Lessons from a Pumping Mama

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I’ve been a breastfeeding mom. I’ve been a formula feeding mom. I’ve been a pumping mom. I’ve done all three at the same time thanks to Gray Baby being a petite-sized diva. We are currently formula feeding with quick nursing sessions at night or when she’s being extra greedy. Breastfeeding was a major struggle for us both until after the three-month mark. I returned to work full-time after three months of maternity leave and faced a new battle: pumping.

Here are a few things I learned along the way before hanging up my pumping parts at seven months:

  1. Milk can make for awkward conversations.

    I am thankful to work in a very open and family-friendly workplace. When I told my supervisors I was pregnant, one of them mentioned that I should go ahead and put in a work order to get blinds put in my office for when I pump. He, yes he, had three kids of his own and instantly thought of that. Despite everyone’s support, walking around with bottles of breast milk can still be awkward. I used our back kitchen the first few weeks so no one had to stare at the milky containers. I would avoid conversations until I had put them in the fridge. Time passed and so did inhibitions. There came a point in the middle of my pumping journey where I realized I was talking to the Mayor while funneling breast milk into a container. Neither of us batted an eye.

  2. Sticking to a schedule is the key to success.

    I nursed Gray Baby as soon as we both woke up. I then tried to pump at 9am, 11am, nurse her at 1pm, and then pump again at 3pm. I was upfront and adamant about keeping that schedule. Unless the meeting was absolutely necessary, I would decline calendar invites or staff lunches to keep to my pumping schedule. My boobs were instant alarm clocks that suddenly started to ache if I was a few minutes late to pump.

  3. Enjoy those precious minutes of silence. Or social media.

    I spent about 30 minutes in my office with the door closed for my pumping sessions. This included set-up, changing into my pumping bra, pumping for 20 minutes, and breakdown. At the beginning, I spent most of my pumping sessions looking at photos of Gray Baby or watching videos of her giggling. I missed her so much. I then started using the time to catch up on emails or tasks on my computer. Sometimes I would relax and close my eyes to rest thanks to growing spurts that caused broken sleep and all-night nursing sessions. However, sometimes I would grab my phone and check social media. I could catch up on everyone’s lives that I no longer had time to hear about over drinks. I found out who was pregnant, who had a new significant other, and who was complaining about how tired they were despite being 21 years old with no kid (I kinda hate you). Most importantly, I would post photos of Gray Baby for the world to see and fawn over how cute she was.

  4. Random pumping mamas will become your friend.

    One day I was walking to my car to go nurse Gray Baby and a random female employee from City Hall stopped me while I was carrying my bottles of pumped milk from my morning sessions. She congratulated me on the amount of milk I had. In case you didn’t know, that’s the best compliment in the world. Even better than the “you can’t even tell you had a baby” compliment. We chatted about where we pumped, how often we pumped, and how much our babies drank. We swapped tips to increase milk supply and encouraged each other. I don’t even know her name, but I do know that Fruit Punch Gatorade helps her supply.

  5. Getting your life back is incredible.

    There came a day that I was so busy running around at work that I forgot to pump for an entire afternoon. My boobs never alerted me that it was time to pump. I decided then and there that I would try not pumping and see what happened. I continued to nurse Gray Baby when we were together and upped her formula amounts she was getting. The next week at work I found that I had so much free time that didn’t involve hooking up a machine to my boobs like I was a milk cow. I could wear outfits that hadn’t seen the light of day since before my pregnancy. I could say yes to staff lunch rather than turning coworkers down so that I could sit in my office alone. I was able to open my blinds and see actual sunlight from across the hall. It was a great feeling.

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For all you mamas who are or have been exclusive pumpers or pumped for any length of time, you are incredible. Pumping is not easy or enjoyable, but it’s worth it for your child. Whenever you feel overwhelmed just remember this doesn’t last forever. More importantly, when you are ready to throw in the pump, it’s ok. Enjoy your newfound freedom and non-milk cow status!

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