Merelymothers is so proud to share this guest post by Laura, a fellow blogger at Stroller Parking Only.
“Are you breastfeeding?” I never know how to answer this question. My daughter drinks breast milk, but she only drinks from a bottle. I am an exclusive pumper.
“Why don’t you just breastfeed?” If only it were that simple. Believe me, if I could, I would. No pumping supplies and bottles to clean, no pump to lug around with me everywhere, no pumping schedule to adhere to in between feedings, and no reliance on that annoying machine that I hate to love.
I attempted to breastfeed, but my daughter was born with a tongue tie (ankyloglossia) which is known to cause breastfeeding difficulties. After much effort and many tears (my daughter’s and mine), I had to accept that breastfeeding just wasn’t going to work out for us. Because I wanted my daughter to receive the immunological benefits of breast milk, I elected to pump.
There are many reasons why a woman might choose to exclusively pump, but it generally comes down to wanting to provide breast milk, but being unable to breastfeed. Often the babies of exclusively pumping moms are not able to breastfeed due to prematurity or various medical conditions. Some of these babies may have spent time in the NICU. Other women find breastfeeding to be too painful. Some women do it because they have to go back to work soon after giving birth. Additionally, women who have experienced sexual abuse may choose to pump because the act of breastfeeding can trigger traumatic memories. The list goes on.
Despite our reasons for becoming exclusive pumpers, what unites us is a sense of being isolated from the breastfeeding community. After my daughter was born, I went to a breastfeeding clinic. All the moms were gathered around breastfeeding their babies and chatting. I was so jealous. “Show offs!” I thought to myself (even though I knew they weren’t actually showing off). I felt like a complete failure, and I was so embarrassed to be feeding my baby a bottle (gasp!), that when she got hungry, I left the clinic, and discreetly gave her a bottle on a bench in the hallway.
In addition to feeling like an outcast among breastfeeding moms, I don’t feel like I quite fit in with the formula feeding moms either. Their experience is different from mine because they are not chained to a pumping schedule, and thus have a lot more time and flexibility in their day. Also, formula feeding moms are not struggling with the breastfeeding-related challenges that pumping moms also face such as mastitis, supply issues, dietary constraints etc.
I will admit, there are definitely benefits to going the pumping route. I’ve always had the luxury of asking my husband to feed the baby, and he’s enjoyed this bonding time. I’ve never had to worry about finding a comfortable place to breastfeed. Another benefit is knowing exactly how much your baby is drinking.
But exclusive pumping is hard work-especially in the early days. After my daughter was born, I bought a hospital grade breast pump (which costs about $400), and I pumped every three hours, round the clock, for 10-15 minutes each time. Of course my baby’s feeding and sleeping pattern rarely coincided with my pumping schedule, so I never really got more than two hours of sleep at a time. The sleep deprivation and the constant washing of pumping supplies (each set has ten individual pieces) and bottles in combination with the intensity of caring for a newborn soon overwhelmed me.
I’ve gradually decreased my daily pumping sessions, and I am now down to four times per day. Even now, it’s still a significant disruption in my already busy day. I feel like a broken record when I say “Sorry, I can’t right now. I have to pump.”
I strongly consider quitting pumping on a daily basis, but I keep going. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s the mommy guilt. Maybe it’s the health benefits. Maybe it’s because I’m cheap and formula’s expensive. Maybe it’s because as much as I hate pumping, I am strangely attached to it. In the end, there will be no issues weaning the baby from the pump. She could care less what kind of milk fills her bottles. Weaning the mommy, on the other hand, is going to be a much more challenging endeavor.
Laura blogs at Stroller Parking Only (www.strollerparkingonly.com) where she writes about the joys, challenges and hilariousness of being a mom. She lives in Canada with her husband, her 9 month old daughter, and her obnoxious Labrador retriever who frequently steals the baby’s toys.