We’ve all seen the headlines:
Uproar as mother kicked out of café/mall/swimming pool for breastfeeding baby. (Although, a swimming pool … SERIOUSLY?!)
Hardcore lactater shoot daggers at mother as she pulls out baby BOTTLE from bag. (I bear those bottle scars proudly.)
There are countless articles, arguments, debates and criticism out there on the topic of breastfeeding, or lack thereof. But what about the third alternative? The rarely discussed Exclusive Pumping (or EP’ing as referred to by the modern day Netmums crowd).
I am all for breast is best and absolutely wanted to feed my babies breast milk if possible, but I chose not to breastfeed and here’s why it worked out great:
Helps milk come in faster
Newborn babies sleep A LOT and often not feeding very much in the beginning, so expressing at regular intervals during this time helps ensure there’s plenty ready for when your baby gets hungry (and they sure do!). I even expressed a bit a few days before my due date to get the colostrum production excited. (Yes, the first time was totally fascinating.)
Allows your partner to bond more with your baby
One of the stated benefits of breastfeeding is bonding between mama and baby, but what about daddy and baby bonding? The modern day dad is every bit an equal in the home as he is in the workplace. If he can deal with explosive bums, he should also be able to enjoy the special feeding times. I alternated night time feedings with hubby and we discovered that having one decent night’s sleep every other night meant we were both able to stay functional(ish). Plus, it was important for both of us be able to do everything in raising our children, rather than have set roles.
It’s one thing within your control in a suddenly very chaotic world
Having a new baby (whether your first or sixth) brings a certain %&#$@! into life. Those little, wrinkly mandrakes (I mean gorgeous newborns) are hell bent on dragging you deep into the pits of a chaotic underworld, where routines and schedules do not see the light of day! By setting up a pumping plan – I did every 3 hours to begin with, then gradually reduced to 3 times a day (but still producing over 30oz of milk), brought a glimmer of routine into an otherwise out of control day.
Reassuring to measure how much your baby is eating
I openly admit that I am a bit of a control freak (blame the Asian gene)! I like to see how much my baby is eating, especially when he is ill or not putting on weight fast enough, and also how much milk I am producing. Knowing how much I need to store up, when to freeze some and when the boobie bags are empty helps me to organise my days, weeks and outings. Plus, when you’re freaking out about your baby eating too little/too much (it can’t be just me), you can Google it and think phew, he drank 25oz today and that seems to be the norm. Or OMG she eats 3 times more than her peers and then immediately start Googling whether babies can become obese. (Apparently not.)
Going back to work is not such a big deal
Parental leave durations vary widely around the world. I had 12 weeks off for each of mine (appalling compared to most of Europe but I’m told it’s good for Americas – so basically suck it up!) and going back to work full time when your baby is not yet 3 months old is just not conducive to breastfeeding. It’s stressful enough trying to remember how to have a professional adult conversation without worrying about your baby refusing the bottle or having to rush home every couple of hours. Pump 25 minutes in the morning, lunchtime and evening, and you’re good to go!
Instantly accommodating your baby’s feeding pattern
If, like me, you are not blessed with a baby who eats on a clockwork schedule, it can be tricky to know when and how much they need to feed. My son would mosey his way through an ounce or two every couple of hours during the day but come the evening, he transforms into an eating machine (think Lu Hao at Nathan’s Hotdog Eating comp)! Having the pumped milk ready and waiting significantly reduces his (and my) stress.
Being able to relax while away from your baby
Occasionally, I would contemplate going out without my baby (I wish I didn’t need to sleep so I can spend more time with my kids … said no parent ever) and perhaps even in something other than a miscellaneous crap covered dressing gown. Knowing that bubbs has plenty of food in store so you’re not checking your watch every 30 seconds like you’re on a bad date will help with that much needed relaxation.
EP seems to be considered a difficult option for many mums, if even considered at all. Everyone will have a different groove, but for me, it worked perfectly. I will be weaning baby #2 soon and think I might really miss my little Medela. We’ve shared many intimate dates in toilet cubicles, back seats, fitting rooms and boardrooms. No one said it was glamorous …