By Tracy M
By my reckoning, I have spent more than 1460 hours hooked up to a breast pump. And I don’t want to do it again. There. I said it. I’m waiting for the waves of guilt to wash over me, and the La Leche League-ers to start banging on my door.
Neither of my sons have been able to naturally physically nurse, but I was bound and determined to provide breastmilk any way I could, so I pumped. Every ounce of milk my first son ate for the first eight months of his life, I pumped. With my second son, I only lasted about four months, before the exhaustion wore me out.
When you are pumping instead of naturally nursing, to keep your milk supply up you have to be rigorous in your pumping schedule. If you let it slide, your supply will begin to diminish and the hormones that keep the milk coming will slow down. So, every three hours, around the clock, no matter what was happening, I would sit down to pump. Even when the baby would be sleeping, I had to get up and pump, or risk jeopardizing my supply. Baby would wake up, I would feed him with the previous pumping’s milk, change him, get him back to sleep, then I would go and pump for 15 minutes, prepare the next bottle, wash the pump, and fall exhausted back into bed, only to wake (if lucky) two hours later and do it again. Yes, I am dead serious. Even when baby started sleeping longer stretches at night, I still had to get up and pump. It was a special level of hell, let me assure you.
Before anyone asks or jumps to conclusions, I have tried everything known to mankind, including but not limited to: LLL meetings (little freaked out by the lack of tollerance for other methods of feeding and by a 7 year old lifting mom’s shirt for a ‘little sip’), Lactation Nurses- both before birth, at the hospital, after birth and home visits, breast shells, nipple shields, suction devices and other means of torture, hospital-grade industrial pumps, carrying the baby in a sling constantly nuzzling my breast, and even surgery. All to no avail.
So, with the imminent arrival of number three in just a few weeks, I have been thinking about what I should do, dreading starting the routine again, wondering how I will still be fit for human company and reasonably mother two and four-year old sons. No matter how I try and spin it, I don’t think I can humanly manage. The baby would reap the benefits of my milk, but the price my family would pay is extremely steep, and after the months of hyper-emesis they have already suffered through, is it fair to ask even more of them?
I am teetering on the edge of “my milk is perfect for my baby” and “just screw it”. Has anyone out there eschewed breastfeeding and just asked for a bottle at the hospital? Even thinking about that, the guilt wells up, I can feel the nasty stares from the nurses, and hear the boot-clad feet of the LLLeaguers goose-stepping down the birthing center hallway…
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