Four Month Pumpiversary

I have now been exclusively pumping for a little over four months. That means that I have hooked myself up to my pump about 850 times, and have spent approximately 220 hours or nearly 9 solid days attached to my trusty Medela Symphony. It also means that I have earned this awesome award…

4months

Do I think about quitting? Yes, all the time. I fantasize about throwing my pump off the Sunshine Skyway Bridge bringing my pump back to Walgreens and being done with it. I am still angry that citrullinemia stole my nursing relationship with my baby. Some days I can’t stand the thought of washing and sanitizing yet another bin full of bottles and pump parts. The reason that I keep attaching myself to the pump day after day is complex. Yes, it’s love, but it’s also pride, determination, and I imagine a healthy dose of biological imperative. At the end of the day, I have this sweet face (and those chubby thighs, nom nom) to show for it. And so I keep marching on.*

*Figuratively, of course. The cord on the pump is only a few feet long so I can’t really march very far 😉

A Sweet Memory from the NICU

I am working on a “mybaby hand two cents” post on baby bottles, and it has reminded me of a moment from our time in the NICU not even two months ago.

Looking back that week, most of it seems a blur of exhaustion and tears. This moment, though, stands out sharply in my memory. I was feeding Jacob. It must have been the first or second day, because the bottle was still new to me and the pain of being unable to breastfeed was still raw. The bottle felt like a wall between us. The nurse came in and saw me quietly crying as I fed him. Understanding immediately the reason for my tears, she took Jacob’s tiny hand and gently guided it to my pinky finger. He grasped on tightly. “There are still ways,” she said, “to connect with him.”

On Exclusive Pumping

I was able to nurse Jacob for the first seven days of his life. Despite developing a callous on my right nipple because of his surprisingly hard gums, I loved breastfeeding. Probably the hardest aspect of dealing with Jacob’s diagnosis for me, emotionally, was the inability to nurse. Thanks to his medication, Jacob can have a little bit of natural protein, but it needs to be measured carefully, to the milliliter. So, I became an exclusive pumper. There are entire online communities dedicated to exclusive pumping (EPing), so I won’t go into great detail here, but here is my brief take on the experience…

Things I Have Learned About Exclusive Pumping

1. It’s not fun. And it takes A LOT of time. And exclusive pumpers will put forth a lot of effort (and money) to make it less miserable.

2. There are all kinds of fun accessories out there for the exclusive pumper. There’s the hands-free pumping bra, which my family affectionately calls my Madonna getup. There are a variety of pumps out there to suit any preference. And, there is the Freemie. Oh, Freemie, how I love thee. Basically, they are plastic boobs that attach to your boobs and allow you to pump and function like a human being at the same time. How delightful! However, don’t be fooled by the slender woman out for a walk with her charming daughter on the website’s home page (as of this writing). The plastic cups will make your boobs like giant and misshapen. And there will be tubes coming out of your shirt which are attached to a pump. This pump will almost certainly make a loud – or at least noticeable – noise. But still, did I mention that you can (mostly) function like a human being?

3. There’s a technique called “manual expression” that serious pumpers use to empty their breasts and thereby maintain their supply. Basically you milk yourself. I resisted doing this because, really, is all that necessary? But it turns out that (a) it really works and (b) it’s kind of fun. Seriously, I get excited when I get a good spray going. And I just admitted this on the Internet where my words will live for eternity, even if I try to delete them. Or so I tell my high school students.

4. Exclusive pumperIMG_2516s get really excited when their supply goes up and freak out when their supply goes down. Every day it’s a competition with myself to outproduce the day before. And if even a drop of the precious liquid is wasted… well, for the first time in my life I have become someone who cries over spilled milk. 5. You can’t do it alone. Here’s a shout-out to Laura, who has been my friend, teacher, and cheerleader throughout my EP learning curve 🙂

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go price some deep freezers, because that stash of extra breast milk won’t preserve itself.