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ParentingI Hated Exclusively Pumping - Motherly

I Hated Exclusively Pumping – Motherly

Motherly Collective

I’ve been pumping for 212 days and for roughly 198 days I’ve hated it and wanted to quit. So why am I finding it so hard to pull the (literal) plug on my pump?

For the first two weeks pumping was a form of therapy. With my daughter in the NICU, it felt like one of the only things that I could do for her. When she came home I was desperate to make breastfeeding work. Why? I’m not totally sure. I’m inclined to believe it was the hormones or some sort of subconscious guilt for having a preterm birth. My first daughter was formula fed, so maybe I was trying to prove that I could do it, especially after being flooded with so many “breast is best” talk tracks from social media.

Breastfeeding didn’t work out though, and so my exclusive pumping journey began. 

Initially I said I wanted to pump for a month, and then it turned to 3 months. At 3 months I set an “ultimate goal” of hitting 6 months. I went so far as to put a date on my calendar for when I would start weaning so that I could enjoy an upcoming vacation pump free.

But here we are nearly 7 months in, and I still hate it every time I turn my pump on. I’ve had cracked nipples and painful milk clogs (although blessedly never mastitis). My daughter sleeps in longer stretches now, but I still get less sleep because of my nighttime pumping schedule. I spend less time with friends because some social events could interfere with my pumping schedule. Then, there’s the anxiety over finding a place to pump and days when I have lower output. The stress and tears that follow when my baby cries but I can’t hold her close because I’m pumping. 

I’ve pumped on work video calls, on planes, in the passenger seat of our car more times than I can count and almost everywhere in between. Pumped during the dead of night and at daybreak while the rest of the house sleeps peacefully. 

I want to be done. I dream about being done, about getting my body back and wearing a normal bra again. I want to wear whatever I want, not something that’s pump friendly. I dream about schedule flexibility, sleep and so much more. 

Despite all that, every time I declare that I’m done, I instantly feel guilty and selfish about the decision. I don’t take it lightly that being able to provide breast milk is an experience I didn’t have with my first daughter, and something that other moms desperately want to do but can’t. Shame and guilt would come knowing it was my decision to stop pumping.

I know I’m not alone. While research suggests there’s not as much correlation between breastfeeding and the long term health benefits that often get thrown around, it’s hard to escape the societal pressure that “breast is best.”  In the pumping support group I joined on Facebook, I see other moms going through the same mental struggle every day, at times almost asking for permission to stop. The responses on these posts are almost overwhelmingly reassuring, that it’s OK to stop. That it doesn’t make you any less of a mom if you do.

If you’re in the same spot, I see you. I know what it feels like, and unfortunately I don’t have the answer. What I do know is that whatever you (or I) decide to do, your baby will still love you, your baby will still grow and thrive and, ultimately, your baby will still find stale cheerios on the car floor and eat them regardless of your decision.

On day 222, I had my last pump. I don’t know what I envisioned for this monumental moment—confetti and fanfare perhaps? In the end, it was just me and my pump. Should I have marked the day in some way and celebrated? Probably, but with my husband traveling for work, motherhood called, and the rest of the day was a blur of normalcy.

I still have moments of guilt that maybe I made the wrong decision and moments of panic that I haven’t scheduled time to pump, but I also feel relief and a sense of freedom. I’ve found that motherhood is one never ending loop of questioning whether you made the right decision or not, so it’s best to try to only look forward after making a decision. I’m choosing to be proud of what I accomplished, and choosing to cheer on all of the other mamas out there still on their journey.

This story is a part of The Motherly Collective contributor network where we showcase the stories, experiences and advice from brands, writers and experts who want to share their perspective with our community. We believe that there is no single story of motherhood, and that every mother’s journey is unique. By amplifying each mother’s experience and offering expert-driven content, we can support, inform and inspire each other on this incredible journey. If you’re interested in contributing to The Motherly Collective please click here.

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