Can we acknowledge how breastfeeding (whether nursing or pumping) is a full-time job? The daily schedule isn’t complete without planning and navigating time to feed and/or pump. And let’s just say, it all can be overwhelming. Especially in those first 12 weeks. Instagram posts, blog posts, doctors, and lactation consultants, are all preaching the same things in different ways. Breastfeed or pump every 2-3 hours for the first 12 weeks in order to maintain your milk supply. But no one tells you how to do this AND maintain your sanity. I’ve been on this pumping journey for three months so far and this is what has been helping me keep my peace.
1.Celebrating every ounce
It’s so easy to get caught up in how much or how little you’re producing. I’ve been there and if I’m being honest, I still have my days. But coming from where I started, I’ve learned to celebrate every ounce. Every single ounce can be used so every single one should be celebrated. Even if you’re only getting 2 ounces per session. Give it to that baby and celebrate how amazing your body is for creating that at all because the pump could have been empty.
2.Maintaining a schedule and consistently removing milk
We’ve all heard it. Pump every 2-3 hours for the first 12 weeks. And friend, although I hate to say it, it does work. Now there’s a method to this madness. It’s a range so pick where you fit. I started out doing every 2 hours and I said this is pure madness for me, so I slid to the other end of the spectrum and focused on pumping every 3 hours and I found that worked much better for me.
This schedule was much more sustainable. I can’t say I was right on schedule every time, but I tried to consistently remove milk from my breast on some type of schedule throughout the day. Whether it was every 2 hours, every 3 hours, or sometimes every 3.5 hours. The goal was to get the milk out so more milk can be produced. It is all about supply and demand. The more consistently you remove milk from your breasts, the more milk your body will produce and your milk supply will increase.
Create a routine or schedule that works well for you and your baby. This can help you feel more organized and in control, which can reduce stress and anxiety. Try to stick to a consistent feeding and pumping schedule, and find ways to incorporate self-care into your daily routine. I try to feed and pump around the same time, if not at the same time if possible, just to keep the schedule consistent and to maximize my free time.
3. When I’m tired or sore I rest but I make up for it later
Now we just talked about having a schedule but I will say this: find some balance between resting and pumping. All those pump sessions and the day-to-day routine can beat you down and leave you tired, sore, hungry, thirsty, mentally drained or all of the above. And all of these can have an impact on how much milk you will produce.
When I’m too tired or too sore I will extend the time between my next session to give my body time to recuperate. For example: if I’m sore after my session at 1 I probably won’t pump at 5 (I currently pump every 4 hours) I will wait an extra hour or two and pump later. After that session, I will resume my normal schedule of every 4 hours. I find having a small break gives me more energy and a mental break.
*This is simply my story and process. It may not work for you and I do not recommend having too many extended breaks between sessions.*
4. Relying on my support system
I rely HEAVILY on my husband. If it wasn’t for him I probably would not have made it this far on this journey. If it’s time for me to pump and our son needs attention, my husband doesn’t hesitate to take care of him so I can pump. Since I’ve been back at work and pumping at work, he has washed and sanitized my pump parts for me in the evening when I’m too tired to do it myself. When I have finished pumping he will even take the milk and store it properly for me. He has definitely been a blessing on this journey.
So rely on your support system if you have one. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s from your partner, family, friends, or a lactation consultant, reaching out for support can make a huge difference. You don’t have to do everything on your own, and having a support system can help you feel more confident and less overwhelmed.
5. Having multiple pumps and pump parts
The more the merrier. Life gets hectic when you’re exclusively pumping on a schedule. You need pump parts ready and on demand at all times. So I’ve found it useful to have multiple options for my day-to-day life.
Here’s how things work for me currently being a working mom. I have a wearable pump (Momcozy S12 Pro) and a portable pump (Lansinoh Smartpump 2.0) with multiple parts. Monday through Friday I pack up my Lansinoh pump to take to work. I have two sets that I can interchange with the pump to keep from having to worry about cleaning pump parts between sessions. In the morning before work, I use my Momcozy while I’m getting ready. It keeps me from having to worry about washing my Lansinoh pump parts before work and repacking it.
I have two pump sessions at work (every 4 hours for an 8 hour work day). My last pump session is at 2 so by the time I get home at 6 I’ll be ready for my next session. This session I use the Momcozy again because it’s ready to use and I also have an extra set to swap between. I’ll use it for the rest of my sessions that night all the way until the morning and the cycle repeats.
When I’m home on the weekends I’m mostly using the Momcozy because I am a multi-tasking mama and things need to get done. These are all of my pumps for now but I can see how having more can be beneficial 🤣
6. Pumping and dumping…or saving for another use
Mama has to take care of her and still live her life okay. I still find time to enjoy wine beer or a cocktail or two. There is a way to enjoy life and still provide milk for your baby. There is evidence that your milk is safe after a certain period of time after drinking one beverage. If you do the math right and calculte how many hours per drinks, you can plan your pump session accordingly.
Or, you can drink carefree if you have enough milk at home for your baby and use the tainted milk for other purposes like breastmilk baths and breastmilk soap. I have made breastmilk soap and I have also add breastmilk to his bath water. Don’t be afraid to enjoy yourself.
7. Paying attention to and taking care of my body
On your breastfeeding journey, whether nursing or pumping, it is important that you make sure you are taking care of yourself both physically and mentally. This means getting enough sleep, staying hydrated, eating a healthy and balanced diet, and finding time to exercise or engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Rest, refuel and hydrate are the three things to remember on your pumping journey.
When I notice a drop in my milk supply (which still happens almost four months in the game) I know it’s probably because I’m tired, didn’t eat or haven’t had enough to drink. You have to remember your body is working overtime to not only take care of you but to produce extra to take care of someone else. So remember, a happy and healthy mom equals a happy and healthy baby.
I am only four months into this exclusively pumping journey, but I know how draining it can get. I still have my moments WEEKLY where I get weary. And that is okay. Its important to remember that your baby won’t remember what or how you fed them when they grow up, they will only remember that you were there. So be a present a loving mama and focus on loving both your baby and yourself while you are on this journey!