Archive for March 3, 2011

Hello, I Am An Exclusive Pumper

An exclusive pumper, or an “EP” as we in the business like to say (mostly because we’re on Twitter and “EP” takes up only 2 of our 140 characters instead of 16), is a woman who exclusively pumps her breastmilk and does not nurse. I don’t discuss this often on my blog because, well, there are several dudes who read this and for some reason, breastmilk gives men the heebie jeebies. Probably because most men think that breasts aren’t for work, they are for play. Or maybe the idea of juices coming from a human is too much to handle. Well get over it. Or at least skip today’s post. This is what is happening in my life and I’m going to talk about it.

There are several reasons for making this decision. I assume the most popular is that you want to provide the benefits of breastmilk, but for some reason or another your baby won’t latch properly. So instead of fighting with your newborn every few hours, you throw in the towel and let Medela do all the work.

That wasn’t exactly my reason. When I came home from the hospital, I was in serious need of some boob drainage. I had two massive bowling balls attached to my chest and I couldn’t concentrate on anything but the throbbing pain of my skin being stretched to its limits. I don’t remember the circumstances but I couldn’t nurse. Maybe he wouldn’t eat enough? Not sure. That part is fuzzy. All I know is that Stephen encouraged me to find refuge in my pump, and that’s exactly what I did.

I nursed exclusively for weeks but I knew I’d eventually have to start pumping. I had a mere 6 weeks for maternity leave and I needed to build up a stockpile so Jansen would have food while I was at work. So after I nursed, I’d pump. As I did this, I realized how efficient pumping was. I knew how much I was producing, it didn’t hurt as bad, it encouraged more production, and most of all, my Medela Pump in Style didn’t have ADD.

We got to the stage where Jansen would be awake while eating. He no longer closed his eyes for the duration of his meals. Turns out, this kid is a curious little one. He looked around and took it all in… taking me along for the ride. It wasn’t enjoyable in the slightest. But the worst part is that his feedings took forever. I was getting frustrated just sitting there for up to 45 minutes while Jansen wretched his neck to see a ceiling fan, yet still not knowing how much he’d actually eaten. Frustration combined with postpartum hormones is a nasty thing. I started resenting Jansen when he was hungry. NOT AGAIN! And I have one of those amazing babies that only eats every 4 hours, so it’s not like Jansen was being unreasonable. So I started to bottle feed when I was in a hurry or away from the home. It was SO EASY.

That’s when the thought crossed my mind. Is it crazy? Do people ever do this? Is there any reason why I shouldn’t quit nursing? I had honestly never heard of such a thing. I figured that even when I went back to work, I’d nurse when I could and pump when I couldn’t. I asked The Google. Apparently exclusive pumping is a real thing and people do it all the time. Instantly a weight was lifted off my shoulders. This was my answer.

I had a goal to breastfeed until Jansen was 6 months, but I knew that at the rate I was going, I wouldn’t last that long. I wanted to provide breastmilk, not just because of the benefits but because it’s cheaper than formula. Pumping would allow me to do that.

It’s been bittersweet. I hate how much time I spend with that stupid machine. I hate that I still go through phases where it hurts as bad as it did when I started. I hate that it’s unreliable, sometimes producing 4 ounces and other times producing 8. I hate that I have to take supplements (Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle) in order to maintain production. I hate that people give me back-handed compliments like, “Good for you! Formula is terrible.” I hate that even though I spend approximately 3-4 hours pumping every day, I still have to supplement with formula.

But I also love it. I feel like a provider, like this is a way for me to show Jansen how much I love him. (I know that probably doesn’t make sense to anyone but me. Pumping is a labor of love.) I love that I save money. I love that it forces me to sit still and read for a bit. I love that it gets me out of my office for an hour at lunch, even though I sit in a shady parking lot with homeless men occasionally tapping on my window. I love that I am still losing weight (I think… I don’t believe in scales) but I’ve also been able to keep my pregnancy boobs. See? Bittersweet.

Did you notice yesterday that it was Jansen’s six month birthday? Which means that I reached my 6 month breastfeeding goal. As the day approached, the topic weighed heavily on my mind. Do I quit? Do I keep going? How do I quit? How long to I keep this up? Was there even a right answer? No. No, there isn’t. Because inevitably there are 20 women on one side of me telling me I’m doing great and giving me a “pass” to quit, but then there are 20 on the other side that are on month 9 with no desire to slow down. There are women who think breastmilk is the equivalent of immortality potion. But there are women who don’t think twice about giving their baby formula from day 1. And while I know their thoughts and feelings shouldn’t matter to me, they do.

Stephen and I laid in bed on Tuesday night discussing my options. I decided that I’m annoyed because it’s win-win and lose-lose. I’m thankful that it is my decision and not some outside source (lack of production) making me quit. What it all boils down to is this: I’m not mentally prepared to quit. It’s too hard. It’s too permanent. And it’s basically saying that my baby is growing up, and I’m just not prepared for that right now. So I’ll just cut down to 3 pumps per day, and not worry about the amount of production. (Although there is absolutely nothing worse than putting in the time to pump and only getting 4 ounces. It’s a terrible feeling.)

I didn’t feel great about my decision but I had a slight hint that I was making to right one. I woke up yesterday for my early morning pump. I got 9.5 ounces. At lunch I got 6.5 ounces. My third pump of the day was 5.5 ounces. Okay God, message received. You’ve made it abundantly clear that I’ve made the right decision. I’m going to keep on until you’ve made it abundantly clear that it’s time to quit. I’m going to be thankful for what You’ve provided and try not to whine about it. But also, I’m going to whine a little because it makes me feel better. I’m going to try to stop comparing myself to every other mother in the continental U.S. and just concern myself with the Hurst family. Because we all know that this is only the beginning of Mommy Guilt and Child Comparison and I think we can all agree that it’s well-wasted on a topic like this.

March 3, 2011 at 7:00 am 15 comments


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