My friend, Mandi, is a mom of one with another on the way. Like all moms, she had plans and dreams for her children. She knew how she wanted to raise them, what kind of mom she wanted to be. For starters, she knew she wanted an epidural during labor. "Give me all the drugs - I don't need to feel this unless I want to, and I don't." Carefully, she chose her OB and hospital birth. Mandi and her partner spent extensive time researching the latest baby gear, the trendiest methods for sleep training, and the coolest nursing clothes. Before she even became a mom she always envisioned herself breastfeeding her babies! But life had other plans for her. Due to her son's undiagnosed lip tie, Mandi was unable to breastfeed her baby successfully. After weeks of trying to "get the hang" of nursing, Mandi was ready to throw in the towel. Another mom gently suggested she try pumping instead and offer baby a bottle. That's when everything changed for Mandi.
How did feeding with a bottle change your daily life?
M: Oh my gosh, the difference was night and day. Right away, my son started settling more easily and was clearly just a happier baby. Which made me happier, obviously. So much less stressful. And I liked that I could tell exactly how much my baby was eating, too. I didn't worry that much about weight gain anymore.
Did you find pumping easier or harder than nursing at the breast?
M: Well, from my experience, I felt it was easier. But maybe that's because I had such a rough time trying to breastfeed? I can't be sure. I mean, there are downsides that probably make it overall more work.
What kind of downsides do you mean?
M: Washing. So. Much. Washing. Washing all the pump parts, storing the milk, trying to figure out how to pump on a schedule no matter where you are. Mostly just washing the pump parts and keeping the milk cold while I was running around during the day.
What pump did you use?
M: I used a Spectra with the battery pack inside. It made it easier to pump on the go, because I didn't have to be near a wall outlet. Heck, I even pumped in Target once, with a nursing cover draped over me! You gotta do what you gotta do! I liked the pump, as much as you can like something that's sucking on your nipples a lot.
Did you experience any issues with producing milk when you started exclusively pumping?
M: Yeah, a few different issues. So, at first, I wasn't used to having to stick to a schedule. When my baby would cry, I just stuck them on the boob. I mean, they were always crying so it made breastfeeding really stressful and life just a lot harder in general. A few times I went too long between pumping sessions and I would leak breastmilk through my shirt. That was embarassing! I also got a clogged duct once. NOT FUN, I don't recommend it to anyone. It felt like someone punched me in the tit and I had to just keep rubbing the frickin' thing until it finally came out while I was pumping.
Then later, I started to struggle with supply issues. I'm not really sure why - maybe I wasn't pumping enough, or often enough. I think when my baby started sleeping through the night, I stopped getting up to pump, and that really made my supply dip.
Was it hard, to see all your hard work to establish a supply stop working for you?
M: Oh yeah. That was really defeating, actually. Probably harder than giving up nursing at the breast was. I felt like I couldn't do anything right for my baby, and that I was failing them because I couldn't give them breastmilk.
What did you do when your supply started dropping?
M: I struggled through it for a few weeks, but eventually gave up and weaned myself off the pump. I knew I could seek out breastmilk from donor moms but it seemed really like a lot of hassle, so I just switched to formula. My kid was eating solid foods by then anyways.
Tell me something you wish all people knew about exclusively pumping?
M: Oh my gosh. Where do I start? Don't give me advice. Seriously. I've heard it all before, don't think you're some sort of breastfeeding Oprah. And stop giving women who give their baby bottles the side eye. Even if it's not breastmilk - which it was for me, and I was working really hard for it - it's just not YOUR business how THEIR baby gets fed. And I'd personally like to see more workplaces be pumping-friendly. I am lucky my office was, but I know lots of other moms who just gave up entirely because trying to pump at work sucked.
You just made a pun.
M: Ha! I didn't mean to. Thanks for letting me share what EP was like for me!