Navigating the Uncharted: My Unexpected Path to Exclusive Pumping

Baby drinking breast milk from a bottle

Discovering I was pregnant wasn’t just a step into the world of motherhood—it opened the doors to an array of decisions that I’d have to make for my baby and me. Throughout my pregnancy, I spent hours pouring over books, articles, and forums, searching for the best ways to care for my upcoming bundle of joy. And when it came to feeding, I weighed the options carefully. It was only after meticulous research and considerable thought that I decided to embark on the path of breastfeeding. The benefits seemed numerous, the bond seemed unique, and I felt ready to tackle the challenge. Influencers filled my feed with must-have items: a haakaa, a Spectra breast pump, nursing pillows, and a pantry filled with milk-boosting goodies. Little did I know, this journey would be filled with more twists and turns than I could ever have anticipated.

The Start of a New Journey: Navigating the Early Days of Breastfeeding

When my daughter made her grand entrance into the world after a 4-day induction, my body felt like a balloon filled to the brim. As I tried to establish breastfeeding, I faced obstacle after obstacle. My little one struggled with latch, and my body was slow on the milk production front.

Let me tell you, folks, it’s hard not to feel a smidge of despair when your newborn can’t quite figure out how to eat, and your body doesn’t seem to be cooperating either. While I navigated the initial days in the hospital with my newborn, my reliable Spectra S1 pump, prized for its portability and ease of use, sat unused at home. Instead, I found myself wrestling with an unfamiliar, hospital-grade Medela pump that was provided by the hospital.

Overwhelm and High Blood Pressure: An Unwanted Duo

Just as I was starting to find a rhythm, life threw another curveball. Five days after being discharged from the hospital, I noticed that the fluid retention in my legs wasn’t subsiding. Paired with an intense bout of anxiety, I reached out to my doctor. With offices closing for the weekend, my primary care physician directed me to the emergency room. The diagnosis? Perinatal hypertension.

Suddenly, I found myself thrust onto a path I never expected, with a new medication regimen for managing high blood pressure. My pregnancy had been free of blood pressure issues, so this development was not only surprising but incredibly scary.

Finding My Way Through the Medical Maze

With my milk supply still working its way in, my days became a whirlwind of appointments. Between the pediatrician, my primary care physician, my OBGYN, and the lactation consultant (who was situated all the way at the hospital), my plate was beyond full.

Navigating the postpartum hormonal roller coaster while juggling so many balls in the air left me feeling utterly overwhelmed. I knew something had to give for the sake of my physical and mental health.

Turning to Exclusive Pumping

That’s when I made the tough decision to end my visits with the lactation consultant and dive headfirst into the world of Exclusive Pumping. It was uncharted territory for me, but it was a choice that promised a way to balance my responsibilities while ensuring my baby received the nourishment she needed.

Pumping, for those who are new to the term, means expressing milk using a breast pump. My Spectra became my closest companion, and I slowly started building a milk supply. Later on, I gave the Elvie Double pump a try. This device came with the promise of mobility while pumping, a feature that excited me as a busy new mom. Unfortunately, my practical experience didn’t quite match my expectations—each time I bent over, the device would stop working. While it wasn’t the perfect fit for my on-the-go lifestyle, it did contribute to boosting my milk production. So, while it didn’t serve its intended purpose, it wasn’t a total loss.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

As I approached the six-week mark in my postpartum journey, rays of hope began to filter through the challenges. My health started to improve, and my milk supply, once a cause of stress, began to stabilize. I found comfort and assurance in my decision to exclusively pump. My pumping schedule was becoming consistent and It was a rhythm I fell into, balancing a mixture of pumped breast milk and formula. My daughter, resilient as she was, adapted wonderfully to this combination. The one snag in our routine was securing her preferred Enfamil formula. This wasn’t a simple case of popping down to the local store and picking up a can. No, it was 2022, and the United States was in the middle of a severe infant formula shortage, a result of a cascade of complex events, from a global supply chain crisis to a massive product recall. But, we carried on, taking each day as it came and adapting our routine to make things work.

The Rear-View Mirror: Reflections and Lessons

There were moments of despair and disappointment along this journey, but looking back, I see more clearly the things I would’ve done differently:

  • Hiring a lactation consultant or postpartum doula for home visits.
  • Bringing my Spectra pump and a pumping bra to the hospital.
  • Purchasing a manual hand pump to help trigger letdowns.
  • Investing in a Ceres Chill to keep milk overnight, cutting down on cleaning time.
  • A milk collection cup (like a haakaa or Elvie) would have been useful.
  • Avoiding comparison traps with other moms online. After all, every journey is unique!

But the biggest lesson of all? Patience. Patience with my body, my baby, and the process.

The Way Forward: Hope and Solidarity

Breastfeeding is a journey filled with ups and downs, joy and tears, and lots of learning along the way. Feeding your baby is a journey, not a destination. It’s about discovering your strengths, finding your rhythm, and learning that it’s okay to adapt and change course along the way. It’s about realizing that every feeding choice is a step toward nourishing your little one in the best way you can.

And remember, we’re all in this together. Follow Practical Little Life on Instagram to share in this incredible journey, to laugh, to cry, and to celebrate the chaos and the beauty that is parenthood. You’re not alone in your struggles or triumphs, and together, we can learn, grow, and find joy in this wild journey of motherhood.