It was going to be an amazing vacation: four days frisking about in Antigua with my best friends. My daughter, 14 months old, was still nursing, so I would have to bring along my trusty (and despised) breast pump, not only to keep up production but to relieve the inevitable engorgement. I'd never been away from a nursing child for this long, and I assumed there'd be challenges. After all, being away from your baby when you're breastfeeding is the worst. What I didn't realize, however, was just how worse it could really get.
The vacation was incredible, and worth the hassle of having to deal with breastfeeding breasts sans baby. It was, however, a huge hassle. Everyone in the rental house was aware of my pumping needs, both because I couldn't be away from my pump for too long and, well, let's just say the need became very obvious in a bikini.
But even in instances where you're not on a kid-free vacation, when you breastfeed and you're away from your baby for any extended period (a work day, for example), you don't get to escape the logistics of this particular aspect of parenthood. I should add that none of these issues are insurmountable, but damned if they aren't a huge pain in the ass.
At best, engorgement is really uncomfortable. At worst, it's downright painful. The slightest brush of your shirt can send pins and needles pain all over your chest. In my personal experience, being around my children did not provide too many opportunities to get engorged because, well, they always wanted to eat right before my boobs took on that unmistakable, rock-hard (and also kind of lumpy) quality. When I was away from them, however, I could expect uncomfortably swollen breasts on the regular. So you either have to pump or deal with the discomfort.
Because Your Boobs Getting Visibly Bigger
When my son was about 5 months old, I went to my high school reunion and wore a cute dress that displayed a level of cleavage I was comfortable with. Well, the amount of boob on display increased significantly over the course of the evening, to the point that it was obvious to me that it had become obvious to other people. (It was crystal clear when one friend awkwardly asked "Umm, is it time to pump?")
So in addition to being uncomfortable, your appearance is also potentially changing in ways that are less than ideal.
Because Of The Risk Of A Clogged Duct & Mastitis
Forgoing breastfeeding can sometimes lead to a clogged duct or an infected clogged duct known as mastitis, which I refer to as "Literally Hell." It's painful, you feel as though you'd been hit by a city bus, and you can only hope it's responsive to antibiotics.
We've all been there, right? The burning horror of realizing there's a wet circle forming on your shirt. oh God! Two wet circles! They both went off at the same time! You know it's nothing to be ashamed of, but you're still feeling a lot of embarrassment. You know, what with the milk coming out of your nipples for the whole world to see.
"What's the big deal about pumping? I don't mind pumping." Well, in addition to logistics, some of us loathe pumping. We loathe it from the bitter, black depths of our souls. If, as I mentioned above, being without your baby while breastfeeding is like being without a tissue when you have a cold, a pump is like the scrap of paper at the bottom of your purse that you wipe your nose with because it's better than nothing.
But as much as we hate pumping, we know that sustained engorgement and mastitis are even worse, so we suck it up. Well, we let our pumps suck it up. (Ba dum ch!)
Because You're Probably Missing Your Baby
Sure, they may cry and keep us up at night and poop on us and get angry at us for not giving them what they want despite not telling us what they want, but we love them so much. Being away from them (especially for something you'd rather not be doing, like maybe work or a funeral, or a bridal shower for a frenemy) can be melancholy. B
esides, statistically speaking, if you're still nursing your baby you have a baby under the age of 6 months. So they're still quite new and you're still potentially in "want to be bonding all the time" mode.
Because You Need To Plan For The Separation
When you know you're a breastfeeding parent who is going to be away from your baby, you can't just flit off. You have to plan not only for how your baby is going to be fed in your absence, but what you're going to do about your boobs (who will be longing for your infant) while you're out, and where you're going to pump (if pumping is required). It's a whole ordeal that requires thinking through several people's days: yours, your baby's, and your baby's caregiver's. It's like, guys, some days thinking about what I want for breakfast is a challenge, so this is a lot.
Because You'll Need To Interrupt Whatever You're Out Doing To Relieve Your Poor Engorged Boobs
Even if you're out doing something fun, you're not really going to be able to fully enjoy it as much as you would have if you weren't breastfeeding. You're either going to get engorged and uncomfortable and decide to deal with it, or you're going to have to step outside either to pump or hand-express milk. This means you'll have to make sure there is, in fact, a place to pump or hand-express. Spoilers! There often isn't, which often means you're either covering yourself with a pashmina as you sit hunched on the floor in the corner of a hotel events hall so your pump can reach the most private electrical outlet, or you're squeezing your boobs into a dive bar toilet.
However you manage, your interrupting your good time or taking time out of your busy schedule.
Because You're Unable To Ignore It
Wishing these issues away isn't going to help matters. It's only going to make them worse. They're unavoidable, like seasonal allergies or thinking you found a really great parking spot only to realize it's in front of a fire hydrant.
Because You'll Be Cutting Into Your Freezer/Formula Stash
The freezer stash is sacred, so you don't want to dip into your stores of liquid gold unless you absolutely have to. And if you happen to supplement with formula? That sh*t is expensive!
Breastfeeding, in my experience, is great. Getting some time away from your child can be great, too. But the combination of the two can be torturous.