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Guest Post: Breast Milk in a Bottle

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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

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. 

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7 comments… add one

  • Wendy July 15, 2012, 3:14 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing Laura, so much of your experience is comforting to read. I tried to breastfeed. I wanted to do it but it was painful and I hated not knowing how much milk my daughter was getting. And to be honest, it just wasn’t for me. I wasn’t comfortable and in turn, my daughter never seemed comfortable either. I know she was most likely getting my vibes. I actually said out loud a few times to people that I didn’t really like breastfeeding or it wasn’t working for us and you should have seen the looks of horror on their faces. So I stopped saying that and started making other excuses. Being phony is not for me and so I eventually just tried to avoid the breastfeeding discussions. In the meantime, I pumped and pumped. I loved knowing how much she was getting and I loved watching others feed her and feel connected to her. I already felt extremely connected to her and had tons of snuggle time with her. I also froze some of my milk so even after I was done pumping she would still have the benefits of my milk for more months to come. And I will do it all again if we have another child and next time, I will stand up tall in how I feed my child and challenge those looks a bit more. I just wish it didn’t have to be that way, why all the judgement? Those judgmental looks do more harm than good to a new mom’s self esteem. I hope as parents we (society)can all be kinder to each other and not make assumptions that one way and only one way, is the best.

  • Laura July 15, 2012, 6:36 pm

    Thank you for the comment, Wendy, and thank you for telling your story. I’m always interested to hear about the experiences of other pumping moms. I don’t know why there is so much judgement, but I’m looking forward to when my daughter is a little older, and the breastfeeding topic doesn’t come up so much. I’m really tired of explaining to everyone, and I don’t feel I should have to. However, I do like to share my experiences (hence why I wrote this post!) because I want other pumping moms to know that they are not alone.
    Laura recently posted..I’m Guest Posting at Merely Mothers TodayMy Profile

  • Dana July 16, 2012, 6:54 am

    What an amazing post – hats off to you for your commitment. I pumped after I returned to work, for both of my children. It was a challenge to plan a busy day around when I had to pump, but like you, I was strangely attached to it (and I am a bit cheap as well!)…
    good luck to you as you continue :)

  • Jesslyn July 16, 2012, 3:44 pm

    Hi Laura,
    Thanks for sharing your story. I am really touched by your motherly love for your child. I always believe that Children are God’s gift to us.

    @ Wendy,
    I am sorry to hear of all the judgement about breast feeding. Hopefully things will get better when your child is a little older. Most importantly, stick to what you believe. The rest will just be noises.
    Jesslyn recently posted..Comparison: Summer Infant Extra Tall Decorative Walk vs Lascal KiddyGuard Avant Gate- Black MeshMy Profile

  • Mommy Outside July 16, 2012, 3:51 pm

    Thanks for sharing Laura. When my daughter was born she was an awesome latcher and I had no issues with breastfeeding. I looked like it was going to be smooth sailing. However, my daughter has undiagnosed acid reflux and was a comfort feeder. If she was not nursing she was crying. I’m not exaggerating that either. I nursed her literally around the clock. I was all for pumping but also didn’t want to give up the option of breast feeding and I knew that nipple confusion could be an issue, especially in the first few weeks. I talked to the public health nurse and her opinion was that Molly was such a good latcher that she didn’t think she would have any issues go between the bottle and the breast. She was right, she readily took a bottle of breast milk and continued to nurse like before. Unfortunately the reflux caused a lot of issues and we had a really hard time getting help in those first couple of months so I did end up having to supplement with formula. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against formula, but there is A LOT of pressure these days to only give your baby breast milk and that was my plan. It just didn’t work out that way over the long haul.
    Mommy Outside recently posted..Adult Essentials Men’s Blog TourMy Profile

  • Meredith July 16, 2012, 8:36 pm

    Great post, Laura–I was a pumper as well. I always felt weird telling people that–like I was deficient in some way b/c we couldn’t “just breastfeed”–as if I would choose to cart around and wash all those pieces all the time! I would think the other moms were “showing off” too! Go you for sticking in out–that’s awesome.
    Meredith recently posted..The Magazines of Our Mothers: The Monday ReviewMy Profile

  • Jessica October 26, 2012, 10:20 am

    Thank you for this post! I am a mother of two and my first child would not latch properly despite many trips to the lactation specialist at the hospital. When I stopped caring what they thought and switched to pumping exclusively, I felt relief. A friend of mine is a lactation specialist and told me that 95% of exclusively pumping moms report that they quit within 1 month of switching to exclusively pumping. So kuddos to all of you that have kept up. I am proud to say that I pumped until 10.5 months with my son, but had enough frozen breast milk that he received breast milk until he was almost 14 months. I have had a completely different experience with my daughter as she breast fed well (if you had problems with the first child, I would encourage anyone to try with the second). However, I have an oversupply of milk (which has proven to be troublesome). Initially, I had to pump before breast feeding because my daughter was only getting foremilk. I finally got that under control, but found I was pumping several times a day in addition to breast feeding. At about 3 months, she started taking bottles at daycare. Since she has cut some teeth, I have had a few problems with biting, so I am really only nursing on the weekends now. I plan to stop altogether soon as she is 9 months old and I have a huge supply of frozen milk. I will probably stop around 10 months and she will likely have milk until she is 13/14 months too. I know I won’t miss the actual act of pumping (or washing the parts several times each day), however, I will miss being the one that can provide her the nutrition she needs. It’s a special feeling.

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