When you have a baby in BC, they send a public health nurse to come and make sure you know what you’re doing and that your living room isn’t a meth lab, and with our little one, things were no different. And while the nurses at the hospital were amazing and lovely and I wanted to bring each of them home to live with me, the public health nurse sucked.
I am sure that she meant well. She contradicted everything the hospital nurses said, and then went on to list the things I was doing wrong and the things I shouldn’t do wrong in the future. And then she gave me some pamphlets, and a DVD about purple crying, and told me I should let the baby decide our schedule because wanting to get more than an hour’s sleep in one go is selfish and his needs are sensitive – I was to take him off the “every three hours” schedule the NICU nurses had him on and move him back to feeding on demand. Did I want him to have abandonment issues? Did I want him to be an emotional eater, a problem drinker, or an Adam Sandler fan? Then I’d best be getting back on track. I am sure that she meant well. Or maybe she was just kind of an asshole.
Either way, figuring that she knew best, I tried to follow her instructions so as not to permanently ruin the boy. She said it could take up to six weeks to establish a breastfeeding routine. I tried desperately to get him to feed the natural way, but he was furious every single time; I tried to feed him before I knew he’d be hungry, or as he was falling asleep; nothing worked. I think we tend to forget that babies are small versions of people and that they have opinions of their own. Mine had strong opinions, and the main one was that mealtime was not time to get hung up on tradition. So, four weeks shy of my six-week deadline and after two weeks of battling a baby so hangry at every meal that he’d shake and gasp, turning red over his lost breath, I elected to pump all his meals and put them in bottles and we all lived happily ever after.
He will probably be obese and emotionally distant.
Of course it will all by my fault.
One thing you find out pretty quickly is that every nurse, doctor, or person with children is an expert and is happy to offer his or her opinion, and each of those opinions contradicts all of the other opinions you’ve already heard. And that everything you do wrong will eventually be the reason why your child grows up to be a nihilist or a crackhead. All of this is amplified on the Internet, where everyone’s an expert and a lot of people are pretty damn smug in their correctness.
There isn’t a lot of information about exclusive pumping, because it’s not widely accepted as an alternative to breast or formula feeding. If you are struggling to breastfeed, you are told that you are doing it wrong – it isn’t supposed to hurt! (Well, sometimes it does.) It’s how we were meant to feed our babies! (It’s the future – we do a lot of things to improve on nature now. Like refrigeration and modern medicine and science.) You just need to keep trying/try harder! (Fuck off.) Given the urgency of his needs, I could have just given the baby formula from the get-go, but I wanted to keep him off commercial foodstuffs for as long as I was physically able. If for some reason I wasn’t able, I already knew which formula I would be sticking him on. That was a well-researched personal choice, based on my personal opinions, politics, and obsessive reading.
There are lots of reasons why exclusive pumping might work for you. Maybe you find breastfeeding uncomfortable. Maybe you’re going back to work. Maybe you want to be able to go grab a drink with real human lady-friends every once in awhile without having to make everyone go to Applebee’s because you have to lug a baby along. Maybe your baby prefers the bottle, but you don’t want to use formula. Maybe you just don’t want to breastfeed and exclusive pumping is the grey area you need to make you feel better about that. All of these are valid reasons.
I ran into a colleague from my old job not too long ago, and her preemie was as difficult as my hungry, hangry hippo to feed, so she opted for exclusive pumping as well. “There was no information about it. And people were so mean.” (Side note: Why does anyone care what you are doing with your boobs unless you are literally assaulting people with them?)
So, here are six helpful tips about exclusive pumping.
- You will blow through several pumps, so find the one that works for you and buy the extended warranty. I tried the fancy Medela pump and this double pump that made me feel like livestock and that subliminally warned me about my impending demise (“kill you, kill you, kill you” it said every time I turned it on). The best one was the $59 EvenFlo pump, even though it was noisy as hell.
- Buy a second set of parts so you can throw the first set in the dishwasher after you use it. There is little more depressing than scrubbing your pump parts at 3:00 a.m.
- Tea for nursing mothers tastes like curried feet and it ekes out through your pores so you always smell kind of damp. Buy fenugreek tablets if you want to boost your supply, and eat oatmeal cookies. Drink a tea you like. Hydration is important.
- Go out. Even if it’s just to Superstore alone on a Friday night (which is actually one of my favourite activities), get out and let someone else feed that kid. This is the single greatest benefit to exclusive pumping/bottle feeding – sometimes you get to be alone. Relish this time, because soon you will have a toddler and that toddler will want to sit on your lap while you pee and then you will never be alone again.
- Skip a feeding. Let your partner take one of the night-time feeds so you can get, like, six hours of sleep in a row. Just be sure to get back on schedule the following day so you don’t suffer any setbacks, production-wise.
- If it doesn’t work for you, don’t waste your time dwelling on it. Again, your needy little newborn will be a toddler soon and then it doesn’t matter what you try to feed him, he will throw it on the floor. Enjoy the gratitude of a newborn at a bottle, no matter what you feed him.