Frontline ER Physician And Stay-At-Home Moms Share Experiences With Pumping In A Health Crisis

by Angela Andaloro

It is an extremely unique time to be a new mom right now. Motherhood is beautiful chaos under the best of circumstances, but the health crisis has really put an emphasis on the “chaos” part.

Moms have been facing the reality that they can’t take their babies out. That means no meeting friends or visiting with family members. It also means no date nights to help new parents take the edge off. It’s a lot to take on for any mom, whether it’s your first child or your fifth. There’s a reason they say it takes a village, and it’s never been more evident than now. It’s made even more complicated for breastfeeding new moms who need to think about baby’s feeding needs at every turn.

Willow, a company specializing in breast pump products, hopes to relieve some of the stress that comes with breastfeeding and pumping for new moms. A leader in femtech, Willow’s mission is to redefine motherhood. The company has already helped over 70,000 women live without being at the mercy of their pumping schedule by using the Willow Pump. The pump is the first quiet, all-in-one, in-bra wearable breast pump.

Willow’s network of moms features incredible stories on what it’s like to be breastfeeding and pumping during a time like now. Willow put LittleThings in contact with two of those moms. Jessica Gombash is a frontline ER physician. Marion Haberman is a stay-at-home mom whose role has been redefined. They shared how their experiences with breastfeeding and pumping have been turned upside down.

The state of the world is incredibly upside down right now. As moms figure out how to navigate life with kids during a pandemic, two new moms are sharing their experiences breastfeeding and pumping. They’re part of Willow’s network of moms who are dedicated to building their lives around purpose and passion, not their pumping schedule.

Willow is a leader in femtech that sought to change the way women pump. The company created the first quiet, all-in-one, in-bra wearable breast pump, and it has helped more than 70,000 women redefine motherhood. Willow is the only in-bra pump that gives you the flexibility to pump directly into self-sealing, spill-proof storage bags or reusable containers.

LittleThings got the chance to ask Jessica Gombash about her experience. Jessica is a frontline ER physician who welcomed son Wesley just shy of a year ago.

“Things started to noticeably change in Ohio around March 2020. At that time my son would have been 9 months old. We had his second vacation planned to Florida in April and elected to cancel it,” she noted.

Thankfully, Jessica’s background put her in the position to be able to weed out fact from fiction when it came to the various claims that were flowing in the earliest days of uncertainty.

“There were a lot of unknowns at this time, and I didn’t know what the future would hold,” she said.

“I found things got easier the farther we got into the [health crisis] as more data and guidance came out.”

Like many moms, Jessica’s routine, both in her profession and as a mom, were upended.

“I work seven days in a row followed by seven days off. During my work week, my mother and mother-in-law watch my son. Because my husband and I are both essential workers, we did choose to continue to have our moms watch Wesley in our home,” she explained.

“Our day-to-day schedules have lengthened because now I have to leave early for work to change clothes, make sure I have a well-fitting N-95 mask, and stay late to shower,” she continued.

Jessica admits that while her work environment is a lot to handle right now, there are the downsides to being home as well.

“When I’m not working, the days are monotonous. The family is staying home much more than we used to. I love being together but miss going out to dinner, leaving the house for workouts, and seeing friends.”

Because of where she works and her son’s age, Jessica began cutting back on pumping at work. “It’s more complicated now to pump and maintain cleanliness,” she explained. When she does have to pump at work, she turns to the Willow.

“It has been a lifesaver. With this wearable pump, I disappear for 5 mins to get started then return to my work station to follow up on patient care and leave again to remove it. I wear it into patient rooms if needed.”

“With the pandemic, I’ve taken extra precautions while pumping to keep everything sterile, which Willow makes easy with self-sealing milk bags that I pump directly into. At home we nurse. Since we are home so much nursing has been often!”

If you think things might be easier for a stay-at-home mom, think again! Marion Haberman is the mom of two little boys, 3-year-old Max and 1-year-old Corey.

“I felt like I was just getting into a really nice groove as a mom of two little boys. My 3-year-old was loving his mornings at preschool, and my baby had just turned 1, so those long newborn nights and chaotic days had eased into a nice routine,” Marion shared.

“Both boys were also just entering a really lovely stage of starting to make their first real friends, and I had a strong supportive ‘mom troupe’ of my own.”

When preschool turned into homeschool, things got a little more complicated for Marion’s family. “Losing our preschool routine has been the most disorienting change,” she admitted.

“Instead of waking up, breakfast, backpacks, out the door, we now just sort of meander through ‘homeschool’ life. We have preschool Zoom classes, and they’re a huge emotional boost for all of us, but logistically they’re only about 20 minutes of a long, long day.”

Marion also experienced changes in her pumping and feeding schedule. “I actually added a feeding for my now 14-month-old who I had planned to wean at 18 months, initially because I was afraid that getting whole milk for him would be difficult,” she noted.

“We get our groceries delivered and have thankfully been able to avoid the stores, but that means there are times when things just aren’t available. Pumping with my Willow has always allowed me to multi-task, which now more than ever is essential as my hands are always full of two little wild boys! I pumped when my baby was teething and I was bleeding (ouch!) and when I need Dad to take on the baby’s bedtime to give me a break.”

We asked Jessica and Marion what challenges they felt were unique to new moms right now.

“As a new mom, I felt very isolated at times. With mandatory stay-at-home orders in place, this is an added challenge for moms,” Jessica said.

“New moms are usually at home 24/7 in the beginning. Now, it’s likely without the friendly visitors stopping by with food or to hold your baby while you shower. The isolation of maternity leave I imagine is more intense during this crisis. In addition, I think moms are always excepted to ‘do it all.’ Now that includes keeping your family safe during a pandemic.”

“It’s added stress. Moms are having to work from home, but, of course, you can never ‘clock out’ of mom duty,” she continued.

“Others are being furloughed and could be suffering financially. I feel for mothers that are having to choose between work and taking care of their children, especially with school and day care closures.”

Marion noted that the social aspect of parenting is missing in many respects. “I think there’s no way to truly see how your baby is doing compared to other little ones their age,” she said.

“For some moms, comparison can cause anxiety, but for me, it was a relief to see other babies and to know what’s normal and what isn’t. If you only see a baby from their beautiful Instagram photos their mom lovingly perfects, you have no real concept of what’s going on in other families.”

We asked these two warrior mamas what words of support they can offer to moms who find themselves in the same boat.

“As moms, so much falls on our shoulders. My advice to other moms is to take care of yourself,” Jessica said.

“Ask for help when you feel like you need it. It’s OK to be upset, anxious, or fearful during this pandemic. It is OK to be home all day with family and still feel lonely. You have to take time to ‘fill your cup.'”

“Take a walk, give yourself a manicure, soak in the tub (kid-free). If what you really need is to see your parents, do it — just do it safely. I have a constant line of communication with my other friends that are moms. It seems like no matter what I’m going through, they can relate, and I find this encouraging.”

Marion encourages moms to take the time to create memories with their kids while at home, even if they aren’t the ones they pictured early on.

“In years from now, your children won’t remember what you did each day; they’ll remember only a nostalgic feeling about what it was like to be home with you,” she noted.

“So if you can find a way to create moments of laughter, of silliness, or messiness, then you’ve created a memory of this time they’ll want to hold on to. Even better, you’ll look back and be nostalgic for these long (long!) days. Don’t count all the little things that go wrong each day; create a habit of holding onto the good, and your children will learn to do the same.”

Willow is currently on generation 3 of its pump, which retails at $499.99. It comes in three flange sizes — 21 mm, 24 mm, and 27 mm. It’s FSA and HSA eligible, making it easier than ever for moms to change their pumping experience.