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Tuesday, November 22, 2005I've written a bit before about the troubles that I had trying to nurse Elnora when she was young. I've also written before about the fact that I'm an exclusive pumper. What I've not written about is my frustration with why so few women are even offered the idea of exclusively pumping as an alternative to nursing when they run into trouble.
Although Elnora nursed like a champ when she was first born, we ran into some troubles by the time we left the hospital. This is nothing unusual...it happens to pretty much everyone. In fact, one of the things that most upset me about the issue is that despite all the reading and research I did about breastfeeding and the enormous amount of preparation I did toward a natural childbirth, I never once ended up reading anything about just how hard nursing was. I mean seriously, nursing is darn near impossible! I don't say that to scare new mothers off, and I imagine that's why no one told me...but I think if I'd been prepared for just how hard it was, I might have had a better chance at making it.
Exclusively pumping came about partly by accident and partly by divine intervention. I'd had a friend that had exclusively pumped for her baby after having a c-section, so I knew it was a possibility. It all started when the resident ped decided that Nora was too jaundiced to leave the hospital unless I promised to supplement. (that's a rant for another day, but it's part of why I can't stand hospitals) Thankfully, because of the friend who pumped, I knew to at least insist that I would only supplement if I was supplementing with expressed milk. So, we went home with a breast pump and orders to make sure Nora got at least 1/2 ounce every two hours. (We also went home with a garbage bag full of free formula...you know...just in case...which is also a rant for another day.)
The first time I pumped, I got about 1/4 of an ounce, so we mixed it with a 1/4 of an ounce of formula. As it turns out, that's the last formula Nora ever had. I was able to pump enough from then on to give her whatever she needed. In fact, by the end of the first week, I didn't have to pump at night anymore, which made life a lot easier. (before that, it was wake up, feed Nora, put Nora to bed, pump milk, clean pump parts, go to bed for an hour, repeat the process...) I still had to pump every two-three hours during the day, but that was doable since I worked from home.
Now I won't lie and say that pumping is easy...it's not. It's time consuming and it can be frustrating to be tied to that pump when you have a fussy baby. But the tradeoff is fantastic. From day one, I was never "tied" to Elnora. I don't say that in a bad way, because I love her dearly, but it was nice to be able to leave her with my mom or mother-in-law for a few hours if I needed a break. I also didn't have to wake up with her every single time because Greg could feed her just as easily as I could. Basically, I had all the benefits of bottle feeding, but I was still giving her breast milk. Yes, I had to wash more parts and yes it took time to pump, but for someone like me that worked at home and that could express plenty of milk, it actually wasn't that hard. In fact, I've given serious thought to pumping from the start with my next child.
All of that rambling is to say that I'm not sure I understand why more moms aren't given this option. I've met so many people that were surprised to hear that I exclusively pumped and that had never thought of it as an option. There are plenty of women out there that would love to give their children breastmilk, but for whatever reason, have issues with the idea of nursing. Pumping could be a great way for these mothers to breastfeed their children without having to nurse. The same holds true for women that would like to nurse their children longer, but who are simply unable to get their child to hold still long enough to nurse. I don't think I ever would have made it past six months nursing Nora, she's just too squirmy. But by pumping, I've been able to give her mother's milk for a full year.
My biggest issue is with supplementing. I don't know a single person here locally that made it out of the hospital without having their baby be given formula in the hospital, or without being told that they had to supplement for one reason or another. Few women realize that supplementing with formula does serious harm to their ability to have their milk come in. That leads to a cycle of having less milk and doing more supplementing that spins out of control until there's simply no milk left. If mothers that had trouble nursing were encouraged to pump rather than supplement with formula, I think less of them would have the same problems with their milk coming in.
I realize that pumping isn't for everyone. Many women are unable to express any amount of milk with even the best hospital grade pump. Others simply don't have the time to put the extra effort toward pumping and cleaning bottles. But I have to think that there are women out there like me that would have eventually given up nursing in sheer desperation for sanity, but that would have gladly tried to pump if they'd known it was a real option.
That's why I've added a new shirt for pumping moms this week. This one simply says "pumped." That way, moms that pump while at work to make sure their kids can have a "home cooked meal" at day care can make a statement as well. I've also updated the exclusively pumping shirt with a new look to make it a bit more refined. I'm still working on some funny ideas for moms that pump while working, but I don't have anything quite ready to go yet. As soon as I do, you can bet that you'll see an update here.
Labels: Pumping Milk