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…


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 😉

Jacob taught me to take the plank out of my eye

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-5)

Bet you didn’t know that Jesus had a snarky side. I love the hyperbole in this scripture. And it’s been in my mind lately because I have been thinking about judgement. I guess this is something that new parents do, especially because there are so many vehement opinions out there about the “right” way to raise a baby. Even though, like this author, I am fairly confident that that there is no “right” way, I still find myself wondering if, in the eyes of the world, I’m a good mom.

After Justin and I decided that my staying home was Jacob’s best chance for a healthy start in life, I signed up for WIC to help cover the costs of his formula and offset our grocery bill. The first time I used my WIC EBT card at Publix, I had some trouble with the transaction. There were several people in line behind me, and I ended up having to suspend my transaction and call the WIC hotline to reset my PIN number. I imagined what people were thinking. “If she can’t afford to feed her family, why did she have a baby?” or “Why are my tax dollars going towards food benefits for a young woman who obviously could work if she wanted to?” or “I wish there were a separate line for people on food stamps.” They had no way of knowing about Jacob’s citrullinemia, or that I have been working since I was sixteen and faithfully paying my taxes just like them. That this is just a bump in the road.

It’s the same thing with formula feeding. Before Jacob, I assumed that parents of formula-fed babies were lazy, or ignorant, or both. Now I have a little boy who is partially formula-fed because that is the only way to keep him healthy. When I give Jacob a bottle in public, I wonder who is sitting in silent judgement, thinking that I don’t care enough to breastfeed my son. When the reality is that I am giving up hours every day to pump so that I can give him as much breastmilk as his little body can process.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe nobody is thinking those things. But I will admit that thoughts like those have crossed my mind once or twice, and I suspect that I am not the only one. The fact is, we can’t know what is going on in people’s lives. So maybe it’s best to approach everyone from a place of compassion. Of course, people could take advantage of programs like WIC or might formula-feed for the wrong reasons. But how much better and kinder would the world be if we all gave each other the benefit of the doubt before judging? If we all first dealt with the planks in our own eyes?

And now, an only tangentially related photo of the sweet boy who helped me to learn this lesson:

smiling baby

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.