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Hi there!  I’m Jasmine Roth, creator of this Blog, founder of Built Custom Homes, curator of my online retail store The Shop by Jasmine Roth and host of HGTV’s hit show Hidden Potential.  I was also on HGTV’s Rock the Block, but I won’t spoil the winner for you 😉  Building custom homes in Huntington Beach, CA is my bread and butter.  I love all aspects of the home building process and finding ways to make homes as personal, functional and beautiful as possible.  Join me as we explore my projects, DIY’s, behind-the-scenes peeks, and tips on how you can design beautiful, functional spaces in your own home. Let’s build something together!

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Feeding Hazel: My Pumping Journey

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Nobody in the history of the world is like, “Oh my goodness, I’m so excited to get pregnant, I just can’t wait to pump!”  In my opinion, pumping is one of those things that NOBODY talks about and trust me, I totally understand why.  Let me be clear – there’s NOTHING sexy about pumping.  That said, when you really stop to think about it, how cool is it that our bodies can not only grow, but be the sole source of nutrients for another human!?!  This is THE REAL DEAL and I had no idea what I was in for feeding Hazel.  So, I figured that maybe sharing my journey might at least sorta help some other mamas (or soon-to-be mamas) and at the very least be something I can show Hazel when she’s older and says I never did anything for her.  Ha!

Before I really dive in, I just want to say that my goal is NEVER to knock how anyone feeds their baby.  We’ve all met people who are like that and honestly, if you love your child and you’re trying to do what’s best for them – that’s all we can do as parents!  I always joke that “I didn’t choose the pumping life, it chose me” and I think that with lots of different options for how to feed your baby, no two experiences are the same.  So whether you’re a 6-child mama and this is all old news or you’re just thinking about having kiddos, know that even the best laid plans very rarely work when it comes to feeding your little and THAT’S OKAY!

Okay, I don’t want to get TOO GRAPHIC and completely scare everyone off, but if you read my birth story, you know Brett and I had Hazel in a hospital and as soon as she was born they placed her on my chest.  BEST MOMENT EVER!!!  And in true Hazel form (if you’ve been following her eating journey you know she’s a little ??) she started eating right away.  Now, in the breastfeeding class (I took the one through Hoag Hospital and Brett took it with me) they made it sound like this moment would be magical.  And while it was super magical and surreal and unbelievable and all the things… it was also SUPER PAINFUL and quite candidly pretty awful.  By the time we made it back into our recovery room and Hazel had tried to nurse twice, I was BESIDE MYSELF.  It felt like knives were being jammed into my boobs!

Long story short, after multiple lactation coaches, the doc diagnosed me with underlying sensitivity that left me unable to breastfeed comfortably.  In retrospect, maybe I should have just shut it down and switched to formula, but it was the middle of a pandemic and I had this underlying guilt (mom guilt from minute 1!) that I might not be giving lifesaving antibodies to my newborn.  I had planned to breastfeed, but really I had planned to pump when I went back to work, so the latter seemed like the logical next step.

That said, looking back on it, I had no clue what “pumping” really meant or entailed.  I just knew it was something that moms do.  Never did I expect to become a mom that “exclusively pumped” (meaning Hazel only ate my expressed milk from a bottle) for the better part of 10 months. Basically, all my plans went by the wayside and Brett and I jumped with both feet into our pumping journey.

The first couple weeks were REALLY, REALLY hard.  Most new moms experience engorgement, nipple sensitivity and cracking, and all-around discomfort – but pair that with the feeling of someone jabbing knives into you during every pumping session… Let’s just say it wasn’t pleasant.  In general, I consider myself a pretty reasonable and even keeled person but pumping brought out the worst in me.  I had to go into a room, alone, and just sit quietly to get my milk to flow.

Now, this might not sound like that big of a deal until you realize you have a newborn that needs you and in the beginning I was pumping 8-12 times a day.  That’s at least 20 minutes, every 2 hours, and by the time you clean your pump and get everything set up for the next session, you’ve got about 1 hour before you’re “back in the saddle.”  So if you’re thinking of exclusively pumping, just know that it really takes a dedicated partner and it’s truly a group effort.  Or at least in our experience it was!

Here’s how my pumping journey went:

  • Week 1: 8-12 Pumps Per 24 Hours (very little production)
  • Week 2-3: 8-12 Pumps Per 24 Hours (4-8 oz / day)
  • Week 4: 8-12 Pumps Per 24 Hours (16-26 oz / day)
  • Week 5: 8 Pumps (See Schedule below, 26-31 oz / day)
  • Week 6-7: 7 Pumps (THRUSH, 32 oz / day)
  • Week 8-22: 5 Pumps (29-35 oz / day)
  • Week 23-27: 4 Pumps (29-33 oz / day)
  • Week 28-29: 3 Pumps (22-29 oz / day)
  • Week 30-31: 2 Pumps (16 oz / day)
  • Week 32-33: 1 Pump (9-3 oz / day)

Now, if you’re in the middle of pumping those numbers are probably important to you, but if not they’re probably just a bunch of well, numbers.  But basically the way it works is that you go somewhere private (oftentimes your car with stuff hung on the windows) and hook up this whole pumping contraption and then sit there for 20ish minutes until your boobs are empty and you can disconnect.  Think dairy farm without the bad smells.  Ha!  Sorry, still trying to make light of what honestly wasn’t a very enjoyable experience.  That said, there are a few things that helped me.

What Helped Me in My Pumping Journey

1. Get on a schedule and stick to it.

Whether it’s 8 pumps a day or 2, generally pumping at the same time every day helped my production and it helped my sanity.  A bunch of my friends asked when I started sleeping through the night, and I waited until about week 10.  In retrospect I probably would have tried around week 8.  Basically, if you can go that long and not notice a huge decrease in your supply, in my opinion sleep always wins.

8 Pumps Per Day Schedule

  • 2am
  • 5am
  • 8am
  • 11am
  • 2pm
  • 5pm
  • 8pm
  • 10:30pm

2. Use wipes to clean your pump.

When I found these wipes, it was a game changer for me.  Since I was pumping on the go a lot, washing my pumping parts with soap and water wasn’t always an option for me.  And also, when you were pumping as much as I was, it was just too time consuming.  These wipes work great!

I bought the larger quantity because they come in individual packages that I could stretch for 2-3 cleanings.  PRO TIP: Wear a rubber glove and keep a towel on hand to protect your nails and cuticles.  Again, nothing sexy about a rubber glove, but in my opinion it was necessary!

3. Don’t plan on getting anything done while pumping.

?? As the ultimate type A, this was a tough one for me.  But once I “gave in” and realized that it wasn’t realistic I was going to pay my bills, post on my social media, take a conference call, and design a house while pumping… it made it a lot more bearable and the milk flowed a lot better.

4. Track your pumping.

If you’re like me, you’re already doing this or this is a no-brainer.  But I was surprised to find out that many of my mom friends don’t track their pumping/feeding sessions.  For me, it was invaluable to be able to look back and see how my body had changed and the progress I was making.  In the moment, these 9.5 months felt like an eternity, so having a tangible way to “celebrate the small wins” (like a record pump or pumping perfectly on my schedule) was so important for my psyche.  I used the Medela Pump Log, an app that came with my pump, but I’m sure there are lots of options.

5. Don’t wait to ask for help.

Oh boyyyyy, did I learn this the hard way.  Maybe you’ll remember that I had to have a follow-up surgery at 7 weeks postpartum to clean up some birth complications.  I went into the surgery center and I was A MESS.  I couldn’t even let the gown touch my boobs because they were so tender and inflamed.  The doc came in and took one look at me and was like, “You have thrush and a gnarly infection and you’re starting meds today.”  I had my surgery and started meds and was SO MUCH BETTER 24 hours later that I wished I’d gone to the doc sooner.  (Another game changer for me was a cream called APNO, or Newmans Ointment which was prescription only and felt like a dream!)  So basically here’s a good rule – if you think you “maybe” should go to the doctor or lactation center for some advice – GO!

Honestly, I could talk/write about this experience for days and not give all my advice or details.  Pumping became a huge part of our lives and like it or not, we made it through with a very healthy baby girl.  I recently stopped pumping (HALLELUJAH – CUE THE CHOIR!! ??) because I had stored enough milk to last Hazel for her first year.  And just to be clear, I’m saying “our” journey and “our” lives because I couldn’t have done this without my husband Brett.  It was hard (like REALLY TOUGH, you guys) and he stuck with me and was there every step of the way.

Okay okay, so that’s my story and while I’m happy to say it’s over (like, THANK GOODNESS, although stopping was a whole other issue and probably another post with a lot of cabbage and peppermint tea) a little part of me is sad because it means that my little Hazel Bean is growing up and while she’ll always be my little baby, she’s also turning into a little person.

So I’m going to leave this story right here on my blog and choose to think about all the minutes I spent holding her while she drank a bottle, or slept next to me while pumping, and not take one single second for granted.

My Must-Have Pumping Items and Why:

These supplements were recommended to me by a friend and it made a huge difference in my supply.
Wipes instead of soap & water was a game changer for me!
These also helped with supply and tasted great!
This is the pump I used.
These are the bottles I use.
Don’t buy the pump without this bra to hold it in place!
When I did feed, I used these.
These Therapy Packs helped (both hot and cold) when things got really bad!
Wipe a little of this nipple cream in your pump flanges before each pump for lubrication.
These are the best milk storage bags I’ve found.
And I can’t forget these four! You’ve gotta clean, steam and keep cold!

I know there are other mamas and partners reading this, so if you have your own pumping tips, please share the knowledge in the comments!

17 Comments

  1. Dawn

    That is some dedication!!! My daughter has an 11 month old son and is back to work. She nurses and pumps and I know how much she hates pumping. So for you to do that exclusively is admirable!!! She is winding down her pumping as well and is glad the finish line is insight. Congratulations momma!! You did a great job and have a happy healthy beautiful baby who has benefited from your hard work!❤️

    Reply
  2. Ashley

    Jasmine, thank you for sharing your journey with breastfeeding and pumping! I am a new mom too in SoCal and find your commitment to pumping inspiring. Way to go! I am trying to do the same and will consider it a win to make it to 6 months! I went this route for similar reasons. So much of this goes unsaid in terms of exclusively pumping or combo feeding as an option and it is helpful to know how working women like you are making it happen!

    Reply
  3. Brigitte

    So BRAVE of you to undertake pumping even though you couldn’t breastfeed! My hat off to you. Let’s cross fingers that if you ever have another one, things might be completely different: you might discover the joys of breastfeeding or you might decide to skip pumping altogether!

    Reply
  4. Kali

    Thank you, Jasmine! I exclusively pumped as well but after a round of mastitis, and clogged ducts at least once a week, I had to discontinue around 4.5 months. It really is a lot of work and extremely painful. Nice job getting to 9 months! For any other parents who struggle with clogged ducts, Sunflower Lecithin was a godsend!

    Reply
  5. Diana Villalobos

    Thank you Jasmine for this post! I have pumped exclusively for my daughter for months too and it is soooo tough (but rewarding at the same time!). We have to celebrate our bodies and what we have done for our children! Hugs from Costa Rica :), hope you come here some day (we are huge fans of yours!)

    Reply
  6. Cindy Upchurch

    Great job, momma!! I know it wasn’t easy but you did your best for your baby!! And great work for daddy too, can’t do it that without a supportive hubby!! You two make a great team!

    Reply
  7. Kerri

    Thanks for your honesty about what so many think is a “beautiful, natural” process. For so many new moms, including me, it wasn’t. I stuck it out for 18 months but boy was it hard! I 100% relate to the pain, guilt and isolation in the early days. It’s so wonderful to have an honest account of the process and no judgement no matter how a mom chooses to feed her baby.

    Reply
  8. Inna

    I’m a pumping mom too,my baby is 9.5 months old. It seems like you are a oversupplied pumping mom. In my case sometimes my supply increases but in other day it decreased, I would say oversupply is far better than the low. I have some stashes of breastmilk in the freezer but can’t use them because those are all has high lipase in the milk. You are lucky that you don’t have that.

    Reply
  9. Jeneen

    Congratulations ?? your baby is beautiful. God bless you and your family

    Reply
  10. Angélica

    Oh what a journey! I was in the same situation, AND unfortunately I couldn’t get that magic pumps, l did It until the fifth month, then I started with mastitis AND l was afraid…What l most remember it’s the smell of the milk the first couple of bottles…

    Reply
  11. Courtney

    Thank you jasmine for sharing your journey! I’m currently breastfeeding and pumping for my 4 week old son Ethan. I enjoyed reading your story. I had watched my friends breastfeed and pump for their kids; like you said, until you go through it yourself, you really don’t know what to expect. I’m working on stretching more regularly because my lower back has been hurting with all the sitting from pumping and feeding sessions.

    Reply
  12. Keisha Collins

    I was an exclusive breastfeeding Mama. Neither of my babies took a bottle. There was good and bad to this. However, I did pump because I was fortunate enough to have a tremendous milk supply. My kids could nurse and I would still get up to 4 oz after by pumping. Pumping was not easy and I always found it to be an annoying task. Big props to any Mama who strictly pumps, especially working Mamas.

    Reply
  13. Kerry

    Thanks for sharing. It’s not an easy journey and as I always said there needs to be antenatal classes for the 4th trimester (after birth). No one ever tells you about, how “sexy” you feel. How time consuming it can be in the beginning. It is definitely a team effort. Admire you for all your efforts and hard work. I managed to donate for the first 6 months of breastfeeding as well as store milk and feed both my boys (over supply, blocked ducts, milk fever, cabbage leaves, warm baths, cracked nipples etc). The stories no one tells you about. It was all worth it now. Used most of the same products but wish I had those wipes back then would have saved alot of time.
    Did you also have the days when you expressed less and days when you expressed alot more and the worrying on other days when you struggled to get to it (your clock being your boobs?).
    Love reading your blog and relating to it.
    Well done on exclusively pumping. Take my hat off to you.

    Reply
  14. Faith

    Thank you for sharing, Jasmine! I am a pumping mama too. My first daughter wouldn’t latch correctly, so we exclusively pumped. She was able to get breastmilk (with formula supplementation) for 12 months.
    My second daughter is 7m old and I am having to pump with her as well.
    I really appreciate your honesty. Breastfeeding and pumping are both hard and painful and stressful and exhausting, BUT no one ever seems to talk about it. All my friends seemed to have an easy time breastfeeding, so it is refreshing to hear your story and know I’m not alone bc let’s face it, when you’re constantly hooked a pump, every bit of encouragement helps!

    Reply
  15. Joanna

    I had triplets and I had no idea what my feeding journey was going to be like. In the beginning one baby needed my milk more than the other two but soon i had enough for all 3 with leftovers. In retrospect I could have donated milk but so much of what we know now I didn’t know or have the resources for just 10 years ago. It’s amazing how times have changed! I would have LOVED one of those bras that holds the bottles…my husband and I thought about making me one just because I felt like a dairy cow ALL the time. I pumped for 6 months and finally gave in to using formula after for my sanity and the fact we did a driving vacation to my parents and I didn’t want to pump and drive (no wipes cleaners like you have; to my knowledge at least). Like you said, fed is best. They eventually accepted formula and I got more sane (was watching them a few times a week by myself at that point untile my husband got home plus easing them into solids). I never kept track of how much I pumped but I wish I did now. You’re doing a beautiful job with Hazel. Yes she’s growing up and it makes us teary eyed but every age has its good and bad stage. It’s an amazing journey ❤

    Reply
  16. Michael

    Damn Jasmine, that’s 61 gallons of milk (or 122 half gallons, or 244 quarts). I can see why ur very happy ur done! Plus over a thousand pumping sessions? As a guy, I cannot imagine that?

    Reply
  17. Elizabeth

    Amazing that you pumped for 10 straight months! You go girl! I nursed both of my daughters for a full year and I always said that for something that is suppose to be natural it is anything but!!! Those first 2 weeks are brutal. When they switch to whole milk it is as if a entire new world opens up!! Oh and – Breast pumps have come a long way – love that bra holder! My youngest is 12 and I would have loved having one of those!

    Reply

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