Exclusively Pumping: My Journey Thus Far

For our WBW blog carnival on “Perspectives: Breastfeeding From Every Angle” we are pleased to host guest posts from various contributors. Today we are honored to share from Beth Anne Mowery, exclusively pumping mom for her son Preston.

Before I became pregnant I had never really given breastfeeding much thought as no one in my family or I knew had done it. Once I became pregnant I bought many pregnancy and parenting books to help me prepare for the unknown that was happening to me. I read about breastfeeding and how it was so much better for the baby to receive the colostrum when they were first born. I decided that I liked the idea of breast milk, but would prefer to pump. There was not a lot of information on pumping, so as my due date approached I decided I would give breastfeeding a try first and go from there. Somehow I would make sure Preston got that “liquid gold” I had read so much about.

On the day of Preston’s birth, I breastfed him right after he was born. I was tired, he was tired, and I was anxious as any first time mother is. The nurses kept pressuring me to give him formula until my milk “came in.” I politely refused and told them he was doing just fine. It hurt so bad, I’m not going to lie. I wanted to give up, but I knew that this was something I needed and wanted to do for my son. My recovery nurse even threatened that they would take my baby to the NICU for low blood sugar if I didn’t give him formula. I hand expressed some milk into a little cup and fed him that way to prove to that nurse that yes in fact my baby was getting something in his tummy.

We bought my pump before we left the hospital because I insisted to my husband that I had to have it. It was around $300 for the pump, plus all the extra storage containers and what not to go with it, quite a large investment. When we got home I had so many visitors. Everyone kept asking if they could feed Preston a bottle. I tried to explain that I was nursing, but they all laughed and exclaimed in a few weeks I would come to my senses and he would be on formula. I did not feel comfortable nursing period let alone in front of all of my visitors, so I quietly got my pump and went to my bedroom determined to prove all of them wrong. I was going to give Preston the best thing I could ever give him, no matter how badly it might hurt. That’s how I got started exclusively pumping or EP.

I felt much more comfortable with the pump on my breasts than I did with my son. He hurt and liked to look around and pull my nipple from day one. He did not have any latching issues, but for my sanity, pumping worked better for me and he was still getting my “liquid gold.” As the days turned to weeks and the weeks became months, I learned more about breast milk than I ever thought humanly possible. Did it hurt at first? Hell yes it hurt, but that pain was for a good cause, my son. A mother will do ANYTHING for the well-being of their child. After about 14 weeks, it didn’t hurt so bad, I guess I became immune to the pain. Now, pumping is habit and I don’t know what life is like not doing it.

At first I barely got anything, but I would offer Preston what I had pumped and he took it eagerly. I tried to pump then feed him, but I discovered he was hungry a lot sooner than I was pumping. I finally figured out to pump ever 2 hours around the clock, even if he was sleeping, so I could keep up with his demands. Little by little ½ an ounce became 1 ounce then 1 ounce became 2 ounces. I now pump after every bottle he takes; it varies between 2-4 hours, but no longer than 4 hours. I even get up in the middle of the night to pump, even though Preston sleeps a solid 6 hours during the night. I am now proud to say I make over 35 ounces a day (way more than he eats). I freeze the daily leftovers for my just in case stash, but I always offer him fresh milk for his next feeding. It tickles me to death that I have been EPing for over 4 months and I am still going strong and my supply is wonderful. I have had to take Fenugreek and drink Mother’s Milk Tea to help regulate my supply. Lactation consultants are invaluable for their advice with supply regulation. Use them!!

Oh and EPing has some pretty amazing perks besides being best for baby. The biggest perks to EPing are as follows: I can pretty much eat whatever I want (as long as Preston tolerates it well) and not gain weight, his poop doesn’t smell bad (HUGE plus!!-have you ever smelled a formula fed baby’s diaper—phew!!), no stinky/staining spit-up, Preston smells great (like vanilla), have you seen a “milk drunk” baby? (That is some hardcore sleeping), the money we save is AWESOME, and finally breast milk makes babies smarter (who doesn’t want an Ivey League graduate?).

I love it when people ask me why I am still pumping or even why I do it. I take this opportunity to educate them (mostly young 20-somethings like myself) on the importance of breast milk rather fresh from the tap or given in a bottle. I even have my 16 year old cousin thinking that pumping breast milk for the baby or nursing your baby is the normal thing. She said she saw a woman nursing in public at Disney World and she told her how awesome it was she was giving her baby such an amazing gift! Gosh I was proud of my cousin for saying that to the nursing mother.

My family (with exceptions to my mom, husband, mother in law, and cousin) still think I am crazy for giving Preston breast milk. They keep offering to pay for formula if “money is an issue.” They don’t understand I want to and need to do this for Preston’s health, which it is just not about saving money. It is about saving his health, giving him antibodies to protect him, and starting him out on the right path nutritionally. I love looking at my son knowing that every roll on his legs or arms is because of me and my hard work and dedication with pumping around the clock. That baby fat is from my milk alone and nothing else. My baby is thriving and happy on my breast milk and at the end of the day that is really all that matters.

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Comments

  1. Alexandrea says:

    Amazing article, thank you Jessica! I breastfed until my daughter weaned naturally at 3 1/2 yo, and pumped for a friend's preemie. Pumping is not easy! The work you put into making sure your son has breast milk is staggering for me to imagine, even as long term breastfeeding mom. I can't tell you how much I admire you. Way to go, Mama, and thank you so much for sharing your story. There is more than one way to get this liquid gold in our babes.

  2. Beth Mowrey says:

    Thanks so much! It is hard work, but definitely worth it!

  3. Alexandrea says:

    Whoops, I totally used the wrong name. Afternoon brain death, my apologies. Kudos to you, Beth!

  4. Anonymous says:

    :O wow, the nurses told you to give your baby formula until your milk came in? unbelievable!! You are lucky to overcome all these "obstacles"

  5. So far, I've been EPing for 4 weeks and I am not fond of it. I do offer the breast daily but his suck is weak and he clamps on his latch (ouchie!). I am working with a lactation consultant and going to take him to an occupational therapist next week. I am hoping we get things squared away for actual breastfeeding, but you have given me hope that if it doesn't happen then EPing is ok 😉 THANKS!!!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Good for you!! I cannot believe that people can possibly think that breastfeeding or providing breastmilk over formula is crazy! Stupid nurses. I applaud you…I EP'd for a month then transitioned to breastfeeding over another month or two for my premie twins with loads of help from my mom and many lactation consultants. It CAN be done.

  7. I EP'd for my oldest daughter (now 6) until she was 14 months old. She had issues latching on, I started pumping because they told me she would get the hang of it once she got older and I knew I would do whatever it took to get breastmilk into her.

    It was a labor of love but after a while it was really no big deal anymore and was just part of the routine. Extra pump parts and a hands free nursing band were my sanity savers!

    I successfully nursed my second daughter until she was 2 1/2 – and I have to say that nursing was SO much easier and the bond I have with her is very different, but I would exclusively pump all over again if I ever had to! It's well worth the effort.

    Good for you and even better for your daughter for all your hard work to give her the very best!