From the Blog

Breastfeeding Travails: Pumping My Boobs Sucks Ass

This is a post about boobs. And not about sexy boobs. This is a post about milky, leaky boobs. If you’re not into that sort of thing, feel free to back away slowly and pretend you didn’t mean to come in here. Me and all the other leaky boob people will pretend we didn’t see you.

Before the babies came, we got as mentally prepared as we could. We figured, correctly, that we would lose some sleep. We divided feedings so that both Dave and I each got five or six hour stretches of sleep each night. We knew babies would be a lot of work. We read all the guidebooks. We listened to friends. We visited blogs. I can’t say we were totally prepared, but we weren’t completely clueless.

What took me by surprise were issues I didn’t really read about. Things I don’t remember hearing other mothers say. For one, I didn’t really think about losing my autonomy. Like most adults, I was fairly accustomed to living my life by my own schedule. I was used to being able to come and go as I pleased. And going where I wanted. And staying as long as I wished.

After the babies came, all that stopped. All that “come and go as I pleased” stuff. For me, regardless of where I was or what I was doing, every three hours, babies had to get fed. Whatever I planned, I had to remember that me and my boobs had someplace to be every three hours.

It’s biology, right? Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world, right? Boobies aren’t just decorative fun bags. They have this whole other purpose, their original purpose; to feed babies. But for the majority of a woman’s life, or for the majority of my life anyway, they are essentially “ornamental.” We are told that our boobs are part of what makes us attractive as a woman.

When you get pregnant, or shortly afterwards, boobs assume their original purpose, and become milky and leaky and decidedly not sexy. I’m sure lots of women have no issues with this and naturally fall into breastfeeding. I was sort of expecting that to happen to me. Maternal instinct and all that. It’s natural.

But it didn’t. Perhaps it was because I didn’t become a mother until I was 39. Or because I never had lifelong dreams of having babies. For me, I couldn’t shake the feeling that breastfeeding felt sort of bovine. I couldn’t bridge the mental gap between sexy fun bags to mooooo.

Nevertheless, I planned from the beginning to breastfeed our babies. Because we had twins, I wasn’t producing quite enough breast milk to feed them both. This wasn’t a complete surprise, and I never had grand aspirations to breastfeed exclusively. So we supplement with formula. I feel no guilt or shame about this, and maybe I’ll write a whole separate post about the politics of breastfeeding. Because whooboy, that is a fricken can of worms, right there.

I knew my life was going to change when the babies arrived. I wasn’t stupid. Well, maybe a little. I thought I was mentally prepared. But I didn’t know how it was going to make me feel. Without dancing around, or trying to make excuses, or beg forgiveness, I’ll just say it: I didn’t like it.

I didn’t like it. I didn’t like having everything planned out in three hour increments. It was a pain in the ass. I pumped exclusively, for various reasons, and Dave fed the boys with bottles as much as I did. We also got a lot of help from family, which was wonderful.

But even with the help, every three hours, I had to pump. I went a little longer between pumps at night. If I delayed pumping during the day, my supply dwindled. So I had these ongoing little panics all day, in the foggy, sleep deprived haze, “Is it time to pump? Is it time to pump?” Around the clock, every day. It was pain in the ass.

Do I sound like I’m whining? Why the hell do you think I write this blog? No you shut up.

I say pumping was a pain in the ass. The physical aspect was a pain in the ass, needing to be home every three hours. I hated my boobs. But the emotional aspect was oppressive. I was thinking after I had the babies, and I was no longer pregnant, I would get my body back. I didn’t realize how I was going to feel, being tethered to home. For the first time in my adult life, I lost my autonomy.

After being stuck in the house for multiple days at a time, getting out to have lunch or do a big grocery trip was sweet freedom. Groceries! Yay! But there was always the looming deadline, every three hours. Time to pump. Time to pump. Time to pump.

Yes, if I was out and about, or I happened to be away from home, I could bring the pump and milk my boobs. But does that sound like fun to you? Whipping out boobs and pumping in the car? Or in a restroom? Just because it’s technically possible, doesn’t mean it’s desirable or easy.

I’m just going to say it. It sucked ass.

It’s been six months since the guys were born, and I am winding down the pumping, for various reasons. We planned this. I’ve been waiting for this. I thought it was going to be sweet freedom stop pumping.

But like with most things in my life, I’m conflicted. After all this time, pumping every three hours, and trying to increase my supply, weaning is bittersweet. The ultimate goal had been to make as much milk as possible. And now I’m trying to cease production. It’s weird. It’s like striving to get As in school all your life, then turning around and striving to get Fs.

As much as I hated pumping, and for all my whining, I was glad to be able to provide breast milk for my babies. Now with the urgency and structure of pumping lifted, my life is getting back to normal. Or, a new normal, which is different than the old normal. While pumping, I got up at 3 am every day. Now I get up and 5 am, and it is bliss. 5 am! Fricken BLISS! I can plan days out of the house and not worry and rushing home to pump. The guys are drinking more formula, and they are none the worse for wear.

I didn’t expect that this was how it was going to turn out. No amount of reading ahead had prepared me. But this was my experience. It sucked ass. I don’t have any regrets. I’m not disappointed that I won’t be pumping anymore. And I won’t miss feeling like a dairy cow.

Comments

  1. yes.
    yes.yes.yes.yes.
    YES
    i fully understand the lack of autonomy and, truth be told, it hasn’t gotten any better for me. to take a trip out of the house….it’s a circus. i dream of the days when i could just hop in the car and grab a coffee on a whim.
    there’s no more whim in my life.

    good job making it 6mo. you’re amazing. i understand the bittersweetness, too. i had super low supply and was on all sorts of supplements so my girl’s could have a little breastmilk in their lives. it is a wonderful freedom, though, to not have to lug a pump around, to not have the looming deadline. it’s a little piece of heaven. now if i could travel without having to worry about naps…

    • ugh. i didn’t mean to have that apostrophe after “girls”. i originally wrote something that required “girls” to have ownership of the following word but i corrected myself and didn’t remove the apostrophe.
      and now it dangles there.
      mocking me.

  2. I completely understand where you are coming from! I exclusively pumped for my twins as well and I HATED being tethered to the pump. Plus I had low supply so even pumping every 3 hours didn’t make even half what my girls needed. When I finally decided to quit I had those same feelings….it was really hard to wind it down when I had spent so much time trying to keep supply up! The loss of autonomy is really hard too. Now I have to plan my life around baby naps, bottles, solids feeds, and on and on. That part of it truly does suck. But it is amazing to not have to pump anymore! Nice job doing it for 6 months!

  3. UGH with the pumping! It’s been such a relief to find out that others hate it too. I’ve only been doing it for 8 weeks and while I can’t wait to stop, I also can’t make up my mind to actually do it and almost feel reluctant to stop. Great job going 6 months!
    My supply seems to be okay for my twins, though we also supplement with formula so I don’t have to stress about keeping up. I pump every 3-4 hours during the day and sometimes miss one or extend time between for things like appointments or mamas group meetings. I do get a stretch of 5 hours of sleep at night; I go to bed between 2.30-3am and have to get up by 830 with full and painful boobs. Ouch. I cannot WAIT to sleep in again!! And like you, I can’t wait to have a day to do whatever without realizing, oh wait, I have to pump. :/

    (PS–I’m also in the Full House group! Hello there!)

  4. All I can say is: you are awesome. moms who breastfeed are wonderful. moms who decide to stop are wonderful too. i think until you actually do it, you have no idea how you will feel about it. you rock.

  5. New to this as our twins are only 3.5 weeks old and my wife is the one tethered to her pump, but all of this sounds oh-so-familiar. Also the subtle judgements of friends who see the formula on the counter and don’t realize that it’s not as easy to produce for two as it would be for one.

    Great post as usual, I’ve been following as we try and remain sane on this “new normal” life of ours.

  6. Thanks for your comments, all. I have a post brewing about JUDGEMENT. We thankfully haven’t encountered too much of it personally. But I’ve had nosy strangers ask if I’m nursing. STRANGERS. Somehow, strangers feel as though they are entitled to know this information.

    Anyway, I’m not going to get too political. But I do want to explore the personality types of people who reign hellfire down from their soap boxes. Those people…baffle me.

    And also, new parents, experienced parents, twin parents, multiple kid parents, singleton parents, all of you: Fricken pat yourselves on the back. Just because. You’re doing a great job.

  7. Thank you for this post. After my sixth week back to work and 10th time crying about pumping .01 ounce (A SINGLE SQUIRT OF MILK) for my ONE baby- I came home, left my sweet babe asleep in his carseat and googled “pumping sucks”. This is the first time I have laughed. In a long while. Like months. Which is troubling in and of itself. I have a fat healthy fully breastfed baby and still feel f**ing guilty because soon I will run out of pumped milk– so this was like a nice free support group pep talk. Thanks. And love those babies, because soon they are 9 years old and riding the tween wave or being profoundly sweet yet abundantly irritating, all at the same time. Thanks again.

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