Why pumping makes me feel like an American

{I realize that what I am about to say does not apply to everyone or every situation and at the risk of offending a whole lot of people I’m going to say it anyway.}
Pumping breast milk feels so American. What do I mean by that? Well, setting aside the fact that it’s a situation that I find myself in because I have extremely little in the way of maternity leave and need to return to work at a time when I want my child to continue to have the benefits of consuming my breastmilk,  I mean that it is time consuming, energy consuming, stressful, inefficient and wasteful (feel free to feel offended, Americans).  Stereotypes generally reserved for Americans.

But let me elaborate.

Alice (and Oliver) started school – yes, it is a school. Even for my 5 month old – this past Monday. Prior to that, she was being cared for at home, by our (fabulous) nanny and, since she wasn’t, and isn’t, taking a bottle, I would work upstairs and when Alice was hungry Hannah would bring her to me. I would feed her, and then hand her back. Work, breastfeed, work.  With minimal interruption. Smile.

Now that she’s in school, I have to pump milk.  Here is where you might stop me to argue that I don’t have to do anything: “You don’t have to pump, you  choose to pump.” And while you would be right to bring that to my attention, you would also risk getting a sharp stick in the eye. (So think carefully, yes?) In all seriousness, it is important to me so I’m not going to stop. Pumping, I mean. I do plan to stop complaining, but not until this post goes live.

As I was saying, now that she’s in school I pump. What this means is that every two hours I need to take 15 minutes out of my day to sit still and pull the milk from by breast. But 15 minutes is just the time spent actually pumping. In reality, there is a whole process involved which takes a fair bit longer. First, I need to sit quietly and clear my mind in preparation for pumping. I need to look at pictures of Alice, watch videos of her, listen to her laugh or hear her cry, imagine her actually nursing in order to trick my body into thinking that this piece of cold, hard plastic that I’m about to attach to my breast is actually my child. Trust me when I say that the cold hard plastic is nothing like my child. Or any child for that matter. Once ready, I settle in for the 15 minutes of pumping. This is followed by storage and cleanup which, depending on where I’m working and pumping, could take another 15 minutes. (We’re up to a 35-45 if you’re counting.)

Couldn’t you pump for less time? Do you really need 15 minutes? Unfortunately, yes. For two reasons: (1) I’ve been told that this is a decent amount of time to allow one’s body to relax into pumping and achieve a full let-down response and (2) because this is how long it takes for me to pull the modest amount of milk I’m getting these days, which ranges from 1/2 to 2 ounces if you’re interested. Definitely not enough to feed my child all day while at school. This, of course, is very stressful  – I’m aware that there’s no milk coming, no matter how hard I will it to show itself – and this causes me (and my previously calmed and prepared mind and body) to be less relaxed, resulting in even less milk. Rinse. Repeat.

See what I mean? Time consuming, energy consuming, and stressful.

But those are not the biggest issues for me because I can make little adjustments: I can focus, I can take more fenugreek, or eat oatmeal three times a day. The biggest issues for me is how wasteful this process is. When a child breastfeeds he/she gets every last drop of milk that comes from his/her mom. When you use a breast pump, that is not the case. Do you know how no matter how hard you hit it or how long you leave the old bottle balanced upside down on the new one, there is always ketchup left in the {almost} empty bottle that you end up having to wash down the drain? The same thing happens with pumped milk. It clings to the sides of the bottles refusing to let go. My pump has also decided to start pulling milk up into the silicone suction cup instead of down into the bottle, which adds a layer of amusement and frustration.

Again, do you see? Inefficient and wasteful.

I do not mean to suggest that I don’t like being an American, or that I personally view Americans in such a negative light. Because I don’t. I am lucky to be an American, if for no other reason than I can spend an entire blog post complaining about pumping and no one can stop me.










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