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Exclusive Pumping Part 3 – Perspectives

Like everyone, when I had a baby, my life completely changed. And because I had spent two hours a day tied to a breast pump since my baby’s birth, being a mother and an exclusive pumper became very intertwined for me. Exclusive pumping was a big part of my identity. Because of this, it was really important to me that I was successful. This meant (after my supply snafu early on, when I would skip pumping sessions more than I should have) being a bit obsessive about getting my pumping sessions in.

This forced me to be learn how to be creative and get things done. For example, one time I needed to figure out the best place to pump near an outlet in an airport with the 15 minutes I had left until boarding. Another time, I got to work and realized I’d left my flanges at home, but I still needed to pump before a big meeting. Both times, I figured something out and got the pumping session in.

(This “mom creativity” is a skill that I have used over and over again as a mom – including yesterday, when I had all three kids at the pool by myself, my daughter pooped, and I realized I had zero diapers left in the diaper bag.)

Exclusive pumping also pushed me to be assertive and stand up for myself. I have always been a pretty compliant, go along with every else kind of person who was very reluctant to stand up for herself. But when I was exclusively pumping, if the choice was missing a pumping session or requesting what I needed (a place to pump, time away from a working training session. etc.), I was going to go ahead and ask.

When I was pregnant with my second baby, I was really nervous about breastfeeding again. I was already a bit terrified of having two kids under two, and I knew how hard exclusive pumping was. The thought of attempting to do it with both my big baby and a newborn to take care of was overwhelming.

However, when my daughter was born, the experience was completely different. She latched right on, and while nursing was not problem free, it was much, much easier than than it had been with my son, and after we got through the newborn phase nursing was pretty easy until we weaned around 16 months.

Being able to nurse my daughter helped me work through a lot of the grief that I had about exclusively pumping for my son. When I was doing it for my son, at the back of my mind there was this feeling that I had failed. That I didn’t try hard enough, that I didn’t seek out enough help, that my body just wasn’t working right. But when I was able to nurse my daughter and saw how different the experience was, I understood more that babies are individuals, and that I’d really done the best that I could with the cards that I had been dealt.

Being an exclusive pumper is obviously no longer central to my identity as a mom – I’ve weaned my last baby, and my oldest child just finished first grade. I’m glad that I exclusively pumped for my son because I was able to provide him with breast milk, and because of how the experience helped me grow as a mom. Now I look back on the experience not as a failure, but as a success! Exclusive pumping for 14 months was really hard work, and it required a lot of dedication and creativity. I’m proud of myself – and of all of the other exclusive pumpers who have done this for their babies.

Click here for part 1 and here for part 2. 

Amanda has three children (7, 5, and 2) and has spent a total of 44 months of her life hooking herself up to a breast pump. She writes a blog about exclusive pumping (exclusivepumping.com) and lives in Chicago with her family. You can join her support group for Exclusively Pumping Mamas