Breast-Pumping Sucks. (A Testament To It’s Efficacy.)
Alright, this may be embarrassing for younger or more masculine readers, but, here goes:
When I was breastfeeding (I’ve done it 4 times to varying levels of success) I had huge issues with over-supply. I’d have one little 8lb baby to feed and my breasts thought I was supposed to be supplying enough milk to feed a field of cattle. Seriously, it was terrible; my knockers were so full that they were rock-hard which made it much more difficult for the miniature-human to latch-on properly. It got to a point where I’d hold baby up to my breast and milk would literally squirt in her eye. The leaking was crazy too, I’d soak a breast-pad straight through to the bra in less than an hour. But the worst of it was mastitis. Never fully emptying meant plugged milk-ducts, which meant inflammation, horrendous pain, and the highest fever I ever ran in my life (105 °F).
Of course all this over-supply stressed me out, and stress hormones lower milk production (maybe the human body knows what it’s doing from time to time, go figure...) But then of course there became the opposite problem: Not enough milk. The possibility of unintentionally starving your offspring is obviously even more stressful than squirting her in the eye with your overzealous supply, so I produced even less, which stressed me out more, which made me produce less. You see where this is going, right?
...Yup: oversupply again. What can I say? I’m a natural.
At least I’d figured something out: Breastfeeding mothers shouldn’t be too stressed out. But they shouldn’t be completely stress-free either.
Add to this already whacked-out hormonally-terrifying nature-inflicted mess a looming job you have to go back to in order to keep your baby’s health-insurance coverage (yay for equal-opportunity employment!) Cue the separation anxiety, maternal misery and ever-lingering milk supply issues.
So while I was back at work I obviously switched to breast-pumping to alleviate my swollen mammary glands. I worked in a hospital (best place for breast-feeding working mothers btw) so they had pumps up in the lactation department which they let me use for free on my breaks. I’m so grateful to those lactation ladies. And I have to give the pumps credit; they did their job with pride (and strangely comforting mechanical noises). I was finally relieved; my pendulous jugs were as empty as Santa’s sack on a successful Christmas morning.
Now, breast-pumps have their draw-backs, don’t get me wrong: There’s the bottles and flanges to wash out and sanitize each session, the milk-storing dilemas, the unknowable and highly sensitive milk re-heating time intervals (trial and error tip: you can just give it to ’em at room-temp as long as they take the damned liquid.) not to mention the difficulty of finding the proper setting and/or flange-size (not a one-size-fits-all-nipples situation, unfortunately.) But far more importantly, it’s said that breastfed infants develop social skills quicker and are generally better adjusted, and there’s truth to be found in that. If you’ve ever had your baby pull off your breast to grin up at you like a soppy little doe-eyed milk-bandit you’ll understand the bonding which might be at play in developing a positive nurturing environment for your precious little saproling.
But in this “women can do everything men can do” (why does that mean we must do?) feminist-fallout culture, we often don’t have the luxury of staying with, bonding with, or nurturing our spawn for every moment of their formative years. So mechanical adaptations have been made, and (at least in the milk-sucking department) somewhat successfully. I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t be scared to use the technology available to you, but if you must resort to mechanical milking apparatus (and there are a plethora of reasons this might happen, from latching problems to supply issues to workplace separation), always strive to get back to your baby and spend nurturing time in whatever way you can manage. The formative years are aptly named, and children are quite literally the future of the human species. Their health and happiness is far more important than whatever high-powered “career” job all your girlfriends are telling you you need to get in order to feel like an equal. Besides, housewifery is under-rated. I just wrote this post sitting in pajamas and slippers in the middle of the morning in the comfort of my own home after giving my kids reading and math lessons and twirling them in circles to classical waltz music. After I hit post I’ll probably cook up some lunch and get a few chores out of the way then spend the rest of the afternoon supervising outdoor frolicking and bug-investigations. Life is good.