Last Saturday night, I pumped for the very last time.
After 14 months of exclusive pumping for the Happy Baby, it was time to lay that thing to rest.
Note - We had to bribe the Happy Buddy with a bag of graham crackers in order to get him to participate in this ridiculousness.
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I nursed the Happy Buddy until he was 2 years old and I never once touched a pump or a bottle. When I got pregnant with the Happy Baby I decided to do the same thing because that is what I knew. Pumping and bottling seemed too complicated for my tiny brain.
I even said, “I will never pump.”
Within a few hours after the Happy Baby’s birth and he was whisked to the NICU in respiratory distress, a nurse rolled a giant Medela pump into my room and told me to get busy.
And boy, did I.
Every 2-3 hours. 20-30 minutes each session. Pump, wash, sterilize, dry, bottle, label, store, repeat.
Pumping became this precious lifeline between my baby and me. It made me feel like I was doing something for him even when I couldn’t always be at the hospital. It gave me mission and purpose to get out of bed when many days I wanted to just pull the covers over my head and give up.
Some of my most memorable and worshipful times with God during our 3 month hospital stay were in the middle of the night, hooked to my pump, Bible open in my lap, tears running down my face while reading through the Psalms.
While my exclusive pumping journey began with pure motives and a sincere hope that one day he’d eventually nurse, somewhere along the way, though, my controlling, perfectionist, fearful nature took over.
Our world puts a huge amount of pressure on us mamas to give our babies breast milk. Breast is best. Breast is best.
But is it always best?
I believe with every fiber of my being that God created breast milk to be an incredible source of nutrition for our little bundles, but I do not believe God intended for us to make an idol out of it.
An idol that says, “I can control my child’s health if I give him/her breast milk.”
An idol that makes you fear the alternative – formula.
An idol that has you chained to a Medela 7-8 times a day hindering you from hearing sermons, playing with your other kids, having date nights longer than an hour, your sleep, time with friends, etc.
An idol that makes you feel like less of a mom if you choose not to/can’t nurse.
An idol that makes you think you won’t be able to bond with your baby if you can’t nurse (which is SO not true).
Now I am NOT saying that if you choose to make the commitment to pump exclusively it’s because you’ve made breast milk an idol.
No, no, no. :-)
And I am also not saying that we should all throw in the towel and give up on breast milk completely. Good heavens, no! If you can, nurse, do it! If you want to pump, do it! Whichever works!
But what I AM saying is SEEK GOD about your decision. Put Him first. Make sure you’re doing it with the right motives and what’s best for your Happy Home.
If I had truly laid my fears before the Lord and surrendered everything at His feet, I probably would have saved myself about 6 months of feeling like a
cow prisoner as well as 6 months of stress/sleepless nights trying to force my way instead of listening to God’s.
After all the Happy Baby went through in the hospital – all the unbelievable amounts of antibiotics and heavy drugs – I took it upon myself to be the sole provider of his health once we got him home. I convinced myself that it was my purpose in life to cleanse his little system. And by cleanse his little system, I meant to fill it up with the purest of medications – breast milk.
Y’all are so sweet and probably thinking, “There is nothing wrong with that, Julie!”
Yes, I know… But if you knew how I almost had anxiety attacks every time my milk supply dropped, or my pump malfunctioned, or even just thought about having to give the Happy Baby formula… There is definitely something wrong with that.
God’s plan for us never involves fear.
Studies show that breast milk has a ton of antibodies that protect babies from illness, so I went about striving and striving to protect my weakened-immune-system boy’s health. What is interesting, though, is that my precious boy still got sick about every 4 weeks. It was almost as if the Lord was saying, “I am Lord over the Happy Baby. Not your breast milk. Trust me.”
I also had it in my head that formula was a very scary thing. Which is so ridiculous because I know SO MANY babies on formula who are perfect and thriving and FINE. I was on formula, for pete’s sake! My counselor even told me that their firstborn, who was the only one out of 5 kids to receive formula, is their smartest kid. It’s even more ironic because if you read THIS POST, you know that the Happy Baby was getting lots and lots of supplemented formula when we were in the hospital – when things were so completely out of my control. But, like I said, as soon as he came home, I made it my mission to be in control. And formula did not fit into my idea of what was best for the Happy Baby.
Then there’s just plain ole’ pride and perfectionism. Everyone says to nurse for at least a year. So I had to pump for a year – at least.
And if you are wondering why I would still be thinking of formula now when the Happy Baby is a year old, it is because he has not yet transitioned fully to solids. His reflux, sensitive gag, and feeding issues (puts everything in his mouth, chews, chews, chews, then spits out) make him dependent on liquids for nutrition until he gets a little stronger.
Yes, I gave the Happy Baby a beautiful thing for 14 months that I don’t doubt God used to help the Happy Baby grow.
But at what cost? It pains me to think of all the opportunities I missed because I had to pump.
And it pains me to think that I might make some of you feel pressured to pump for as long as stubborn me!
Ultimately, after the last year of pumping and washing and sterilizing and storing and sacrificing, I can say with confidence that what it really boils down to is this - It doesn’t matter what your baby eats (breast milk or formula) because God is in control of your baby’s life/health.
God doesn’t want you walking around all anxious and stressed. God wants you to live in freedom.
I finally, FINALLY faced my fears last weekend. I finally believed that no matter what, God would be with me (and the Happy Baby). I went out and bought some formula. I gave it to the Happy Baby. And then I put my pump away.
And you know what? My skinny little, often-malnourished-looking Happy Baby gained like 2 pounds almost instantly and was suddenly all like, “Take THAT, Hypotonia!” and started standing up (with support, but without his legs buckling underneath him). I am not even kidding. It’s like the Lord wanted to prove to me just how wrong I have been!!!
No, He wouldn’t do that – He is far too loving and gracious and so, so patient. But what He would do is bring a whole lot of glory to Himself out of my finally learning to fully trust in His goodness and ability to care for my son – breast milk or no breast milk.
So, be free, sweet mama who knows exactly what I am talking about! If you are pumping like a mad woman and you are tired and afraid of letting go… Seriously. Let it go. Put your pump away (or bury it in the ground – ha!). Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy watching So You Think You Can Dance with your Happy Hubby without the obnoxious woh-woh-woh of your pump drowning everything out but Mary’s Hot Tamale Train screams.
Dear Pump, may you rest in peace.
I know I am!
“Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in His commands. Their children will be mighty in the land…”
*If you’ve read this post and you still want to/feel called to pump, check back again this week as I will be posting all my extreme pumping tips and tricks!*