For some reason, I always knew I would try to breastfeed when I had a baby. Like, since I was a kid I knew I would. I was three when my younger brother was born, and my earliest memories come from around this time. I remember watching my mom breastfeed him and would walk around with my shirt pulled up and nurse my own Yogi Bear stuffed animal. Later in life (and by that I mean a few months ago), I learned my mom only nursed my brother for a month or so. Never the less, that month planted the seed for me. When I asked her why she only lasted a month, she shrugged her shoulders and said it just wasn’t the thing people did back then.
I am incredibly lucky that nursing came so easy and naturally for both my baby and me.
Despite his preemie status, he latched on within an hour of being born with very little assistance from the nurse. The lactation consultant gave me a few tips before we were discharged, but other than that I didn’t really have any questions or issues. I am also incredibly lucky that my milk supply is more than plentiful – bordering on too much.
While on maternity leave, nursing wasn’t a big deal. I have never been shy about nursing in public, not even batting an eye the first time he angrily swatted my nursing cover, giving anyone who was watching a little show. We introduced a bottle early, and he still goes back and forth between the bottle and breast with ease. I had mastitis twice while on leave, and while it wasn’t fun, it wasn’t a deal-breaker for me.
On maternity leave, I pumped at night before I went to bed and in the morning. I read stories of exclusive pumpers who came to loathe their pumps and would cringe at the whirring sound it makes. I never really understood it – it didn’t seem so bad to me.
Then I went back to work.
Oh. My. Gosh. I. Am. So. Sick. Of. My. Pump!
Pumping has become the biggest chore to me. I try to pump every four hours or so during the day. Four hours seems like a decent chunk of time, but somehow it passes in the blink of any eye. It seems every time I get going on a project, it’s time to pump. Or I’ll be getting ready to relieve my heavy breasts and the phone rings. Last week, it was 8 p.m. and I was exhausted, all I wanted to do was go to bed. But I had to pump. I looked at my husband with tears in my eyes and said, “All I want to do is go to bed!”
It would be so much easier to switch to formula. At 5 a.m. every morning when I am up pumping before my shower, all I can think about is how I could sleep for an extra 30 minutes if we switched to formula. Then I wouldn’t have to plan my entire life around that little black bag and its contents. Both my brother and I were largely formula fed and most people my age were as well. We’re all fine. I know a lot of fantastic mothers who chose formula for one reason or another, and their kids are all thriving. So why not?
We all know the benefits of breastfeeding; it seems we’ve been pounded over the head with them for the past few years. So much so that I almost feel like a bad mother for even thinking the word formula. The politically correct statement for why I breastfeed is supposed to be because it’s the best thing for my son.
My dirty little secret is: that was not why I decided to breastfeed.
The reason I decided to breastfeed? The calorie burning factor. Followed closely by the cost savings.
Yep – it’s completely self-centered and I feel like a little less of a mother for admitting it. But truth be told, breastfeeding is my exercise program right now. I’ve made a deal with myself that as long as I am breastfeeding, I don’t have to exercise. So every morning at 5 a.m. when I am dreaming of Similac and Enfamil containers, I remind myself that if I am not pumping at 5 a.m., I will be at the gym. Then sitting on my couch hooked up to a machine doesn’t seem as bad as forcing myself into my cold car in the dark to go to the gym.
Now that he’s here and I truly understand what it means to have your heart outside your body, I can truthfully say the reason I continue to torture myself breastfeed is the benefits for my baby. Cold and flu season is much scarier with an infant, and since I am lucky enough to provide him with an extra layer of protection, I am happy to do so.
But let’s be honest, the calorie burn and cost savings are nice side effects. So to all my pumping mamas, next time you’re in a cold, window-less room, pumping and responding to emails with one hand, know you’re not alone. Whether you chose formula or breast milk for your little one, making sure their needs are met is a daily battle, and sometimes we need to grasp at a selfish straw just to get through the day.
If you breastfed and/or pumped, what did you do or think of when you needed a little extra motivation?