Why Pumping Doesn’t Work for Us

DenaOctober 21, 2013

Mother Breastfeeding her Baby, by Louis Fleckenstein, c. 1900.

I am going to write a series about breastfeeding. For many women, myself included, breastfeeding is one of the most challenging aspects of new motherhood. I am not an expert, but I have been doing it every day, about eight times a day, for five months now. So I think it’s fair to say that I’ve got some experience. I plan to address lots of issues — from pain to latching to breastfeeding in public.

Today, I want to talk about pumping. Before I start, I’d like to preface by saying that every mother and every baby is different. What works for one will not always work for another. I am also non-judgmental on the issue. Admittedly, before I became a mother, I wondered why any mother would choose not to breastfeed considering the health benefits to the baby. Now, having gone through it myself, I have a different perspective and I understand why the decision to breastfeed is not right for every mother and even in some cases why not breastfeeding is a much better choice. However, this is my blog and my story. I am writing about my decisions and experiences — not anyone else’s.

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Anatomically-speaking, breastfeeding was never a challenge for us. Roman had a great latch and I had a great supply from the beginning. It just worked. I did have terrible nipple pain for awhile, but eventually that passed. The challenge of breastfeeding for me has been emotional. Breastfeeding is the most wonderful, special, bonding experience for me & my baby. It creates a special closeness that is beyond words. Yet, it is also one of the loneliest endeavors I’ve ever known. There were — and are — many times when I felt like a slave and a prisoner. For months, Roman ate every 20 – 90 minutes around the clock. It was comfort nursing in part, but he also has an incredible appetite. He has been in the top 95+ percentile for his weight since he was a couple of months old. (I mean, just look at those cheeks!) Today Roman’s feedings are spread out to between one and three hours apart with occasional longer stretches overnight. It’s a vast improvement from where we once were, but it’s still an all-consuming task for me. I never get a break and sometimes it’s really hard.

When I explain this to people, many times their response is a very innocent (read: naive), Oh, why don’t you just pump? And, honestly, sometimes I’d like to reply, Oh, why the **** didn’t I think of that? What a novel idea. But of course I don’t say that and it would be terrible for me to do so. The thing is that pumping is a wonderful option for some mamas. So why doesn’t pumping work for us?

1. Time. For a long time, Roman nursed every 90 minutes or more. Each nursing session lasted about 15 minutes. What that means is that he spent 6 – 8 hours a day nursing. Imagine being sleep-deprived from caring for a newborn around the clock, etc., spending 6+ hours a day nursing. When that baby finally goes to sleep and you are not cooking/cleaning/sleeping/eating/showering, how much are you going to feel like (or physically be able to) hook up a plastic sucking machine to your rack and push out a few bottles of boob juice?

2. Supply. I’ve covered the fact that supply hasn’t been an issue for us. Roman is chubby, blah, blah, blah. However when I pump my milk into a bottle, there is obviously less milk for my baby. Now it is said that you should pump after you nurse to avoid this problem, but guess what… my baby takes all or most of my milk. When I pump after I nurse him, I am lucky if I get two ounces. Also, he gets really upset. Every time I pump, there ultimately ends up being a little bit less milk for him and his ravenous appetite. Without fail, he gets fussy on days that I pump. It is true that pumping can increase your supply if you pump after each nursing session, because your body will make more to keep up with increased “demand.” But this can take 48 to 72 hours and in the meantime, I am left with a hungry, crabby, unhappy boy.

3. Pain. Although the “real” pain of breastfeeding (sore, bleeding, cracked nipples) went away after a couple of months, there is always a low-level of discomfort there. This is especially true when Roman is going through a growth spurt or just has a marathon-feeding day for whatever reason. It may be because he doesn’t have a perfect latch, but I’m not really sure what the cause is. Frankly, I don’t see how it is possible to entirely avoid some discomfort when you you’ve got something sucking its life sustenance out of your breast multiple times every day. For me, pumping makes it worse. It adds to the soreness and it just hurts. I’ve tried two different pumps and an assortment of shields, but it doesn’t matter. It’s just painful. (And no, I am not a sissy, remember that I pushed baby boy out with no medication and tore substantially. I’m no stranger to pain.)

4. Waste. Every time I pump, I end up throwing some (or most) of it away. Roman does not like to take a bottle and would rather “go hungry” and wait for his mama. It’s unfortunate because this may cause us issues down the line when we are ready to wean. However I just can’t stomach it when I have to throw milk down the drain. It seems like a terrible waste, especially considering all of the above and everything that I go through just to pump that milk out. I also do not pump so much that it makes sense to freeze it.

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All of that being said, pumping simply doesn’t make sense for me as a stay-at-home mom. And I am totally okay with this, it’s so worth it, but that’s another post! Most of the above issues would be resolved if I were a working mom. Supply would not be an issue — I would have to pump at work or I would become engorged. Pain from nursing wouldn’t be an issue — because I would have eight hours a day without a suckling baby. And nothing (or little) would go to waste because Roman would have to eat from a bottle — or he’d go hungry.

Phew, I feel much better having gotten all of this out. Next time someone smugly says, Why don’t you just pump? I’ll be sending them a link here. 😉

Thanks for reading and Happy Monday! If you’ve got a moment, please help to support our little blog by giving us a vote on Top Baby Blogs. Click here to vote! Thank you! xo

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Comments (5)

  • Andrea

    October 21, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    Good perspective. I did end up pumping after most of our nursing sessions for a long time (until my son was 8 months or so), because he was not a good nurser and I needed to keep my supply up. It sucked. Sigh. So I totally hear ya on #1! There is no way I would have been able to do it if I had other children running around. But we are happily nursing at 13 months still! And I was able to donate over 600 ounces of pumped milk to other mamas in need. -Andrea http://www.handandtheheart.com

    1. denabotbyl

      October 22, 2013 at 10:57 am

      Good on you, Andrea! Proof that a stay-at-home mama can be a pumping queen, too. 🙂 I can’t believe that you donated over 600 ounces. That is extraordinary. What a tremendous gift. You are so wonderful. <3

    2. Jennifer botbyl

      October 22, 2013 at 4:21 pm

      Dena, as a mom of 3 kids (as you know) I want to commend you for a job well done… I felt the same as you.. I never ever pumped my Milk for my babies as i was a stay at home mom and could feed them on demand when they needed too eat… I miss my kids being babies as breatfeeding was the most amazing time for me. I wish i could do it all over again!!!!!
      Love Aunt Jen

  • amy

    October 21, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    really, other than some spare time or space for yourself – you have no reason to pump 🙂 your breastfeeding relationship with roman sounds amazing. i know lots of BF bubs who feed as much as he does – it must be really exhausting some days, but that negative is hugely outweighed by the positives. i love that he is such a good feeder & you have no problems with him feeding. & i love that your outlook! everyones situation is so, so different – but i always get a splash of anger when i hear someone complain about how well & how much their baby eats – because facing the alternative, a baby who you struggle to feed! is so hard!
    you’re doing so well hun <3 just remember, these marathon feeding days where you feel like nothing but a pair of boobs, will pass. these days pass so quickly. x

    1. denabotbyl

      October 22, 2013 at 10:59 am

      Thank you, love. You are so right! And I am so incredibly grateful for the fact that I can do this for him (and for me, too). I am really looking forward to writing the post in the series when I talk about why I choose to BF and how wonderful it is. Because it really is a gift.

      That said, there are so many ways to love our babies and every mama/baby relationship is so different and all so special. You constantly inspire me & give me so much hope. Thank you always. xoxo

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