Every mom pumps for different reasons—some want to continue providing breast milk to their baby upon returning to work, while some want to be able to leave their baby at home with a sitter and a bottle of breast milk from time to time. Christa Peterson, a mom in the Bay Area with a four year-old son and two year-old daughter, tells us about her experience with pumping exclusively with both of her children.

Hannnah and her Family

About Christa: I was born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan but ventured out to San Francisco in early 2000 to see what all the fuss was about. I told my parents I’d be back in a year and 16 years later, I’m still here! Before moving to the Peninsula in 2010, I lived in San Francisco for 10 wonderful years. I met my husband there and moved with him to Palo Alto in 2010 when we got married. We now have two children, ages four and 2, both of whom were the recipients of pumped breast milk. Before having children, I worked full time but transitioned to a part-time position when my son was born. After having my second child, I became a stay-at-home mom. I feel fortunate to be able to be a part of their everyday lives, but I do miss my office job!

Pumping from day one: I pumped for 10 months with my first child and 12 months with my second. With my first born, I exclusively pumped from the day he was born since he had feeding issues and was in the NICU for two weeks. With my son in the NICU, I wanted to do anything I could to help him. I felt like so much of his care was out of my hands but providing breast milk was the one thing I could control. Since breast milk is supposed to be the best thing for babies, I had to do anything in my power to provide that, especially when I felt I had little else to offer.

Continuing to pump with child #2: I envied mothers who were able to breastfeed and was intent on succeeding in doing so with my second child but after trying for two weeks, I started pumping exclusively again. I could not get my daughter to latch and saw numerous lactation consultants who indicated I was doing it correctly but it just wasn’t working. I remember spending many hours crying in agony and frustration because my daughter could not latch and my milk supplied dropped to almost nothing overnight. I was scared to lose my milk completely so I pumped religiously to get it back up. Even though my daughter didn’t spend any time in the NICU, I still wanted her to have breast milk and I think it helped her stay healthy, even when my son would get sick.

Pumping as a respite: So many people complain about pumping but I actually didn’t mind it. I got to read so many books while I was pumping! It felt like a brief respite from caring for my children. My body was on such a strict schedule that I had to wake up and pump multiple times in the middle of the night and I didn’t even mind that. I can’t imagine doing that now but at the time, it was just normal, and I was delighted that I got to read more! What I disliked most was cleaning all the pumping parts.

On pumping in public: I pumped while driving (would not recommend!), on airplanes, in restaurant bathrooms, and at work—I feel like I was always pumping in public! I was lucky enough to have a private room devoted to nursing mothers at my place of work. It had a fridge, a sink, and a comfortable chair. Since I worked with mostly men, no one asked any questions as I lugged my pumping bag off to the private room. I often felt guilty taking the time to pump, but it was so nice to be able to do it at work! Pumping in airplanes and at restaurants was challenging since I was using a hand pump but it was more to relieve pressure than to produce milk.

Tips for first-time pumpers: Obviously everyone’s body is different, but I think pumping consistently and till there’s nothing left for the first couple weeks is crucial. I don’t understand milk production or why some women have lots and some have none, but I had a generous supply with my son, which I attribute to pumping consistently at the beginning. It’s important to drink lots of water and eat a healthy and substantial diet. With two children fairly close in age, I found it very difficult to consume enough calories but absolutely loved having kefir yogurt drinks on hand. The probiotics in it are supposed to be great while nursing and it was so nice to be able to consume good calories with only one hand!

Thanks for sharing your story, Christa! Have any of you decided to pump exclusively for the first year? We’d love to hear your experiences on our Facebook page!