Is Pumping Your Way of Breast Feeding?

Not to be a Debbie Downer, but I’m just going to say it: exclusively pumping breast milk sucks, and I’m not just talking about the pump sucking.

Austin Moms Blog | The Struggle & Heartbreak of Exclusively Breast Pumping

When I was prego, I always planned on breastfeeding my son. My mom had breastfed both me and my brother with no problem so I figured I’d do the same. Easy peasy. What could be more natural than a mother breastfeeding her newborn?

Well, what’s that expression? (Wo)man plans and God laughs.

In the hospital Cade wouldn’t latch to the point that the nurse eventually told me if he didn’t eat within an hour they’d have to run a blood test on him. My mom and I sweated it out for that whole hour trying to stay calm and help him latch. He finally did, and though not for long, for long enough to stave off needles.

Things started out better at home but like any new mom, I was EXHAUSTED. When I was able to pump 3 oz for a bottle, I was over the moon. Mom/Hubby could feed him and I could sleep. Woohoo!

Backfire.

They fed him that one bottle all right. And then all he wanted was a bottle. Enter my weeks of exclusive pumping. I went through days of delirious, sleep-deprived sobbing trying to help him latch, just to break down and pump a bottle so I could give him something. I distinctly remember telling my super-mom, breastfeeding-champ girlfriend “I broke breastfeeding.”

In the middle of it, I had conflicting advice from everyone close to me. Some pressuring me to keep trying – it was the healthiest option for him – others saying to give him formula – to put my sanity first. Everyone meant well but ultimately it didn’t feel like anyone could help, that is, unless they could breastfeed my baby for me. (No takers on that one.)

In a lot of ways I was lucky. I was producing plenty. Cade would drink a bottle and was gaining weight. When I started supplementing with formula, he was accepting of that too. And ultimately, he did latch again after about 6 weeks.

Those exclusively pumping weeks were long, long weeks of double duty: offering my breast, pumping, bottle feeding and then cleaning the pump and bottles.

If you are pumping breast milk around the clock for your baby, here’s what I want you to know:

  1. You are not alone. Not every mom can breastfeed while line dancing and not every mom can confidently choose formula. Pumping breast milk might not be the most common option but it is an option and other moms like you are doing it.
  2. You are not broken. Your body is producing the most glorious nutrient! No matter how you get it into that sweet baby’s body, it is rich and nutritious. You are working and working hard.
  3. Small victories matter. Exclusively pumping for 6 months or a year can sound daunting and overwhelming yourself is a recipe for failure. Give yourself manageable goals and feel proud when you reach them. Every single feeding you give your baby is a victory.
  4. You are in charge. You’ll probably discuss it with your spouse but ultimately you, not them, not your mother, not your mother-in-law, not your nosy neighbor, you are in charge. You decide if you can keep up the rigorous pace of pumping; you decide what is most important for your baby’s well-being. Your decision as a loving, caring, and realistic mother is right.

About 8 months after I completed my breast feeding journey (which was roughly 7 months long in total), a sorority sister and fellow new mom wrote this blog post on her experience pumping. Who knew that right when I was going through my dark days with the pump, a girlfriend of mine was doing the same darn thing hundreds of miles away!? Knowing Kim did it helped me know, after the fact, that I was not alone, I was not broken, small (and big) victories do matter and we moms are definitely in charge.

Is pumping your way of breast feeding?

 

 

, , , , , , ,

12 Responses to Is Pumping Your Way of Breast Feeding?

  1. Caroline March 10, 2015 at 9:05 pm #

    It is such a relief to know that other Mama’s are dealing with the same struggle I did. My baby girl is 10 weeks today and I can proudly say I cried, iced, and suffered my way through those rough nursing experiences and now actually look forward to nursing her. I had to exclusively pump for four weeks while suffering from yeast infection of the breast (a real thing) and mastitis back-to-back. Without the support of my husband, I would have given up. I am so proud of my accomplishments with breast feeding and my advice to all new Mama’s is don’t give up!

  2. Andrea March 11, 2015 at 4:45 pm #

    Thank you so much for sharing! My story began similarly. We had a lot of difficulty latching and I exclusively pumped for 4 weeks before my baby began to latch consistently and we could ditch the pump. At the time, I only read stories of moms with NICU babies pumping and couldn’t understand why my healthy, full-term baby wouldn’t latch. So glad this info is out there for others who may be going through the same thing!

  3. Liz March 14, 2015 at 7:46 pm #

    i just couldn’t get my newborn to latch on without a nipple shield, and a few weeks in my husband wanted me to pump so he could be part of the experience (which was so weird coming from an almost 40 year old that swore he never wanted kids) so I reluctantly tried it, worrying that it wasn’t good enough for binding, but I loved that he wanted to be a part of the experience and I hated the process of trying to get her to latch on. It turned out to be the answer. I almost exclusively pumped, then fed from then on and we all enjoyed feeding time so much more!

  4. Michelle March 14, 2015 at 9:18 pm #

    i had just the opposite problem. My son wouldn’t take a bottle. Despite numerous efforts by several people, he never did take a bottle. At about 6 months, we slowly worked in sips from a cup, just tO giv me a break. By 9 mos he would drink enough for a small feeding and at 12 mos, I surrendered. It was one of the longest years of my life!

  5. Pam March 18, 2015 at 7:40 pm #

    I am currently at 9 1/2 months of EPing. My daughter BFed at the beginning but my letdown was too slow for her and she would get mad and just cry. I honestly don’t remember when we switched, 2 or 3 months. I would breastfeed her at night, but only the left side because she hated the right side. A few weeks ago she came down with the croup, and there went the night feeding. I don’t make enough to save any, I use it as fast as I make it. I have to suppliment with formula some days because it’s just not there that day. I have cried and cried and cried over this issue. My husband thinks I should stop, that this is enough. I told him that’s not an option. We *will* make it until she turns one at the beginning of June. Then we’ll see what happens. I absolutely hate breastpumping. I hate the way it feels. There are times I cry the entire time I’m pumping. I’m so ready to be finished, but it’s not time yet. I have told myself all along, if I could just make it to 6 months. To 9 months. Now to 12 months. I’m almost there!

  6. Jenny March 19, 2015 at 8:15 pm #

    Your experience sounds really similar to mine – my little girl Evelyn breastfeed fine until just about 3 months. We introduced a bottle around 2 months and she didn’t seem to have an issue going back and forth from breast and bottle. But by the end of the third month, each and every breast feeding session begin to provoke hysterical crying from Evelyn and she would not latch. I would cave and give her a bottle of expressed milk and then that became the routine. To avoid meltdowns, I just starting going straight to bottles of expressed breastmilk and this is then what Evelyn expected. It broke my heart and I felt like I had failed her. Everyone told me I had done an amazing job of breast feeding her for 3 months, but inside I felt like the biggest failure – and it’s something that no one can understand unless they have breastfed/attempted to breastfeed. My goal was to provide breastmilk to my daughter for her full first year and I would do whatever it took. People said I was crazy to do all the pumping and that she would survive just the same on formula, but to me, providing breastmilk for that first year was a gift. And I couldn’t bear not following through. There were bad days where I was going to quit, the never ending pump part/bottle washing, the nipple abuse/infections and the TIME (so much time) – but I would get to the end of each day and think, “It’s worth it, keep going.” I set a goal of getting to 6 months – once I hit that, I aimed for 9 months. I did my last pumping session on my daughter’s first birthday, December 18, 2014. 9 months of exclusive pumping and a full year of breastmilk. I was so proud of myself – I didn’t let the naysayers distract me from what I wanted to do for my baby. If anything, it made me more determined to keep going. It wasn’t easy and I know exclusively pumping made my life harder in a number of ways, but I’m glad I stuck it out. Mommas, do what feels right for you and your baby.

  7. Cheryl
    Cheryl March 20, 2015 at 1:01 pm #

    Thank you everyone for commenting! EP can feel really lonely sometimes and it is wonderful to see a community here!

  8. Rachea Pendley March 21, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

    I pumped exclusively for 12 months for my son who was born with a severe bilateral cleft lip and palate. I was told I could give up on breastfeeding because he physically couldn’t nurse and it was too hard for me to fit in the chore of pumping into my busy lifestyle.

    Well I considered “give up” as fighting words and I took on the challenge. I rented a medical grade Medela and forced my boobs into the dairy business.

    It WAS hard; in addition to dealing with my son’s facial reconstruction, I also worked full time and had another son (3 years) to chase around… And that’s not to mention keeping up with house and home. It was madness…

    Only two things kept me sane:
    1) family support (husband & parents who encouraged me)
    2) a hands-free breast pump bustier!
    Yup… The bustier was a game changer – and I highly recommend it.
    You simply strap yourself in, and let the pump do the rest… No holding required.
    So given the freedom of hands free pumping, I became a multitasking queen – I would pump as I commuted to and from the office, at lunch, during emails and phone calls… It was surprisingly successful; some days I really did feel like a dairy cow.
    As my son turned a year old, we naturally weened off the breast milk in favor of an increased variety of solid foods (easier for him than me, I think). Looking back, it was worth all the effort and I’m glad we chose pumping.

    Just thought I’d share what helped for me! Good luck to all you other “Bessie’s” out there!!!

  9. Amanda August 5, 2015 at 8:10 pm #

    My goodness, I am weepy just reading this. Little dude is almost 4 weeks and we have had one heck of a ride. In the first 4 days of his life, he dropped nearly 15% of his body weight and we began supplementing with formula. We kept trying as my milk came in, but my anatomy has proven a fierce adversary for my impatient little one, and feeding sessions devolved into me sitting sobbing as he wailed frustrated at my breasts. At his 2 week appointment, our pediatrician saw how absolutely desperate I was, and suggested we make a change. Now i pump and we combo feed, and little man is healthy and chunking up. I haven’t given up on BF’ing completely, but it helps me to feel better about the choices we’ve made knowing other mamas are in the same boat.

  10. nici Robinson March 14, 2016 at 7:49 pm #

    I have been exclusively pumping for almost two years. My son is fully dependent on a feeding tube. Breast milk will always be good for him, so I will continue as long as I can. EP’ing is a lot of work and many days you just want to give up. But I love the saying, “when you feel like quitting, remember why you started.”

  11. Brandi June 17, 2016 at 6:44 pm #

    I am so happy to come across this, as I’m connected to my pump now. My daughter is 2 1/2 months old and I’ve been EPing since she was about 3 weeks old. I couldn’t get her to latch correctly and it was unbelievablely painful. I occasionally try to get her to latch but it is still painful at times. I’m hoping that she will latch correctly soon as it can be more convenient at times. I am determined to have 1 whole year of breast milk for her. I have purchased 2 double breast pumps, one for home and one for work. I feel like a failure sometimes for not being able to do something for my baby that is supposed to be so natural. Thank you for this blog and comments! ?

  12. Crystal June 18, 2016 at 4:55 am #

    Too familiar for me too . my baby was c section , not by choice, and i didnt get to hold him for almost 3 hours due to sedation so the hospital supplemented him with a bottle and so getting him to latch was fun too. He still hasnt taken to it too well. Over 3 months old now and he will eat from me but not much, then i have to pump the rest.

Leave a Reply