Did you know that CT Working Moms has a Momfessions page? It is a place for all of us to anonymously share some of our best/worst motherhood confessions. One recently submitted Momfession caught my eye:
‘I was so traumatized from exclusively pumping for my son, who wouldn’t latch, that when my daughter came along I refused to pump, and when she didn’t latch and lost too much weight initially, we switched her to formula. Not breastfeeding or pumping was so freeing and wonderful. I felt like I had been given my life back. I was so ashamed though that I pretended to be nursing or pumping when talking to other “mom friends.”’
Girlfriend, I can relaaaaate! I have been wanting to write a final pumping post since I quit a couple months ago, but honestly, I’ve been completely pumped out. In fact, my pump bag is currently in the basement, filled with unwashed pump accessories from July. Because I Just. Don’t. Wanna. Deal. I got my life back when I stopped pumping, and there is no part of me that wants to relive those months when I was strapped to the thing around the clock. I am very glad that my baby got breast milk like I wanted her to, but if I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t think I could (almost) exclusively pump for another baby.
In case you don’t know, here’s why pumping sucks:
The washing, sterilizing, and maintenance. I was constantly at the sink, constantly boiling, constantly searching Amazon for deals on replacement parts. Over time, I did find shortcuts and tricks, but I lived at my kitchen sink.
It is SO time consuming. I pumped 6 to 8 times a day when baby was eating exclusively breast milk. My sessions lasted for 30 minutes, plus washing parts/bottles at every pump, plus an hour or more of power pumping on some days (10 minutes of pumping, ten minutes of rest, and repeat for an hour plus to boost milk production). I would say up to 5 hours a day devoted to pumping activities, none of which can be completed while holding baby, and none of which include the actual act of feeding the baby. Granted, my husband could do a feeding for me, but if you’re doing it right, you’re still getting up in the middle of the night to pump.
It is physically damaging. Slightly TMI alert: I am convinced that all the suction and especially the fact that I was pumping on or near the highest setting for the last few months caused some, um, tissue damage (I don’t know how else to describe it?) that seems irreversible. It isn’t pretty. It’s actually the worst physical change that has come out of pregnancy/motherhood for me.
It is obsession-inducing. My pump log ruled my life for the few months I kept it. A drop of a few ounces had me scrutinizing my diet, lengthening pump times, adding in pump sessions. I eventually had to quit tracking altogether because it became a little too consuming.
The gear. Pump, battery pack, tubing, valves, membranes, flanges, bottles, caps, cooler, ice pack… Not being able to leave my house for more than 2 or 3 hours without looking like I was going on a European vacation got so old so fast.
By far, the worst part for me was that there is very little support for exclusively pumping moms. There is no manual, no “pump consultant” to seek out at the pediatrician’s office, no What To Expect book for pumping. I made an appointment with my OB one time to discuss a drop in my milk supply, and to paraphrase, she basically told me to try harder to nurse. (Not kidding! Then when I started to cry in the office she gave me a postpartum depression screener. Not kidding!) EVERYTHING I know about pumping I learned on the internet or by my own clumsy trial and error.
To the mom who wrote the Momfession that inspired this post: Thank you for being so honest. Pumping is really hard! We are supposed to be grateful for the technology when we can’t breastfeed, but I personally tended toward the “bitter and resentful” side of things. Sometimes I feel like that makes me a terrible person, but most of the time I know that I’m just human. It’s ok to dislike unpleasant things.
To pumping moms: Keep at it! Pat yourself on the back as often as you can for the hard work you are doing. Work toward those goals you set, but also know that 3 months, 6 months, 12 months – they are all arbitrary. Pump until you and baby are done, and feel free to reclaim your boobs whenever you see fit. You are the only one who can determine what is right for you.