Pumping is the new formula. A generation or so ago, most women (in the western world) were turning away from breastfeeding and toward formula – convinced by the medical arguments and swayed by social and cultural forces driving or welcoming women back into the workforce.
Now, although breastfeeding is back in, I am almost the only person I know who is feeding exclusively from the breast. That is to say, I am one of the only people, in this area at least, who isn’t pumping – by choice. I know a couple of mums that aren’t giving their babies any bottles, because the babies just won’t take them. I know quite a few mums who chose to give their babies only formula after two or three months of breastfeeding; one or two that genuinely didn’t have enough milk and had to supplement (because their baby was losing weight). I even know people who are exclusively pumping – a kind of a lifestyle choice of some highly educated, driven, professional women who see the health benefits of feeding their child human milk (crafted for them) but who just don’t have the time or inclination to breastfeed their children, directly. So that leaves me in a category of one… well, two. I know one other woman who, like me, is breastfeeding the traditional way, only. She was a nanny for many years and says she has fed so many bottles to so many babies that with hers she just wants to do it the old-fashioned way.
So, why aren’t I pumping? Should I? Most women seem to look at me like I am slightly deranged, with a hero or martyr complex, for not trying it, at least. Why would you tie yourself to your baby, 24 hours a day, if you don’t have to? Wouldn’t you like to go out with friends, go to a spa, the cinema, a dance class? Do you not need a little time for yourself?
Of course I do. In fact, up until now I would say I was one of the more fiercely independent people I know. Me and my husband have always given each other a lot of space to be – and that includes oodles of time to myself to read, write, walk, hang out with friends, spend time in nature, do classes, etc. Trust me, I enjoy the silence and peace of aloneness AND I love social time with my friends – neither of which I have had, in that pure (baby-less) sense, for some time. And yet… and yet… some kind of biological imperative is taking over in me. I can’t really, fully explain it. It is not a rational choice, just a gut reaction, an intuition that feeding my baby from the breast (if possible) is best. Hey, if I couldn’t do it, for whatever reason, I would adjust to that, I would have to. But I am fortunate that I can and so I feel my duty is to honour this gift, this precious and fleeting time my daughter and I can share in this way.
I know breastfeeding is not just about milk. It is about bonding, closeness and connection. Skin-to-skin, shared warmth, mommy-smell (and pheromones). There is a lot more at play in this simple interaction than just nutrition.
Yes, I’d like some time off, sure. Especially since I have been blessed with the kind of baby that really wants to be fed a lot – day and night. And yet, I can’t help thinking my mom managed to do this, in a time before pumping was even really an option. She breastfed me for two years. And so too, so many mothers before her and still today all over the world.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not judging people who chose another path – it is afterall their parenting path to chose. And I am a true believer that you gotta do what works for you. But for me, right now, my heart urges me to stay the course and keep going a little while longer. I may chose to pump, at a later date, who knows, if it turns out Anya doesn’t have solid food until she is one, like some children. But for now I am grateful that I can do it and so I make the most of it for now, knowing my rest and reward will come later, all being well.
We’ll see what comes. I’ll continue to stay open to the whispers that arrive to me from my soul and the Soul of all things, but for now, if I hear it right, the peace comes with feeding at the breast.