Power to the Pump :: My EP'ing Story

**It's World Breastfeeding Awareness Week so I figured I'd type up a little novel about my breastfeeding experience. I talk about my nipples, so reader beware...**

"Are you going to breastfeed?" The second you announce your pregnancy, nosy inquiring minds want to know the answer to this question. The decision to breastfeed (or not! it's OK if you don't!) is a personal decision all moms will make at some point during their pregnancy and within the first few days of their baby's life. My answer to the inevitable breastfeeding question? "Yes!"

As a first-time mom, everything I read about breastfeeding was positive. The bond created between mother and child while nursing was something I was looking forward. The health benefits were undeniable. Breast milk, being chalk full of vitamins and nutrients, is pretty much liquid gold. Why would I want my baby to have anything less than the best? Of course I wanted to breastfeed!

I knew I was going to be returning to work after maternity leave so pumping in addition to breastfeeding was something I was always prepared to do. I invested in a good pump (well, my mom invested in a good pump as a  gift to me. Thanks, ma!), signed up for a breastfeeding class, read books and mommy blogs and waited for baby.

My daughter was born via an unplanned c-section but I nursed her shortly after delivery and all seemed to be going well. My milk came in on day 3 as we were getting ready to head home. My nipples (TMI? Probably. I'm sorry!) were red and tender, but that was to be expected. At this point, I wasn't in any real pain while feeding so I could handle a little tenderness. The lactation consultant was confident that nursing was going well and sent us on our way.

You know what the breastfeeding class, books and websites didn't teach me? Breastfeeding is hard. And it hurts. It really 'effing hurts... Once we were home, breastfeeding became increasingly uncomfortable. Uncomfortable became downright painful, and before I knew it, I was absolutely dreading feeding my sweet little girl. Every time she latched on, I winced in pain and the pain lasted the entire feeding. One night, when she was two weeks old, I was trying to get her to latch and crying in pain as my husband stood helplessly by. It hurt so bad - I decided I was done.

From then on, I decided to exclusively pump (EP) and bottle feed my daughter. My plan was always to try and breastfeed again at a later date, but nope. I never looked back. To be honest, I was scared to try it again. I don't consider myself a wuss - I feel like I'm pretty tough most of the time - but breastfeeding was absolutely horrible for me. Exclusively pumping was something that worked.

It wasn't easy, but I quickly fell into a pumping schedule. At first, I pumped every 2-3 hours or about as often as the baby drank a bottle. Pumping took anywhere from 20-30 minutes each time which means I was hooked up to my pump anywhere from 5 to 6 hours a day. Yikes. Luckily, I was a cow. I still remember my best pumping session to date: 17 glorious ounces of pure goodness.  Moo. As my body grew accustomed to pumping, I was able to pump an average of 6 ounces at a time 5-6 times a day which was more than enough to feed the baby and build up a freezer stash for when I returned to work.

Pumping and working full-time was an adjustment. I wasn't able to pump as often or for as long so my supply dwindled. We added a couple of ounces of formula to her bottles and I added another pumping session at home after work in order to provide enough milk for Gracyn while she was at daycare.

I EP'ed until Gracyn was 7 months old. My original goal, breastfeeding or pumping, was to be able to provide milk for my daughter until she was at least 6 months old so I was proud of hitting this milestone.

Deciding to quit pumping, like any other decision in parenting, did not come easy. At 7 months old, Gracyn was still not sleeping through the night and I was downright tired. After one particular exhausting night, I decided to start weaning the next day. I felt guilty for "quitting" - I was being selfish and stopping because I wanted to stop, not because my baby was weaning naturally. After a few days, I came to peace with my decision. My baby was healthy and happy and that's all that mattered. We started increasing the formula amounts in her remaining bottles of breast milk and transitioned to whole milk at one year old.

Do I feel like I missed out on bonding with my baby because I decided to pump instead of breastfeed naturally? Absolutely not. Feeding her with a bottle was peaceful as opposed to mom and baby both crying throughout the entire feeding. My husband got to help with her feedings, too, which gave them extra time to spend together. 

Is my baby less healthy because she had formula in addition to breast milk? No way. She's as healthy as they come. 

Am I scared to breastfeed again due to my first "unsuccessful" breastfeeding experience? Again, no. I'm due with my second baby in December and plan to try and breastfeed again. I know what to expect, what questions to ask and how to make the most of our time with the hospital's lactation consultants. I know that nursing takes practice: both mom and baby need to learn how to do it correctly to help minimize pain and discomfort.

Breastfeeding is not easy. EP'ing is no walk in the park, either. But it's possible. Whether you decide to breastfeed or formula feed, offer the breast or pump full-time, the most important thing to remember is that you are a rockstar. You are feeding your baby and giving them what they need in order to thrive and that is pretty incredible.

Now, head on over to Kansas City Moms Blog to read my pumping tips and tricks post!



  1. I'm getting caught up on your posts and love them. I'm lucky to have my bestie for all this advice since ep was the way I had to go too. 17 oz at once! Holy mackerel! :)