any type of feeding in general.
Intense hormones are still racing through a woman’s body for weeks, sometimes months, after a baby is born. This means Moms may become a little more emotional than usual when it comes to day-to-day tasks or discussions. If a new mom feels incredibly overwhelmed and is still healing from childbirth (no matter the delivery method), they may feel as though their choice to exclusively pump is looked down upon. It is important to surround yourself with supportive friends and family members and also remind yourself on a daily basis that you are doing a wonderful, powerful thing: Keeping your baby healthy.
17 You May Feel Like a Robot
A breast pump is a machine. A robot is a machine (well, sort of). When a new mom starts using a breast pump for the first time, they may feel a tad uncomfortable. Most pumps must be plugged into an outlet to work and there are many cords, tubes and different pieces. The little machine can sometimes make lots of big noises that, if not prepared, can be startling and laughable. Of course once you get used to the process of it, it won't be as surprising. However, it truly is a funny sight to see yourself attached by the bits to a machine that is plugged into the wall. It's the kind of imagery that every time you happen to pump in front of a mirror, will throw you off a teeny bit.
The idea of being plugged into a wall with noisy cords and tubes coming from every which way says one thing: Robot.
But Moms are the furthest thing from robots, of course. A mama who decides to exclusively pump is one strong human. Finding time to hook yourself up to the wall and pump when there is laundry, dishes and diapers to do shows how genuinely loved that baby is.
16 There Are Many Different Types of Pumps
Just like how every mom is different, every breast pump is different. There are electric pumps, manual pumps and battery-pumps. On top of that, there are many different brands of pumps to choose from as well as single and double pumps. Some of the more popular brands are Medela, Lansinoh, Evenflo, Spectra, Naya and Avent.
Now the questions is: How does a new mom know what works best for them? Being that pumps are so pricy and it’s unrealistic to just purchase a bunch and try them out, researching the different brands and reading reviews may be the best way to decide. If you have friends or family members her breastfed or exclusively pumped, ask them about what brand they used and why it worked for them.
Just like toddlers, new moms should never stop asking questions. As well, like a toddler, don't be embarrassed about asking those questions. With so much information out in the world, especially since the advent of the internet, and it can be confusing. Ask the people whom you trust. Those that know you, be it a family member or lactation consultant, will be the best suited to help you in your quest to find the perfect breast pump!
15 Most Health Insurances Will Cover a Pump
According to HealthCare.gov, counseling, breastfeeding support and equipment must be provided by health insurance plans. Most plans fully cover the cost of pumps, whether the equipment is new or a rental, and it is important to read the guidelines closely to make sure you know what options you can choose from. Typically, these kinds of supports are available before and after the birth of the baby and Moms should absolutely take advantage of such a beneficial opportunity. Pumps can be pricey and babies simply are pricey, so any place where one could get a rebate should be taken into consideration. Having a new baby is stressful, so be sure to try to avoid any extra financial burden or stress.
It is also important to make sure your doctor is completely on board with the kind of pump you want.
If you have a good doctor, they will absolutely take into consideration what you are looking for when it comes to diving into the breast pumping adventure. Doctor’s will also give good recommendations regarding the use of a manual or electric pump - or if maybe you are pregnant with multiples and will need a double pump. You got this, Mom!
14 You Will Have To Bring It Everywhere
If you make the decision to exclusively pump, your relationship with that machine becomes one intimate relationship. That pump must go everywhere with you – to social gatherings, to the mall, on road trips. Everywhere. Even though when the baby is a newborn venturing into the public is rare, it is natural for a new mom to want to escape.
And when that want to escape hits you, that pump will be by your side.
Make sure you have a good-sized purse or bag to put the pump in when venturing out. Many moms have a large enough diaper bag to fit all of the tubes and pieces that come with having to pump. However, it can become incredibly stressful when you either don’t have all of the pieces ready or don’t have enough space in the diaper bag (because you really never know how many onesies you may need – blowouts happen). Create a check-list and make sure you are ready to treat that pump as if it were your phone, wallet or anything else you put in your pocket or purse. The last thing you want is to be all ready to pump and realize a piece is missing!
13 Pumps Are Not Always Quiet
If you expect to quickly and quietly get up in the middle of the night to pump without waking that helpful family member or friend on the couch, you may be mistaken. Many pumps do not come from silent lineage and make the oddest of noises once hooked up. Depending on the setting, the pump can start having a mind of its own. If you increase the pressure, the pump will get louder. If you change the type of pressure, the pump noise will change. In all, breast pumps are like finely tuned instruments. One small change and the whole balance is out of whack, leaving you with a very odd sounding musical instrument.
Sometimes you can beatbox to the sound of the pump (yes, pumping can be that boring at times).
It’s a good idea to find a nice, quiet place to pump that is away from others – especially at night or when the babies are sleeping. There are also certain brands of pumps that are less distracting and on the quieter side. If you are someone who isn’t into the pump’s beautiful, somewhat robotic voice, seeking out these quieter brands may be the best choice for you.
12 Relaxation Is Important
Even though being a new mom is exciting, it also can be incredibly stressful. Social media tends to make motherhood look like it is straight out of a children’s storybook when in reality, it most definitely is not. From waking up at night to trying to get your baby on a schedule to finding time for yourself, the idea of taking that sacred time to pump can add unwanted stress.
Finding a relaxing place to sit back, breathe (finally) and pump is key.
The time spent pumping can be important time you take for yourself – and every new mom knows that finding that time can be nearly impossible with a newborn. Watch some funny videos on your phone or read a few pages of that book you’ve had to push aside. Lighting a candle or using essential oils can provide a calm environment that help make those minutes to yourself less stressful ones.
Relaxation can actually help with milk production. A 1989 study showed that women who listened to a meditation tape for 20 minutes a day had a huge increase in milk production. In fact, the mothers who listened to the tape produced 63% more milk, and that's nothing to ignore!
11 Storage Rules Can Be Confusing
Women see many different outlines and graphs that are supposed to explain exactly how to store pumped breastmilk and for how long. One graph may say milk can be at room temperature for 4-6 hours while another may say only 1-2 hours. A friend may follow one set of rules while another may suggest following another. Since there are so many differing forms and thoughts revolving milk storage, how does a new mom know which one to follow?
If there is confusion, the best next step is to talk to your doctor.
They will be able to appropriately guide a new mom in the direction that works best for their child and their specific situation. Doctors often have pamphlets that explain the guidelines clearly and magnets so when reaching into that fridge or freezer, the regulations can be easier viewed. Pediatricians and nurses are typically very open to phone calls coming in at any time if there are questions or concerns – especially when it comes to the health and safety of a baby. Understanding your new baby can be hard. No one knows them yet and there are no experts other than you. However, there are experts in lactation who have the answers you're looking for, so don't hesitate to ask.
10 Yes – Your 'Girls' May Still Hurt
Breastfeeding is praised as being ‘the best option possible’ when, in reality, any option is great if the baby is healthy and fed. Though breastfeeding does have many positives, it also comes with the negatives of having incredibly sore, chapped nipples. Even for those pumping moms, breasts may start feeling sore, tender and uncomfortable at first and some moms even experience the chaffing that moms who exclusively breastfeed feel.
The pain that comes with pumping is often not long-lasting and should go away quickly. If these kinds of pains linger longer than a week or so, it is definitely important to check with a medical professional. Fevers and severe discomfort can be signs of clogged milk ducts and a lactation counselor or doctor can give advice as to how to handle a situation like that.
More times than not, the pain may be linked to the pump itself. The machine may be on a level that is too high or maybe the flange doesn’t fit correctly around the breast. One thing is for sure - you definitely do not want to ignore pain that comes from pumping. If it gets pushed aside, the pain will only get worse – and that little bundle of joy needs their mama.
9 Lactation Consultants Can Help
When a new mom is in the hospital for the days following delivery, they will be seen by many lactation consultants. These individuals often swing by the room and ask if the mom is breastfeeding and if she is, they will offer some advice and help. Most lactation consultants are extremely understanding when a new mom says she is planning to exclusively pump. Since the workers are very knowledgeable when it comes to anything and everything involving breast milk, they can help guide a new mom as she starts the pumping process.
According to the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, “lactations consultants educate and support parents and families to encourage decision-making about infant and child feeding” whether it be breastfeeding or pumping. These specialists can visit moms in their homes or strictly make their visits office-based. It’s important for moms who exclusively pump have as much support as possible and lactation consultants are available to help with that support.
Lactation consultants have at the very least either a diploma or an associates degree in the field. Their program can take anywhere from one to four years. So, even if this is all new to you, you know that they have the proper education to help get to know your own body when it comes to milk production.
8 Cleaning Your Pump Takes Longer Than You Think
For the health and safety of both Mom and baby, it’s important to make sure every single part of the breast pump has been washed and cleaned after usage. This is often a timely and frustrating thing for Moms since they have a million things on their plate.
However, health and safety should always be a priority.
Pumps are made up of a lot of different tubes and pieces – probably more than you think. It is important to have a very good sponge that is able to get into every nook and cranny of the pump and the pieces that come with it. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it is important to make sure each piece that has been touched by breast milk is thoroughly cleaned within minutes after being used. If milk dries into any of the parts, it can be a major magnet for bacteria. Though this takes time and detailed focus, it is something that comes with being an exclusive breast pumper.
However, according to Breastfeeding USA, you may be able to get away with pump and accessory wipes or you could put it fully assembled in the fridge sealed in a plastic bag. It's important to keep in mind that if your baby is medically fragile you should be very careful.
7 Your Job Must Give You Time To Pump
Many moms dread returning to work because they do not want to separate from their newborn’s side. They have become so connected with their little one during those few short weeks that the thought of leaving them becomes incredibly stressful. On top of feeling all of those emotions, many women fear they will not be able to find a place or time to pump.
Luckily, the Department of Labor has made it pretty clear that women must be given a place and time to breast pump. “All employers are required to inform employees who are returning to work following the birth of a child about their right to take unpaid leave for the purpose of pumping breastmilk.” Being that this rule is something that absolutely must be followed, new moms should immediately seek out their supervisor and discuss this with them before returning. This is because some job sites unfortunately do not have set spaces and, sometimes, they may need to make one.
And don’t be afraid to ask and make sure that breast pumping space is set aside – it is something you have every right to have. Make sure you take the time you need as well, it is a great way to get some reprieve when returning to work.
6 Breast Pumping Can Get Really Boring
Even though pumping is an activity that is very helpful and beneficial to the baby (and Mom), it can be a dreaded activity. Sitting around for 10, 20 even 45 minutes at a time just listening to the annoying machine can become a boring break from cuddling your newborn, doing diapers and folding laundry.
Pumping is definitely not always the perfect break Moms have in mind.
Even in a world buzzing with smartphones and technology, it is important for new moms to see their time spent pumping as sacred time to themselves. Find a comfortable place to pump and have it be the time you reach out to family and friends and update them on how motherhood has been. Make it time you spend catching up on a new podcast or listening to some music. Try not to see pumping as being a boring activity; try to see it as a much-needed break that is helping your baby grow and your body reenergize. Long term, taking that 20 minutes to yourself will be beneficial to you and your baby. Being the best mom you can be necessitates some level re-energization. Taking that break to breathe means that you can be more focused and see things with new eyes when coming back to your tasks.
5 You Need To Get On A Schedule – And Stick To It
Boobs are weird, weird things. This is something many new moms come to realize when they decide to breastfeed or pump. Once that baby is born, your boobs will need to be on a schedule just like your baby will start to need one and just like the baby, if that schedule is broken – chaos may ensue. However, this chaos may include severe pain and even though the baby’s health takes precedence, Mom’s health and well-being is just as important. You can't take care of your baby if you aren't taking care of you.
Since your body is constantly producing milk, if those ducts are not relieved through breastfeeding or pumping, they can become clogged and backed up. This backup can cause major discomfort and sometimes lead to clogged ducts or mastitis which is why it is critical that a strict schedule is followed. There are many phone apps and websites that can help Moms track their feeding and pumping schedules. Setting alarms can also help Moms remember that they need to pump, but if you are listening and paying close attention to your body, you will know when you have to stop and whip out the beloved machine.
4 When You Stop Pumping, You Also Need A Schedule
Many moms hear nonstop about how wonderful and important breastfeeding is for the baby and for the woman’s postpartum body. For those who have difficulty getting their baby to latch or decide not to breastfeed, hearing all of the praises when it comes to breastfeeding can become frustrating and repetitive.
The thing is, many specialists discuss the importance of breastfeeding and pumping, but never really discuss the process of stopping when it comes time to “dry up the goods”.
Stopping milk production can be a painful process if not done correctly and many medical professionals do not discuss this with new moms. Many women stop pumping cold-turkey and experience clogged ducts, severe breast pain, aches and sometimes fevers. It is important to slowly wean yourself from the pumping schedule so your body gets used to that lack of release. This process can sometimes take weeks and when a mom decides they are done breastfeeding or pumping, they should put a plan in place. Lactation consultants can be helpful when it comes to creating this kind of schedule, but it is suggested not to stop pumping cold-turkey. Your body has been through a lot of changes since the start of this adventure, so it might be best to gradually transition this time.
3 You Shouldn’t Share Your Pump
As odd as it may sound, a breast pump becomes a very intimate and personal item for a mother. It goes everywhere with her and is used numerous times throughout the day. Since Moms end up having such a close bond with their pump, it’s a little strange to think they would want to share the machine with someone else.
Though some women think sharing their pump is a helpful act, it really could be more of a dangerous act.
The Food and Drug Administration states that pumps carry a lot of infectious particles and bacteria if not fully cleaned and even when they are sanitized, they still may have lingering bacteria. If a pump is shared, the mom taking the pump is putting her and her child at risk of getting sick. It is best to show your help and support by guiding your fellow mom in the direction of getting her own pump that can most likely be covered by insurance. Plus, your breastmilk is made specifically for your baby, especially if you aren't exclusively pumping but are also breastfeeding. Your body creates the nutrients and anti-bodies your baby needs, however, that might be the opposite of what another baby needs. So to avoid any health risks, don't share your pump.
2 It May Take Lots of Pumping Before Milk Arrives
While some moms have to stuff tissues in their bra to stop leakage during their second trimester of pregnancy, many moms do not produce any milk until days after the baby has been born. This can be a defeating scenario for many women, but it is not rare whatsoever. It can take days, even weeks, before milk is being produced and up until then, stimulation is critical if a mom wants to breastfeed or pump.
As strange as it may be, it is crucial that a mom still hook themselves up to their pump numerous times a day until the milk comes in.
The pump stimulates the breasts and the hormones so that the body can start producing milk. At first, not a lot of milk may be present and this shouldn’t be discouraging because it is incredibly common. Stick to it and never stop trying if you want to exclusively pump – even if those boobs are being stubborn. If you keep telling your body that it is now time to produce milk, your body will eventually listen. Sometimes, you just need to give your body some not so subtle hints that the baby needs to eat and now!
1 You Still Have A Connection With Your Child
The following statement is probably heard by every single mom: Breastfeeding is the best way to bond and connect with your baby. Though it may have truth to it, it can be frustrating for moms who decide not to or can't breastfeed. When a mother who does not exclusively breastfeed hears that sentence time-and-time again, they may feel as if everything they are doing is not enough simply because their baby doesn’t directly breastfeed. With all of those hormones still circulating through the body, women can become extremely emotional about the connection they have to their little one.
Even when people do not think that statement impacts a non-breastfeeding mama – it often does. Every mom has an immediate connection with their child because they carried and cared for that child during the pregnancy. It may not be a personal one right away, but it is a connection nonetheless – and an important one. Connections are inherent, but also built upon through love and experience and this also goes for breastfeeding moms.
All moms want a deep connection with their little one and truly, it doesn’t come down to how the baby is fed - it comes down to the heart of the parents caring for them.
References: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Breastfeeding USA, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, National Center for Biotechnology Information, The Bump, Healthcare.gov, Well Rounded NY, Best Products, Slate/University of Kansas, Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Educations Programs, Department of Labor