*Wordpress is going to tell you this post will take 74 minutes to read. I get it, it looks long. But I timed it. It’s like 5-6 minutes. Calm down, WordPress, you’re scaring people.*
Part one of a three-part series I want to do on what has proven to be such a widely debated issue among new moms and seasoned moms alike. First up, Exclusive Pumping Moms.
Dear New Mom Undoubtedly Racked With a Shit-Ton of Guilt for Pumping Instead of Nursing,
I nursed Lincoln for like, five minutes. After that? I used a breast pump. Breastfeeding was incredibly difficult for me due to my first-time-breastfeeding milk taking forever and a day to come in, a hungry newborn with a tongue tie, and an exhausted, emotionally overwhelmed new mom feeling like she’s already failing on day one.
Unsurpassable? I suppose not. I’m sure if I stuck to it and let Lincoln desperately try to find milk while crying and frantically communicating that he was hungry only to be met with mere drops, eventually my milk would’ve come in and eventually we both would’ve gotten the hang of it. Eventually.
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I’m hungry, “you’ll satisfy that hunger eventually!” doesn’t really do much. I supplemented with formula of course, but before doing so a nurse said she was required to asked me if I was ok with the potential for nipple confusion. At that moment I was so ready for him to be nipple-confused to his sweet little heart’s content, because I was dying a slow death. It was awful watching him so desperately wanting to be fed while I sat there helplessly unable to provide. I’ve never felt so useless in my life, being a pumper vs. someone who can nurse.
So I pretty much quit. I would take a whack at it every so often in the following days at home, just to see if we could make some sort of magic happen. Admitting defeat, I finally started to realize it just wasn’t for us.
Instead, I just stuck to pumping. Every 3-4 hours all day long, including one overnight pump at 12-1am depending on Lincoln’s schedule. About a week to a week and a half in, I finally saw milk spraying from my boobs.
From then on, I continued to spend months worrying about how much to feed him? And when? Would he gain enough weight? Would he gain too much weight? All of these things you don’t necessarily have to worry about when you’re nursing.
But? It gets better. Your milk (in a lot of cases) comes in and starts to surpass what baby is taking at each feeding. You can (typically) build a freezer stash. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you can even manage to freeze enough to stop physically pumping before you stop feeding baby your milk. And if you’re a “just enough’er” you get used to the extremely scheduled living and your pump just becomes a part of your life. You pump in the car, washing dishes, at parties, etc. I’ve personally been an over-, under-supplier and a just enough’er. With the one baby. 😂 #hotmess
Just stick with it if you can, and if you can’t, you tried hard and fought the good fight, and any breastmilk is a huge benefit so please leave it behind guilt-free and go enjoy your baby.
But before I leave you, just a few tidbits that I think are important for pumping moms to know and take to heart.
01. If it’s coming from your breast, it’s breastfeeding.
Let’s just make this one crystal clear. No matter how much nor how often certain members of the elite squad of dedicated women with babies hanging off their boobs like to act as though it’s not.
This does not include all nursing women. I have just personally known one or two who’ve acted to my face like they will always have a greater connection with their baby because he suckled from their tit on the regular. Or one that had nursed when her kids were babies that said something along the lines of “if you were breastfeeding…” to me, in some context or another. Not to mention I am a member of an EP group on Facebook where women are constantly admitting to feeling shamed by others for being pumpers instead of being able to nurse. Color me triggered.
But, to that I say, I don’t have to wean my baby from anything and he sleeps straight from 7:45pm to 7am and has done so pretty consistently since he was just under five months old, and I am not hearing the same from the other side of the aisle so… dealer’s choice, y’all.
But seriously. When a form asks if you are pregnant or breastfeeding as a precautionary thing? What the F are you supposed to say? No, I’m pumping? Give me a break. Girl, you’re feeding your baby with milk from your boobs. You’re breastfeeding. You’re breastfeeding your ass off.
02. It Is NOT Taking the Easy Way Out.
Funny. People like to say this about C-Sections as well. I’m starting to wonder why I was so miserable during the newborn stage since I took the easy way both at birth and afterward. 🤔 Did I even have a baby? Well, now I don’t know.
Trust me. Using a pump is not easier. In fact, I felt straight up robbed of the newborn days. I don’t know what it’s like to have a newborn and not be stressed out about feedings and if you’re over- or under-feeding. Whether you feed every time the baby cries or try and schedule them because you decide how much they get rather than them deciding. You die a little if that breast milk is wasted because you overestimated. If you underestimated, you have to figure out how much to add without going over. It’s brutal. It’s riddled with guilt. You cry a lot. It’s being tethered to an outlet several times per day deeply loathing the situation and the fact that you basically have to feed your baby twice to everyone else’s once. The actual feeding, and then the replacement of the milk you used.
Not to say nursing isn’t hard in its own way. It’s certainly difficult and I have a huge amount of respect for the women who do it. It’s a labor of love, especially in the beginning, that’s for sure. I’ve got a post dedicated to this and one to formula feeding as well. I see everyone. I just mean to dispel the idea that pumping is somehow the “easier way.” Like, it’s all hard, ok? Let’s just leave the martyrdom somewhere else. Cool?
03. It’s Okay to Quit.
I’m in a few groups dedicated to pumping. A couple for the pumping moms, and one for the ones weaning. I planned to wean a lot earlier. In fact, today, April 16th, was my original goal date to be completely done. My pump was supposed to be packed away in a box on a shelf somewhere waiting for the next baby, if needed.
At this very moment we were supposed to be in Wisconsin. Our first trip with the baby. Anthony had a work trip scheduled. But, alas, here we are, still in Connecticut, Anthony on furlough, me still draining my boobs twice a day, all due to the pandemic and me irrationally worrying about a formula shortage and the financial consequence of completely quitting pumping. Thanks COVID-19! You’re a real bitch, you know that? 😘
I know the guilt that comes with quitting. I set an original goal of six months of pumping. I was able to be exclusively doing so for several months of that goal. Once we reached six, I figured, I can go seven. And if I went seven, why not eight? And so on. Because it felt wrong to stop.
The most meaningful piece of advice I have ever heard during this pumping journey was in all three of those Facebook groups. It floats around rather freely in the pumping community, and it’s so important.
A baby needs its mom more than it needs her milk.
If you’re feeling like you’re being pushed the to brink of sanity because of your pump? STOP PUMPING.
If you’re filled with feelings of self-loathing because of how pumping makes you feel? STOP PUMPING.
If it just isn’t working with your schedule or lifestyle anymore and the negative is outweighing the positive? It’s okay to STOP PUMPING.
If you just plain don’t want to do it anymore? STOP PUMPING.
It is okay to stop. You have poured your heart and soul into this. I know it for a fact. I don’t care how long you’ve pumped for, nor if you feel as though you haven’t “tried hard enough.” You have. It’s simply a byproduct of any type of breast pump use. No one hooks up to a f*cking pump for fun. No one gets any enjoyment out of doing it. It’s pure necessity, whether you typically nurse or you pump exclusively. You’re a damn champion, and you’re allowed to hang up your tubing whenever you have had enough. Because it’s true. Your baby needs you, your sanity and your happiness way more than they will ever need your milk. 💖