My breastfeeding journey began in early 2017 after having my first son. However, my knowledge on breastfeeding did not begin there. Throughout college I took various health courses, including some of which that covered bits and pieces on lactation and breastfeeding.
As a baby, I was formula fed. Formula was all I'd ever heard of. It's almost safe to say I was initially grossed out by the thought of breastfeeding due to the lack of knowledge I had about the subject. I unlearned all of this once I learned about breastfeeding in a Nutrition course in 2010. Something about the topic grasped my attention and completely fascinated me. How had I not know about this? It certainly wasn't a taboo subject for my family or those I was familiar with, but it just wasn't the norm so it remained a foreign topic for me. My newly aspired interest in breastfeeding lead me to self-imposed studies. I had no plans for kids at that juncture in my life. Honestly, I was still deciding if I had ever wanted kids. For some reason, breastfeeding was destined to find me.
After having Trevor 3 weeks early due to oligohydramnios, he was born healthy but tiny. After my physicians in the hospital told me that babies delivered at 37 weeks gestation tend to be more "tired" than the full term 40-week baby, I was immediately concerned about what that would mean for nursing. Not before long, the issues started. He was so little, my big breasts were not easy for him to latch onto. This resulted in a shallow latch. He also fell asleep within moments after latching every time. My IBCLC in the hospital sized me at the time (which I later discovered was incorrect), but she wheeled in a Medela Symphony and suggested I started pumping to continue signaling production.
Knowing what I knew from all of my own studies in college and in preparation for baby, my focus above all was to be able to give my baby breast milk. I knew in my head this meant if he wasn't latching, I needed to pump. Every 1-3 hours around the clock. I was a bit excessive truth be told, but I was so concerned about not being able to successfully produce enough. Low and behold, my efforts of consistency worked in my favor. Trevor & I continued nursing efforts for a few months, but we could ultimately never make it work. I admittedly spent more time wallowing over the nursing failure than I wish I'd had. I believe it was a big contributor to my postpartum depression and anxiety. I had to find support.
I landed in a tiny groups for mom's that exclusively pump. Shortly after joining, this group became mine. I turned into the mother of this beautiful EP page. I made it a safe place for mom's that exclusively pump. The intent was to keep the page inclusive to all mom's, act as a beacon and focus solely on supporting and educating mother's about exclusively pumping. Therein lies the growth and development of my support group, Exclusively Pumping Mama's - Education & Support Group. This group is now the largest EP group on Facebook. I am thankful every day that mom's have this place to go. I am grateful the word continues to spread, the success and growth rate of my group confirm we are on a promising path to normalcy of this lifestyle.
The benefits I've gained: (1) Acceptance. I learned to love exclusively pumping and was able to stop mourning the failed nursing relationship attempt. (2) Awareness. Finding this alternative to breastfeeding (that remains pretty uncommon) and identifying it DOES work without baby needing to latch was enlightening. It was, and has been, and huge part of my inspiration for my support group. (3) Flexibility. Though I pumped a ton, I was doing it with preferred intervals that worked for my schedule. (4) Bonding. Keeping up with the pumping schedule was challenging and did have it's moments where I felt strapped for time, but I was really bonding much less with my son when he was struggling to nurse. We both were struggling and it was not a happy place. The troubleshooting was not worth it and our bonding improved tenfold once it stopped. Nursing is a two-sided relationship, it has to work for both mom AND baby.
My second son, Lucas, was born in February 2021. My expertise on EP was a given this time around of course and I went in with confidence. We just bypassed 1 year of EP, and still ongoing. Exclusively Pumping IS the best lifestyle choice for my breastfeeding journey. All of it's challenges (frequent cleaning, being strapped down to the pump, sore nipples, and all of the rest) are worth it to me. It is one of the hardest sacrifices I've made as a mother. It is also the most selfless act I've ever done, and it's painstakingly beautiful in my eyes. Helping and educating mom's through their journey is the icing on the cake.