By it, I am referring to my breast pump. Have you seen Office Space? You know the scene where they steal the fax machine they all hate so much, and beat the hell out of it with a baseball bat, until it was in a million pieces? I picture my last day of pumping going like that.
Let me start this post by saying I am a firm believer that fed is best. Breast feed, pump and bottle feed, formula feed; if your baby is happy and healthy, high five mama, you’re doing great! I’m not on some self-hating, sanctimommy journey to provide my babies with breast milk. I don’t believe that they’ll have less friends, or won’t get into college if they get a drop of formula. Currently they get about half and half, some days they get more formula than breast milk, if I’m being perfectly honest.
My pumping journey began in the hospital. It was a very strange experience for me, trying to feed my babies in the hospital. See, before your milk comes in, they give you donor milk to feed your baby(ies). The hospital staff wants to promote breast feeding, so they gave me a nipple shield, a syringe with a tube attached to it, a bottle of donated breast milk, and told me to feed my babies. What? So we had to put the milk in the syringe, and then put the nipple shield on my nipple, feed the tube through a hole in the nipple shield, put a baby on my breast, and slowly push the syringe down so that milk collects in the nipple shield and baby can suck it out…you do all of this while also holding a baby, and trying to get them to latch on and stay latched on. It was a complicated, frustrating, and exhausting process; times two, because you know, twins. My husband and I did this for about two days. Yes, it took both of us to do the feedings. Olivia seemed to be getting the hang of breast feeding, and she was getting enough milk through this complicated feeding process. Three months later she still is the only one who will rarely actually nurse. Sophia was not, and she ended up going to the NICU for one night because her blood sugars were just too low. She wouldn’t latch, she wasn’t getting enough milk, and I would be in tears by the time I finished trying to feed her. By day three we took one of the bottles that was in the hospital room, and used it to try to feed Sophia. She sucked it all right down. We were both just so happy and relieved to see her eat. So we decided we would bottle feed Sophia, and continue to fake breast feed Olivia. The fake breast feeding process was just so much work though, and I was so tired. I was recovering from a C-Section, and learning to mom, caring for two babies. So by the end of day three in the hospital, we were just bottle feeding them both.
This whole time I was also instructed to pump for at least 15 minutes, every time the girls ate. We would feed them what little colostrum I produced, and supplement with the donor milk. On the fourth night in the hospital, my milk came in. On the fifth day, after lots of tears and going back and forth from doctor to doctor, we were heading home. The hospital gave us a 10-pack of bottles of premixed formula. We were instructed to first give the girls whatever breast milk I pumped, and then formula to make up the difference; they were eating 30ml a feeding at this point.
So we all went home, and I started the never ending cycle of feed, pump, sleep for two hours, repeat. They were premies, so we had to set alarms to wake us up, so we could wake them up and feed them every three hours. There were many times when they simply didn’t want to eat. They wouldn’t wake up, or they would just spit it back out. It was exhausting and frustrating. We only got to go home because the nurses advocated for us saying we had a solid feeding plan in place, and they were confidant the girls would gain the weight they needed to at home. After each feeding I would need to pump, usually for about 20-30 minutes. By the time they were fed, changed, back in bed, and I had finished pumping, I had two hours until it all had to be done again. We worked in shifts that first week.
There was a point where the girls were getting all breast milk. That period was very short, because growing babies need to eat more and more to keep growing. But still I persisted, I pumped every three hours, no matter how tired I was. We tracked down the premixed formula the hospital told us to use; $45 for 24 8oz cartons. We went through that in about a month. My mom got us a Costco membership, so we packed up the babies and braved Costco just to pick up two containers of formula. First it took us nearly two weeks to finish one container; now some weeks it’s a container and a half each week. This right here, is the main reason I pump; formula is expensive! You think having one baby eats up all your money, try having two. Every time I look at our bank account and plug the number into my way too detailed budget sheet, I cringe. I read something once about having twins, the author said you will never have money again, no really, stop looking, you have no money. That man speaks the truth!
Although time consuming, pumping while I was on maternity leave wasn’t that bad. I was home all day; I lived bra-less in tank tops and leggings. I was getting around 5oz each of the eight times a day I pumped. By the time I went back to work the girls were eating 3oz at a time, and were still getting more breast milk than formula. Going back to work though hit my supply hard. Despite all of the laws in place for breast feeding mothers, a loop hole was found, and I was only permitted to pump on my lunch break. Which means right away I went from pumping 6-8 times a day, to only 3-5 times a day. Cue more formula for the girls.
Which brings me to my current pumping situation, and my growing hatred for it. Every morning I hit my alarm at 5:30am. I fix bottles for the girls, usually formula as there is only enough breast milk for 2-3 bottles left from the day before. Then I gather up all my pumping parts, and my pump, and feel my way in the dark to hook myself up to pump. I feel like a farm animal most days, it’s really not fun. I spend 30 minutes pumping, put my milk in the fridge with the rest of what is left from the day before, wash all my pump parts and pack them up, then rush to get ready for work. On lunch, if I brought food I heat it up and head to the too hot/too cold conference room to pump and eat. If I have to get food, I try to do it as quickly as I can, because I only have an hour, and need to spend half of that pumping. For the last two months I have spent my lunch breaks rushing around, undressing in a conference room with three big windows that I still haven’t figured out if people can see through, and shoving food in my face while hooked up to a breast pump. I cart my breast pump around with me, in it’s discreet black tote bag.
I pack it up every morning, checking to make sure I have all my parts, bottles, power cord, milk bags, and pumping bra. I cart it home with me every night. I get home and have babies to care for, childcare to thank and get home, dinner to cook, laundry to wash and fold…oh and I have to pump…because I haven’t since noon. But the girls also need to be fed, and I need to eat, because if I don’t eat I don’t produce milk….there just aren’t enough hours in the day. Ideally I should pump before bed too, but I’m just too tired most nights. On the weekends I have to plan my day around pumping, will I need to pump during my visit with my parents? Do I have time after grocery shopping, but before we leave for family dinner? Then there are the times when mama just needs a glass of wine…but oh wait, I have to pump first…so that the alcohol is out of my system before the next time I need to pump. I’ve heard some women say that breast feeding mothers shouldn’t drink at all, that it’s such a short time to sacrifice for your child. Um…okay sanctimommy, sit down with your self-righteous preaching. Listen, I work 40 hours a week, and then come home and take care of twins; I’ll have a glass of wine, or even two, if I want to.
My point of this long rambling post is, I’m so tired of pumping. I’ve set a date to quit; I’m going to stop when they are six months old, and start eating solids. My babies have gotten plenty of breast milk, and will continue to get breast milk for another three months or so. My sanity though, I might lose it if I don’t stop at some point. A happy mama is important for happy babies.
So when I am done, I think I might burn my breast pump. Or you know, donate it to an uninsured mama in need… that would be the noble thing to do…or I could just burn it for my own satisfaction.