Are you up at 3 a.m. reading this? Bleary eyed, squinting at the bright, white glare of the screen, with a bone deep exhaustion that makes you feel like you will never be well rested ever again?
Perhaps you are propped halfway up in bed nursing, encouraging your baby to latch, despite shooting pain from sore, cracked or even bleeding nipples. Begging your baby to stop crying and to please nurse.
Or maybe your back is starting to cramp and your arms are aching from holding the baby for almost 45 minutes in the middle of the night, but you don’t want to stop because you are not sure if the baby got enough milk.
Maybe you are sitting at your dining table in the dimmed light, strapped to your pump as goosebumps sprout over your cold skin, while rooting for the suction to squeeze out just one more ounce.
And 30 minutes later, when the pump can no longer get out even a single additional drop, you look at your bottles or your pump bags and realize that you may not have enough milk for the nanny or daycare, and a now familiar feeling of stress and worry washes over you.
Maybe you are at the kitchen counter prepping a bottle of formula, worried about that comment your friend made the other day about “those moms who bottle feed.”
Now — take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay.
I want you to know that while it may feel like it right now, you are not alone. There are other mamas around the world right there with you. They, too, are pumping with their fingers crossed, mixing bottles of formula, smearing ointment on cracked nipples, wringing their hands over ounces of breastmilk, and coaxing babies onto their boobs.
Ignore the highlight reels you see splattered over social media as you are scrolling through your phone. Forget them, those images are an illusion. There are so many other women who are in the same place as you. You are trying, you are getting through it and you will continue to persevere and thrive.
Don’t compare yourself to someone else’s highlight reel — instead, find your own community of mamas and vent and hug and cry over the insanity of it all.
Reach out and support one another.
When your children are grown, what you are experiencing right now will be a distant memory, reflected upon with nostalgia, awe and, perhaps, even gratitude that you are no longer in that place at 3 am.
In the meantime, find your tribe, your mom’s group, your squad, your mothering circle — they are going to help you cope and thrive. And, if you’re lucky, hand you a piece of chocolate.
You’ve got this, mama.
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Like any fresh food, pumped breast milk needs to be stored properly or it can spoil. And the last thing a pumping mother wants to do is throw out precious liquid gold. Or, even worse, sicken her child with milk which has gone bad. Here are some guidelines to keep your pumped milk safe for baby.