Monday, August 8, 2016

Exclusively Pumping is Breastfeeding Too

I initially wasn’t going to post during World Breastfeeding Week because I kind of, sort of feel shortchanged. But then, I decided that no, I breastfeed my child just like all these other mamas out there, and I work damn hard to do so. Instead of sitting this one out, I’m going to open up (a lot) to educate the public on my situation, as it’s more common than you’d think, and many of us have been attacked by nursing moms in public. (seriously – we receive glares from strangers, disapproving looks from nursing mamas because we’re feeding our babies what they assume is formula (which, by the way, is NOT evil; it’s actually amazing stuff that keeps babies all over the world nourished, full, and healthy when they couldn’t be fed otherwise for whatever reason), we are told we pump because it’s “easier” (hahahahahahahaha - if you call packing empty bottles, flanges, a pump, tubes, a cover, bottles of milk, a cooler packed with ice everywhere you go, all the while praying there's a power source where you're going "easy", okay), we’re told we didn’t try hard enough and gave up too easily, we’re told that there is no baby who can’t latch on and breastfeed the “normal” way – the way they were meant to – the “natural” way… guys, I WISH I were kidding.

When I was pregnant, I longed to be able to nurse my baby. I wanted that special bond. We took a breastfeeding class that assured me that it would be a piece of cake – and if not, there was a lactation consultant available at our hospital for free who would help us figure it out before we went home. That never happened. Even the lactation consultant, after many tearful visits before we left the hospital and after we were discharged, agreed that nursing just wasn’t going to work for us. I was devastated to say the least. After my delivery didn’t go how I’d planned, this was another huge blow.

But thank God for modern technology and a double electric breast pump. I have a love/hate relationship with the Medela Pump In Style Advanced (or how I like to call it – PISA, otherwise known as PISA Shit, haha). Why does this matter?

You see, today is International Pumping Day. Weird, right? Why should there be a day devoted to doing something so uncommon? Because it’s not uncommon.

There are THOUSANDS of mothers out there who exclusively pump to feed their babies because nursing just didn’t work out for one reason or another. Some babies won’t or can’t latch, no matter what. Some have physical reasons, such as the baby having a cleft lip or palate, or a tongue or lip tie, making it too difficult to transfer milk. Some babies are born too early and are in the NICU, not strong enough to work their heart so hard by latching on, so they are bottle fed. Some moms have to work so many hours that they aren’t around to nurse their babies. And some simply choose to pump instead of nurse.

I’m one of the lucky moms: Annabelle doesn’t have any medical issues, and she’s certainly strong enough to eat however she pleases. But that’s where things get tricky – since day one, she has rejected my milk straight from the tap. She loves it if it’s pumped for her and put in a bottle. Lazy? Maybe. Crazy? For sure. All I know is that I have spent an enormous amount of time hooked up to a machine doing my baby’s job over the past 11 months.

I have pumped at home, in friends’/family members’ homes, all alone, in front on people, in the car, in the airport, in the bathroom, while crossing the border into Canada (and back, just for good measure), and more places that I’m SURE I’m forgetting. 

Check out these stats:

Days Spent Pumping: 337
Number of Pumps: 1,481
Time Spent Pumping: 493.67 hours (or 20.5 full days!)
Ounces of Milk Pumped: 8,648.5 oz. (or about 68 gallons)

Crazy, right?! But there are thousands and thousands of us (seriously – we have private Facebook groups to discuss what’s normal, share tips and tricks, and simply chat, one pumping mom to another). This may not have been the route I was planning on taking, but this isn’t MY journey. This is Annabelle’s journey.

See that ring in the picture down there? Yeah, that’s made out of my breastmilk. At first, I thought it sounded weird… but the more pumping took over my life, the more I thought it was an incredible way to remember this difficult journey… so Dan got it for me for Mothers’ Day.

While I am so thankful that I have been able to provide her with my milk for all of these months (and one more month full time – and then she’ll get four ounces a day until my stash runs out, which is apparently the magic number of ounces babies need per day in order to reap the benefits), I am still sad that nursing didn’t work out. I know that I would continue feeding her that way until she wanted to wean, but instead, I am cutting myself off at one year simply because I just don’t have time. I will be gaining so much time back when I stop pumping – time I can spend with Annabelle, teaching her new things, taking her on adventures, and being a better mom.

After all, does it REALLY matter what we feed our babies? Breast milk from the tap… breast milk from a bottle… formula from a bottle… newsflash – our babies don’t know a dang difference, and they love us just the same. They think we’re super rockstar mamas, and they’re happy to be fed. Fed babies are happy babies, am I right?!

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