Guest Post: Life as an Exclusively Pumping Mom

Today’s blog post comes from Rachel at The Purposeful Wife. Rachel blogs on purposeful Christian womanhood, homemaking, marriage, and parenthood to a beautiful baby girl. Enjoy!

Maybe some women choose exclusive pumping as a means of feeding their baby.

For the most part, however, it seems that exclusive pumping is a fall back plan.

At least it was in my case.

My first choice has always been breastfeeding. I knew that it was good for both baby and me. My mom did it, my friends did it, why wouldn’t I do it?

Because my daughter came at only 27 weeks gestation, weighing just under two pounds. Oral feeds were not an option, and wouldn’t be for weeks. Breast milk was no longer an issue of preference, but of life and death.

The breast pump became my new best friend. I pumped- boy, did I pump! Round the clock, every two hours during the day, taking only a five hour break to sleep at night. I fretted and I prayed and I pumped, rejoicing as 2 ml a pump turned into 2 oz. a pump, then 4 oz.

Precious Colostrum, Warming in Baby’s Isolette

It was not the introduction to breastfeeding that I had dreamed about or planned, but I was thankful for this means of providing good food for my baby.

My daughter became stable, and once again my goal turned to breastfeeding. We began daily kangaroo care as soon as the doctors gave the go ahead. I held her against my chest for hours every day, turning her mouth towards my breast.

Unfortunately not much breastfeeding occurred. Lots of other good things were happening- my baby was growing, she loved kangaroo care, she was alert and thriving. Direct breastfeeding just wasn’t one of them.

After six weeks in the NICU, the doctors said she was ready to begin oral feeding. I continued to attempt breastfeeding during our kangaroo times. Sometimes she would suck and doze off, but mostly the nipple shield I needed to wear was just too big and awkward for her tiny mouth.

The doctors explained to me that although I was welcome to try exclusive breastfeeding, bottle feeding was the fast track to getting my baby home.

After seven weeks, I was tired. Tired of running around on empty. Tired of living in a hospital room. Tired of leaving my baby every night. Emotionally, physically, and mentally, tired.

So we gave her the bottle. I still worked with lactation consultants and attempted breast feeding, but almost all of her nutrition was breast milk via bottle. After a two month NICU stay, our baby came home. Life was bliss!

Our Little Girl, Bottle Feeding in the NICU

For about a month I continued my breastfeeding attempts. Because of my extensive pump use, even with a proper latch it was often painful. I would set her up to eat, a few minutes later she would doze off, and I would still have to feed her a bottle and pump. After weeks of this exhausting routine and zero progress, I quit.

I continued to pump and give her all the breast milk I could. Two weeks after her first birthday, I performed my last pump. Today my little girl drinks formula.

Pumping was draining. I felt literally chained to my pump- I couldn’t leave my house for longer than three hours. It was the first thing I did every morning, and the last thing I did every night. I spent on average six hours a day pumping and washing bottles and pump parts (35 hours a week- almost a full-time job!). My boobs hurt and I was spent.

When I told women about my plight, oftentimes they remarked on the probability of improper latch, lack of know-how, or lack of trying. This was indescribably frustrating- did they realize how many hours I’d spent attempting to breastfeed? That I’d worked with three different lactation consultants on numerous occasions? That I’d read the same books they had? That my situation had been extremely trying and unorthodox?

If you’ve found yourself in the same position, please know that you are not alone. The more I’ve met mothers of preemies, the more I realize there are many exclusive pumpers out there. We’ve been there, done that. We know the pain, the exhaustion, the frustration, the “if onlys…”. You are not alone.

If you were blessed with the ability to breastfeed your baby, that is wonderful! I sincerely hope to have this experience some day. Thank God, and be happy. When you run into a woman stuck in the boat of exclusive pumping, please be gracious and understanding. Assume that she gave it her best shot, commend her for her intense commitment to giving her best to her baby, and let her know that she is not alone.

Exclusive pumping is grueling. It is a serious commitment. It requires discipline, a lot of self-denial, and being spent for the welfare of your child. It is not the easy road, and it is very rarely a choice.

Our Healthy Peanut, One Year Later

The exclusively pumping mother needs all of the encouragement and support that can be given. Here’s to you, pumping mom!

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7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Laura on September 19, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Thank you for the thoughts you shared here! You are truly a dedicated and loving mother to your baby! I am also exclusively pumping and my baby was not premature. We kept trying, but we just couldn’t get my baby to latch and breastfeed properly. It has been over right months and although it’s been hard, I am grateful it has worked and I could give her breast milk. Thanks for sharing and encouraging other moms out there! It gave me a boost today and I appreciate it!

    Reply

  2. I don’t know why anyone would judge someone for exclusvely pumping. Pumping is MUCH HARDER than breastfeeding! (At least in my case. I could never get the hang of it regularly! I just use my pump if my dauighter misses a feeding with me.)

    Reply

    • I think human beings are just prone to judging everything, lol. It is a handy invention, but sure is much nicer to do things the old fashioned way ;0)!

      Reply

  3. I did this with my first born. He never got the hang of latching on (after a C-section!) and because I wanted to provide the best nutrition for him, I pumped. It wasn’t easy, and yes, it chained me to the house, but I got a routine and it worked great for us. I did this for nine months, always pumping more than he needed, so I worked up a stash in my freezer. I could stop when I needed to, and he would still get my milk. Thanks for sharing this post. I hope many more women read this and stop judging. Blessings

    Reply

  4. Posted by Nadia on December 8, 2012 at 5:19 am

    Your post is really great!! My daughter was born at 34 weeks and I too has no choice but to fall back on pumping option. She’s at a moth and a half now and im starting to really get tired of pumping around the clock. She’s up to 3-4 oz a feeding at every 3ish hours. And I only get like 2-3 oz per pumping session if I do it every two hours. If I don’t pump, she basically has nothing to feed on. Its a bit stressing, if I could I would supplement with formula, but my husband is just so against it. Any advice??? Im kinda starting to lose it

    Reply

  5. Posted by Sara on April 5, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    I pumped exclusively for my first son for over a year and now pumping for my second son, who is now 9 months old. I doing it because you guest it, nursing didn’t work for me. Pumping exclusively is a long and lonely road and some people do not understand why we do what we do. I have friends who thinks that I am crazy and that I should stop. I stopped explaining myself and even avoided any topics that involve what I feed my babies, because I don’t want to end up feeling like an alien. Luckily I have a very understanding and supportive husband, who doesn’t mind taking care of the kids and doing house chores while I spend time with my pump.
    There are days when I feel so tired and depressed that I wish I wasn’t pumping. Reading stories like this really help me, it’s almost like getting a pat on the shoulder from a understanding friend. So thank you for sharing your story.

    Reply

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