Exclusively Expressing: Lucy’s Story – My Breastfeeding Journey with Expressed Breastmilk

At Medela, it’s important that we recognise that many mothers choose to exclusively pump as part of their breastfeeding experience – and we want to share support and experiences for all mums on their journey into motherhood. Lucy shares her story of feeding her daughter expressed breastmilk and how she ensured her little one still got the amazing nutrients and life-changing benefits of mother’s milk.

Image with the wording Exclusively Expressing

At Medela, we are passionate about the unrivalled benefits of breastmilk and it is important to us to represent and support every mother’s breastfeeding experience, whatever it may look like. So, when we were contacted by new mum Lucy, we were inspired to share her story.

Lucy raised concerns that for those choosing (for whatever reason) to exclusively express as a feeding choice, that there is not enough support. She also felt that there should be more awareness for exclusively expressing as a long-term feeding option. We are so pleased Lucy reached out to us and have assured her we are absolutely committed to supporting all breastfeeding mums – whatever their experience.

Join us as we begin a new blog series, dedicated to exclusively expressing. First we hear from Lucy, but don’t miss the blog posts to follow in which our expert Sioned Hilton will answer all the questions she had along the journey.

 ‘My name is Lucy and I am exclusively expressing to feed my baby. I wanted to share my story in the hope that it might help other women out there who are feeding their babies expressed breastmilk and also to let others know more about it as a feeding choice.

Before my daughter was born, I had the mindset that ‘fed is best’. I was very aware that everyone’s feeding journey is different and special for a multitude of reasons – no two babies or mothers are the same. I knew I wanted to aim to breastfeed for at least 6 months, but I wanted to remain open-minded. I had realistic expectations of what breastfeeding would be like and I was up for the challenge! I wanted to have a positive experience feeding my baby, whatever that looked like.

Lucy and her Daughter

My daughter was born in February 2019, and, as births go, I think it went pretty well. When the midwife performed her first checks after she was born, she let us know that my baby had a tongue-tie and that it might affect her feeding. Having never breastfed before, I took the breastfeeding advisor’s word that she had latched on well, but in the back of my mind I felt that something wasn’t quite right.

When the midwife came to our house to do her first checks the next day, she wanted to see how we were getting on with latching and feeding. I was asked to feed her (which I thought I had been doing okay at), but despite our best efforts, she would not latch. She was getting more and more upset and the way that she was shaking her arms in frustration rang alarm bells with the midwife that she was very hungry.

We decided to head straight to our community midwife led unit and see if we could work with the breastfeeding specialist there, but still no luck. We tried many different positions, nipple shields, you name it, we tried it. It was getting to the stage that they were going to suggest we took her to the hospital. We then started to manually extract my colostrum and feed this to my daughter with a syringe and we saw some improvement.

At this stage I was introduced to the clinic’s large and very old single breast pump. It was all very overwhelming, and it really upset me; it was just so different to how I pictured nursing my baby.

In order to get food into our baby, we decided to use some formula until my milk was established enough to sustain her, I didn’t question that decision for a second. We were sent home with the breast pump and the plan was to return for a review a few days later. To accompany the breast pump, we were given a tiny cup to feed her with, rather than using a bottle, which did cause me a lot of concern.

A two-day old baby feeding from a cup? The idea behind this was to make sure she would still hopefully be able to latch on to my breast rather than introducing a bottle, but I found this strange as I had already tried to use a nipple shield under the health professional’s suggestion, which was seemingly acceptable. I personally found it hard to watch my tiny, hungry baby trying desperately to sip from a cup, like a kitten, but again, we just kept trying to succeed at what was deemed the ‘right’ way to breastfeed.

My amazing husband was on cup feeding duty, while I sat in the corner of the room pumping – I have to admit in these early hours I was very upset and overwhelmed. I desperately wanted to hold and feed my baby, but instead I was attached to a machine. However, my husband brought her to me while I was expressing and helped us bond with lots of skin to skin contact. This instantly made me feel better.

Looking back on it now one of my biggest frustrations was that, although the midwives were kind and very supportive, at no stage did they ask how I wanted to feed my baby aside from nursing her on my breast. We weren’t told of any other long-term options. It was never suggested that I could consider giving her my breast milk from a bottle and holding her in a way that still enables close bonding.

Expressing was deemed a short-term measure; nursing was always the goal, but we had been trying to get her to latch for over 3 full days with the help and support of the breastfeeding advisors and midwives and it wasn’t happening.

Although I consider myself to be a relaxed person, I was beginning to feel quite distressed.

At this point, I just so desperately wanted to hear a health professional say to me:

“It’s ok to use a bottle now. We have all tried our best to encourage her to nurse and it hasn’t been successful. However, don’t worry – if you like, you can exclusively pump and feed her your breast milk, which is the most important part of breastfeeding!”

I asked my midwives and breastfeeding support team which pump I should buy to continue with my feeding plan. I was recommended the Medela Swing, which I went and bought straight away. I used it successfully for a number of weeks but using a single pump and looking after my baby at the same time was challenging and time consuming, I wasn’t sure it was something I could continue long term. However then I got introduced to the double Medela  Symphony Breast Pump. It was amazing – it took my morning pump down to under 10 minutes.

This experience wasn’t what I expected, but I was determined to ensure whatever happened that my baby was fed and happy, so I made a decision to continue my breastfeeding experience as an expressing mum – I am so glad that I was strong enough, confident and able to take this path as it has worked for us and now, nearly 6 months later my daughter has had my breastmilk 100% of the time, every day.

I have now been exclusively pumping for 5 ½ months, getting closer to my goal of 6 months. Pumping for your baby from birth can be tiring but is very rewarding. I don’t feel like I have missed out on a bonding experience as you can still have skin to skin contact and hold your baby in a way that couldn’t feel closer.

As an exclusively pumping mother, I am feeding my breast milk to my baby with a bottle, so although it may look a little different, it is still my breastfeeding experience. Pumping has allowed my baby to benefit from all the goodness from my milk and I feel immensely proud that I am growing a beautifully healthy and thriving baby.

Lucy feeding her daughter expressed breast milk

It can be tough finding the correct information or support as a new mother, it can feel that despite all your best efforts, it still isn’t quite good enough. I really do believe this attitude needs to be readdressed, as I am sure I am not the only mum in this position.

This is why I’m so passionate about keeping the conversation going about different breastfeeding experiences, so no mother feels like they are doing it wrong, you are just finding the way that works best for you. 

Expressing might not be for everyone but with the right support, it can make all the difference. My husband and close family have been so helpful in my journey and have also had the opportunity to feed her, which I love.

The goal should always be for your baby to thrive and although your breastfeeding experience may look a little different to others, that’s okay too!’

Thank you so much to Lucy for sharing her story, we loved hearing about her experience. Look out for our next blog post which will be full of advice for fellow exclusively expressing mothers, from our in-house Lactation expert, Sioned Hilton. 

If you are planning on using a breast pump, we would always advise looking into the correct breast pump for your journey, our customer services team is always on hand to advice so give us a quick call on 0161 776 0400 or pop over to our Facebook page and drop us a message – we are always more than happy to help! Alternatively, check out our recent blog post on choosing the right breast pump for you.

Would you like to share your story? Email medelamums@gmail.com to find out more!