Breastfeeding didn't work for me and my son.
That is a whole long story that I've shared in a previous blog post. The end result though was me pumping every 2-4 hours for 12 months. For the first 5 months or so I woke up in the night, despite that my son was sleeping through the night from 5 weeks on. I was afraid to let myself sleep through the night because I thought my milk would decrease if I did. Then eventually I slept overnight and the milk was OK.
It was a big decision, a huge effort and took tons of dedication on my part, I admit. It is something I'm very proud of having accomplished, and yet something I have zero clue on how I stuck with it. Everyone I talk to congratulates me, thinks I am amazing, albeit a fool, for exclusively pumping. They tell me it must have been such hard work, harder than just nursing.
For me, it was about starting with small goals (pump today, pump this week, pump until maternity leave is over, pump through the summer...) until I just could not quit because I wanted to prove something to myself for some strange reason. I told myself it was my job during maternity leave. Once that was over and I returned to work for a few weeks I said to try to get through a few days of pumping at work. I worked in a school, so only had a few weeks before summer vacation. I ended up getting through that first week back to work, told myself to continue just until summer. Summer came and went and I decided pumping would be my job again during the summer off from work. By the time fall came around my son was 7 months old and I just could not allow myself to quit. I'd come too far. I had to prove to myself I could do this. It had nothing to do with not liking formula - we had supplemented with that in the first and the last months. It had nothing to do with being a great mom or proving something to others or feeling guilty stopping providing breastmilk. It was truly about proving to myself I could keep with this big goal I totally thought would not work for me early on.
I pumped in my car in behind buildings. When it was time to get a new car half-way through my son's first year I told my husband the only thing I really needed was tinted windows for my pumping escapades in the car! I had a car charger for pumping and yes, I'll admit I've pumped while driving (one at a time so a hand on the wheel at all times, don't worry!). I pumped at work and had a system of putting up a bright orange poster on my window of my office door and a do not disturb sign, which people came to know what it meant. It was a process...
On the days these next two pictures were taken I don't really remember all I did those days, except having to pump in my car! The first picture is of my sister-in-law holding my son. I had her keep him while I ran out of the baby shower I was attending to go out to my car to pump. The next picture is of my good friend on the day we went shopping for her wedding. I left her in the store while I went out back behind a shopping mall to pump. Oh the creativity and challenges of pumping!
Why choose to strictly pump?
There are a number of reasons why women choose to pump, exclusively or even a little bit. Whatever the reasons, it's easy to feel alone in your decision because most people are in one of two categories - breastfeeding or bottle feeding formula. Most don't exclusively pump. If people do use a pump it's in conjunction with nursing. It's easy to be misunderstood and feel like nobody gets what you are doing.
Resources for Pumpers!
I searched the Web and a few books for some info. I didn't find tons, but wanted to share what I came up with. Check it out!
The best book I ever read regarding pumping and nursing issues was The Milk Memos by Cate Colburn-Smith and Andrea Serrette. It has tons of real stories that help you feel less alone in this crazy pumping process.
Article - Mothers Who Forgo Breastfeeding for Pumping by Nancy Mohrbacher
Article - Choosing a Breastpump
Article - Why Women Choose to Exclusively Pump Breast Milk by Stephanie Casemore
Article - Women Who Opt for Breast Milk, Not Breast-Feeding by Catherine Sharick, Time Magazine, May 2010 - An incredible article that will make you feel less alone if you choose exclusively pumping!
Pump Mom! A great blog by a woman who exclusively pumped, a bit old, from a few years ago, but still interesting to read.
Several Facebook pages/groups:
Exclusively Pumping Moms
Exclusively Pumping Breast Milk
Exclusively Pumping Moms (because we want the best for our kids)
What you need to be a strict pumper:
1. A reliable double electric pump. I used Medela, which I hear is the best by many mommy friends, but just as long as it's double and electric that's what matters to make the most of your time and efforts.
2. A cooler bag with ice packs to transport your milk after pumping.
3. A car charger for your pump - just in case!
4. Spare pump parts (when you are a strictly pumper you will go through those little white pieces called membranes... and if you bust one of those without realizing it you could think, like I did for 4 days, that your milk has dried up!).
5. A towel or as I used a burp cloth to put under your bra while pumping, especially at work so nothing drips.
6. Supportive nursing bras and nursing pads.
7. A good set up at home of where you will pump every few hours. Needs to be comfortable for you. Couch? Chair in your bedroom?
8. Breastmilk freezer bags for all of your liquid gold!
9. Above all, you need SUPPORT. It's going to be a challenge to need to take a time out every couple of hours to do this pumping thing. Your partner especially needs to be on board so that they can take care of baby while you do your thing.
"It is difficult to argue that breast milk is not the best nutrition possible for our babies. When breastfeeding just doesn’t work out, you can not breastfeed, or do not want to breastfeed but still recognize the value of breast milk, there is another option instead of formula. Women need to know this. You need to know this. While it is sometimes a more difficult road to travel, it is one that will be worth the effort when you look into the eyes of your breast milk-fed baby." - Stephanie Casemore, author of the book Exclusively Pumping Breast Milk
This is the best personal account I've read, well really one of the few personal stories I've read about someone who chose to pump exclusively. I agree!
"People are so limited in their definition of breastfeeding, that the only way to get milk to your baby is through your breast. It's because nobody is thinking outside the box.
"One of the reasons I easily embraced pumping was because I believe in egalitarian parenting, and a nursing relationship does not involve the father. I don't care how many women say, 'Yes, but he goes to the bassinet to get little Johnny, and he stays up and rubs my shoulders while I nurse.' I don't care. It's still not an egalitarian parenting experience. I think, in some ways, Darren is closer to Baby because he had more infant responsibilities with her.
"I actually feel that pumping, not nursing, has been one of the most empowering experiences of my life, and it definitely helped define me as a mother and woman. Through that entire quagmire, and in spite of what anyone said I found what truly worked best for me and my child, not what was expected, acceptable, or the norm.
"My breastfeeding experience was proof that I actually can do it my way, and the hell with anyone else. I derived so much strength from bucking the system, and I ride on that to this day."
-Valerie Vass, Manchester, Vermont, from the book, Breastfeeding Cafe by Barbara Behrmann