Thursday, July 13, 2006

Things to consider

The following post is made up of my own personal opinions. I am no expert on these matters. But hey, this is where I get to give my two cents worth. If I say something offensive, I apologize. If you disagree with me, feel free to comment. But no trolls, please.

Pumping might work for you if:

1. You can't breastfeed because your baby doesn't latch.
I think most moms will understand this one. Getting a newborn on the breast is, for most moms, hard work. For some it just never happens, for a variety of reasons (baby was given bottles in the hospital, baby has jaw problems, mom's nipples are flat, etc. ). If the problem you're having is getting the milk from the breast to the baby, then pumping might be the way to go.

2. You can't exclusively breastfeed because you have to be away from your baby for hours a day.
If you're going to be gone long enough during the day (work, family obligations, etc.) that someone else will have to feed the baby during your separation, then naturally the baby will have to be given the bottle. From what I hear, some women choose to just keep going with the bottle, rather than trying to switch from bottle to breast and back again. Some babies just won't feed well on the breast once they've gotten used to the bottle.

3. You want to increase/maintain your milk supply through pumping.
Pumping will definitely help you there. In normal cases, the more milk you pump out, the more you will make.

4. You have the time to pump.
Pumping both breasts can take up to twenty minutes, and I'm talking about if you have a dual-breast pump, one that can pump both breasts at a time. If you are trying to increase/maintain your milk supply, you will probably need to pump every 2-3 hours during the day, and a couple times at night. This equates to hours a day pumping.

5. You have the energy to pump.
Having to deal with a newborn baby is not just hard. It's agonizing. It's unbelievably draining. There is just no way I could ever describe how much angst and mental anguish you can go through with a new baby. A lot of moms don't want to talk about it, I don't know why. Maybe they feel like it makes them look like bad parents, like they didn't love their babies. But there is a big difference between loving your baby and liking your role as a mom. Moms can love their babies absolutely, completely, insanely--and at the same time wish they could just hop on a plane to Bermuda and never come back. (After I had my first child, Darth A., I told my husband to divorce me and take custody of the baby. He thought I was kidding, and laughed. I wasn't.) If you can handle taking care of the baby, and also handle the extra burden of pumping, then you've got a chance of it working. But it is hard.

6. You have your family's support.
My husband was willing to do whatever it took to help me pump. In the beginning, when Darth D. had serious colic, sometimes he would take the baby all night, for every waking, because he knew that I would have to wake up also to pump. When I had my clogged ducts, he twice stayed home from work so that I could focus all my energy on pumping and getting the clogs out. He keeps my spirits up, and encourages me to keep going. I can't imagine doing this without him. It's really a dual effort.

Pumping might not be the way to go if:

1. You simply don't have enough milk.
Feeding your baby is a lot like filling a kiddie pool (bear with me here, the analogy will work if you stretch your imagination). You have to fill the pool once a day. If you have a big bucket, you can fill it faster and easier. If you have a little bucket, you can still get the job done, it will just take more work. But if all you have is a thimble size cup, then there is no way you're going to be able to fill that pool once a day.

Let's just state something obvious here: Your baby needs to be fed. The nutrition needs to come from somewhere. There are lots of medical reasons why it might not be able to come from you. And ladies, this might just be my lowly opinion, coming from my meager experience, but I'm going to shout it out here: DON'T FEEL GUILTY IF YOU CANNOT MAKE ENOUGH MILK. IT DOES NOT MAKE YOU A BAD MOTHER.

2. You don't have the time and energy to pump.
Like I said, pumping takes work. Even if you feel very strongly about your baby getting breastmilk, you may find that having to deal with a screaming baby, along with everything else in your life, is already more than you can handle. But again, this is normal, and no reason to feel guilty. (Can you tell I'm big in the "don't feel guilty" mantra?)

3. You have negative feelings about milk coming out of your breasts, in any form.
Some women are just uneasy with the whole idea of lactating. Despite what most lactation consultants will tell you (at least the ones that I've met), some women don't find breastfeeding the "most natural thing in the world." The reason why I dislike the LCs calling breastfeeding the "most natural thing in the world" is that they are implying that if you don't enjoy breastfeeding, you are somehow unnatural, a horrible deviant from other normal mothers. I think this is wrong. I think making a new mom feel guilty for any reason involving breastfeeding is wrong. (INSERT MANTRA HERE.) Because of the reason below:

4. It will adversely effect your relationship with your baby.
Even if you just barely have enough energy to pump, even if you can carve out enough time to pump, even if you don't have a problem with the whole idea of using a pump, if pumping makes you feel any resentment or anger towards your baby, then don't do it.

When Darth D. spends hours crying, and I have to rock him, feed him, change him, do everything except dance the Hula to get him to sleep, all I want to do is take a break. The last thing I want to do is go upstairs and pump. There are also times when I know that I only have a maximum of twenty minutes before he'll be up again, and I have to make a decision: eat, or pump? Being faced with these circumstances can make any mother feel bitter and resentful. But you can't take it out on your baby. THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU NEED TO GIVE YOUR BABY IS NOT YOUR BREASTMILK. IT'S YOUR LOVE. Anything that will keep you from showing your love to your baby has got to go.

Coming up in a future post (maybe, if this kid will someday go to sleep (yes! Little Piggy! I am talking to you! Stop crying like if I don't somehow acknowledge your existance, you will die!) ): "I know there are understand LCs out there, but I've never met one" or "I've gotten the guilt, can I now have the help?"


Blogger ClousePhoto said...

Thank you for this information! This makes me more confortable about the decision not to breast feed. I just don't think that I am going to have the time with a full time job, a husband, two dogs and the new baby.

11:44 AM  
Blogger ceece said...

This was a great post.

When my son was born, he had to spend 3 weeks in the NICU so I pumped for him. i didn't mind it and I enjoyed doing it. (it beat sitting in the NICU waiting from for 12 hour straight)

I have inverted/flat nipples so latching had always been a problem once we got home, plus I just seemed to have a low supply. I enjoyed nursing Conner and having the expressed milk so my husband could feed him as well(once he got home, he was away with the military when Conner was born and didn't return until he was 2 months old).

I had to go back to work, and even with a pump and fenugreek I just couldn't produce the milk, it got to be too stressful and not enjoyable at all.

I was comfortable with stopping nursing, but I got some very very harsh comments from my mom, that hurt my feelings. She was right, I didn't want to do it anymore, but that didn't mean that I loved Conner any less. I pumped and nursed him for 5 months and was thrilled with that.

Women need to know that whatever you do will be fine. If you can deal with the decision then that's all that matters.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Ann said...

Great post. I think as mothers we guilt ourselves and each other way too much. I loved breastfeeding my boys and I hung in with pumping for my daughter as long as I could, but boy was I happy when I hung up my horns and when the boys decided they didn't want to breastfeed anymore.
You made some awesome points in this post and I hope everyone reading it takes it to heart. Basically, do it if you can and feel right about it, don't do it if you can't or don't want to. But mostly don't beat yourself up (or allow any one else to beat you up) about the decision. Too bad I didn't read this post 3 years ago when I was struggling with pumping.

1:05 PM  
Blogger laura said...

A big Aleluia to #5 "But there is a big difference between loving your baby and liking your role as a mom. Moms can love their babies absolutely, completely, insanely--and at the same time wish they could just hop on a plane to Bermuda and never come back." ... I totally agree, and am happy to hear someone else say it. Thank yo!

1:41 PM  
Blogger Suz said...

This is just a wonderful post. Hopefully, it will educate some folks and help end the guilt that seems to swirl around pumping moms, myself included.

My sons were born at 33 weeks and in the NICU for 1 1/2 weeks. Moreover, I was paralyzed as a result of the spinal block used for the c-section. I tried, but couldn't get them to latch, so I pumped. I have to work hard NOT to feel guilty about not trying and trying and trying and trying to get them to latch. I was just dealing with so much that pumping was the only way to go. It's nice to hear someone else acknowledge this!

2:03 PM  
Blogger liz said...

Hooray for the "Don't feel guilty" mantra.

I just want to add a quick PSA: there are hands-free pumping attachments for most pumps. You can do dual pumping AND eat your lunch AND read a book at the same time. I've done it.

Also, pumping gives you enforced time off at work and (provided you can get a place to pump that's not a skanky bathroom) sometimes that's really a bonus.

But, that said, alot of the time it's really lonely, annoying, frustrating, and tiring.

3:09 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

These are such good points. I think what I struggle with most about pumping right now is how much time it takes. I waited so long for my son, and now find myself constantly handing him off to my husband so I can pump. I actually have a great lactation consultant who tried to help him latch (didn't work) and then told me that if pumping became too time intensive, that I shouldn't feel guilty about stopping and just enjoying my son. It was nice to hear that from a strong breastfeeding advocate.

3:27 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Excellent post!

7:27 PM  
Blogger Blue said...


3:05 PM  

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