9 Things You Can Only Get Away With When You're Breast Pumping
Breast pumping can be one of the strangest, most surreal parts of early motherhood for breastfeeding moms. I mean, it's nothing but an onslaught of emotions and weird physical sensations. It can make you feel frustrated, victorious, or at times, like a one-woman freak show. You might even find yourself doing things you wouldn't normally do if you weren't hooked up to a whirring milk-producing machine. What you can get away with when breast pumping is pretty mind-blowing when you think about it, and at least add a silver-lining to an otherwise monotonous act.
I milked (ha!) my breast pumping for all it was worth, usually in the early days and before I got the hang of my hands-free pump bra and was able to walk around the house with my pump bag like a boss. In the beginning, however, when I felt like I couldn't move from whatever position I had begun pumping from, I had to ask the world to come to me. That meant that everyone around me was my servant for the 30 to 40 minutes it took to express my milk. For those glorious minutes, I was a queen, receiving snacks and drinks, getting my favorite show, receiving whatever reading material I needed in front of me, and having my pillows adjusted just so. And over time, I also felt completely OK with abandoning certain social norms that I ordinarily would feel weird about not adhering to.
My breast pump gave me the freedom to let me freak flag fly, at least while I was pumping. For a brief period, I gave zero f*cks about a few things:
Making People Bring Things To You
When you're busy with your breast pump, you don't want to disturb the force or ruin your focus. Moving in order to get things for yourself could result in dislocating the tubing from your pump and disrupting your flow, which is super annoying. Therefore, it is imperative that people bring things to you (such as snacks, refreshments to keep you hydrated, and comfortable pillows to help with your pumping positions).
I would tell my husband and relatives that they were not doing these things for me, they were doing it "for the baby." Things I requested were not limited simply to ice water, either, but also included sandwiches, a specific iced tea, and switching the television to a particular channel if the remote was out of my reach.
Leaking And Spilling Things All Over Yourself
You'll get a glimpse into what life in the old age home might be like down the road, and suddenly you really feel for the octogenarian who you often sit across from at your favorite restaurant's communal table, who can't seem to eat soup without getting half of it all over his sweater. Whenever you are doing your breast pump thing, you are that octogenarian, leaking milk all over whatever you happen to be wearing that day.
Feeling Like A Failure In Chemistry And Being OK With It
Life in the pump lane means you're constantly manipulating all kinds of pump bits and parts that resemble the contents of your ninth grade chemistry lab, but without any of the cool puffs of smoke or changing color potions (ugh, lame!). Instead, you have five ounce bottles, thin, long tubes, flaps and valves, and some cone-shaped things.
Sometimes you feel a little overwhelmed, and can't figure out which parts you've sanitized or you've lost some key part that without it, the whole pump ceases to do its job. Other times you might forget how many ounces you've just pumped, and you've already dumped your "liquid gold" into a plastic baggie and can't label it correctly. If you were in school, you would give yourself a C or C- but, since you're a mom doing your best, you're gonna give yourself an A for effort (or at least a B for breastfeeding) and let yourself get away with not being perfect at this one thing.
Having Full On Grownup Conversations While Wearing An Adult-Sized Bib
So the doorbell rings and that requires you hauling your pump over to the door for a face-to-face conversation. Embarrassing, yes, but you've endured worse since childbirth. The delivery guy can't see your breasts because they are covered by your nursing bib, but really, is that so much better? You would attempt to explain what is happening right now, but that would make things even more awkward so you just pretend like everything is super normal. Meanwhile your toddler is tugging on your pump tubes. No one freak out! (Oh, did this only happen to me?)
Unapologetically Shouting Over The Sounds Of A Loud Motor
On the days when my pump was on its highest settings, and I attempted to have conversations with people, I would have to resort to shouting. No, I did not lower my pump settings, nor did I apologize for speaking at such a high volume. I was a mom on a mission to produce milk for her child, and also I had important things to say (like, "If you erase my DVRing of Girls I will murder you.").
Leaving Situations Or Company So You Can Go "Pump"
Not enjoying the company that you've found yourself entertaining? Need a break from watching your baby and want to pass him onto someone else for a bit? Let your guests or family members know that you've got to pump, and quietly exit to a private space where you can clear your head, and not have to participate in a conversation about politics, or your relative's narrow-minded point of view about sexuality and gender that makes your blood boil.
Breast pumping is a gift in that you can simply excuse yourself to go do it whenever you feel like it, and take however long you "need" to take, and no one is going to question you about it. Whether you actually pump or not is up to you.
Making Other People Do Things You Don't Want To Do, But Save It For When You Are Pumping
This was one of my favorite little tricks, and I was careful not to abuse this one lest my cover would be blown. I'd try to time a pump session around a particularly annoying household chore, such as cleanup after a meal. "Oh, darn, what a mess! Too bad I have to pump now!" And what could anybody say to that?
This worked especially well around the men in my life, because they couldn't argue what it felt or looked like when I said my boobs felt like they were going to explode or that they felt hard as rocks. Mainly, I think, they were afraid of the combined terms "exploding" and "boobs," and would toss me my pump and tell me to do what I needed to do while they took care of whatever clean up was necessary.
Claiming Your Pump Is Talking To You
Listen, pumping is weird AF. There is almost nothing else I've ever done in my life that is quite as strange as being hooked to an electronic device that makes milk squirt out of my nipples in a rhythmic fashion.
So, when you've been hooked to one of these babies for long enough, and you've been doing it for months on end, you might start to hear things. As in, your pump might start talking to you and you might start telling people about the things that you hear it saying. You'll probably get a free pass because, well, your friends and family know how hard you've been working creating sustenance for your child.
Challenging People's Expectations Of What Is Polite And Appropriate
This one is totally cool to do any time (and not just when breast pumping), but it is especially great to do when breast pumping. It's so important to help normalize women nursing and pumping in public since the stigma against these things is still so real.
I really lived up to this challenge by bringing my pump (especially my hand pump) everywhere and pumping in lots of interesting places; from cafes, nice restaurants, hotel lobbies, stores, airplanes, airport waiting areas, and hardly ever in bathrooms. The more we do this out in the open, the less it will be seen as weird, gross, yucky, inappropriate, sexual, or whatever other negative connotations people want to attach to it. Power to the boobies!