Then, They Came For The Exclusive Pumpers
Breastfeeding is great, or so I’ve heard. It’s supposed to be the ideal way to feed your baby, or so they tell me. I wouldn’t know because I could never get my kids to latch on. Before I realized that pumping for twins meant exactly zero minutes of sleep a night for me, I thought it was the perfect compromise; my kids were still getting breast milk even though I couldn’t nurse them myself. According to some lactation advocates, however, not even pumping is okay. Guess I’ll just save up that bail money now, because my kids are screwed.
An article in today’s Pacific Standard looks at the rise of exclusive pumping (or “EPing”) by mothers who are stupidly trying to accomplish a few other things during the day besides breastfeeding their kids. Like working. Or putting more lanolin on their bleeding nipples. Or leaving the house. Instead, those lazy, corner-cutting, uncaring, “I have to go to work” or “my baby is going to starve because they can’t grab a hold of my nipple” moms have been short-changing their children’s health by using breast pumps:
The practice of pumping frequently or exclusively is continuing to grow. Problematically, the rise of pumping also implies that moms don’t need as much time at home to spend with their babies—they can simply pump, store, and go back to work. What most moms may not know is that beneath the perceived convenience of pumping, there are potential consequences both for workplace norms and for the health of themselves and their infants. There’s an assumption that bottle-feeding breast milk to a child is equivalent to breastfeeding, but that may not be the case.
Indeed, pumping is so much easier than breastfeeding. Why, I remember after that first week of trying in vain to get my children to latch, how excited I was to open up my rented, noisy breast pump. I loved the convenience of holding what looked like a pari of air horns to my breasts for forty-five minutes at a time at all hours of the day and night. The luxury of pumping after I had bottle-fed my twins, which gave me a leisurely half-hour of sleep a night. Not to mention the devil-may-care ease of the kind of schedule recommended by What To Expect.com:
…while it’s best to stick to a schedule of pumping every two to three hours (15 to 30 minutes each time, until your breasts are empty), there will be days when you’ll have to pump every hour in the morning because you know your afternoon is packed. Just try to avoid too many days like that in a row — your milk supply will begin to dwindle.
I mean, way to take the easy way out, huh?
The two main concerns that lactation advocates have to EPing is the loss of bonding time with your baby and the possible health benefits that you may miss out on by not breastfeeding. As far as bonding time goes, I’m not sure how other women bottle-feed their babies, but I was pretty close to mine while I did it. I mean, I was all up in there. I even held them, sometimes. I did find it hard to bottle-feed and hold twins at the same time, which is my bad, but I suppose I still did better than those other moms who are apparently bottle-feeding their babies from a different part of the house. That’s both selfish and ingenious.
The health concerns are equally confusing. Though folks in the lactation movement are questioning whether or not bottle-feeding breast milk offers the same kind of health protections that breastfeeding does, their problem in proving it is with the evidence part. The Pacific Standard article does talk about the “limited evidence” and “contradictory results” of the few studies that have been done comparing expressed breast milk to breastfeeding, but lactivists remain confident that they’re right because, you know, that’s what they think.
Oh, and about the “consequences for workplace norms” mentioned in the quote from the Pacific Standard? I have a whole row of expletives saved up for what I think about workplace norms. I’ll email them to you on my lunch break.
But don’t worry, all you working moms out there who were planning to pump, in a 2009 New Yorker article, Jill Lepore offered some alternatives for you: “…longer maternity leaves, on-site infant childcare, and pumps. Much effort has been spent implementing option No. 3, the cheap way out.” See? No problem. Just ask your boss for a year off and on-site childcare. What exactly is the difficulty, here? But the Pacific Standard won’t judge you, regardless of what choice you make: “…it’s fine [for mothers] to choose exclusive pumping in the same way that it’s fine to choose formula, as long as they understand the differences in health outcomes.” Apparently my mother has started writing for the Pacific Standard.
There is one point on which I agree with the arguments against pumping, and that is that pumping is the worst. The day I returned my breast pump I whispered horrible things into the nozzle and gave it a few good slaps. And that is why I moved to formula; because I wanted sickly babies who were unable to bond with me. Just like any good mother.
(Photo: Mrfiza / Shutterstock)