Reflections of a pumping mum (what I learnt the second time around)
The sound. I’ll never forget that sound.
These days many pumps are whisper quiet and cordless… But the memory of sitting there, hooked up to a machine with suction caps and long tubes and that sounded like a cow was dying is one that will stay with me forever.
Pumping milk, what a weird concept right? For mums who breastfeed, pumping often plays a big part in their overall feeding journey.There are many reasons mothers choose to pump, such as establishing milk supply, storing milk for when you can’t be with your baby or easing pain from engorgement. Some mums have to pump exclusively as their baby can’t breastfeed due to sickness or other health conditions.
With my first son, I had an oversupply of milk, and so in my mind, I felt like it was my duty to pump. (Which I later learned wasn’t the best for oversupply as more pumping = more milk).
But, because of my surplus, I was riddled with guilt at the thought of giving him formula. I had all this milk and I thought I was a failure if I dared give him any formula. I thought people would judge me.
Ridiculous I know now, but when you’re a vulnerable first-time mum you let the silly thoughts creep in.
After months of being attached at the boob to my little one around the clock (which I was, of course, incredibly grateful for), I desperately wanted, no needed, some time to myself. For my body to be my own for at least some short windows of time here and there. I also knew I would be eventually heading back to work and so I planned to build a supply of breastmilk in my freezer.
For something that is made to give us options and provide freedom, it’s amazing that it can make you feel so trapped.
When your baby is feeding around the clock – you are already feeling like a milk machine, then add in pumping and it truly feels like all you do is sit and secrete milk.
Throw in sore cracked nipples and don’t dare feel stress, anxiety or anything remotely negative – because the milk won’t come unless you feel happy thoughts and sit there looking lovingly at your baby or photos of them.
Pumping quickly became a chore. I knew I didn’t need to do it but I felt like I had to, my son was feeding well otherwise, but even after he started solids I kept going. I got stuck in this cycle and I felt like I couldn’t break out and it was draining me.
Eventually, after I went back to work, I tried pumping in the first aid room, paranoid someone would hear me or walk in on me. And I cried – which meant I barely got any milk anyway. It was ridiculous, I was putting all this pressure on myself and didn’t need to be. So I stopped and it was like a weight was immediately lifted off me.
When my second son came along I vowed not to pump unless absolutely necessary. If he needed it I would do it in a heartbeat.
Instead, I opted for the Haakaa pump which collects your letdown whilst you feed on the other breast. This was a game-changer for me. It meant I could collect a small supply if I needed it but I also wasn’t stuck pumping after his feeds. Which second-time-around with a toddler in tow wouldn’t have been ideal.
I did that for a little bit but then went on to supplement his feeds with formula when I needed to.
These days I see new mums on Instagram rocking some amazing new pumps that are so discreet they just sit inside your bra and let you go about your business. This is amazing. And every time I see them it takes me right back and I get a pang of sadness.
Hopefully, the horrible days of pumping are behind us. Thanks to technology and new innovations mums can have the ability to pump without sacrificing themselves in the process.
My advice to mums-to-be is rather than rushing out to buy a pump when you’re pregnant, you might want to wait and see if you actually need one first. You might not end up breastfeeding at all or you might decide to forgo pumping. You can usually borrow them from the hospital for the first few days and then if you need one send your partner on their merry way to grab one.
Whatever you decide, like anything to do with parenting, it’s a truly personal decision and what works for you and your situation might be different from somebody else. Make your decision for you and your baby – and nobody else.
Jessica Bosco. Editor and Mum of two.