So one thing that breastfeeding moms are into is getting together in groups and nursing. I don’t know why, other than that breastfeeding is still mostly a fringe, freak thing that it feels good to get together with other mamas who breastfeed and not feel like the lone breastfeeder in the world. (Also, breastfeeding is still, unfortunately, something most Americans do in private, so even if you’re NOT the only nursing mom in, say, a restaurant… chances are good that you’ll be the only one nursing your baby while eating dinner. And chances are good that someone will glare or comment, either directly or indirectly.)
There’s an event called the Big Latch On. It was fun last year to go to, pregnant and with Genna. We latched on at the specified time, raised our hands, and were “counted.” We were part of a worldwide event celebrating breastfeeding. And this year, I wasn’t part of it. Oh, I could have, to be honest. Genna still nurses. (Though, because Teddy’s intake needs are so high, I can’t let her nurse as much as she’d like.) But the event doesn’t “count” moms who pump. The national event organizer actually suggested that the baby doesn’t have to be nursing – just latched on. sigh. (Teddy will gag and vomit if I try to put my nipple in his mouth.) She also said that we could certainly be part of the event – just when everyone else gathered to latch on and get counted, we’d have to stand awkwardly off to the side, our Herculean efforts to keep Teddy on breastmilk going uncelebrated.
There’s another event, evidently, the Global Breastfeeding Challenge. Pretty much the same thing, but this event is also partially to raise awareness of milk banking. I was surprised, then, to read on the event website that, again, only “latched” babies “counted.” I am, however, pleased to report that the global organizers have emailed me back and reported that they leave it up to each local event organizer to decide how to count participation – latched baby, hooked up to pump, etc. (I’d suggest that hooking child up for a breastmilk bolus thru the tube ought to count, too.) THAT makes me happy.
But here’s where I get all weird. On Facebook recently, a group of which I’m a part posted the link to the Challenge event and I posted that unfortunately the event excludes EP (exclusive pumping) moms. The response was “Yeah, I saw that, but I love the idea of nursing moms getting together as a group anyway.”
Ok, yeah. I do, too. But part of me is absolutely APPALLED that people could look at an event, recognize that it leaves a portion of breastfeeding moms out, and still say “hey! looks good to me! Yeah, too bad for you… but whatever.”
And, you know what? I’ll say it. Exclusively pumping is harder than nursing full time and it’s harder than pumping part-time because of work. It’s hard. It’s freaking hard. It’s hard to maintain a milk supply with just a pump and your hands. A baby is so much more efficient at milk removal… and efficient milk removal is what keeps supply up. Consistently leave some milk behind, and you tell your body it doesn’t need to make as much. It’s a constant battle. And increasing supply as baby grows? Happens invisibly when you nurse – baby takes care of it. When you pump? Not so invisible. Pumping hurts. My boobs hurt almost all the time. Pumping takes time. So. Much. Time. Yes, nursing does, too, but when you’re nursing you’re also bonding with your baby. You’re holding your baby. You’re playing with his or her fingers or toes or stroking his or her hair. Not so much with pumping. When you’re pumping you’re NOT bonding with your baby. You, by necessity, try to get your baby to stay happy while you move some distance away to pump. Or you try to pump with baby on your lap, getting tangled in tubes and pulling on/kicking the flanges (see “pumping hurts”). And after you’re done pumping, you still have to feed the baby. And then you have to wash pump parts and bottles. It takes at least twice as much time to EP as it does to nurse. (I average 6 hours a day actually pumping, and haven’t tallied time spent feeding or washing bottles.) Pumping is not portable. You can nurse a baby anywhere (for example, at an event like Big Latch On). You can’t pump anywhere. You need electricity. (yes, there are battery packs, but they’re almost universally terrible.) Plus, you have to haul a sizeable bag around with you, in addition to the baby and diaper bag. And you have to worry about storing the pumped milk. Oh, and about storing the milk you brought along for the baby to eat. And if you feed through a tube, you also have to worry about bringing tube supplies with you.
It’s harder. It just is.
Then to have big events like this blowing off moms who EP… it hurts. And then to have people I know recognize that this is happening and say “hey, yeah…. but I like it anyway…” ouch.