Have you ever thought about how odd breast pumping is? Like, who came up with the idea to create a machine that sucks milk out of human beings? The folks who created these strange machines probably didn’t think about how weird and uncomfortable and cow-like they make us breastfeeding moms feel. Then again, maybe they did. Either way, it's hard to explain what breast pumping is like, especially to people who will never experience it themselves. In fact, there are things my partner can’t understand about breast pumping, no matter how much I tried to explain or how many times he watched me pumping away for the benefit of our son.
When I was pregnant I had planned on breastfeeding my son exclusively and for at least the first few months of his life. Then reality happened and, between his NICU stay and my own physical problems with feeding, my only choice was to pump breast milk and supplement with formula. I’d bought a small, single breast pump as a backup prior to my son's birth, but I wound up mostly using a hospital-grade pump I was able to rent from Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) instead. It was faster and easier, to be sure, but it was also bulky and annoying to carry around.
That was just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how annoying and inconvenient pumps can be, and that's nothing to say of the feelings associated with pumping itself. I don’t think my husband really understood how cumbersome it all was, but that doesn't mean I didn't try to explain over and over and over again.
How Much I Wished I Could Just Breastfeed Instead
There's no way a non-lactating partner will ever understand how badly a breast pumping mom probably wishes she was breastfeeding instead. More than a few times my husband acted like there wasn't a significant difference between the two because, “at least the baby was getting breast milk.”
There's a big difference, though, and I was always so envious of the breastfeeding moms who never experienced any nursing problems.
How To Actually Use The Damn Things
If my spouse could start lactating and using a pump, I don’t think he’d have the first clue how to use it. I can’t blame him, though. I had no idea at first, either. These things are super confusing.
How Weird The “Sucking” Feels
A breast pump and a newborn’s mouth don’t feel anything alike. At all. Having your nipples sucked into those shields to squeeze milk out is uncomfortably weird and sometimes made me feel totally icky.
How Weird It Is To Hear My Breast Pump Talk To Me
Whoosh. Whoosh. Whoosh. You’d think they could make these things silent. Or hell, maybe they can add a pumping Pandora station to it, you know? Something that makes those odd sounds disappear so I don't feel like I'm having some weird conversation in a super secret machine language only pumping moms and their breast pumps can understand.
How Awkward I Look & Feel While Doing It
There’s a hilarious photo of me somewhere using the hospital’s breast pump for the first time. I’m not sharing it here, but trust me when I say it captured just how awkward all us breastfeeding moms look while pumping. No one looks cool or cute when they're hooked up to a human milking machine. No one.
How Totally Inconvenient It Can Be
I hated pumping, and having to stick to a rigid schedule (for fear of losing my supply and/or experiencing engorgement) was the pits. Also, having to carry all my supplies around was the damn worst.
How Frustrating It Is To Pump Hardly Any Milk
My heart broke every single time I pumped and was left with only an ounce of milk for my efforts. I suffered from a lot of undersupply issues, and it didn’t matter if I pumped, fed, or both: I could not increase my supply for the life of me. It was all really frustrating and stressful.
How Necessary It Is To Wash The Supplies Over & Over Again
Washing all the damn parts of my breast pump was the bane of my existence. I didn’t mind washing baby bottles, but those pumping supplies? Since they had to be washed after every pump, and I was pumping every 2-3 hours, well, you do the math.
How Painful Engorgement Is
My dude will never understand what it feels like when your boobs get rock hard and full of milk. It’s painful and just feels unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced. That need to pump as soon as physically possible is just a concept too far removed from all non-breastfeeding folks.
How Devastating Spilling Pumped Milk Truly Is
Because I had so many issues with producing milk, every drop was treated as if it was pure gold. I think the last time I spilled breast milk I had spent a significant time pumping was the final straw for me. I ended up giving up pumping altogether, but at least I had a good run and I did my best.