If you are an exclusive pumper, chances are you have had the misfortune of feeling shamed by this article that has been doing the rounds on Facebook lately.
Sadly, the author of this highly uninformed opinion piece has more than likely never spent the time to get to know or understand why most mothers turn to exclusive pumping in the first place, perhaps had she better spent her time actually physically helping a mother who was struggling, instead of tearing down a group of strong mothers, who are merely trying to do what’s best in a shitty situation, she would understand why her opinion is so hurtful to so many within the EPing community.
What she had to say was not only harmful, but completely incorrect, pumping is NOT convenient, it’s not quick, it’s not easy, it’s not what most of us CHOSE to do, it’s not a “bandwagon” that is climbed on by mothers who are too lazy to breastfeed, most of the time it is a necessity, it’s life saving, Exclusive Pumping is NOT an alternative to breastfeeding, it’s an alternative to using formula.
In reality, EPing went a little something like this for me, and I know my story is one of many in a similar situation;
My daughter was born prematurely, not extremely premature, only 6 weeks, but she still struggled with breathing and her suck, swallow, breathe reflex was still very immature, so like many other EPing moms, pumping was my only option to begin with.
At around 5 days the “lactation consultant” (the hospitals LC was, and still is, NOT certified), came in and forced my daughters tiny head toward my breast, where she latched and promptly fell fast asleep, breastfeeding was still a lot of work for her. Every feed I would stumble off to NICU and the LC or nurse would again shove my baby’s face into my breast, feeds became difficult, if she wasn’t falling asleep, she was screaming.
I continued to pump 12 times a day (that’s every 2 hours, Olivia), on average it would take between 25 – 35 minutes to empty each breasts ( so much for “empty both breasts within minutes”), I would wobble off to NICU, pump, help feed my daughter with a 3ml syringe, wash and sterilize my milk collection Kit, wobble back to my ward, sleep for 30 minutes and repeat. (Really convenient when you don’t value sleep).
When she was finally released from NICU and brought home we were still struggling with feeding, she now screamed blue murder at every feed, she refused to latch onto me or a bottle and 6 days after being released, she was readdmitted for poor feeding and dehydration, still I continued to pump, 12 times a day, sometimes more depending on how stressed or exhausted I was, and syringe fed her with a 3ml syringe.
We continued to struggle despite seeing lactation consultants, speech therapists and chiropractors, we had doctors, nurses, family, friends, even strangers try and feed my child with a bottle, we were in and out of hospital, on IV drips, which were so traumatic that both my husband and I still get goosebumps thinking of it, and still I pumped, 12 times a day, around the clock, through sleeping on recliners in a hospital rooms, to pumping in bathrooms of specialists.
By 5 months we had managed to get her to drink from a bottle, before every feed I would sit quietly and try and latch her, I’d squirt milk into her little mouth so she knew there was something to get, but as soon as her mouth touched my skin, she would gag and scream, so I would feed my baby my breastmilk by bottle while lovingly looking at her beautiful face, holding her little hands, kissing her head, bonding, you know, the thing apparently bottle feeders “can’t” do.
At 6 months post partum I finally managed to drop down to between 10 and 11 pumping sessions per day without loosing ml’s. I still only just made enough to feed my daughter, I still pumped at 1am and again at 5am, and then every 3 hours throughout the day, again, extremely convenient for those who do not value sleep or any semblance of a life further than a plug outlet that your breastpump cord can reach.
At 14 months I was down to 8 sessions a day and around that time my daughter was diagnosed with sensory processing disorder, oral aversions, silent reflux and a very restrictive class 4 upper lip tie, things that should have been picked up a lot earlier by all the experts offices we frequented. Every single bottle feed my daughter would be curled up on my lap and we would BOND. Or she would curl up with her dad and they would laugh and make jokes while she drank her milk, again, bonding. She was never, and has never been forced to finish a bottle, we respect our daughter, as do most other well informed, educated Pumpers.
Due to her feeding difficulty and very restricted diet, at almost 4 years old, she still relies on the nutrition and immunological benefits of my pumped breastmilk, to date my fully breastfed toddler has been sick 3 times, her blood work has always been perfect with no deficiencies despite her feeding issues. She is a happy, healthy, well adjusted, bonded, beautiful child and I do not regret spending almost 4 years painstakingly pumping human milk for her because despite your vicious attempt to make mothers like me feel bad, I can physically see the benefits, I personally know that my child and I are wonderfully bonded and I feel still feel proud, proud that I stuck it out, and continue to do so, proud of my relationship with my daughter and proud of my fellow Pumpers who work so hard in situations where most just give up.
The only real consequence of being an exclusive pumper is having to fend off the uneducated opinions of people like the author of that “other” article while doing their best in a difficult situation.
I would like to add that better maternity leave packages would be awesome, I don’t think there is anyone out there who would disagree, however with South Africa’s unstable economic situation we all know that the private franchise owners or small business owners would not be able to afford to have female employees take more time, and employees certainly do not wish to risk losing their jobs or taking pay cuts, so while this notion of better maternity practices is a noble and wonderful idea, it is not very practical here or any where else in the money dominated world. This would also open woman up to even more discrimination in the working world, which is something that is still a huge issue for many women.
We also cannot disregard the hard working domestic workers who rarely get more than a couple of weeks of unpaid leave and are never offered time to pump to provide for their babies, this is something that I personally am looking into changing, because at the end of the day, every woman matters.
What would make a far greater impact to the success of breastfeeding mothers through out the world, but especially in South Africa would be the education and training of our medical professionals and hospital staff, the education of the greater public as to the risks of formula feeding and an acceptance and normalization of breastfeeding as a whole. We would also benefit from better education of mothers in general, if we spent half as much time spreading education and support as opposed to judgement and division, we would already be in a far better space to fix the root causes of the extremely low breastfeeding rates in our country.
We do need more research on the risks and benefits of exclusively pumping vs breastfeeding directly, however I have no doubt in my mind that there will be far more positives to negatives!