The Reality of Exclusively Pumping

“This is going to be a piece of cake. How hard could breastfeeding really be?”

These were my thoughts before giving birth, before all hell broke loose on my chest area, before I was falling asleep at the breast pump. No one knows what she’s in for when it comes to breastfeeding, but I’ll tell you one thing: It ain’t easy. I had conversations with mothers who were breastfeeding, and it can all be summed up in one sentence: Breastfeeding is really hard the first four weeks, but after that, it’s so easy.

I wish I hadn’t taken that advice to heart because once four weeks rolled around, it wasn’t any easier than when I first started. 

Immediately after giving birth (well, after getting my lady parts stitched up), I was prompted to start nursing in order for my milk to come in. If I hadn’t been so delirious, I would’ve mustered up the energy to have someone look after the baby for awhile. I was not up for any breastfeeding. I needed a day-long nap. For the two days I was in the hospital, something just didn’t feel right when he latched. I was given a nipple shield for the sensitivity and to promote a better latch, none of which seemed to work. The baby was crying so hard the second night. I knew it was because he was hungry. It was then I felt inadequate, and I started to cry. My mom was there to tell me it was okay. She called the nurse to have him fed with formula. I didn’t want to do it, but I had to. 

Nursing was filled with issues for me. The pediatrician confirmed what I already knew: My milk was not transferring well enough for him to gain weight. I needed to supplement with formula until the latch issues were corrected. I tried until week four, but by then, I had a big gash on my right nipple that was incredibly painful. The last time he latched, I cried out in pain and saw his mouth full of blood. I knew right then I couldn’t do it. I cried and cried and cried. The pain was unbearable. It pained me knowing my baby was basically starving. Instead of visiting another lactation consultant, I enlisted the help of my sister-in-law. At the time, she was exclusively pumping for my nephew after having similar issues. I asked her for the lowdown on the pros and cons of pumping, how much time she spent doing it, etc. In my mind, pumping was the same as nursing — only it was a machine that extracted milk instead of a baby. 

The love/hate relationship I had with my Spectra did not trump my love for my baby. The pump was a constant reminder for whom I was doing this. 

I downloaded an app to keep track of how much time was spent on the pump and how many ounces I extracted. In the beginning, it’s standard to pump 30 minutes every two hours. Between setting up, pumping, storing and washing parts, it was as if I was glued to the pump without time for much else. The monotony was getting old fast. I quickly started pumping every three hours just to live a somewhat normal life.

I tried to nurse from time to time throughout this process, but the soreness came back. I knew then pumping was going to be it for me. If the latch hadn’t corrected itself by then, there was no way it could be rectified without the hefty expense of a lactation consultant. I felt bad I wouldn’t get the bonding experience like other nursing mothers did. But my experience with the pain reminded me I was much better off. I’d wince every time he got near the breast. I was subconsciously associating my baby with pain. I was even a little afraid of him.

While my milk production took a hard hit from spacing out pumps so soon, I slowly warmed up to the idea of supplementing with formula. I was okay with it. I realized feeding my baby was the number one priority. It didn’t matter if it was breast milk, formula, or a combination of both.

While I didn’t reach my goal of 12 months, I made it to six. The abrupt halt may have been brought on by the severe mental health issues I was dealing with, otherwise I wouldn’t have deliberately gone without pumping for 12 hours at a time (ouch). I really just wanted my life back. Pumping was the lesser of two evils, but it was still villainous. All in all, I was proud I made it through the experience. I learned so much along the way thanks to mom groups and searches on Pinterest.

Born in El Paso, Texas, Bianca moved to Mansfield in 1994. Now, she resides in the North Arlington area with her son, Dorian. She graduated from the University of North Texas in 2016 with her Bachelor of Arts in Social Science. She hopes to return to school and get a graduate degree in public administration. Her dream job is to run a local non-profit or start her own. Currently, Bianca is invested in women’s issues concerning mother’s rights in the workplace as well as reproductive justice and maternal mortality. Bianca is part of the LGBTQ community and uses the intersection of race, class, and gender in her writing. She loves trying out new restaurants and taking mini trips to Austin. Some of her favorite things include cider beer, rap and indie music, ULTA shopping sprees, SXSW, and reading more than one book at a time.


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