Time for a new mama story. As I approached my due date, I began to get more and more excited about breastfeeding. I had a picturesque image in my head. I was going to have that wonderful bond with my baby and he would latch perfectly when he was born. I bought all the neat breastfeeding gear I could and I was so ready.
“I was determined to do this.”
My insurance had been kind enough to give me a breast pump, but I wouldn’t need it, right? I was going to be 100% crunchy breastfeeding machine. Formula was way too expensive so this was the only logical thing that made sense. I mean, there’s no end to all the information about the benefits of breastfeeding. I was determined to do this.
When that insanely magical moment came that my son was laid in my arms I thought nothing could go wrong. Everything was perfect and he was here and I could hardly believe it.
But then as we were getting settled after the excitement of birth and the midwife’s assistants came to show me how to breastfeed, tragedy struck. They spent maybe 10 minutes showing me how to get my son to latch. They managed to get my son to latch, but in the whirlwind of birth and the sheer amount of exhaustion I felt, it was hard to remember everything they showed me.
“I finally caved and made him a bottle…”
After we came home, I couldn’t get the latch to happen again. For a nerve-wracking day I did everything I could to try to get him to latch. He wouldn’t. He couldn’t and it wasn’t his fault, it was my fault. I lacked the equipment in my body. I finally caved and made him a bottle from a formula sample I had on hand. He refused it. I was worried I’d killed my baby before I even had him in the world a day.
At our newborn check up, I frantically told my midwife all my concerns. She told me to start using my breast pump. A half hour every 2 hours to start to pump the colostrum and bring my milk in. Desperate about the fact that my son hadn’t truly eaten yet, I did that as soon as I got home.
I am now almost to a year of exclusively pumping. I was devastated when I realized I would never get to breastfeed and that this was all I could do.
At first I hoped the tissues in my breasts would loosen and soon I would be able to get him to latch. No such luck. By the time that happened, he was no longer interested in breastfeeding and he would cry if I offered him my breast instead of a bottle.
Driven on by sheer determination and the constant bombardment of all the healthy benefits for baby of breastfeeding I have kept pumping.
So, what is the cost of all this?
- You will lose sleep.
This is the understatement of the year. Everyone knows the saying, “Sleep when baby sleeps”. That is virtually impossible when you are on a rotating schedule of pumping and tending baby. In the beginning, I would pump whenever the baby slept which maybe left me 30 minutes to an hour to sleep in between taking care of him. Doesn’t sound to bad at first read until you consider that this is all night and day every night for the first 6 weeks.And it doesn’t end there. You will have a set schedule of pumping for as long as you want to give milk your baby. If you have hopes of sleeping in one day, douse them immediately because sleeping in too late will cause engorgement and possibly infection so you have to stick to you schedule.
- Your dishes will increase three-fold.
If you were planning to breastfeed, that involves exactly 0 dishes. With pumping however, not only do you have to make sure bottles are always clean, but you have to make sure your pump parts are always clean. I have to always make time to clean my pump attachments and bottles right after I finish a pumping session because if not done so, the pain of waiting to pump while you clean all your things with engorged breasts is ridiculous.
- Your work relationships will suffer.
I used to love going to lunch with my coworkers. It was a great time to release stress and enjoy some adult time away from baby.Not so with exclusive pumping. While my employer was generous in their policy in allowing time to pump breast milk, I found that I couldn’t be an effective employee without using my lunch time to pump. As a result. I couldn’t see my coworkers.
- Doctors may not understand.
I have had some kind of blockage no less than 5 times. It is very easy for you to get backed up if your pumping schedule gets thrown off or something is pressing against your boob in the wrong way. The first time I got mastitis, I had no idea that that was what is was. I felt unwell and came down with a fever. I spent a feverish night in increasing pain and made an appointment at the urgent care the next day.
The doctor did not understand. I attempted to explain that I was pumping and not ‘actually’ breastfeeding. After starting at me blankly for a few moments, his instructions to clear up my infection were to “keep breastfeeding with the baby frequently”.
- Your ability to travel will be limited.
If you have to pump every couple of hours, it makes it difficult to go do anything. Any trips lasting longer than an hour or two require careful planning and a ton of packing. You have to bring your pump, various pump parts, bottles, coolers, portable battery packs, batteries and everything else. While it’s a huge issue of whether or not to even breastfeed in public, it’s even more difficult to pump in public. Most places don’t have a ‘pumping’ room.I have been hauling around a massive bag full of pumping equipment wherever I go for the better part of a year. No I’m serious. I broke one large bag and moved onto this new bag of holding on that really does hold everything (affiliate link):
There is virtually no information on exclusively pumping. Most people assume that’s something you only do temporarily and not long-term. There are a few wonderful websites ( if you haven’t seen exclusivepumping.com Go now!) , but I always hungered for more information. You can always talk to your lactation specialist too if you have one.
Does this cost change my decision?
No. I am confident in the fact that I did the best I could do for my son. It was not the easiest path, and it is not concluded yet. Whatever your decision, or reality, when it comes to breastfeeding and pumping as long as you and baby are happy and healthy that’s the most important thing. To all the Mamas out there facing the same hardship, just know you’re not alone.