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April 1, 2019

Exclusively Pumping: The Other Side to Breastfeeding

Exclusively Pumping: The Other Side to Breastfeeding

This is what breastfeeding looks like for some of us. The question breast or bottle doesn’t really mean the same thing to everyone. When someone is bottle feeding a baby it could be that a mother is pumping. Some women pump because they are trying to build an extra supply for their baby, for donation, traveling, have a premature baby or they are back at work. These tend to be temporary/occasional reasons for pumping. However, there are some moms like myself that are forced to exclusively pump. This could be because a baby has a bad latch, the mother can’t maintain a high supply, the baby isn’t eating enough, etc. Unfortunately, There are SO many reasons.

So when someone asks, “are you breastfeeding?” it becomes a tricky question to answer. When someone would ask me, I would say, “yes, but I’m pumping.” Then I would feel compelled to explain that I had to pump because, *insert long winded explanation. So it was/is still an awkward topic.

Exclusively Pumping: The Other Side to Breastfeeding

My Experience with Breastfeeding:

Just so give you a back story. The first time I had my daughter in my arms we did skin to skin and she latched right away. I thought I was set. I continued to nurse her while we were at the hospital (3 days). For the most part, she latched but I felt like something was off because it was becoming incredibly painful and that part of my breast was pretty much raw.

I asked a couple of nurses if they could help but they would mostly just jam my breast in my daughter’s mouth. Which wasn’t helpful. They gave me a cream to apply and a saline solution to help ease the pain and prevent infection. I also saw a lactation specialist and took a class while I was at the hospital. She also jammed my breast in my daughter’s mouth and that was her tip on how to get my daughter to latch… Go figure right? I was told that it takes time to get accostomed to breastfeeding.

Why I started to Exclusively Pump:

By the 5th day, I was hurting, bad!! I contacted my doula because I was convinced I had an infection and was in a lot of pain. I saw a lactation specialist and she was able to identify the issue. Even after identifying the issue it still wasn’t working out. As a result, I started to pump exclusively to ease some of the pain and so that I would still be able to feed her breastmilk. This was my alternative to our latching issue.

The Unspoken Pain

Since I couldn’t breastfeed on demand. I had to pump every two hours to keep up with my daughter. This was really hard to do because I felt like this was all I was doing. Also, when I wasn’t pumping I was bottle feeding my daughter so it seemed like double the feedings. It started to be too much physically and emotionally. I would cry because I was so overwhelmed and I felt like I wanted to quit every day. It was awful.

I reached out to family & friends that had babies and asked them about their experience with breastfeeding and overall they seem to have a similar experience. For the most part, they were all overwhelmed with breastfeeding and admitted to crying out or frustration and pain from nursing. One of my friends who exclusively pumped referred to her baby as a feeling like a pirana when they latch (I can totally relate). My other friend told me she couldn’t produce enough and it was too painful so she stopped after 2 months.

When I heard this, I thought to myself, why didn’t they tell me? Why doesn’t anyone talk about this? I wished that I would have known for myself but also because I wasn’t there for them when they were going through a hard time. I mostly just asked how the baby was at the time but I didn’t really ask how THEY were doing.

Mom Guilt

There is a lot of information out there that tells us, “breast is best” and how beneficial breastfeeding is to babies. So there is so much pressure to breastfeed which can be extremely overwhelming for moms. Also, the images we see of nursing moms are beautiful images of happy moms with a happy calm baby. I’m sorry but that is NOT painting a realistic image of breastfeeding. If it was, there wouldn’t be lactation specialists and breastfeeding support groups to help moms cope with the challenges of breastfeeding.

One size does not fit all

I think it’s great that some mothers have a great experience with breastfeeding. Some don’t encounter any issues and even if they do they are able to figure it out on their own or with a lactation specialist. I think this is amazing but it’s not always the case and I wish more expectant mothers were aware of this. Not to scare them from trying but to let them know that it is hard going to be hard (especially in the beginning) but they are not alone, everyone struggles in one way or another. If you decide that you want your child to have breastmilk, know that there are different ways you can do this. One alternative is Exclusively pumping. Also, for them to know that there are groups out there specifically to help moms with either breastfeeding or exclusively pumping.

Exclusively Pumping

So my point is, breastfeeding can be a STRUGGLE!!! That being said, exclusively pumping moms, are struggling with not being able to nurse their child and dealing with a machine you have to use to extract your milk which is, in my opinion, a modern day form of torture. I hated it! But, I did it! 50% because I wanted to 50% mom guilt.

Besides, the discomfort of pumping came the inconvenience. I had to figure out a way to pump while my baby was sleeping or I kept her entertained while I pumped. Luckily, I found a support group on Facebook that was for exclusively pumping moms. It was a gamechanger for me. These moms were filled with so much information. They were incredibly helpful with other issues that later occurred like, engorgement, clogs, supply drop to name a few. They also help each other vent about the frustrations of pumping as well as providing some comical relief from time to time. It was nice to have this support group while trying to get to my pumping goal.

Treat moms with kindness

The reason for this post is that you never know what a mom is going through. They might be extremely bummed out and frustrated that they were not able to “breastfeed”/nurse their child.

From my Exclusively Pumping Group I can tell you that, asking an Exclusively Pumping Mom if they are breastfeeding is a loaded question. One reason is that they are “breastfeeding” because a baby is getting breastmilk, however, the baby is actually bottle fed. Personally, I think they are one and the same. The issue is that it can become a very sensitive topic.

Another thing, when an exclusively pumping mom talks about having issues with latching some people might respond with things like:

Have you tried letting your child not eat so they will latch out of hunger, have you tried a lactation specialist, etc. Chances are they have tried what you suggested or tried everything they possibly could. Yet they are still unable to nurse and are stuck with the dreaded breast pump.

To ask or not to ask?

I really do mean this with good intention… Please. The next time you want to ask “are you breastfeeding,” don’t. Instead ask the mom, “how are you doing” or “do you need help.” This is a much kinder thing to say. So many women struggle with breastfeeding and you never know how they feel about it. At the end of the day if they are breastfeeding or not it’s between a mom and her baby. Moms want to provide their baby with the best they possibly can and they are already dealing with a lot of this on their own that having to justify their decisions about breastfeeding can make them feel worse.

I hope this has helped you learn a little bit more about the other side of “breastfeeding” the Exclusively Pumping side. If you would like to read other posts like this click here.

Get Help

If you are struggling with breastfeeding here are some good resources to check out:

La Leche League: This is a great way to meet other moms and have a good support group. The group in my area has helped connect moms with donor milk as well.

Kelly Mom: This site has a ton of information about breastfeeding. It has also been very helpful about pumping.

Join a facebook group, believe it or not this was the best thing I did. You can find a mom group that is relevant to your interests, location, etc.

If you are a new mom, consider joining a support group. For all topics in general it helps to have a tribe! If you are struggling please know that it will get better, it takes practice and you will get this figured out. xoxo

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