More and more mothers are pumping breast milk instead of breastfeeding. The exclusive pumping rate ranges between 5 and 6 percent. But for me? I knew that breastfeeding was going to be easy. What could the universe throw at me? It was our fourth baby.
But when it came down to it, I didn’t honestly “know” anything. Our journey was so incredibly different than what I imagined. I pictured a smooth water birth with baby instinctively latching on within the golden hour after birth.
Everything has been challenging this year, and nothing has gone to plan. This is our rainbow baby- after our ectopic pregnancy storm.
Instead, I had an induction for severe preeclampsia at 33 weeks pregnant with a premature baby that wound up in the NICU. If you’re interested, we share the birth story of our 33-weeker here.
“Life is so constructed, that the event does not, cannot, will not, match the expectation.”
― Charlotte Brontë
Three weeks after I gave birth, I was struggling to breastfeed. Baby J would nurse one or two times a day for just a few minutes before tuckering out. Occasionally, we would have one 15 to 20-minute robust feed, which lulled me into thinking he was going to latch expertly as soon as he got it.
We were getting better, but we weren’t close to sustaining his weight on my breastfeeding alone. He was still regularly getting two-ounce feedings in his nasogastric tube.
I realized that I could push for exclusive breastfeeding, or I could acknowledge we were having breastfeeding issues, work them out later, and bring my baby to be with family. We were used to pumping breast milk instead of breastfeeding anyway. So I brought my son home.
I agreed to bottle feed my son when I could not be at the hospital for nursing sessions. Now that he is several months old, he will latch to nurse occasionally, but this is generally what breastfeeding looks like to me.
Making Peace with your Feeding Journey
There are beautiful mamas out there who choose exclusively pumping breast milk instead of breastfeeding for their sweet babes. And then there are mamas like me who simply can’t, despite their best efforts.
Both camps deserve a place along the spectrum of breastfeeding. There is no one correct way.
There are incredibly useful breastfeeding tools that you can use to try to get baby to the breast while exclusively pumping breast milk instead of breastfeeding They are lovely and may improve your breastfeeding relationship if you so desire. But this is not one of those articles full of tricks to get your baby to latch.
This article is about making peace with your breastfeeding path, whether it involves a pump, a boob, or a scoop of formula. This is about accepting the fact that there were hurdles and you did the best that you could do. You may not place your baby to the breast because of your circumstance or your choice.
Mothers may be away from their infants for long periods due to work. They may have to travel abroad or work 24-hour hospital shifts.
Some babies don’t latch properly. Some mothers can’t afford lactation consultants. Sometimes your baby is in the NICU receiving milk through a tube. Maybe your baby was born with a cleft lip and palate.
Maybe you don’t want to breastfeed and prefer to pump. This article is to support all of you mamas, who for whatever reason, choose pumping breast milk instead of breastfeeding.
The guilt surrounding breastfeeding is intense, and it is authentic. With my second child, I realized that I was basing my worth as a mother on our breastfeeding relationship.
But what if we’re being set up to fail?
Studies show that many women feel as if they don’t have the proper resources, support, or advice from the health care providers that they trust. The biggest reasons moms don’t continue breastfeeding is because they think they have a low milk supply, they don’t have any breastfeeding support, or they are experiencing pain. Didnt anyoen explain it?
What if women were better supported? Better supported all around- in career choices, in family sizes. What if we helped women succeed at breastfeeding or breast pumping? What if we encouraged them to do what was best for their family- even if it’s not the breast at all?
We live in a society where we push breastfeeding so hard that we don’t always consider the effects on the mother. I’m a huge advocate for breastfeeding– I love putting babies right on mama’s chest after birth. I am happiest when I’m helping a new mama achieve that first latch.
But I love mothers more than breastfeeding.
We don’t talk about what happens when you go home, and your baby is up screaming all night. We don’t talk about the undiagnosed lip and tongue ties that macerate your tender nipples. No one discusses the babies that cannot gain weight despite feeding 12 to 14 times a day. We don’t tell each other that sometimes we feel like a failure.
And when we do discuss it, there’s so much shame. When we’re doing it right, we doubt ourselves. And when it’s going wrong, we blame ourselves. Breastfeeding is important, but having a healthy mama is paramount.
Mothers are Fierce
Mothers take on the burden of the world. I would never let my best friend talk about herself the way I let my brain talk to me.
Everyone’s feeding journey looks different. You can’t compare yourself to another mother. Try to let go of what you can’t control and spend your spare time enjoying your baby.
Try saying to yourself, “My baby is thriving, and I love him. I am doing a wonderful job.” And this article is about actually meaning it.
Embrace your amazing body that grew and birthed your own flesh and blood. Admire the curve of your baby’s cheek, the sweet little coo she makes when she sees your face, and those tiny wiggly toes. YOU GREW THAT! Be proud of what you’ve done and know that you will continue to be an amazing mother to your child.
If there’s anything that I’ve learned about parenting, it’s that you have to let go of your expectations. Nothing is going to go as planned.
Let’s support each other– this road is tough enough anyway.
Pumping Breast Milk instead of Breastfeeding
How we treat our children is the most crucial part of their childhood. So when the doubts creep in, and I remember for the fourteenth time that this parenting thing isn’t going as planned.
My daughter knows what she sees. Sometimes she thinks breastfeeding looks like nursing, and sometimes breastfeeding looks like a bottle. But it doesn’t matter what it looks like because more than anything else, she sees love.
However, I have one constant. I’m still a superhero to my children.
At least until middle school.
When it’s more than Breastfeeding Guilt…
If your feelings surrounding breastfeeding become distressing, you may be suffering from postpartum anxiety or depression. It is not your fault if you feel this way- the hormones of pregnancy and postpartum are intense.
Postpartum Support International provides resources if you think you may be suffering from a postpartum mood disorder. Break the stigma. Seek help- you are not alone. You must care for yourself properly in order to care for anyone else.
Caitlin Goodwin MSN, CNM, RN is a professional nurse copywriter with 12 years of experience in the nursing profession. She works as a nursing consultant and health content strategist. If you are looking for a professional content writer, please message below!
4 responses to “Pumping Breast Milk instead of Breastfeeding: When Breastfeeding Looks like a Bottle”
Beautifully said! We can rarely live up to our expectations but we can embrace what we have.
Yes- We need to support each other!
Fantastic article! Mamas need to embrace the depth of the wonderful that they do despite all of the judgement thrown our way!
Thank you so much. Empowering woman- the Midwife way ❤️