When G was about 10 months old, I came down with a gnarly stomach flu that tanked my milk supply. So when Monday rolled around – I had no breastmilk to send. None. Nada. Zip. Nothing in the freezer, and my ta-tas were dry as a bone. I stifled my guilt and feelings of general failure as much as possible and told her teachers to just give her formula.
Fast forward to that afternoon and I got a phone call asking me to come feed her because she hadn’t had anything to drink all day. Girlfriend flatly refused that formula.
I cried so hard that day, ya’ll. I was so tired of feeling chained to my pump. I needed to know I could take a break from it and she would be okay. And, turns out, she wouldn’t be okay if I took a break from it. I had to press on.
I pumped for a full year for her. And breastfed her until she was 16 months old.
I actually loved nursing. But pumping? Pumping was a whole ‘notha thing.
So when I was cradling The Boy at his 2 week well check and the sweet nurse practitioner asked this innocent question, all I could do was blink back at her for a few moments.
“So, what’s your plan for when you go back to work?”
Back to work. Oh my word. I’m going to have to pump again. How had I blocked all of that out?
Anxiety started to build up in my chest, and instead of putting on a brave face and giving a cheerful response, I was honest.
“I don’t know. I really, really hate pumping.”
Her response was immediate.
Huh. What? THAT is an option?
She pointed out that he’d be starting daycare in the winter, which meant more germs, and that he’d likely benefit from as much breast milk as possible. But also? Also, formula was totally fine.
“I’m giving you permission to give him formula. Even if you produce more than enough milk for him. You. Can. Give. Him Formula. Give him a bottle a day starting around 6 weeks so he’ll get used to it.”
You know that scene in Braveheart where Mel Gibson screams FREEEDOM? That was basically me in all my postpartum glory in that moment.
I’ll give you a moment to let that mental image sink in.
Anyway, we left that appointment and off I went to my trusty Amazon to find some Prime-eligible formula.
And then I almost died of sticker shock.
Holy hell, you guys. How do formula parents DO this? I thought formula feeding moms were pretty much rock stars just with all the bottles they have to make & wash times infinity, but I had no idea that they were also spending a small fortune to fill all those bottles.
I browsed, and browsed, and browsed some more. I was sure I was missing some great Formula secret. Like, surely this is like Bed, Bath & Beyond or Loft where you shouldn’t buy anything that isn’t 40% off?
Nope. Even with the coupons I could find, formula is just dang expensive.
And then I looked at my pump and apologized.
Poor pump, poor sweet, innocent, free to me through insurance pump. I had said so many mean things. I had begrudgingly lugged it to work every day for a year. I had groaned every time I heard that familiar whirring. I had sworn under my breath while washing all of the parts every night.
I hadn’t realized what a gift it was. There was food! FREE FOOD for my baby. From my body. Yes, it was a lot of work getting it and most days I felt like a cow when I was hooked up to the damn thing (see, there I go again…). But it was there. And the price was right.
Ya’ll, I’ve never been so conflicted about something. On the one hand, I loathed the pump and my general inability to escape it once I went back to work after my babies were born.
On the other hand, it’s kinda nice to be able to afford to feed the other people in my house, and I wasn’t sure how to do that and also buy formula.
So here’s where I’ve landed:
I’m not putting any pressure on myself this time.
I’m still pumping, for now. I was pumping 3 times a day at work, but that got to be time consuming and, frankly, annoying so now I’ve dropped it to 2 times a day. The Boy has an occasional bottle of (daycare supplied) formula if I’m short on milk for the day. And, guess what?
So far, he’s doing just fine.
And if I decide that pumping is too stressful, or is giving me anxiety, or if I feel myself slipping back into the guilt that contributed to my PPD?
I will kick that pump to the curb and not look back.
So, pump. I LoveHate you. You’re a total Frenemy. But you’re safe.