The pump monologues: surviving exclusive pumping
Due to a series of health issues as a baby, my exclusively breastfed daughter became a poor feeder and began refusing to nurse. As a result, my milk supply all but disappeared, much to my dismay. With no milk left to provide, I tried giving her formula, to which she immediately had a potentially dangerous allergic reaction.
And so just shy of my daughter turning eight months old, I found myself out of milk with a dairy-allergic child and no alternatives, as we had no luck with the specialized formulas the pediatrician recommended. In desperation, I sought counsel from a lactation consultant about how to get my milk back. Her advice: take a supplement called More Milk Plus and pump every two hours day and night for 30 minutes each time. Every. Single. Day.
Not to brag or anything, but I became a master-pumper. I had to be, as I often produced only enough milk to fill one bottle at a time to feed my daughter. Many times there were no reserves. The stress of not knowing from feeding to feeding if your baby will have enough milk to drink is enough to send any mom into a panic.
My pump and I became inseparable. Usually self-conscious to a fault, I had to throw all shame out the window. I pumped while doing things, in places, and in front of people I never imagined I would: putting on makeup, eating dinner, driving my car. I had no idea about those fancy hands-free pumping bras either, so I had to get pretty creative about how to keep everything in its proper place as I multi-tasked. The general public is somewhat likely to accept a mom breastfeeding her baby. But attaching a machine to your “girls” in public…well that’s a different story. With a blanket draped over me I pumped while on vacation in a room full of extended family members—uncles, cousins, boyfriends of cousins—the drone of the pump awkwardly filling the air. I even hastily covered up with a sweater and whipped out my pump in the middle of the Atlanta airport, trying to ignore the stares of strangers, desperate for a few more drops of milk so my daughter wouldn’t go hungry.
I’d love to be able to say that I faced this pumping drama with grace, gladly and willingly “hooking up” every time. But in all honesty, at first I was kind of a brat about it: irritated, frustrated, and downright mad (just ask my husband!). How unfair that I had to be inconvenienced, stressed, embarrassed, exhausted, put through pain. Poor me! And then somewhere along the way it hit me…this wasn’t about ME. It was about doing what I needed to do for the welfare of the precious little life with which I’d been entrusted, no matter how far out of my comfort zone I had to step. And when it comes down to it, isn’t that really what being a parent is all about?