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Danielle's Story: Reflections on exclusive pumping and looking forward

Welcome back to our 'Milkbar Mamas' series where we speak to women all over Australia about how breastfeeding unfolded for them because nothing #normalisesbreastfeeding more than writing, speaking and sharing all things boobin' related.

From first time mamas to exclusive pumpers, those battling over and under supply, tongue ties, mastitis and everything in between, we are SO excited to share their words and experiences with you. We hope these stories will inspire, give you some tips for your own breastfeeding experience and help those walking a similar path to feel less alone.

Thanks for your time Danielle! Please tell us a little about yourself.

Hi I’m Dani and I have an Instagram page and support network for exclusively pumping mums in Australia. I started this page because of all the misconceptions and misinformation surrounding exclusive pumping in Australia as well it’s just the general lack of awareness of products and methods to make it easier for mums. It is quite a struggle balancing it with being a mum and now being pregnant with my second child, as well as working as a teacher, but it is worth it to try and get little bits of helpful information out there for people. There is a lot more awareness and accessibility to information of products for American mums and other mums overseas but very little support and knowledge about pumping in Australia. I want mums to feel empowered and like they can actually exclusively pump if they would like to or are forced into it and to know where and how to get products that could work for them. I was interviewed before for world breast pumping week and have been chatting a little bit with Milkbar breast pumps on and off with their amazing products and support for mums.

When we interviewed you last time you were several months into your exclusive pumping journey. Now that you have weaned from the pump, how do you reflect on your journey from early challenges of breast refusal and a tongue tie, to triple feeding, to exclusive pumping.
I am grateful for all of the support that I had at the time. Even though many of the healthcare professionals that I dealt with knew very little about exclusive pumping they were very supportive of my journey and of me giving it my best shot. There’s a lot of information about exclusive pumping that I wish was more common and that I had known from the get go but that has all been part of the process of starting the Instagram page. The weaning process was much less emotional for me than I thought and this was because I ended up weaning due to finding out I was pregnant and just feeling like I needed my boobs to myself for a little bit. As well as hoping to get a little bit of extra energy from not creating milk any more.
As I reflect on the journey as a whole I can’t help but wonder every day about whether I could’ve done something differently to direct feed. But in the end, I love so many aspects of pumping and I love all the information I’ve learnt. And the more I have learnt now that I am finishing up my certified lactation counsellor course, the more I see that I think I did try everything that I could, as did the many lactation consultants who assisted me. I was so lucky to have the infinite support of my husband and other people around me supporting me in my desire to give breastmilk to my daughter.
I think that I could talk myself in circles through all of the challenges and the what if‘s and the ending up at on exclusive pumping. Every avenue of feeding has its challenges. And it was a rough first 8 weeks of triple feeding and refusal et cetera, and pumping ended up being much better for our little family mentally. And my daughter thrived.
Sometimes us mother’s get to choose when we wean our children, other times eternal factors lead to the weaning. What factors influenced you to wean from the pump?
My goal was always to get to 12 months of giving breastmilk. That ended up turning into wanting to give 12 months of fresh milk, as I was lucky enough to have a significant freezer stash. But I wanted, for the purposes of daycare and all the sort of logistical factors, to be able to produce fresh milk until that one year mark. Once I hit that mark I was deciding to slowly start cutting down my pump sessions and cut down to perhaps two pumps a day and see how my milk supply went. However, I ended up finding out I was pregnant, and while at this point in time it hadn’t significantly damaged my supply I chose to start slowly weaning to give myself that little bit of a break before the next round. So my pregnancy was my main factor that influenced my weaning from the pump. It took some medication to get my first daughter, so while this pregnancy was definitely planned, we did not expect it to happen without some extra assistance. So we are very lucky and thrilled for our next little girl.
Your Instagram account @to.the.pump.and.back has just celebrated its first birthday, and currently has over 6000 followers! Congratulations. You’ve built an amazing source of pumping advice, support and product reviews for fellow mothers. What inspired you to start and what are your plans for the account in the future?
Thank you! I absolutely never thought it would get so big. When I started I thought ‘Oh my gosh. If I ever even got to 2000 followers that would be wild.’ And here we are! Surpassing that!
I spent so much time researching exclusive pumping in those early days of stress and drama and triple feeding. I started pumping at 3 days postpartum in hospital as my daughter had breast refusal and then a myriad of other things. The day I decided to switch to exclusive pumping I ordered a whole bunch of products that I had researched. But so much of the information and so many of the products were quite hard to access in Australia, as America just has so much more of a wide range of options. I felt like I spent all my days googling and rambling and talking about pumping that my husband kept encouraging me to start my own Instagram page for Australian pumping mums. So I did! Unfortunately there is so much misinformation and misunderstanding out there even from healthcare professionals who are helping to look after new mums and babies in regard to pumping and I wanted a place to help clarify and consolidate information for people stuck in the pumping bubble - or more accurately abyss of isolation and confusion.
No,honestly I don’t know what the plans for the future of to the pump and back are. Once I become a qualified certified lactation counsellor I will feel a bit more legitimate, and I will feel qualified and more knowledgable in other areas of lactation. I hope to continue to be a resource and listener to followers and friends. I hope to think about doing pumping consults in the future if I feel I can manage it. I hope to post much more informative and interesting content when I’m lactating again, and hopefully the more accessible and prominent quality pumping products become, I can review and talk more about these.
What was the most valuable source of knowledge that helped and supported you on your exclusive pumping journey?
The other pages in the instagram and internet pumping community. And just the internet in general. I particularly loved Amanda Glenn’s blog, Exclusive Pumping. There are many other pumping pages out there, mostly all American. So my aim was always to adjust information, sourcing products and advice to Australian accessibility.
Armed with the knowledge and experience that you’re gained feeding your first child, do you have a game plan for feeding when baby #2 arrives?
At this point in time there is information I have gained about those first few hours after birth and how I might be able to tweak things a little bit to see if I can change anything. Although my first daughter did feed quite well for those earlier days. I just feel like I’m armed with more knowledge about frequency of feeding and how baby should be acting in those times. My daughter was very sleepy and I took this is a good sign but I now know from my CLC course that could potentially have meant she was hungry and that’s why she was going so long between feeds and sort of shutting down. All part of her issue of not drawing out enough milk to feed herself sufficiently in the rare times she would direct feed.
At this point I am hoping to give directly breastfeeding my best shot. But I will still plan to bring all of my pumping stuff to the hospital and be prepared for exclusive pumping if it eventuates into that as well. Neither my husband or myself are opposed to exclusively pumping again. However, the potential of not having to wash bottles and pump parts appeals to us greatly! So we will see how it all goes. I do love many factors about exclusively pumping such as not being so tether to your baby and being able to share the feeding and work around a schedule for pumping. As well as knowing for certain how much milk the baby is getting. But the appeal of the ease of travel, just getting out and about and again that lack of washing up is appealing about direct feeding. Although I know it is not an easy feat either by any means!
Thanks Danielle!
If you would like to know more about exclusive pumping tips, support and product reviews from Danielle, head to her page  @to.the.pump.and.back

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