In the last three days, I’ve gotten very little sleep thanks to an infant-toddler-Mini-Man-child who has taken our seemingly perfect, well-orchestrated, been working for 11 months schedule and tossed it into the garbage. I’m tired. I’m confused. I’m a little frustrated and a lot dumbfounded as to why Kamden’s schedule (specifically at night and in the wee hours of the morning) has gone to hell in a hand basket. To add insult to injury, as I’m scrolling through social media feeds at 4am, I read this gem of so-called science telling me I’m doing more harm than good by exclusively pumping instead of feeding my child directly from the breast. Awesome. Fan-freaking-tastic. Go ahead and erase my name off that Mom of The Year award because, obviously, I am harming my child by giving him pumped breast milk in a bottle.
Damn if you breastfeed. Damn if you formula feed. And damn if you pump too. I wish these “experts” would make up their damn minds!
So breast is best, I get it. I really do. When I discovered I was pregnant, something ‘just clicked’ and I knew I would breastfeed, or at least try. My initial goal was to breastfeed for a couple of months, but once I made it to six months, I pushed my goal out to one year. We are one month away from meeting that milestone. I was insistent upon skin-to-skin contact after Kamden’s birth to initiate proper feeding, latching, and milk production. My prayers were answered because Kamden began sucking, and inhaling that oh-so-precious colostrum, just moments after he was born. Our breastfeeding journey had a beautiful beginning. Unfortunately (fortunately?) I have a very abundant supply, a forceful let down, and the desire for others to feed and bond with my child other than myself. If that makes me a selfish, how-dare-you mom, well, so be it. As much as I love my kid, I want others to have the opportunity to feed him – he needs it, I need it, and they need it too. Kamden’s always been an eager eater, consuming six ounces every few hours since he was two months old, but even my supply is too much for him to handle. In one pumping session, I can collect up to 18 ounces in less than a half-hour. As far as bonding with him, we’re pretty close when I’m feeding pumped breast milk with a bottle. There were a few times, when he was younger, smaller, and less mobile, that I would prop him on a pillow beside me and pump simultaneously. We’re not skin-to-skin like we would be if I were breastfeeding, but we’re still up in each other’s business. Last night, for example, while feeding him before bed, Kamden rubbed my arm, held my thumb, made eye contact, and even stuck his finger in my nose. If that’s not bonding, I don’t know what is.
Imitation is the highest form of flattery and as far as science and medicine advances, a mother’s breast milk will never be duplicated and manufactured in a can of formula. I honestly don’t give two shucks if you breastfeed, bottle feed, formula feed, or a mix thereof. Your baby, your choice. I’m choosing to feed my child my breast milk because it is as God intended, readily available and mass produced by my body, and considerably cheaper than formula. But there are 2,500 other reasons I choose to pump: the premature and sick babies in NICU departments across the country that are drinking my milk. To date, I’ve donated more than 2,500 ounces (that’s almost 20 GALLONS) to the Mother’s Milk Bank of North Texas. If you consider that most NICU babies consume about one ounce of milk per feeding, I’ve provided 2,500 high-fat, high-protein, high-carb, no dairy, natural meals. Now, I don’t know exactly how many babies have consumed my milk at which hospital or NICU department, but I am confident that those precious babies (and their families) are grateful that I (and other donor moms) am pumping. Sure, I could have worked more extensively with a lactation consultant or pumped less frequently to “train” my body to produce less milk. I could have worked with Kamden to find a more comfortable position for him to nurse and not get choked by my aggressive let down. I could have chosen to formula feed. In other words, I don’t have to pump. I don’t have to disrobe multiple times day and night and put on my hands-free pumping bra and strap myself to a Medela pump, but I do. Kamden’s grateful that I pump and those NICU babies are thankful I pump too.
So I have just two words for the so called “experts” who equate formula to pumped breast milk: screw you. I’d use another verb but my 86-year-old grandmother reads this blog. Screw you, for assuming I’m “jumping on the EPing bandwagon” for grins and giggles. Screw you, for implying my efforts to provide my baby the best my body has to offer is in vain. Screw you, for implying my nightly washing of bottles and pump parts is not clean enough and my milk is dirty, or worse, contaminated. I’d be willing to go toe to toe with anyone who argues my son is less healthy than breastfed babies. In fact, he is 11 months old and has never had a stomach bug, upper respiratory infection, or ear infection. Admittedly, I do not sterilize anything and everything he comes into contact because, well, I’m just now that concerned or paranoid about a little dirt. I see it as immune building. Screw you, for implying bottle-fed babies eat too much compared to their breastfed counterparts. If that were true, according to my regular pumping output, Kamden would consume 12-18 ounces per session instead of the six he gets from a bottle. Hey Jackwagon, in case you’re as illiterate in mathematics as you are lactation, that’s two or three times as much per feeding! Screw you, also, for indicating in your evidence-less research paper that breast milk from a bottle is not equivalent to milk directly from the breast. You insinuate this ridiculous statement based on nutrition, comfort, closeness, soothing, and security. As mentioned above, I’m pretty sure Kamden is in my arms and lap, or the arms and lap of another loved one, during his feedings. He’s not eating from a drip bottle found in hamster cages. And, finally, screw you, lactation experts, for implying that I, an exclusive pumper, am not enjoying the full range of benefits as a mother who breastfeeds her baby. While my progress might be slower than others, I am continuing to lose weight and I am NOT suffering post-partum depression. Choosing to pump exclusively was not a decision I made lightly or on a whim or for mere convenience. I’m fortunate to stay home and incorporate pumping into my daily (and nightly) routine. While I am not bothered or inconvenienced by pumping, it is most certainly an integral part of my life and my family’s lives as well. I consider it one of my many ‘jobs’ to complete each day and I hold myself responsible to feed my son and collect as much milk as possible for the milk bank and NICU babies.
My success as a mother is not defined by whether I feed my child at he breast, pumped breast milk by bottle, or formula. My child is healthy, happy, content, and loved more than he will ever know or words could describe. As for those lactation “experts” writing ridiculous articles, they can go suck a lemon.