Breastfeeding took a toll on me, and fast. So I moved to pumping pretty quickly and, well, my breast pump became my better half. It helped me jump into motherhood without being constantly afraid I was messing up or not feeding my baby enough. I could share the responsibility of feedings when I was tired. And, eventually, I gained back the confidence breastfeeding took from me. There's a downside to pumping, though, and it includes things no one says about your boobs after pumping. I'm here to say it, though, because someone has to inform all the soon-to-be breastfeeding and breast pumping moms what they're in for. Apparently, that someone is me.
It took me a few days to master my breast pump, I must admit. But once I did, I felt free for the very first time since I became someone's mom. Prior to using my pump, I felt trapped by the expectations to breastfeed my baby, and alone in my struggles to do so. I thought something so "natural" was going to be a breeze, and when it wasn't I felt crushed by this overwhelming feeling of perceived failure.
I didn't feel comfortable going straight to formula after I realized breastfeeding just wasn't working, though. And that's when the pump swopped in to save the day. It worked, for sure, but not without bodily consequences. The boobs took a major hit for the team, and while you may not want to acknowledge, or talk about it, I think we need to. If nothing else, highlighting how post-breast pumping boobs look and feel reminds everyone that a woman's body can do incredible things. Life-saving things. Nurturing things. Badass things.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the post-pump look is less than flattering. I mean, I avoided looking at my breasts after pumping because the changes were so drastic. When I did look, I was always overcome with a mixture of confusion, disappointment, and slight disgust, but in a weirded-out kind of way. It's kind of incredible that I could go from busty to deflated and wrinkly in about five minutes.
Maybe it's just me (I hope not), but when breastfeeding usually leveled me out, pumping always left one boob bigger than the other. I was told it was dependent on how right and/or wrong the suction cup was placed. My bras hated me, my shirts felt uncomfortable, and I became that much more self-conscious.
Leaky boobs come with the new-mom territory, but leaky, shriveled-up boobs that hurt without that bonding moment you would've enjoyed if you were breastfeeding is next level. There were more than a few days when I wondered if breast milk would ever stop pouring out of me. I mean, I was ruining shirts left and right like it was my full-time job. Can we just talk about how embarrassing it is when you leak through a shirt in public after pumping in the work bathroom? Because it happens.
So, for me, breastfeeding wasn't the best experience. My postpartum depression made every feeding session the worst part of my day, and no amount of lactation consulting or practice or time made it any easier. But once I moved solely to pumping, those two milk buckets really missed my baby. Not enough for me to go back to breastfeeding, but still. A twinge of sadness was there, and from time to time I wished I could say I had breastfeeding boobs instead of breast pumping ones.
When it comes to boobs, whether you breastfeed or pump, chances are they will suffer cosmetically. But here's the thing: even after spending half an hour pumping, with the suction cup still imprinted on my skin, my partner still thought they were the best things he'd ever seen. Actually, I don't think there's anything pumping could've done to make him think otherwise.
In other words, if you have a worthwhile partner, they won't be turned off by breastfeeding, breast pumping, or the way your boobs react to either. In fact, they'll simply be in awe of everything your body is capable of doing.
I don't know about the rest of you breast pumping mothers, but after a session my breasts itched something fierce. It was pretty uncomfortable, I won't lie, but I will say it was worth a scratch or two if it meant I could fill up a few bottles for my baby.
Your boobs could be hanging from a hinge, barely working. They could hurt like hell and feel like they could actually fall off. They could develop stretch marks and be lopsided. And Still, if you're able to pump that milk and feed your baby, all is right with the world.
Pumping might wreck your chest, but so can breastfeeding. And pumping does weird things to your nipples and surrounding areas, but so does breastfeeding. Your breasts are basically superhero weapons, created to save the world, one baby at a time. At this point, is there anything your boobs can't do? (No. The answer, of course, is no.)
Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:
Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.