The Cold, Hard Truth about Exclusive Pumping... as I know it.

My chiropracter and I are friends on Facebook. (and I consider her a friend in real life too, as she was also my doula for Georgie and Cole. When someone has seen the most private parts of you AND taken pictures, keep them as a friend!) She always posts links to articles about natural living, pregnancy, birthing and breasfeeding, most of which have a slightly alternative bent.

Recently, she posted a link about feeding babies that listed the preferred methods as follows:

1. breastmilk straight from the mother's breast

2. expressed milk from the mother

3. donated human milk (screened and pasterized)

4. commerical formula.

Here's the kicker- I agree with this. No, duh to those who know me, right?

BUT (and there's always a BUT), this is the ideal. The reality is much, much different.

When I was pregnant with Joseph, I told Adam I would give our baby breastmilk, even if it ment only pumping. Joseph latched on and nursed well with no problems until my supply tanked at ten weeks pregnant with Camille. He was 15 months old and 15 months is certainly a respectable nursing relationship and I was sad to see it end. I was happy to give him breastmilk and nursing was enjoyable for both of us.

Six years later, I am being challenged on my claim that I would give my baby my milk, even if it ment pumping. I have a baby that can't latch on and I am pumping for him.

I want to nurse my baby. For me, nursing is normally easy, pleasent and enjoyable. I like breastfeeding. I love milky grins, doozing with a nursing baby or toddler during naps. I enjoy having to only remember myself and the diaper bag when we go out. I like not having to worry about whether or not I refilled the formula container, if I am going to be able to get clean water, whether or not bottles are clean. I like knowing that if I am around, come he ll or high water (or tornados, or snow storms or power outages) my baby will be fed.

And, yes, I believe that there is something in breastmilk, an ever-changing fluid, that formula, at this time, cannot replicate. I believe, to use emotionally charged words, it is better than commerical formula.

I also believe you have to feed your baby and that commerical formula can be, depending on the situation between mother and baby, better than breastmilk.

I don't believe that "bad mothers" use formula and good mothers breastfeed; you are only a bad mother if you don't feed your baby!

Would I like to see all babies, even babies whose mother's have low supplies, are adopted, are sick, can't latch on, have breastmilk? Yes.

HOWEVER, to get milk to these babies someone, somewhere is going to have to pump.

It was so, so easy for me to say, six years ago, that I would just exclusivly pump for my baby. And maybe, six years ago, I could have done it. Joseph was my first and it would have been easier, physically, to plan our days around when I would need to sit down, hook up to the mechanical baby, and pump away. Now, though, with four kids and activities it is a totally different story.

To feed my baby, I need a power source and a pump, complete with parts. I need to be plugged in and sitting down, not moving much or very far for about 20-30 minutes at a time, every few hours. The kids can't go swimming, and since I won't pump in front of people, it was hard to have friends over for awhile. We have had to plan our day around when I need to pump, sometimes cutting playdates a little short so Mommy can go home. It takes my time and engery, moreso than "normal" breastfeeding would, because I have to store the milk. I'm not done there, however; I also have to mix up bottles, feed Cole and try to breastfeed him.

Pumping alone takes 30 minutes. Making up the bottle and feeding him takes another 15-20. Trying to nurse would be anywhere from 0-10 minutes, or whenever he started screamed at me. That's about an hour of feeding per session all day long, compared to a typical 20 minutes nursing or bottlefeeding session. No wonder my kids were going stir crazy!

Feedings at night took longer too. I had to stay awake long enough to give him a bottle and then I had to pump. I was up an hour each feeding. In the early weeks, Adam would give him a bottle while I pumped but its been up to me recently. I have enough trouble staying awake at night to bottle feed him; dragging myself out of bed was torture! This past week I've only pumped once at night because I was simply too tired to move. I can do that because I respond well to the pump, didn't mind supplementing with formula and have a decent supply. If any of those changed, I would be pumping more.

When I nurse my kids, or give them a bottle, I have the option of staying where I am or leaving for another room. What I pick depends on the situation but I typically head for the most comfortable place. With pumping, I had no choice but to leave for another room. I had to leave Cole's baptism party and head upstairs. All of my friends knew what was going on and no one minded but it was lonely and isolating. I mean, I'll breastfeed anytime, anywhere and anyplace but pumping? Even I won't do that without a cover!

I know I have nothing to prove by breastfeeding. I know it is no one's business what is in my kid's bottle but, yes, you do feel judged. I worried what other people would think when I mixed up formula. I felt like a complete and utter failure, even though Cole had a very physical reason why he could not nurse.

A tounge tie requires a bottle. Period. It's not like a low supply where I could have just used a SNS and supplemented him at the breast. He couldn't latch on. Period. He was damaging my nipples and causing toe-curling pain. I had mastisis at two weeks because he couldn't empty the breast properly. It's hard to understand unless you are there but, yes, some babies simply can't latch on.

Several people have suggested a "nursing box" of toys that the kids can play with only when I pump. That would work but it would hold their attention for about 2.5 seconds before they would be fighting over something or destroying the house. The toddler knows I can't move when I pump and gets into mischief; the other day, he ripping up a roll of wrapping paper, cleaned out the bathroom cabniets and took all the tissues out of a box.

I try and time pumping so Cole is asleep. He's a hold me baby and even with hands free pumping, I find it hard to hold him. I've given him a bottle while pumping; an odd juxtoposition if there ever was one.

I've been EP'ing for a month now. It's been a long month. The sacrifices for all six of us have been huge. I don't know how much longer I am going to keep on pumping. I'm asking 3 kids to have their life revolve around me expressing milk for their brother. That's a huge sacrifice to ask young children to make. I don't know how much longer I can ask them to do that.

I've said before that breastfeeding is generally easy, formula feeding is easy, pumping is not. This is a huge lifestyle change for all of us. I keep going because I have a light at the end of the tunnel- he is getting closer to fully nursing. I don't know if I would keep doing this if I didn't have that little light at the end of the tunnel (unless he was sick). There are very, very, very people I would EP for.

It's easy for the experts to say that one method is the perrferred method of feeding. It's easy for people to say what they would do in a situation they are not in. It's sometimes not easy to carry those out.

If I stop pumping for Cole and he can't nurse, I won't have failed him. I won't be feeding him fourth-best. I will have tried my dardest to make MY preferred method of feeding work. And it if it doesn't, I will have a good cry, put on my big girl non-nursing bra and mix up the formula in the bottles and enjoy my baby. I will have slogged through exclusive pumping and come out the other side with my baby in tow and as long as he's happy and healthy, who cares how he's fed?