When people ask do I Breast feed, the answer is: it’s complicated. But then again, because of modern technology and my work schedule it doesn’t have to be.
When I first started my breastfeeding journey with my son I didn’t even know exclusive pumping was a thing. Whenever people asked me if I was going to breastfeed, I would always say that was the plan, making it clear I knew there were no guarantees. I had heard my share of breastfeeding gone awry stories to know nothing was set in stone. That said, my mom breastfed me and my three sisters with no trouble at all and no one showing her how, she tells me. So I figured for me it was a safe bet.
And that’s how it started. I was able to try feeding my little Jonesy moments after he arrived in this world. He did great. The nurses commented that they were hearing all the right noises. I saw milk in the corners of his little mouth. I was pleased. Things continued to go well until about a month out. Then it started to become a big challenge for both of us. He would latch on and go to town, but then he’d come off screaming, milk would be spraying everywhere. I’d try burping him, but he just wanted to get back on. I could hear the chugging, gurgling and gasping. I realized this wasn’t normal. After some serious google searching, I came to the conclusion that I had an oversupply issue coupled with a forceful let down.
Now most people think oversupply is awesome and totally beats undersupply any day. While it’s true for me that I’m glad it wasn’t under supply, it didn’t come without numerous hurdles ultimately leading me to full time pumping and no actual feeding from the breast. When I started realizing what was going on after feedings started becoming a pain in the butt for both of us, I told myself that soon he would develop the muscles and drinking skills to handle my supply and let down. I continued to breastfeed through the tears and the soaked clothing for both of us. I’d have to go off into a private room everywhere we went because there was no way I was gonna get it done under a simple cover. The good thing was that he was gaining weight no problem. Maybe a little too well. I tossed that around in my head a bunch too. Is he eating too much? Gaining weight too fast?
After a solid month of trying I realized there must be a better way. I wanted so badly for my son to have my amazing (at least that’s what everyone and their grandmother thinks) milk. Also my milk was free, another huge perk I didn’t want to part with. I was at a summer BBQ and overhead a friend say casually that she didn’t technically breastfeed she just pumped. She said it so casually I assumed I should already know about it and just went to my good friend google to inquire further.
Basically, I learned that just pumping and feeding only with a bottle is something many women have chosen to do. So many in fact that it has a name and many blogs and websites on the topic. This discovery was a welcome relief. I had been looking in to how to cope with oversupply and a forceful let down for so long with no real solutions. I’m surprised I hadn’t heard about in those forums. It makes perfect sense to me. Now some sites went out about how difficult and time consuming EPing can be.
I imagine that’s the case if you have a normal or low milk supply or perhaps a crummy pump, but in my case it’s perfect. I got a great medela dual pump through my health insurance for free! Since becoming an EPer I’ve purchased a second set of parts for about 30$ through amazon. So it has been cost effective to say the least. It has solved all our troubles. No more messy feedings with milk spraying everywhere, way less gas since he’s not gulping anymore and anyone can feed him anytime. Now don’t get me wrong, this was not an easy decision to make. I struggled with the idea that I was ‘giving up’ on the direct breastfeeding. I didn’t want to lose that special bonding time we had when it was just me and him and I was providing him nutrients naturally. I felt like I was in ultimate mom mode when I was breast feeding. My husband and I finally agreed, however that it was in his best interest that we try something else. I was thrilled that I didn’t have to go to formula, not to knock it, because I know it works for lots of people (my husband was formula fed!).
This was a perfect solution with my oversupply. I only pump every 4 to 5 hours during the day. If I was regular breast feeding, I would be feeding him at those times anyway. It usually takes me about 30 minutes with my strong let down so it doesn’t take up too much of my time. As a substitute teacher I always get a lunch and another 40 minute block of free time. This is just what I need to pump. Washing bottles and my pump tools is kind of a pain but worth it. I’ve discovered tricks from other EPers like storing the pump pieces in the fridge in between uses and just doing a solid washing once in the evening. It even comes with a little humor. Whenever I sit around pumping with my cover at social events (something I couldn’t do regular breast feeding), people always comment on what they think they hear the pump ‘saying’. So it was never what I pictured when I imagined breast feeding my son, but in the end we’re all happy and healthy! Go exclusive pumping!
If you’re thinking about EPing or want to learn more, here are some very helpful sites: