tales from a stay-at-home mom of four boys

The cow says “Moo”

I have a love-hate relationship with my pump. Ok, that’s a lie. No mom is going to tell you that she loves her pump, but like me, most moms will tell you that they love what their pump allows them to do, which is to provide their baby with the best nourishment out there, breast milk.

I hate pumping with a passion. It is annoying, awkward, uncomfortable, and time consuming, but I love being able to give my kids breast milk instead of formula, so I pump. With my first two boys, I pumped mostly because I was a working mom and couldn’t be home to feed my babies on demand. I also
liked the freedom that having pumped milk in the fridge or freezer gave me; I could go out for more than a few hours or sleep a little longer and let my husband give the baby a bottle. Of course this freedom came with a price. Everyday I had to haul my pump and accessories back and forth to work where I was a teacher. I had to spend what little, precious planning time I had pumping, I spent my lunch half hour pumping, and just for good measure, I usually had to pump again once more right after school. This left me chained to my pump which meant no socializing, no run errands to make copies or check my mail box, I was pretty much stuck in one spot for about 20 minutes or so. I pumped for my first two boys, almost every day, right up until their first birthdays. With my third son I didn’t pump nearly as much because I stayed home with him. I was thankful for that, but I still pumped on occasion so that he could be bottle fed if necessary. When my third child was a little over a year and we moved states, we decided that we weren’t going to have anymore kids and I was all too happy to get rid of my pump and never have to use it again. Then we decided to have one more and he came early, so here I am, back on the pump.

My new little guy was born too early to be able to breast feed. The huge task of sucking, swallowing, and breathing is just more than his preemie abilities can handle right now, so he is fed by a tube to the stomach. The tube does feed my little guy breast milk and I have every intention (hopefully within the next week or two) of breast feeding him when he is able to, so I pump. Every two to three hours, like a dairy cow, I get hooked up to the noisy, hospital grade pump for about 20 minutes so I can make milk for my smallest guy. It becomes part of the daily schedule and while I’m visiting the NICU or am just hanging out at home, it isn’t a huge inconvenience. When I’m all done, I’m even a little proud of the amount of milk I’ve made for my little guy. I keep my husband involved by putting him in charge of bagging and labeling the milk, as well as cleaning the pump pieces. This way we at least feel a little useful, doing something for our little guy who is currently being cared for my multiple doctors and nurses. The times that I really hate pumping come on the rare occasion when I venture out of the house for any amount of time (which means planning around pumpings) and even worse, night time pumping. At night, I usually push my limits to four hours before pumping, but even then, that means staying up later than I would like for an 11:00 or 12:00 pumping and then waking up around 3:00 am to incredibly full, uncomfortable breasts that need to be pumped. My husband helps me set everything up close to the bed before we go to sleep so that I can minimize the work I have to do at that ungodly hour, but it still means I have to sit up for upwards to a half an hour pumping away. Then the pieces need to be cleaned and the milk stored (I make my husband do that part, you know, so he gets to experience the fun with me). Then I get to get up nice and early and do it all again. I know some people are probably thinking that this can’t be worse than waking to nurse a baby every two to three hours, but this is my fourth kid, I’d kind of mastered the night time feeding thing so that I was able to do it with minimum interruption to anyone’s sleep. By my third kid, we usually only did one diaper change in the middle of the night and I usually just put the baby on the boob during that first night feeding and then just slept with him, so when he woke a few hours later to feed again, I just switched breasts and put him back on a nipple and went right back to sleep (don’t get me started on the whole co-sleeping with your baby being dangerous story, that’s a fight you are not going to win with me). So the fact that I actually have to get up, sit up, pump, bring things up and down stairs, and just think more in general around 3:00 every morning is more than I did when I was breast feeding the other boys. I can’t exactly fall back to sleep as I pump, though I’ve jolted awake many nights worried that I had and thinking my milk was left out too long and now spoiled, making that exhausting time wasted.

In short, pumping is exhausting and unfun to say the least, but I gladly do it for my preemie son. While I don’t love my pump or pumping, like most pumping moms, I love what it allows me to give to my baby. So here is to all the moms out there who have or are pumping for their babies, whatever their reasons for it. Pumping is a job you will probably never be recognized or congratulated for, but you should be. Keep up the good work! Moo.


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