Now I know that my experiencing pumping is a bit outside the norm so many of my “pros” may not be relevant to others but I wanted to put these out there, in case they are helpful for others. If you have had a different experience, please do share in the comment section, so anyone who may wander upon this post while considering exclusive breastfeeding can hear the different ways it might play out.
I’m a milk machine. The best part about pumping is how much milk I make. I only pump four times a day for about 15 to 20 minutes a session, and I’m producing 35-40 ounces. Every LC I’ve talked to warned that my supply would probably start to plummet if I pumped so infrequently but the opposite seems to be the case. Now that I’m draining my breasts completely four times a day I’m making more than I was before! Right now I’m producing about 10-15 ounces more than Monito needs every day. I’ve started to freeze the excess but I’m only storing about 8 ounces a day. The rest just gets left at the bottom of bottles that Monito doesn’t finish. It’s so nice to not have to worry about him not finishing a bottle or milk going to waste. When you make as much as I do, you don’t really worry about a few lost ounces.
Feeling that my body is capable at something. I’ve written before about the feelings of failure that breastfeeding inspired in me. I am still recovering from the negative self-image that our breastfeeding debacle wrought. I have to admit, being able to make so much milk makes feel good about my body. We may not be able to breastfeed, but I CAN make milk for my son–a lot of it! And that’s something!
Time to myself. It may be hard to find the time to pump, but pumping does force me to carve out some time that is just for me. Most of the time, taking the time to pump ends up being kind of nice. Like right now… both my kids are magically asleep and I really should be waking Osita up but instead I’m forced to take this time to pump, which means I get a few extra minutes to write! And during Christmas I actually really enjoyed when I had to step away into an empty room and take 15 minutes to read on my phone while I pumped. It was a really nice break from all the holiday mayhem.
Saves me time, and stress. It should be noted that while pumping takes time, I am probably saving time overall throughout the day. Breastfeeding Monito was such a disaster–it took AGES to get him on the breast and he usually ended up so frustrated that he’d stop eating before he was sated, which meant he’d want to eat again quickly and he ended up eating more times throughout the day. Now that he eats from a bottle, “meal time” has been cut down dramatically and he eats less frequently. Feeding time is also much less stressful now. It is amazing how much happier I am now that I don’t have to worry about how the next feeding will go. My quality of life is so improved by bottle feeding.
Saving $$$$. Pumping is not necessarily a money saver, but when you already have the pump and the hands-free pumping bra and a bunch of extra kits and a car adapter and everything else you need to pump, pumping really does save you money. Especially when your alternative of choice is Earth’s Best Organic formula at $35 a canister.
No more multiple letdowns and no more leaks. Pumping has solved a lot of the problems that I didn’t like about breastfeeding. I no longer let down 4-5 times a session (I’m not a fan of how letting down feels). I very rarely let down randomly throughout the day now either. I also don’t have to worry about leaking, either during the day or during feedings. I LOVE not getting milk all over myself. Seriously, I can’t stress how much nicer it is to be dry all day.
Not so scared of thrush. Now that I don’t have to worry about Monito and I passing thrush back and forth, my stress level has gone WAY down. I still feel some discomfort–mostly some minor itching and burning–that may be a mild case of thrush but it doesn’t bother me much. Knowing that I don’t have to worry about giving it–or getting it–from Monito means I don’t really care whether it’s thrush or not. He obviously isn’t bothered by it if he does have it, so I can just do what I need to do to make myself comfortable and not worry about the vicious cycle of thrush making me crazy.
Easy to travel with freshly pumped milk. One of the things I miss the most about breastfeeding is the convenience. I miss knowing that I could just feed my baby anywhere I may be, without needing any extra accoutrements. Packing bottles is definitely a pain, but I appreciate that after I pump I can pack two bottles of fresh milk and be able to use them for up to five hours. Pumping right before I leave on an outing means I have up to 8 ounces ready to go and that makes things super easy.
Sharing the responsibility. I may be the one making Monito’s milk but I don’t have to be the one to give it to him. If is so nice to have some freedom over myself and my body when my baby is hungry–I am not longer beholden to him at any hour of the day. Since I started pumping it’s been much easier to leave him with his father or grandparents and even my preschooler seems to understand that now, when the baby cries, it doesn’t automatically mean I have to go to him; other people can tend to his needs as well as I.
Giving my baby breast milk. I may not be breastfeeding my baby but I am giving him breast milk and that makes me happy. I appreciate that I can still provide him with the immunity boosts to help him stay healthy as my daughter continues to bring home illness after illness (we’re all just starting with a new cold again right now, it’s awful). I know that formula is a great alternative to breast milk and I have no qualms giving Monito formula when I’m done pumping, but right now I like that I’m giving him breast milk: it makes the feelings of failure I felt after I moved on from breastfeeding a lot more manageable.
So those are the reasons I like pumping. For me, right now, the positives absolutely outweigh the negatives. Of course, I have the easiest, most gratifying, pumping situation ever. If I had to pump twice as much (or even 50% more frequently), or if I produced less milk, I doubt I’d keep pumping. But right now, for me, the ratio of time commitment to milk produced feels worth it–it’s a sound investment at this point. Some day I know that will change and I’m ready to walk away as soon as the negatives start to outweigh the positives. I’m sure I’ll be writing a post about it when that happens. For now I’m going to keep honoring my inner mammal. 😉
What has been your experience pumping?