/**/ The Purposeful Wife: Don't. Know. If. I. Can. Go. On. Any. Longer...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Don't. Know. If. I. Can. Go. On. Any. Longer...

This simple picture could pass as a description of my life for the last 11 months. While it made me laugh, it also made me want to cry.

One year ago, I didn't even know there was such a thing as an "exclusive pumper." Nor did I know about the world of the NICU and premature babies.

My plan was to breastfeed. My mom breastfed me. Breastmilk is good for mamas and babies, and much cheaper than formula. So it seemed like a good plan.

Then S came 3 months early. Breastmilk, while good for full-term babies,can be crucial for micro-preemies. S was fed via a tube for the first month and a half of her life, so if she was going to get breastmilk, I was going to have to pump.

When it came time to try her first feeding by mouth, I was given an option: try breastfeeding exclusively or go with a bottle. Bottle feeding was the fast track out of the NICU. S had been in the hospital for ages, and I just wanted my baby to come home. Can anyone blame me for choosing the bottle?

After S came home I tried to switch her to breastfeeding. By this point I had been pumping exclusively for over two months, which had done a number on me and made my attempts at breastfeeding more than a little painful. We always had to use a nipple shield. S would fall asleep nursing, and I would still have to feed her a bottle and pump, so my experiments with nursing were taking three times as long as just pumping.

A few weeks into trying, I gave up. It was hard, it hurt, it was time consuming... and we were making zero progress. Breastfeeding was my first choice. Exclusive pumping became my fall back plan.

By December my stock-piled frozen breastmilk had run out, and we started supplementing with formula. I was still pumping 7-8 times a day, and not making enough milk to keep up with my daughter's demands.

The bigger S has gotten, the more challenging pumping has become. If you've spent anytime around me in person, you've heard me say more than once that

"I just don't even know what I'll do with all the extra time I have once I stop pumping."

"I don't know how much longer I can do this!"

"Sorry, I can't stay out any longer- I've got to get home and pump!"

"I feel chained to my pump."

"I can't imagine life without pumping."

To conserve time spent on the couch, I bottle feed S while pumping. Today she is over 16 pounds, extremely squirmy and strong and active... I'm sure you can imagine the rest. 

Every single pumping session (6 times a day, mind you), I'm dealing with a baby who doesn't like to be scrunched on my lap, kicking pump pieces, pulling out tubes, spilling milk down my chest, throwing off the alignment of my flanges, and contorting body parts into directions that they were not meant to go.

It is bothersome, to say in the least. And oftentimes very painful. And the bottom line? Both S and I are constantly feeling frustrated.

Yesterday I hit my breaking point. I'm just not sure how much longer I can do this! My goal was to make it one year.... I am only one month away, and yet I doubt that I will be able to make it to my goal with my sanity still intact.

What to do??? All kinds of mother guilt is hitting me. I want S to have the best, I'm home for her (not housework), and I save all kinds of money for our family by pumping.

I don't want to be rash in my decision either. For now I'm thinking of slowly cutting back, maybe just pumping 5xs a day? This is a hard call and I'm torn.

And that's where I'm at today friends- debating, doubting, stuck in a rut... It's the honest truth. Welcome to a day in my life.

Have you ever felt burnt out as a mom? What would you do in my situation? And how do you go about making important parenting decisions?


  1. Both of my kids had severe allergies and were on prescription formula from the time they were a month or so old. I did BF my oldest daughter but due to her food issues it was a train wreck; let's just say that by the time you go to change a diaper and find it full of blood you go along with whatever doctor's tell you to do!

    My husband and I have been talking about this as we're planning for a third baby and--to be honest--I have zero desire to ever try to breastfeed. I get that it's healthy (at least for most kids, definitely not mine!) and it is sooo much cheaper. I think after not doing it for both of my babies (and they are much healthier than average--they're literally NEVER sick) its just not something I have any desire to do and (if I'm being completely honest) kind of grosses me out as it relates to my own body. Other people BFing is great and doesn't bother me at all, just not something I could see myself doing. Also, as you said, YOU are there for your daughter, and in my mind you're there as the person to feed, soothe and love on her day in and day out--NOT there as the person to be a food source if that's a stumbling block to your primary mothering purpose.

    1. I totally hear you about just going with the doctor when things are rough for your kids! You can have life completely planned in a certain direction, only to change it all and do things you never thought you would when the Lord throws you a curve ball.

      You're right about primary mothering purposes too. I guess that is what I have to weigh over and decide- how can I be the best mom to my daughter right now. It may or may not mean continuing to pump. Thanks for your food for thought!

  2. If it's something that is meaningful to you, don't stress yourself! If you want to reach a 1 yr benchmark, bottle feed, then pump - don't do both at the same time! If it's stressing you, you need to change it up. ;) I'm big on goals & wanted to nurse my babies to 1 yr - the first self weaned at 9 months, the second at 9 months, the third at 16 & my 4th at 11 months. I was pumping throughout breastfeeding each of them, and the ones who self-weaned early I kept pumping to get them past the 1 yr mark. You're almost there! If that is your goal, don't give up!! ;)

    But.... You've also done a rockin' job and weaning off pumping now is not quitting or giving up! :D

    1. Thank you for your encouragement! You are very dedicated, continuing to pump after your first two weaned early! Wow :). I've thought about pumping and feeding her at seperate times... I just worry that all I would do is sit on the couch all day long! Thank you for giving me some things to think about. And thank you again for the encouragement!

  3. Hi! While my story is slightly different then yours, with my first child - also a daughter - I had to pump and feed her. She would not nurse no matter how hard I tried. So for 8 months I pumped using hand-held pumps from Avent. Loved those pumps much more than the machine pumps btw! I know what you are talking about with the time, the effort, and ALL the details. You have done fabulous and I just want to encourage you to do what works best for you and your family...not what everyone else says you should do. Remember that stress affects a baby (and your milk!). Feeding her formula and being happy may be the better combination for you. Not telling you what to do...but just throwing it out there for food for thought. My oldest was fed pumped milk & supplemented with formula until 8mths. My 2nd was fed with pumped milk for 3 months & then all formula. My 3rd was all formula after the 1st week. And, all 3 of them are VERY healthy children. While I agree that breastfeeding is the #1 route to take...sometimes the #2 route ends up being real life and it works, too. Being a happy Mama & wife is more important than clinging to goals that are self-imposed. Praying for you. Please let us know how you do the next few days.

    1. Wow, glad to know I am not the only exclusive pumper out there :). I've never tried a hand held pump, wonder if I'd like it? Mandy, I really appreciate your encouraging words. I feel like I have so much to think about right now- I want to do what's best for everyone, whether its continuing to pump or not! Thank you for keeping those things in perspective and being an encouragement. I'll keep you posted as I figure this thing out :)...

  4. I think 11 months is great! Don't feel bad to stop!!! My baby came early too and thank God I was able to breastfeed but the time I had to exclusively pump was miserable! Also I've had mastitis a few times and had to pump and it is so difficult...it multiplies the time spent feeding and I have a toddler running around too! I almost switched to formula at 6 months (also something I never thought I'd come to) but my baby is intolerant to dairy so breastfeeding, since it's working now, is still the best choice for all of us. I think you have done amazingly to hang in there this long!!!!!!

    1. OOo, mastitis is rough, I did get a mild case of that early on, no fun :(. Sometimes as parents we end up doing things we never thought we would (and that is ok!). Thank you for your encouragement!

  5. I can relate to your self imposed goal. My goal is always a year. My first got teeth super early and by 7.5 months he had 8 teeth and was eating table food, I have extremely sensitive skin so the food residue left on his tongue caused a bad reaction while nursing (strangest thing ever!) and he liked to graze his new teeth across me. I was in constant pain was determined to go to a year, I was crazy! We started weaning at 11 months and were done on his first birthday. I told friends many times,"I can't do this any more. It hurts." yet I couldn't quit early. Now my second is 7 months old and has been a bad nurser for medical reasons but we pushed through and now that he is on table food I am having the same reaction. SOO painful but can I give up? Sigh. I understand your feelings and the emotions behind weaning, breast is the best, etc.. Do whatever your heart is comfortable with! I'm trying to decide as well! Good luck!

    1. Wow, Ana, you have a serious commitment to breastfeeding, nice work! At this point I am slowly weaning off pumping- I've gone down to five times a day, and even just cutting out one session has made a difference in my attitude and stress level. It is so much more manageable. Do what you think is best, weigh out all of the factors... but give yourself grace to quit if that is what you need to do! Hang in there!

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