Monday, August 6, 2012

Why We Don't Pump for the Public: Now You Know, and Knowing is Half the Battle

I have no idea if this post will ever reach the eyes of anyone who would actually benefit from reading it, but for the sake of my sanity, I'm just gonna put this out there.

Blah blah blah public breastfeeding controversy; you know how those comments go.  What I want to address is the simple suggestion that women can/should just pump and bottle feed in public. 

When someone says something like this, it reminds me of two things. The first thing it reminds me of is how perfect and knowledgeable on matters of parenting I was prior to becoming a parent.  I obviously knew everything, then, right?  The second thing it reminds me of is every single time I looked at an action being performed, that I had never done in my life, and totally criticized the action in my mind. For example, I used to think it was REALLY stupid for people to be walking their bikes on the sidewalk of a busy road I lived on. "They are supposed to be on the road, how annoying!" I said.  Then one day, I had to bike home.  Biking down that road was really screamingly dangerous and scary. What did I do? I walked my bike on the sidewalk.  Suddenly I totally understood why someone would do it.

When people make comments like "women can/should just pump and bottle feed in public" I can chalk it up to two things.

1. General douchebaggery
2. Genuine lack of knowledge on the subject (dare I say, ignorance?)

I want to give people the benefit of the doubt here and go with number 2.  So I'm going to take care of this for you, if you are genuinely curious why someone wouldn't just pump breast milk and put it in a bottle and feed their baby that way instead of subjecting themselves to all the potential drama that public breastfeeding can bring.

I'm going to explain now, and I'm going to talk to you as though you've never had a child and know nothing about breastfeeding.  Bear with me.

The Question: Why don't women just pump and bottle feed in public?

The Answer: Some women DO just pump and bottle feed in public.  Some women are able to do this, and/or they want to do this. So if you are wondering this because yourself / your cousin / your friend / a lady you saw once does it, then rest assured, some women DO just pump and bottle feed in public. I know.

Some women can't / don't want to pump and bottle feed in public for a number of reasons.

Let's start off with some basic knowledge you will need to understand why.  Breastmilk production operates under a supply and demand system.  The more the baby nurses at the breast, the more milk is made.  The opposite is also true.  This isn't the same as pumping; pumping is different.  Babies are very efficient at drawing out milk and encouraging milk production, while even the most effective and expensive breast pump is not nearly as effective.

During the first several weeks, a baby must nurse like crazy to increase and ensure milk production.  Even ONE meal at the bottle can have serious long term results to breastfeeding success.  Because of this, lactation consultants, doctors, and mothers often encourage new parents to not pump AT ALL during the first 4-6 weeks.  There are two reasons for this:

1.  To ensure the body produces lots and lots of milk (enough milk)
2.  So that the baby doesn't get what is called "nipple confusion."  This is when a breastfed baby gets used to a bottle to the point that they don't want to latch onto the breast.

I know, I know... yourself/ your cousin / your friend / a lady you once saw gave their baby a bottle a million times during the first 6-8 weeks and there was no damage.  It happens, sometimes. Not all people are as lucky. 

If you are in public and you see a woman with a 6-8 week old baby (or obviously younger) and she's nursing in public, it's probably for one of the reasons above.

If you see a woman nursing in public and the child is older, it's probably for one of these reasons:

1.  Pumping almost always results in less milk than just allowing the child to nurse from the breast.  Some women can't really get much milk (if any) if they pump, but they can nurse just fine. 

2.  Sometimes babies won't use a bottle, PERIOD.  Aias is an example of this. Goodness knows I would have loved to have given him pumped milk in a bottle every once in a while, but my child would NOT drink from a bottle.  He absolutely refused.  He physically would not (or could not) do it.  I actually had a freezer full of pumped milk at one point and it was uesless because he wouldn't take it from a bottle.

3.  Breastmilk is much harder to take care of when you are out.  It doesn't have as long a "shelf life" as formula. You can't just leave it in a bag all day while you wait around to use it.  It spoils.  It's a pain in the butt to travel with it, too.

Finally, I just want to add... babies scream and fuss and create a scene when they are hungry.  If someone is nursing their child in public, at least their child isn't screaming.  If they were to just wait until they got home, you'd have the unpleasant experience of listening to their child wail.  You can look away from a nursing person, it's much harder to deafen yourself to a screaming child.

So now you know a few reasons why it isn't as simple as "pump and feed from a bottle in public."   If you fell into the category of "genuine ignorance" before, now you don't have to feel uninformed. If you are still bothered by it and still feel like women should just pump and bottle feed in public, your concern can now only be filed under general douchebaggery.

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I've adopted the same commenting policy as seen here at Off Beat Mama ( I won't post comments if they strike me as attacking, judgmental, rude, or unproductive. In general if you are willing to put your name to something, I'll post it, but remember to keep your words sweet, because someday you may have to eat them.