Hi, my name is Stephanie, and I’m a breastfeeding mom. Not in the traditional sense, though … certainly not in the way that most people would picture a breastfeeding mom. In fact, some people wouldn’t even refer to what I do as “breastfeeding”. I’m an exclusive pumper, an EPer for short. This means that all my milk is produced by a breast pump, and I do not ever put my daughter, Paisley, to my breast. Don’t get me wrong - I wish more than anything that I nursed my child. I just can’t. In fact, she actually refuses to nurse at this point.
Things started off okay for us. She nursed within one hour after birth and latched like a champ, at least that’s what I thought. The problem really started when I got home. Each nursing session would take upwards of 45 minutes, and I would grit my teeth and breathe my way through them. Latching on grew to be more and more painful, and I started to view my child as a starving animal instead of my sweet, fuzzy-headed little baby. Paisley would thrash her head back and forth, snorting, and would literally lunge at my nipple. Within one week, I had nipples that were gaping open so much so that my nurse practitioner referred to them as “the worst she’d seen”. I consulted with a lactation consultant on more than one occasion with a visit and complete nursing session thrown in. One morning, after a particularly painful latch, I found myself looking down at Paisley and starting to say “you little f….”. Thank God I stopped myself, but it was at that moment that I realized that breastfeeding was not the bonding experience that I had wanted it to be. In fact, it was turning into the exact opposite. I was resenting my child because I had to feed her.
Originally, the goal was just to pump for a couple of days – just until my nipples healed enough to put her back on. A few days quickly turned in a few weeks with little improvement. I seriously couldn’t bear the thought of placing my daughter’s mouth on my torn up nipples, not only for the pain that I would feel but for the thought of her little mouth having to touch all of that. After six weeks of pumping, my nipples were finally healed. By this point, I was pumping 40 oz a day and my daughter was consuming 25. Frankly, I had overproduced and would have to pump anyway after she would nurse. After really looking at the situation, I realized that we were both far happier with me pumping. She got her breast milk in bottle that was fed to her by anyone that was willing, and she also got a much more calm and happier mom in the process.
Yes, pumping exclusively is hard. There are parts to wash daily. There’s the fact that you pump, and then feed. It’s a huge pain to be hooked up to a machine five times a day, 20 minutes a session. But seriously? It’s worth it. Paisley is getting the best that I can give her. She’s healthy, thriving, and happy – all thanks to my pumping. I’m not going to lie. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t feel some sort of remorse or guilt over the fact that Paisley doesn’t nurse. I still try once in awhile. Not being able to nurse her is a loss that I still mourn and probably will for awhile. It’s not what I envisioned for us, and it’s certainly not what I would prefer. I’m still envious of moms that can put their babies to breast with no difficulty. I still struggle to identify with being one of them. But the truth is I am one of them. Just not in the traditional sense.
Hi, my name is Stephanie, and I’m a breastfeeding mom.
Note from Jo:
I'm not going to lie. I read Stephanie's post and just sobbed. I remember when she was pregnant and she talked about how much she was looking forward to and DETERMINED to breastfeed. Since Paisley's birth, she has mentioned often how she wishes that things would have worked out with Paisley and latching onto the breast. I offered what advice and support that I could. When she made the decision that pumping was the best thing for them both, I remember thinking "Oh, that's sad." Reading her words today, I feel such a sense of loss for her and actual GUILT that I've been able to nurse my babies. I wonder why it works for some and not for others and am so frustrated at the unfairness of it all. I respect and admire her so much for continuing to do what is best for her and for her baby and am so very proud that she trusted me enough to share her story with me and with you today.
Stephanie can be found on twitter @PaiselnutsMama but does not (yet) have her own blog. Feel free to show her the comment love here and she will check in, especially once I nag her until she does. That's what friends are for, right?