Hello, I Am An Exclusive Pumper

March 3, 2011 at 7:00 am 15 comments

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.

Entry filed under: Chelsea, Jansen, Parenting. Tags: , .

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15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Breanna  |  March 3, 2011 at 9:59 am

    I loved this post! Breastfeeding is such a hot button issue. People become so opinionated and make comments without thinking about what it is going to do to the psyche of the mother they are making them to. I wish everyone could just do their thing, mind their business, and let everyone else do that same!! You are clearly a great mom and doing what’s best for your family. That’s the most important thing.

  • 2. DebbieQ  |  March 3, 2011 at 10:12 am

    Excellent post. Pump. Not pump. Breast feed. Not breast feed. It is always your decision and it is no one’s business what you decide.

    And now I am getting off my soap box and going to see if the repair man is done with my washing machine.

  • 3. Tabaitha  |  March 3, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Seriously loved this post! You have expressed feelings that most women don’t want to discuss. It hurt like hell to nurse Mason. I had Mastitis and couldn’t push through it. I had so much guilt when I first stopped nursing him and he was formula fed. Then I realized he was happier and so was I. The tension was gone. It was right for us at the time. When I got pregnant with Taylor, I was certain that I was going to give BF another try. This time it worked, not to say that it didn’t hurt in the beginning, but I was able to push through it. I nursed her until she was 10 months and I’m proud of that, but one thing that I try to tell other moms is that you aren’t any less of a woman if you don’t nurse or give your child breastmilk.

  • 4. Nora  |  March 3, 2011 at 10:37 am

    You know what I love? That you care so much. I know, that sounds silly cause it’s your baby of course you’d care, but the fact that you really take the time to think, pray, discuss, figure out what will be best for you and Jansen and the family? I just love it. I’m glad you’ll be able to keep being an EP for the time being 🙂

  • 5. abby  |  March 3, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Awesome post!! Breast feeding is for sure a rollercoaster of emotions. I’m glad to know i’m not alone. Thanks for the advice of the herbal supplements. If those don’t help I keep wondering if I should even keep pumping? And lately my child won’t nurse for more than 5-10 minutes so then I have to give a formula bottle too. It’s so hard that there is so much grey area. I’m much better with the black and white stuff. Anyway, thanks for the post and for the encouragement. I CAN DO IT! 🙂

  • 6. Kathleen  |  March 3, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    I’m pretty scared of breastfeeding. I’m going to give it my best shot, but I’m going in knowing that there are lots of options. I’m glad to know people like you.

  • 7. mom (Nana)  |  March 3, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Heres to those of you who can give their children breast milk. However, believe me when I say, there are many many more decisions that will actually have a lasting impact on your children. Breast milk is awesome health wise for your kiddos….however, it doesn’t always work out and with the way formula is now, it is healthy too. (expensive, yes, but healthy) Do not let this decision define you as a mom!!! I can guarantee you that when your child goes to kindergarten, no one will know which child was breastfed and which one wasn’t. (They also won’t know if your child was potty trained at age 2, 3 or whenever!) ENJOY your children….teach them about Jesus, good manners and how to love one another. THAT is what will be remembered. YOU are ALL doing a wonderful job as moms- how do I know??? Because of the interaction on this blog….it is obvious you care so much about your kiddos!!! Hang in there – motherhood is the best thing in the world!!!!

  • 8. Mama Fuss  |  March 3, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    Hey, I am a breastfeeding supporter big time, and I’ve nursed both of my kids. You are doing the BEST thing for you and your family and even if you quit now, you know what your family needs most. I wish I had thought of the option you’re doing now when I was feeding my daughter. I HATED nursing her and was SO frustrated, but didn’t think I could do full-time pumping.

    The second time around, things are a lot easier. I don’t know if it’s because of my son’s personality or if it’s because MY attitude has changed but somehow, it’s easier to do it this time and I don’t (usually) resent my baby for needing to eat. (With my daughter who wanted to eat for 20-45 minutes every time and wanted to eat every 90 minutes… well you can imagine the resentment at times!)

    Have you tried breastfeeding brownies to keep your supply up? Add a couple of teaspoons of brewers yeast (specifically brewers, not bread yeast) and a couple of teaspoons of flaxseed (if you can stand it. I don’t mind it, but some people hate it) to the dry ingredients of a box of brownie mix and then make the brownies according to directions. One of my friends who pumps a lot because she works full time, says she eats 1-2 up to an hour before a pumping session and she usually gets a couple of extra ounces out during that session. She freezes the brownies and only thaws them one or 2 at a time.

  • 9. suki @ [Super Duper Fantastic]  |  March 3, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    I’m far away from the idea of having kids still, but I think when/if I do, pumping might be the answer for me.

    You’re doing what works best for you! I admire that.

  • 10. Kayla  |  March 3, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    I just want you to know how lucky you are that 4 oz is your low….4.5 oz is about the most I can ever get from a pump session…so frustrating. My baby is 2 weeks younger than yours and I love seeing what you are doing and his developments. I think sleeping and feeding decisions are so so DIFFICULT. Does this mean you don’t breastfeed in the am or pm when you are not at work?

  • 11. Donna Dewey  |  March 3, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    I always tell people that breastfeeding isn’t the measure of how good a mother you are. I was a formula baby and I turned out pretty good if I say so myself! I nursed Ryley for about six months (long months at that) and Addie for over a year (a short year), and I honestly can’t remember how long I nursed Hayden. That’s what happens by the time you get to number three! All babies are different and all women’s nursing desires/capabilities are different as well. Go with what is right for you and your baby!!

  • 12. Lesley  |  March 3, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    Loved this post. I have struggled with the same decisions as you but instead of EP I am a EBF’r. My goal was also 6 months and my gosh the first 2 months were painfull as hell. I am stubborn and really wanted to reach my goal so I just bit my lip, cried to myself at times and then one day it just didn’t hurt anymore. I reached my goal plus one month 🙂 and am still going strong. At times I want to give it up but I think you hit the nail on the head, I think if I do I am afraid that means he is growing up. it all goes by way too fast.

  • 13. Erin  |  March 4, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Oh, my dear pumping friend, I could have written this myself. In fact, I have an eerily similar posts sitting in my drafts folder just waiting to be published.

    We hit six months next week, and that was my goal. But now that I’m almost there? I feel this sudden urge to go longer and longer. And then there are times, like this morning, when my left breast gave up a wimpy 1/2 an ounce. I’m so confused. I know it doesn’t really matter. I know I’ve done awesome, but I also love being the provider. I love giving them my milk. I’m not sure I’m ready to give it up yet.

    I’m so conflicted!!!

  • 14. That Married Couple  |  March 4, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    I think your last paragraph shows you have the perfect attitude!

  • 15. Katy Livingston  |  March 5, 2011 at 8:14 am

    Wow, I just want to say that I love mom(Nana)’s comment. Amen!

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March 2011


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