Photo By: TiffanyLeigh Photography
To start, I want to say that, although these photos show a fair amount of aggression toward my breast pumps, I am thankful to have had the opportunity to feed both of my kiddos for a combined 22 months. This was made possible solely through these machines, but this wasn’t the original plan.
Like most pregnant moms-to-be, my hopeful plan was for breastfeeding to go smoothly, making it a time to feed and bond with my babies. However, I ran into roadblocks early with both of my children and, despite multiple lactation consultation visits and a tongue-tie assessment and treatment, there were more tears shed by me than there was weight gained by my babies.
For me, the benefits of pumping were that I could create a schedule that wasn’t super dependent on my babies’ hunger cues. I could build up a stash that carried us through the last several months. I could see exactly how much my kiddos were eating when weight gain is important in the early days. I didn’t think there was any other way my kids would have access to my own breast milk.
So, why hit my pump with a bat and then with an axe until it was completely destroyed?*
The answer: to be done with exclusive pumping forever (hopefully, our plan says our family is complete) means freedom. Freedom from the hundreds of hours attached to my pump, from hauling a special backpack with three types of pumps with me everywhere I went, from keeping tabs on every ounce pumped in case my supply dropped, from the multiple bouts of mastitis and corresponding antibiotics, from having to arrange my schedule around each and every pump session. And from the actual tears cried over spilt milk. (Note: crying is allowed over spilt milk if that milk refers to breast milk.)
We don’t think often about the labor it takes to feed children, whether feeding directly, pumping or using formula. I pumped over 400 hours just for my last kiddo in his first year, which equates to about 10 work weeks. On top of all of his other care needs, including actually feeding him the pumped milk and keeping pump parts clean and sanitary, I was also working my full-time job. I had a healthy supply and was able to pump less often and for less time suggested. For many moms, this number is two-three times that amount. For formula-fed kiddos, it can cost an average of $1,200-$1,500 to feed the baby during the first year. Not to mention, the current reality of formula shortage and having to hunt high and low for the right kind.
To mark the end of this journey, I wanted to celebrate by saying goodbye to the pump. Special thanks to my dear friend and photographer, Tiffany, who literally pitched my pump for me while snapping shots. I did not celebrate when I finished pumping with my first child because I’m not sure I recognized what I’d committed myself to and what I consequently achieved. I’ve seen other moms celebrate online with thematic breast pump cakes or breast milk jewelry. But from the reaction I received when I posted the pictures, plenty of mamas did not celebrate or feel celebrated. So, if you know a mom with littles, see and recognize the work they are putting in, as it’s so often invisible (and quickly chugged)!
*For this project, I sought out a broken pump to destroy, as I am passing all of my pumps to other mamas for their journey!
For mamas looking for resources, @exclusive_pumping is my go-to for info, tips and humor!