Thoughts on Exclusive Pumping

March 8, 2015

When I left the hospital, I had grand and glorious plans to pump all the breastmilk Anna would need.  There are women who do that.  For whatever reason, like Anna, they have babies who cannot or will not breastfeed.  So they pump.  A lot.  Recommendation is every 2-3 hours, a minimum of 7 times per day (including at least once in the middle of the night), even better if you can fit in 8 pumping sessions.  Oh, and if baby isn’t breastfeeding at all, sessions should be at least 30 minutes long.

You know what you don’t have time to do if you’re pumping that much?  Feed your baby.  I’ve come to the conclusion that the women who do this are not single parents.  And they probably don’t work outside the home either.  When I last wrote about pumping, I said I was doing it every four hours.  Yeah.  Not so much.  I’m now pumping every eight hours.  And as soon as it’s just me and Anna, that midnight session is going to disappear.  She generally feeds around then.  The last thing I’m going to want to do in the middle of the night after giving her a bottle is pump for 30 minutes.

Am I expressing less?  Yes.  (But I’m still letting down throughout the day.  My nursing pads are proof of that.)  Do I care?  Not particularly.  Anna has plenty to eat.  I have a frightening number of store-generated Enfamil coupons (making the brand-name product cheaper than the generic, go figure).  She’s happy.  She’s growing.  It’s all good no matter how much I’m able to express.

Which leads me to my next thought.  Anna and I both had doctor appointments on Friday.  This means we saw two nurses, one PA, and one obstetrician.  The only person I didn’t feel was judging me was Dr Winter.  Please note that I say “feel”.  I don’t really think any of them were judging me, but I still felt like they were.  And this morning as I was giving Anna a bottle (breastmilk, BTW), I figured out why.

The first three all asked about how much breastmilk Anna was getting.  Dr Winter asked how much I was expressing.  By asking how much breastmilk I’m able to feed my daughter, there’s this metamessage that supplementing with formula is a negative.  By framing the same question in the context of my ability to express, the metmessage changes; it’s now about me doing my best, not about me be insufficient.  The implication that my best isn’t good enough disappears.

And Dr Winter also took my response as a healthy one.  I think he was concerned that I might be obsessing over trying to exclusively pump.  He seemed pleased that I said I was pumping at the rate that I was and would only keep that schedule as long as I could stand it.  And it was really nice to end the day with no judgment.

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