The Cons of Pumping

I meant for this post to be about the negatives AND positives of pumping, but after the cons got super long, I decided to split them up. Don’t worry, I’m sure the pros post will be just as long as this one is–I’m actually quite pleased with my current set up and have no desire to stop pumping whatsoever. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t negatives to weigh against the positives. This post looks at what I don’t like about exclusive pumping. Tomorrow I’ll discuss why I keep doing it, despite all these things.

Is it weird that I can’t figure out if I’m technically “breastfeeding” right now? I don’t feel like that word applies to me, and yet when you pump, so many of the same restrictions apply. Of course, some restrictions DO NOT apply, and many of the same benefits are present so I’m just not sure if the word describes our experience.

In fact, I feel so far removed from the “breastfeeding” experience and so entrenched in “bottle feeding” as it were, that I was considering submitting a piece to the Fearless Formula Feeder before I remembered that I don’t actually feed my daughter formula, so my experience doesn’t really apply. I don’t have much commentary on this at the moment but I hope to touch on it more later–it seems significant to me that although I provide my son with breast milk I don’t consider us to be “breastfeeding.”

I’m currently three weeks into exclusively pumping and I have no plans to stop anytime soon. So far my 4xday-15mins/session schedule feels very manageable and the amount of milk I’m getting (35-40 ounces) definitely makes to worth my while.

After three weeks of pumping (and I know my schedule is so different from most who exclusively pump–in that I pump far few times, and for far fewer minutes each session–as to make this post almost inapplicable to others) these are the aspects that I love–and don’t love–about being hooked up to a machine like a bovine mistress.

CONS

– The act. Did I mention I have to be hooked up to a machine like a bovine mistress? There is something about sitting and having milk mechanically extracted from one’s breasts that makes one feel like less than a lady.

– The pump parts. Washing them. Storing them. Putting them together. Taking them apart. Keeping track of them. Making sure I have them when we go out. Just pump parts. Period.

– The dishes. Pumping definitely creates more dishes, though the bottles are what make up the bulk of them so I don’t feel like the pumping-related dishes are really that bad. Still, it sucks to do dishes–and the pump parts are particularly annoying to wash as they have so many weird little nooks and crannies–so I’m putting this in the post.

– The sound. Oh the sound! How I loathe it. Luckily my Game of Thrones book on tape drowns it out pretty well.

– The time commitment. It is inconvenient that the act of feeding my son and extracting the substance I feed to him are separate. The extra time chaffs me most at 5am (which is when I’m writing this post) because it also means I get less sleep. (Oh sleep, precious sleep, how I miss thee.)

– Accommodating my children. I suppose this falls under the umbrella of “time” but it feels like a different issue because it’s not so much about the actual minutes as it is about what can feel like the impossibility of figuring out when and how to pump when Monito is awake (it’s hard to tend to a baby when you can’t hold him well, or even walk over to where he is) or even Osita is around. Osita HATES when I pump, she seems to resent it far more than I do, and she has little mini meltdowns when I have to hook myself up to my machine. Anything that causes stress between me and my toddler right now is a definite negative.

– Scheduling activities around pumping. I am EXTREMELY lucky in that, with my 4-times-a-day schedule, I enjoy a good six hours in between pumping sessions. Such extended periods of time means that it’s relatively easy to plan outings around when I have to pump next. Still, there are instances when I feel anxious to get home so that I can relieve my heavy breasts of their burden. It also sucks to have to lug my pump to events; I had to bring my pump to both my parents’ and my in-laws yesterday and I was terrified I was going to forget parts and end up not being able to pump while I was there. It can be frustrating to feel beholden to my pump and what it does for me.

– Physical discomfort. Pumping means I suffer the general discomforts of a breastfeeding mother. While I have no nipple pain from feedings (THANK GAWD!), I do spend most of the day with heavy, full breasts. The best hours are the one or two RIGHT after pumping; that is when I feel noticeably lighter both physically (because I am a good 9-10 ounces lighter) and mentally (because I know I don’t have to pump again for a while). I also have to deal with random let downs, though those have decreased exponentially since I started pumping (I think emptying my breasts completely has thwarted my overactive letdown issues). Finally, I am still trying to determine if I still have thrush or if the milk itching/burning sensations are due to pumping or just remnants of the two months I was putting all manner of cramp on my breasts to combat the thrush.

– Policing my intake. Of course it sucks to have to regulate when I drink alcohol and I can’t enjoy a Diet Coke right now like I do when I’m not breastfeeding (though I do enjoy many, many Diet Cokes), but the thing that sucks the most about pumping is not being able to take my ADD meds. It’s been well over two years since I stopped taking them to start TTC #2 and I miss them terribly. Right now pumping is the only thing standing between me and feeling like myself again and I suspect it is needing to go back on them that will eventually provide the tipping point to stop pumping. I do look forward to reclaiming my body in its entirety when I stop pumping; after 14 months of TTC, nine months of pregnancy and however many months of pumping, I will be so relieved to know that whatever I ingest affects me and only me. I look forward to that day.

So that is what I dislike about pumping. Tomorrow I shall write about all the reasons that I’m thankful I can do this, because there are many and they are significant. I feel privileged to be able to feed my son this way and I wish I had considered this set up when I was agonizing over whether or not to stop breastfeeding; it has provided the best of both worlds for both me and my baby boy.

If you’ve ever pumped, what did you hate most about the experience?

4 responses

  1. For me the biggest con was supply issues. I have low supply to begin with, but when I’m actually nursing I’m able to make enough as long as I nurse frequently. Pumping, though, I make very little (at the most, this time around I might make 2.25 ounces in one session). Being able to measure caused me so much stress!! Breastfeeding and trusting my baby’s behavior was easier. It seems like now that you’re exclusively pumping, your supply issues (the opposite of mine) are actually working in your favor.

    For the noise… J calls breasts “boops”. When he’d hear the pump whirring he’d say “boop milk boop milk boop milk…” in time with the pump noise, and that made me smile.

  2. I know that being an EPer was not in your breastfeeding plan, but it’s interesting to me that your EPing schedule is so similar to what I did at work Monday-Thursday for 9 months (in addition to BFing nights/weekends) but you don’t feel like you’re actually “breastfeeding” per se. It sucks things have been such a challenge for you guys, but kind of a mixed blessing that your supply is so high that you can get away with only pumping 4x/day I’d say. Wahoo! 🙂

    Quick tip on cleaning pump parts – just shove them in the fridge in a plastic bag (or container or whatever) between pumping and wash them once at the end of the day. Saves so much time and hassle!

  3. I am mainly breast feeding with some pumping (about once/day to try to up my supply). The most annoying thing for me so far is not knowing how much I will produce during a session. Sometimes 20 minutes yields 80ml between the two boobs, sometimes it is only 20-30. I wish that I was more consistent.

    • I found consistency was key with pumping — if you pump 5 days out of 7, your body will be confused as to how much you “need” to produce and you’ll keep getting varied amounts when you pump. Also, supply is highest in the morning, so if you can make it work with your schedule, the best time to pump if you’re only doing 1x/day is early morning, either an hour before or after your kid’s first nursing session. I always got the best results at my 5:30am pump session!

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