Nursing vs. Pumping

Before I ever got pregnant, I always thought that nursing a precious baby was one of the most beautiful things ever. That particular peaceful connection between mother and baby was something I was eager to experience and hold onto for a long time.

Then, my son came along. I was induced 3 weeks earlier than my due date (there are some studies that link those two things with my next point) and he didn’t latch on very well. When he did latch, even if it wasn’t the “correct” way, I would keep him on for hours. Yes, he would fall asleep on me and I wouldn’t move him. Of course this was just day one, in the hospital. The second day is a different story, and if I was to sum it up in one word: PAIN. Hmm, let me make that two words: Excruciating Pain.

I had bought an upscale breast pump that I intended to use when I returned to work. But as soon as I went home from the hospital, I started to pump during the day and nurse at night- because I didn’t want anyone knowing about my weakness. I would literally squeeze my eyes shut, sometimes even cry, and hold my breath. Needless to say, it was not the beautiful, peaceful bonding time I had always dreamed of. Soon, I started pumping for the night feedings because it was easier than trying to “fight” a baby that’s not latching on properly. I still attempted to nurse once or twice a day in hopes that my son would eventually get it right and the pain would go away.

I tried just about everything. I went to a lactation consultant; I used “aids” while nursing, and even got a specially made “triple nipple cream” prescribed just for me. It got a little better, but not a whole lot. My son started teething at two months, so there were new challenges to overcome.

Eventually by six months, I was an exclusive pumper. Prior to that, I nursed my son just once a day, if that, so I sort of always considered myself an exclusive pumper.Yes, I sometimes get a feeling of guilt that I’ve failed a task and gave up too quickly. But then I tell myself, I work doubly as hard to give my child the best. In the wee hours of the night, when the whole world (as it seems) is sleeping, including my son, I am pumping. So I am not a failure. My son has recently turned a year old and elhamdulela I am still pumping. Will I try even harder next time though? Yes, inshallah.

Hoda

Hoda is a wife and a mother to a stillborn daughter in heaven and an almost two year old son. She is an elementary public school teacher and lives in Virginia.

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About Marwa Aly
  • Blessed

    I love that you plan on trying again. May it be painless this time! I defn went through intense pain in the first weeks of nursing, but it got better over time alhamdulillah. Each child is different.

  • Mariam Darwish

    I appreciate reading this soooooooooooo much! You are not a failure! You are an amazing mama who gave her child the absolute best she could.

    I like you was always a firm believer that breast is best and still believe it to a great extent. My twins were born very prematurely, and stayed the NICU for 4 weeks. I was required to pump even before I got to see them. I pumped so they could have my breast milk administered through a feeding tube. Then they needed occupational therapy to learn to suck from a bottle. All this time the lactation consults pushed me to try to nurse, and I did when I could. Excruciating pain almost feels like understatement. Then I got mastitis, more pain, but I continued to pump. I feel like I pumped out of feeling guilty that this was the only thing I could do for them. Then I needed to fortify my breast milk with formula for the girls to grow. At 4 months my supply was no longer meeting their demand, I continued to pump and supplement till 8 months then I just quit. i was physically and emotionally exhausted of this love/ hate relationship I had with my pump. I passed on my hospital grade pump to 2 more sisters with preemie twins.

    I hate that I still occasionally hear “maybe you could have given nursing a better chance”. I gave it my all, and I gave my babies more that what I could have given them by nursing. I gave them a commitment to pumping,i gave them my love, time, pain, sleep, and liquid gold. Alhamdullah

  • mheneidi

    Thank you for this! My boys were born 7 weeks early, and the prematurity posed a dual challenge: difficulty latching and increased pressure for them to gain weight rapidly. Also, with two babies, I could literally spend every waking minute trying to coax them into nursing. Now, after 2 months, I rely on pumping for 75% of their meals, and often feel guilty that I am depriving them of something so important. Your post helped to lighten that burden — when I’m bent over my pump at 3 am, I will remember your words.

  • Khadeejah

    You’re my hero!!! mashaa Allah! I think I would have bailed on both nursing and pumping if I had to go through what you did. I hated nursing and happily ended it when both my kids were a year old. You are an inspiration!!

  • Maha

    Wow, what a challenge. You’re one persistent mom for seeing it through. Childbirth is difficult enough, the pain and frustration of not being able to nurse afterwards must have been unimaginably tough. *Sigh* we always manage to find something to feel guilty about… even when we’ve tried as hard as you. :) Khadeejah, I’m also one mom who does not enjoy the nursing experience like we’re “supposed” to. I’m trying very hard this time to stick with it for longer.

  • Marwa

    Hoda, I’m really impressed that you would wake up in the middle of the night to pump. I couldn’t believe how painful the first couple of months were and then dd and I got thrush which was noo fun, but alhamdulillah we saw it through. I had no idea it was going to be that tough! I’m really glad that you wrote about this- when I was going through it, I just wanted to cry on someone’s shoulder and they tell me it will be all okay.

  • Hoda

    Thank you, sisters, for your comments. Yes, I got mastitis at least 3 times during the first year and baby and I got thrush in the beginning (left out those details in the post in fear of scaring new mamas).
    Re-reading this now, 8 months pregnant, still makes me want to try to make nursing work the second time around inshallah. But just in case, the beloved pump is not far from reach :).

  • Hoda

    Thank you sisters for your comments. Yes I got mastitis at least 3 times during the first year and baby and I got thrush in the beginning (left out those details in the post in fear of scaring new mamas).

    Re-reading this now, 8 months pregnant, still makes me want to try to make nursing work the second time around inshallah. But just in case, the beloved pump is not far from reach :).


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