Among those who choose to breastfeed, there is a subset of (in my humble opinion) especially dedicated mamas who have made the choice to exclusively pump their breast milk for their babies. I am proud to say that I’m one of those mamas. I believe that exclusive pumping is still breastfeeding.
Whether it’s latch issues, premies, or just plain not liking it, some women choose to express their milk with their pump and then bottle-feed their babies. The reasons are their own and don’t require the justification of anyone else. Whatever the reason, no mama should feel less than for not nursing. Again, I say exclusive pumping is still breastfeeding. Needing to supplement with some formula, still counts as breastfeeding.
For me, it was that I simply didn’t love having my son at the nipple. His latch was horrible and very painful. I had just done nine months of hard time growing him, and I wasn’t going subject myself to the pain and stress of trying to nurse him when there were other options. It doesn’t make me any less of a mom. I value my mental health and know that it’s JUST as important to my baby’s wellbeing. I opted to exclusively pump before I even knew it was a thing. You would be surprised by the number of times I felt judged for this choice.
Exclusive pumping is not for the faint of heart. It requires a lot of time since you have to pump as much as your baby would nurse. This meant that at any given time during my maternity leave, I was either feeding my baby or pumping to feed my baby. This sounds exhausting, but I promise there were some perks. Exclusive pumping meant my husband could also feed our tiny human which meant I could (ding ding ding) you guessed it! SLEEP!! My husband and I slept in shifts, so every night I got an uninterrupted four hours of sleep. If Dom woke up in those four hours, it was my husband’s shift to tend to him. I’d make a few bottles of breastmilk before retiring to dreamland, and the rest was on him. And as you know, a new mama on four straight hours of sleep can basically rule the world.
As time went on, I got really good at pumping anywhere and everywhere. Just like nursing in public, I felt pumping should be just as normalized. Though we began to supplement formula around month three to take the pressure off me to produce, I provided my babe with breastmilk for six months. I’m pretty proud of those six months!
This time around with baby #2, I’m doing a combination of nursing and pumping with the help of a wonderful nipple shield! She nurses if her hunger cues line up with my pump schedule. If not, I pump and leave a bottle out to feed her when she is hungry. It works well for her and me, and my husband too! He wanted to be able to feed her just like he did with our first. And a bonus, I’m able to donate my overflow to a mama and baby in need.
So, the next time you see or hear of an exclusively pumping mama, try not to make her feel anything less than the amazing mom she is.