This week’s Guest Blog is an inspirational story of a Mama who found herself adapting to the changing circumstances surrounding the birth of her boy. A testament to the strength of making decisions when we are fully informed and empowered to bring our wishes to reality.

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Here is her story…

Thanks for featuring me as your first guest blogger, Shine Bright Mama! I’m a proud exclusive pumping advocate working to become a lactation peer counselor. I’m the mother to a one-year-old boy and have recently weaned from an 11-month exclusive pumping journey. My journey lasted as long as it did because I took an imperfect situation, had grace with myself and my baby, and adopted a positive mentality. I had no other choice- Exclusive pumping definitely requires a positive mentality.

On the final teacher day of school last year, one month before my due date, my water broke and my 7-17 baby became a 6-16 baby. I had to choose what attitude I’d have while bringing this baby into the world- “Oh no, I’m not ready!” or “Ok, Let’s do this.” I chose positivity. While he was born healthy, my son quickly experienced a drop in blood sugar and developed jaundice, which landed him in the NICU. And so, I left the hospital without my baby. This was the second time I had to choose my attitude. After all, I HAD a baby- he just couldn’t be with me yet. He was in the expert arms of the NICU nurses, no better place for him at that time. And we had time to catch up with all the preparations for brining a new baby home one month early! He ended up needed 10 days in the NICU, developing the stamina to feed before being discharged into our care. It was during this time that I learned to pump and develop a pumping/feeding schedule. I was frustrated that no one had provided this instruction during my own hospital stay, even though I met with 3 lactation consultants, and that it was the NICU nurse that actually taught me how to pump! I chose to only hold on to gratitude for that NICU nurse, not frustration.

They compassionately taught me how to use a breast pump and develop a strict pumping schedule, even though I wasn’t technically their patient!

I was beginning to learn that NOTHING about childbirth or parenting is predictable and that my best bet was to have grace with myself and my new baby. While he did develop a perfect latch with no nursing issues, I chose to stick with the pump life. This style of feeding worked for my family and so I became an exclusive pumper, a term and lactation journey I didn’t know existed until I found other exclusive pumpers in online communities. I never imagined myself NOT nursing, but again… grace. I would eventually embrace this newfound style of breastfeeding, free of guilt or grief over preconceived notions of how my breastfeeding journey would look.

Going into parenthood, my husband and I agreed that we would make every effort to parent as 50/50 as possible. Because I pumped, this was actually an achievable a goal. In the newborn stage, we took shifts sleeping next to the baby and feeding him at night, while the other partner slept uninterrupted upstairs. We were the most well-rested parents of a newborn I’ve ever met! I didn’t resent my husband because we shared the responsibility of feeding our child. More than that, I delighted in watching him bond with the new baby during feeding time in those early months! I also did not resent my baby- He had a mighty firm jaw and so my nipples were spared from his piranha-like suckle. I knew exactly how much he was getting, feeding didn’t take very long, anyone could help feed, and I did not feel used for comfort nursing. The transition to daycare was also a breeze because he was used to bottle-feeding and many helping hands delivering his milk! See? MORE positivity! Huzzah!

I made a goal of 6 months and at 6 months I was going so strong so that I easily made a new goal of 9 months. At 9 months, I reassessed once again and having grace with myself and my body, I decided to begin the weaning process and was completely weaned by 11 months. I met my goal and then some! Can you tell how proud I was of myself? I celebrated nearly 1,000 hours of pumping by getting a pumping tattoo and a breastmilk necklace. All those hours of devotion grew into a passion for supporting other mothers who are considering or experiencing a journey into exclusive pumping, and so I started my Instagram @pump_momma_pump. Through that platform, I could educate, support, and shine some warm light on what can be seen as a cold, mechanical process- exclusive pumping.

How to cultivate a positive mentality while exclusively pumping…

Breastfeeding can be hard, whether you are nursing, pumping, or combo-feeding! I owe the success of my nearly year-long pumping relationship to optimistic determination.

• Begin with the end!
Set a short, achievable goal. You can always extend it later! Don’t psych yourself out by thinking too far in advance. My goal was initially 6 months but I ended up pumping for nearly 11 months. I found that setting a shorter goal is easier than a lofty goal you may find too intimidating. When you reach that goal, make sure to celebrate and then reassess your progress. If you’re pleased with how far you’ve come and are ready to wean, go for it. If you’d like to reassess and set another goal, more power to ya!

• Get some cheerleaders!
Lack of support is one of the main reasons people give up on breastfeeding. Assembling a good support system is the best way to meet your breastfeeding goals. Share your ups and downs with those closest to you and pay attention to those who give you the energy you need to stay positive. Support may not always come from where you expect it to, so it’s important to build a ‘dream team’ of helpers from lactation consultants to family members, to mothers with valuable experience to share!

• Motivate yourself!
You know those cheesy motivational phrases with pretty backgrounds you can find on Pinterest? Print them all out and hang them in your pumping space. While you’re at it, add a photo of your baby- just gazing at your little one can help your breasts achieve a let-down and get more out of your pumping session. Start a gratitude journal and jot down some Good Things while you pump.

• Use all the hacks!
The more you talk to other pumping mommas, the more hacks you find to make the pump life easier! The hands-free pumping bra was a big game changer for me, as well as having a second pump and pump accessories to keep at work so I always have what I need! I also found some hacks to make cleaning and sterilization more efficient. I also stored my frozen milk flat, assembled into “bricks” or milk bags in gallon zip-lock bags for easy organization. It was rewarding to see my freezer stash grow!

• Treat yo’ self!
When you reach your goal, make sure to treat yourself! Whether it’s ordering breastmilk jewellery or simply doing something you enjoy- like taking yourself out for your favorite beverage or food, or picking up a favorite hobby like running- make sure you reward your hard work! I also encourage you to thank your pump- I’m serious! Take a moment to thank it for its service to you and your family, it’ll feel good to acknowledge your journey together!

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