It has slowly occurred to me that I have a new best friend. Weighing in at four pounds, my BFF and I go everywhere together. The connection between the two of us can only be described as powerful and intimate. But we have a very unexpected friendship, my breastpump and me. Similar to an arranged marriage, in which it and I were forced upon each other by well-meaning adults (in my case, a lactation consultant) and expected to live happily ever after.
As it turned out, despite my best intentions and the two separate breastfeeding courses I attended while pregnant, I found myself with a six-pound jaundiced baby who had a noticeable lack of any survival instincts.
Baby girl and I tried and tried, and then tried some more to nurse exclusively. She was tongue and lip tied, so we had that corrected. I’ve tube fed her (oh boy, I still have nightmares), used a nipple shield (plastic boobs, anyone?), and stopped giving her bottles cold turkey (in order to try to convince her that breasts are where her food comes from). We have gone to a dozen appointments with lactation consultants. We both have cried more times than I kept track of. Looking back to the start of our breastfeeding relationship, I think simply neither she nor I knew what we were doing. I couldn’t help her and she couldn’t help me. We were both really lost and confused.
And so I was intimately introduced to my new partner, my constant companion, my irreplaceable friend, my breastpump.
You see, my sweet, chubby, opinionated baby prefers to have her milk easily deposited into her mouth by way of a bottle, instead of working ever so slightly for her meal by nursing directly. She has simply made up her mind—Boobs: Not For Me. Which has led me to recently start adding books to my Amazon wish list on the topic of raising a strong-willed child—I saw where my life as a parent is headed and I accepted my fate.
I tumbled (with prolonged resistance) into the time consuming daily routine that is Exclusively Pumping. I am connected to a machine for two to three hours a day—even now as my baby is a happy six-month-old with delicious thigh rolls (that I take full credit for, you’re welcome). The madness is continually fueled by a commanding instinct to feed my baby (and I, admittedly, might be a little crazy).
When my daughter was four months old, I laid awake one night worrying (as many anxious postpartum moms do). This time, about exactly what I would do if our house caught on fire. What do I need to grab? During this late night strategy meeting in my head, I realized that my breastpump was going to need to come with us if we need to quickly flee our home. I figured I should look into purchasing a window cling that reads “breastpump and pet inside!” in case I am not home and the firefighters needed to know what to rescue.
In all seriousness, exclusively pumping is the worst of both feeding worlds. Lactating but without the convenience of nursing. Bottle feeding, but without the convenience of having a full bottle ready at a moment's notice. All the benefits of breastmilk with the added inconvenience of washing countless bottles and pump parts nightly. I also feel socially isolated: I don’t fit in with the nursing mamas, and I don’t fit in with the formula feeding mamas. Exclusively pumping is no man’s land. I would be lying if I hadn’t wanted to shout “It’s breastmilk!” to strangers eyeing her bottles in public. I shouldn’t care, but I honestly do sometimes.
I still wish I could nurse her exclusively.
But as I take off my shirt for the fifth time today and sit down to feed my daughter and pump at the same time, I am reminded that it isn’t about me. It isn’t about my dear best friend/enemy, the breastpump. How I feed my baby may be inconvenient, time consuming, and not how I wanted to feed her—but I am also confident that what is done in love, is done perfectly. So with every loud rhythm of my breastpump, I hope my daughter hears “I love you. I love you. I love you.” Because that is what is most important to me.