by Wendy Williamson
Breastfeeding has been a part of our culture since human existence, so why does it seem so difficult? Most soon-to-be-moms fantasize about the sweet, quiet moments that they will share with their precious bundle as they suckle at her breast, but moments after birth they find that the breastfeeding experience does not come as natural as was thought, but is a learning experience. Due to excruciating, long labors; post-partum depression; decisions to return back to work and many other problems that mothers are facing, some are turning to other feeding options.
Is this such a bad decision? Perhaps 30 or 40 years ago, when the fad of breastfeeding was not in, the only option was to use formula. However, we are very fortunate to have many feeding options to keep our beautiful newborns healthy, plump and happy: breastfeeding, formula, exclusive pumping, supplementing breast milk, supplementing formula, and many other combinations. But, why is it that we are instantly, right after the birth of our newborn, only given two options (breastfeeding and formula)? It is very rare for someone in our society, especially the medical community, to give you the option to pump, let alone give you a good explanation of how it works, the advantages and disadvantages, or recommend a good pump to use.
Today, our society pressures mothers to breastfeed because of the many benefits that have been proven. This pressure entails bringing baby to breast exclusively, and though this is an incredible way to create bonding with your baby while providing the best milk for your little one, this pressure can be detrimental to some mothers. Guilt, depression, inadequacy, anger, and many other emotions are felt by many mothers who feel this pressure, but are unable to successfully complete the beautiful fantasy of rocking quietly in a serene environment as baby suckles at a contented mother’s breast. Yet, instead of admitting that bringing baby to breast exclusively is not for every mother, and helping those discover the many other options, we impatiently thrust a can of formula in the confused mother’s arms.
Most of these mothers do not selfishly decide that their newly born child just does not deserve their time and sacrifice of bringing the baby to breast, it is usually quite the contrary. There are numerous reasons why a mother is unable to successfully bring baby to breast exclusively:
- baby is not nursing well (sleepy, low blood sugar, jaundice);
- baby is not able to nurse at all (premature, illness of mom or baby);
- mom or baby has surgery;
- postpartum depression.
And these are only a few of the many reasons that a mother is not capable of bringing baby to breast exclusively.
How many of these mothers are informed that they can still give their sweet babies their own perfect milk right from mom? Pumping has actually been around since the late 1700’s, with a glass bowl and brass syringe. Yet, the pumps of eras past are put to shame by the incredible breast pumps of today. You can choose from many different brands, styles, and usage requirements. Though it is not one of the first thoughts that come into one’s head when thinking of feeding options, there are many moms who breast pump exclusively, and are very proud of it.
There are many opponents of breast pumping who may inform others of the disadvantages, such as finding hours a day to do the pumping, risk of decreasing milk, or inconvenience of making and warming bottles. Yet, many mothers who find that the only way to provide their own milk to their infants is by breast pumping would argue that, although these are problems that need to sometimes be overcome, there are still many more benefits.
One benefit may include the emotional stability that some mothers experience when others are able to feed the baby while they get some extra sleep, the confidence of actually seeing how much milk the baby is consuming, or not becoming frustrated from latch-on problems, sore nipples, and biting. Another benefit is the financial cost, which is pretty minimal compared to the excessive prices of baby formula. Some babies may benefit from the length of time mothers will continue to pump as opposed to bringing baby to breast exclusively. Though 70% of mothers begin to breastfeed their baby in the hospital, only 36% continue to breastfeed their baby by 6 months, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. This decrease can be contributed to mothers returning to work, the desire to begin to sleep longer periods of time, and many other reasons. However, because of the many benefits pumping moms encounter, these are also some of the reasons that they are able to continue to give their babies breast milk longer. One of the most important reasons to breast pump is the ability to help others in need. Many mothers who become experienced at pumping find that they are able to pump far more milk than their baby is consuming. For these fortunate mothers, they are able to share their milk with the milk banks across the U.S., which pasteurize and distribute the milk to sick and premature babies. This is one of the most satisfying and heart-felt advantages of breast pumping.
So, again, with the great advantages of breast pumping, why are we not promoting it as a major feeding option? We need to take it upon ourselves to educate others of the incredible benefits of breast pumping. Some very simple things that mothers can do to assist with breast pumping becoming a feeding option can be talking with other mothers, informing pregnant women about breast pumping as a feeding option, or asking your OB/GYN or baby’s pediatrician about their views of breast pumping. Those dedicated to making breast pumping a feeding option may contact government officials or charities to assist new mothers with funding for breast pumps, learn more and educate others about the wonderful services of breast milk banks, or get involved with educating the medical community about breast pumping and the benefits to both baby and mother.
One day, hopefully in the near future, mothers will be asked how they feed their baby, and instead of receiving strange looks when they profess that they exclusively pump, they will be greeted with a welcoming, “So do I! What type of pump do you use?”
About the Author:
Wendy Williamson has pumped exclusively for each of her children. Gabrielle, the last of three babies, received breast milk that was exclusively pumped for over a year. Thoughts of charity and giving pre-occupied Wendy for many years until she discovered breast pumping as her passion. She is determined to help other mothers realize the benefits of breast pumping for both baby and MOTHER, and hopes to help by creating a greater awareness of donating breast milk and donating breast pumps to mothers wanting to provide their own precious breast milk to their pre-mature or ill baby. More information on breast pumping can be found at her website, www.gotbreastpump.com