Breast pumping’s influence on your health and life: how to make the best of it
Motherhood is undoubtedly one of the most transformative experiences a woman will ever go through. Of course, there are a multitude of positives - the rush of love you’ve never felt before, those beautiful first smiles - just to name a few. But to pretend that it is all a buggy stroll in the park would be wrong. Motherhood comes with plenty of challenges - and we’re not just talking about needing to upgrade your iPhone storage because it’s full of cute baby pictures. From sleepless nights to a pelvic floor that no longer plays ball - motherhood can be tough on both your physical and mental health.
One of the biggest challenges many new mothers face is breastfeeding. Whether you struggle to breastfeed at all, or simply struggle to balance being a full-time milk bar with the rest of your life, there is lots of helpful advice out there. However, like everything that comes with motherhood, it has its pros and cons.
Of course, breast milk offers plenty of well-documented benefits for your baby - but what about for mum? Well firstly, breastfeeding or pumping can aid recovery from pregnancy and labour. There are studies that have shown that mothers who breastfeed seem to lose their baby weight quicker and more sustainably compared to mothers who bottle-feed with formula. Expressing milk also releases oxytocin, which helps the uterus contract back after being stretched to 500 times its normal size during pregnancy. That sweet oxytocin has benefits for your mind as well as your body.. The love hormone helps you bond with your baby and, in turn, seems to reduce the risk of postpartum depression. These positives apply whether you feed or pump - it’s all about getting that milk flowing!
There are some downsides to breastfeeding though, starting with how tough it can be on your boobs. Many women experience cracked nipples, bruising and pain and whilst it’s totally normal, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t get you down. It’s important to understand how to properly look after your breasts if you decide to feed and make sure you’re caring for yourself as well as your baby. Breastfeeding can also be hard for women that don’t feel comfortable breastfeeding in public, especially in a society that still seems to think it’s okay to shame women for doing something so natural. Researching your rights might make you feel a bit more confident and secure so you can feed without fear!
Even if you are super comfortable, and have managed to avoid cracked nipples (so lucky!), there’s no denying that breastfeeding can leave you feeling a slight loss of control. After nine months of handing the reigns over to your growing baby, it can be frustrating that you still don’t have full autonomy over your own body. From having to watch what you eat (and drink…) to needing to fit around their demanding feeding schedule, breastfeeding can take a lot out of you, which is why more and more women are deciding to breast pump.
Pumping can help alleviate some of these pressures, so both you and baby can enjoy the benefits whilst regaining a little freedom for yourself. Studies have shown that enjoying hobbies can have a dramatic effect on our mental wellbeing, which is never more important than when you are a new mom. Dedicating time for ourselves and our passions can also nurture our sense of identity, which is something else mothers can also struggle with. Whether it’s going to the gym, spending time with friends or enjoying a walk in nature, pumping milk ahead of time means you can get back to doing the things you loved pre-baby, knowing that they are getting everything they need back at home. Hands-free breast pumps like the Elvie Pump can make you feel even more liberated, allowing you to multitask and pump on the go, freeing up more time to enjoy with your baby or your hobbies.
Pumping can empower you to reconnect with yourself professionally as well as personally. Breastfeeding can sometimes feel like a full-time job - which can be stressful when you want to return to your actual job. 1 in 4 US mothers returns to work just two weeks after having their baby and in the UK, shared parental leave is becoming increasingly popular - so, it’s unsurprising that breast pumping at work is becoming more commonplace. With the rise of hands-free pumps - that means you can now pump at your desk - it’s becoming simpler and easier to merge the worlds of motherhood and career. Returning to work can do wonders for our confidence and our sense of self, but it can also be a trigger for Mom guilt. Breast pumping can help lift those guilty feelings, as you know whoever is looking after your baby - be it your partner or another form of childcare - they are getting all the nutrients of your breast milk, even when you’re not there.
If you’re ready to enjoy the benefits of breast pumping - here are our top breast pumping tips to help you get started:
- Buy a mini-fridge and cool bag for the office - that way you’ll be able to pump at your desk and keep all your milk fresh for when you take it home.
- Pump in the morning - this is often when your milk supply will be at its highest point so if you are struggling to get enough milk, try pumping first thing.
- Massage your breasts - whether you are breastfeeding or pumping, giving your breasts a gentle massage can help encourage milk flow
- Think of your baby - if you’re pumping away from your baby, make use of all those cute pictures on your phone! Looking at or even thinking about the baby will help your milk come in.
- Try pumping whilst feeding - if you are at home but simply want to stock up milk for a later date, try feeding baby on one breast and pumping on the other - nursing will trigger the hormones needed to get your milk flowing.
Motherhood is a constant battle of balance and using a hands-free breast pump is just one of the ways you can ensure both you and baby are getting what you need to lead a healthy, happy life. Whilst your baby needs all the amazing nutrients of breast milk - you need to be able to live life for you as well - pumping lets you achieve both.