Breastfeeding's Ugly Cousin

So, it's World Breastfeeding Week this week.  As a breastfeeding mother, I wanted to do a little post with what has been on my mind lately relating to breastfeeding.

Disclaimer: I love that I can breastfeed my baby.  I do think that breastfeeding is the best feeding option for infants.  However, I know that breastfeeding is not possible or desirable to all mamas.  Please, feed your baby whatever and however you like.  :)

Audrey has reached the age where eating is more fun than it is functional. She likes to pop off and then give me this look:

She's adorable.  I love sharing those grins with her.  I love feeling her body relax when she's upset and feeding her can provide comfort.  In public, I try to be discreet (I'm not one to just pop my nipples out), but I don't hesitate to feed her when and where she needs it.  I think breastfeeding is a beautiful thing.
But, breastfeeding has an ugly cousin.  You may have heard of it: pumping.  As any working mom (and many other moms whose babies can't latch or choose to pump for other reasons) knows, pumping is the exact opposite experience from the beautiful, sweet one of breastfeeding your baby.  Pumping is cumbersome, sometimes painful, isolating, and stressful (Did I pump enough?  Why does she drink more from a bottle then I can pump? Is she starving? Am I a failure as a woman and mother? Why is this so hard!? - just a few of the thoughts I think nearly every pumping mama has experienced).  

I am VERY lucky to work from home most days.  Because Geoff is at home right now as well, this means I get to feed Audrey more-or-less on demand (she gets a bottle of breast milk when I've got meetings).  However, a few weeks ago I had an on-site week with my work team and I was away from home Monday-Saturday.  I pumped exclusively for that week.  

Breastfeeding while traveling can be hard sometimes.  I traveled a lot with Will when he was young.  I was new to breastfeeding and tried to hide a bit, but there were mother's rooms and chairs in the corner where I could go to feed.

Airport bathrooms are swanky
Pumping is different.  You don't pump in a mother's room. Maybe some mom's do, but when people are coming in and out changing diapers and the pump is exposing my whole chest, I'm not comfortable with that.  So, I ended up pumping in airport bathroom stalls, restaurant bathrooms, etc...this was not beautiful.  Public toilets rarely have lids, too, so I couldn't even sit to pump (and even when I could, it's still gross).

Everywhere I went for a week, I was carrying around my pump, bottles, ice packs, cleansing wipes, storage bags (not to mention my computer and work supplies).  It was exhausting.  And by the end of the week I really felt frustrated that there aren't more appropriate public places provided for pumping mothers.
Breastfeeding awareness has come a long way.  It's no longer looked down upon to breastfeed in public (although I'm a LOT more comfortable doing it in the SF Bay Area then I was in North Dakota).  But, no one talks about pumping in public.  Employers are required to provide appropriate pumping spaces, but what about airports, restaurants, rest stops, coffee shops, etc...

Pumping exclusively for a week was very difficult, not so much because the pumping is hard (you get the hang of it), but because I felt relegated to bathroom stalls and hiding to do it.  Even my husband, who I was talking to about the logistics of pumping and the new (smaller) pump I had acquired before I left on my trip, at one point said to me, "That's great, honey.  But, you know, no one wants to hear you talk about pumping."  And he's right.  Pumping is weird.  It's not tender, it's not beautiful, it's not natural.  

So, here I am.  Talking about it.  Proud of myself for doing it and hoping that I can inspire at least one other mama to pump proudly.  It's not a beautiful experience like breastfeeding can be (although, let's all admit that the first few weeks of breastfeeding can be pretty terrible), but it allows us to provide for our little ones even while we're away - and I'd do anything for that little one.


  1. I am proud to say I lasted 6 1/2 months with Simon! I never enjoyed nursing I get frustrated and feel like a heffer. It was uncomfortable for Randy as he is older. BUT I cried in the bottle isle at Walmart as I choose bottles for him. Mike hugged me several times. I felt like Simon no longer needed me. Simon weened on his own. My supply dropped and he is a good eater. My older 2 couldn't handle the milk they always projectiled everytime. Syd I lasted 4 Months until one day she just flat out refused breast milk.

    I'm glad you love nursing and I do think airports should have a mother's room!

  2. Amanda, i applaud you, and I agree whole-heartedly. We desperately need better options to pump in public. But kuddos to you for not letting that make you give up. I am right there with ya!