Adventures in Breastfeeding: Pump Wars

A few of you have asked about my breastfeeding experience so far. Well, it's a crazy ride and I learn more every day. There's no way I could fit it into one post, try as I might. So here is part one. I like to call it 'Pump Wars.'

So I knew I wanted to breastfeed if I was able to. In my head I had a rosy picture of giving birth, having my baby placed on my chest, crying a little (or a lot) with joy, and letting my precious baby root around a bit until we both figured out what the heck we were doing. I knew that it might hurt, but I looked forward to snuggling my baby during our first nursing experience.

That was the dream. My reality turned out a bit differently. When she shot out into the midwife's arms I laughed instead of crying, my baby was placed on my chest but was taken away after about five seconds, and I found myself staring at a giant machine that was going to be attached to my boobs instead of my snuggly precious little girl. And to make matters worse, the nurse who was to teach me about this scary-looking contraption was pretty scary herself. All of my nurses in the hospital were wonderful, friendly, caring, compassionate - except the one who taught me how to use a breast pump. She was distant, disinterested, and, quite frankly, cold. As she showed me how to put together the parts, I was still trying to wrap my head around the fact that my baby was in a totally different section of the hospital. With strangers. And she was struggling to breathe. And want me to spend my precious time with this...machine???

I did finally come to my senses and realize that if I wanted to eventually breastfeed my baby, this was a MUST do. Not an option. By that point she had the parts together and was turning the machine on. She turned up the dial. I remember there were these little water droplets that showed up on the screen as she cranked it up. As she left she ordered me to pump for fifteen minutes on each side and to do this every two hours. As the pump started whooshing and whirring, I first felt discomfort quickly followed by intense pain. Those were some of the longest fifteen minutes of my life. I developed a deep compassion for cows. I felt like a cow. And what did I get after all of that pain? All of that work? A tiny bit of yellow liquid. TINY. MINISCULE. And then I realized I had to do this again on the other side.

I quickly learned to pump both sides at once - sure the pain was doubled, but I might as well get it over with, right? And while I pumped, I stared at one of the first photos of my beautiful baby girl, and thought to myself - I'm doing this for her. It was one of the only things that got me through the pain. Did I mention that there was pain??? The nurse never came back to check and see how I was doing. She didn't even stick around for my first attempt. Just gave me her perfunctory instructions, turned on the machine, and hightailed it outta there. So I continued to pump the way that she had showed me despite the pain. I figured it was supposed to hurt, right? I mean I had never been milked before. I figured I just had to suck it up and get used to it.

Then, after a day of pumping religiously, that evil machine ripped my skin right off. This couldn't be right. I probably cursed. I tried some Lansinoh cream. I tried some Soothies (a hospital bag MUST by the way).

And for those of you who have personal breast pumps and think that I'm a wuss - please know that hospital pumps are not like personal breast pumps. It's like comparing a a Hoover vacuum to a dustbuster. This thing was a beast. So you're probably asking yourself where I'm going with this. No I'm not just writing this post for the sake of venting or whining or complaining (although that's kind of fun). I think that you should know something. Something that could be very important if you ever have to encounter one of the beasts that these hospitals call a pump.

It's not supposed to hurt. I will repeat that...It's NOT supposed to hurt.

Maybe if Nurse Ratchet had stuck around maybe she could've informed me of this BEFORE the skin was ripped off of my body. But she didn't. And there I was, skinned alive, while the nice lactation consultant in the NICU said to me with a laugh - "Oh sweetie, it shouldn't hurt. Just turn the dial down!"

You know those little water droplets that showed up on the screen? Apparently there shouldn't have been so many.

I will never know if that nurse was looking to torture someone that day or maybe she knew not what she did. But I write this in the hopes that no other person has to go through that agonizing torture shortly after the pain of childbirth. And stitches. And catheters. It just. Isn't. Right.

So there it is. My joyous entrance into the world of breastfeeding. Stay tuned for part two - Nipple Shields: The Bane of My Existence.

*Edit* After posting this, I realized that it sounds like a pretty horrific experience. I want to add that while the pump may have won the battle, I won the war. Because when I delivered that freshly pumped itty bitty bit of colostrum to my baby girl, I felt like a champion.


  1. Oh you poor thing :( I had to use that beast for 5 long weeks while my son was in the nicu (I did have my own pump, but hauling it around the hospital was such a pain) but, yes, the hospital pumps are way stronger. I was so happy when I didn't have to use it anymore!

  2. I'm SOOOO not looking forward to that part of motherhood. Yikes.

  3. I never had to use a hospital pump. I've used a regular manual and that definitely didn't hurt though it was uncomfortable sometimes. Way to go with the determination!!

  4. i struggled to breastfeed my baby with lots of pumping and the evil nipple shield for 11 whole weeks. it was painful at first- like you, i didn't have good instruction until we got a LC involved- and exhausting. i still shudder at the thought of that nipple shield. but at 11 weeks, we lost the nipple shield and while my husband was out buying a new one, i gave it a go without and ava latched and we've been breastfeeding sans assistance ever since! she turned 14 months yesterday and i am SO glad we stuck it out.

  5. She told you to start 15 minutes on each side at the very beginning??? No, that's not right. I had to use a pump, but we started with about 5 minutes on each side and only 2 or 3 water drops.

    Nipple shield. I'm pregnant with my second baby and I will avoid that thing like the plague. I don't care how sore and bloody I get. I couldn't nurse my baby after 4 months because of the dang thing.

  6. Thank you so much for these informational posts. They are sooooo helpful as I get closer to our due date. Thanks!

  7. came from spearmint baby. totally felt like a cow (pumped for 12 months then said I quit, hooray!). which I told my husband I was offended he called me a big fat cow. so instead he dubbed me his little goat. ha, so sweet. I totally tell moms all the time, it's not supposed to hurt! dang those people who don't care about their jobs!

  8. Thank you for posting this! I plan on strictly pumping for my own personal reasons (I know, I have heard this is difficult, but I am going to give it a go). This was very informative about what happens with "the pump" at the hospital. Also, nice to know that it should not hurt!



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