Get comfortable— for the next few blog posts, I want to focus on infant feeding.
Before a baby is born, we have the best intentions to breastfeed. It's biologically normal and most people are able to learn how to do it with the right help. But it's not that simple.
There are two parties involved when it comes to breastfeeding, parent and baby. And while we get to know our baby from the inside of our bodies for roughly nine/ten months, we don't know in advanced what challenges might await until baby latches…or doesn't.
No parent, after a baby is born and says, “I can't wait to hook my boobs up to a machine to pull the milk out,” but for some of us, that's what we have to do.
From lip ties to tongue ties to returning to work, many mothers have to contend with electric and manual pumps.
I, myself, have been manually pumping for going on ten months! That's right. My hands are SO strong now (and uh…arthritic). Below is one mother's very difficult journey into Exclusively Pumping. What. A. Badass.
Exclusively Pumping; Exclusively out of Desperation
I planned to breastfeed throughout my pregnancy. I got a pump through my insurance company but I planned to nurse my baby exclusively when I wasn’t working. I was looking forward to the bonding experience and selfishly, I was looking forward to being able to say, “Hey look! Not only did I birth that but I can feed him, too! How amazing am I?”
Then he was born. He latched right away (or so I thought). But a few hours later he was screaming. Lactation consultants were there to help and assured me we would figure it out. “Just keep trying,” they said. I hooked up to a breast pump for the first time 15 hours after giving birth. “It will help your milk come in,” they said.
I sat in that hospital bed and pumped for the first time watching my husband bond with and feed my child with (gasp!) formula. 15 hours and I had already failed.
My milk came in and things were looking up, but he still didn’t consistently latch. He cried. I cried. Day after day. After a couple weeks and little weight gain I packed us up and we went to see a lactation consultant at the hospital. Diagnosis: lip tie + tongue tie. We had the tongue tie snipped, but he and I just couldn’t figure out the whole breastfeeding thing.
My baby was hungry and losing weight. I actually had an oversupply of milk so I made the only decision that made sense – become an EP. Exclusive Pumper. Problem solved, right?
Wrong. My postpartum mind made me resentful. I resented my baby for not being able to latch. What kind of mother resents their baby? So I resented myself for that. I made my husband do every bottle feed and I pumped for the duration of the feed. I told myself that it was to keep a regimented schedule and maintain supply but honestly, I couldn’t bring myself to hold a bottle for my baby. So I resented my husband while he fed and bonded with my baby. These were dark times. It was months before my postpartum mind cleared enough for me to be able to forgive myself and feed my own baby with a bottle.
I returned to work and fell into a 4-pumps-a-day routine: 5am, 10am, 3pm, 8pm. I followed this strict schedule every day for 18 months – weekends, holidays, and vacations included.
There were moments I was positive my machine was shouting expletives at me with its rhythmic pulsing. “Fuck you, too,” I’d whisper back.
Please be assured that I don’t hate myself or resent my baby anymore. if you’re feeling similarly to how I felt, please get help.
EPing is hard but it’s doable under the right circumstances.
A few things in my favor:
A devoted partner. He’s seriously the real MVP
I responded well to a pump.
A respectful, accommodating, & understanding workplace.
An office with a door/pumping room
Places I’ve pumped:
Retail center parking lots
First of all, thank you Brittany for your honesty and willingness to share. There are more dedicated moms like Brittany out there, silently fighting the good fight with their pumps. Secondly, it is important to get help, as a new parent, when we feel like the postpartum blues continue—like maybe what we are experiencing is more than a fog. I’m glad Brittany mentioned this. Mood disorders are more common than we think. People just aren’t reporting them! Please, get help. It’s hard enough to juggle expectations with reality. You shouldn’t have to also battle yourself .