When my first son was born, he had some fluid in his lungs and didn’t latch right away, so they gave me a nipple shield to make it easier. I absolutely loved that thing, and it was probably the only reason I stuck with actual breastfeeding for about six months. But all the while, I was pumping away for a rainy day.
Soon enough, I realized that pumping was way more convenient than trying to hold a flopping fish-baby to my breast balanced on top of a Boppy. Oh, and the fish-baby would also randomly punch me in the face as he changed positions. It was far from the beautiful, uber-connected breastfeeding scene I’d imagined.
So after about six months, I was full-on pumping. (Breastfeeding, ain’t nobody got time for that!) That made the whole experience much easier until I quit breastfeeding at nine months once the baby factory opened again, and I was pregnant with my second son.
I just recently had baby #2 and am also breastfeeding. I didn’t give the breastfeeding versus pumping debate much thought – until I had to wrangle that flopping fish newborn again. For me, taking up to an hour to breastfeed a newborn on both sides with a toddler climbing out the dog door and transitioning back to work (I work full-time at home) was freaking ridiculous.
Also, I just didn’t like breastfeeding. (There – I said it!)
I decided to exclusively pump when my second son was about four weeks old. Even though this was a matter to be celebrated because I didn’t have to whip out my nip at all hours of the day, I still felt a little sad and a little like a failure at first.
I just had the impression that breastfeeding was supposed to fit into the box of a competent mother that didn’t use a nipple shield and didn’t pump and was able to wrangle her flopping fish perfectly, enjoying it all the while.
So, yes, I felt a tinge of guilt when I switched to exclusive pumping. But that was soon washed away by the amazing sense of liberation! I got onto a pumping schedule of five times per day that allowed me a massive 12 hour break overnight to get my beauty sleep when I switched “night duty” with my husband. (We take turns waking up with the baby every other night.)
When I first became an exclusive pumper, I turned to Google. Interestingly enough, I found on almost every mommy forum and blog that EP (exclusive pumping) was considered a valiant act, a heroic sacrifice, and a pain in the ass.
Every mom that shared her EP experience said that exclusive pumping was short-lived because it was so terrible/painful/inconvenient/hard to sustain. I must be in the minority because I felt like quite the opposite was true.
Compared to actual breastfeeding, exclusive pumping for me is way faster. So there’s the convenience factor right there. On top of that, as I’ve already mentioned, my husband can split the bottle feeding duties with me throughout the day to lessen the burden of feeling like my baby’s primary food source without any backup. I also happen to produce milk pretty well, so undersupply that leads to hours of rigorous pumping was never an issue.
Women on the forums also mentioned the need to buy an expensive hospital-grade pump to get out any milk whatsoever. When I was pregnant with my first son, I bought a cheap MiPump for about $60 to save cash, and that little sucker has held up. It has needed some replacement parts, which were under warranty, but it pumps with the best of them and keeps my supply up. I can pump a full feeding (5-8 ounces, depending on time of day) in about 10 minutes.
Exclusive pumping since my son was an infant has given me the opportunity to store up hoards of breast milk in my freezer. (Vacation, here I come!) I’ve even decided to cut down from five pumps a day to four and rely on my backup supply to level it all out.
I do understand how exclusive pumping and even breastfeeding would be hard to sustain after going back to work, but I’m fortunate enough to work full-time at home with my husband. I don’t love sitting down at my computer to pump and check emails 4-5 times a day, but I also figure that if my body is producing free baby food for a period of time, I might as well take advantage.
Don’t get me wrong – pumping isn’t my favorite thing. But I’m at the point where I’m finally ready to admit that I hate breastfeeding, and exclusive pumping is a welcome relief.