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.
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!
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?