Me: Hey you! Are you currently a pregnant person?
Me: You should make sure you get a breast pump!
You: Uhhhh, even if I plan to exclusively breastfeed and want to forgo bottles?
Me: Get yourself a breast pump!
You: I feel a little uncomfortable discussing my breastfeeding choices with a stranger—
Me: *stomping feet and punching the air* Get! A! BREAST PUMP!!!
I don’t actually yell at people on the street (just on the internet). But you can bet I’d give this same advice to any and all of my pregnant friends. Get a pump, any pump, although if you’re a spoonie like me, definitely go for an electric one if you have the option (old “arthritic hands” over here can’t reliably operate a manual one!). At the time of writing this post, all insured pregnant people are entitled to a free breast pump as a result of Obamacare provisions. The type of pump might vary from insurer to insurer, but I know a lot of people who have been eligible to receive a double electric pump of high quality for free through their insurance. All I needed personally was a prescription from my doctor and a list of approved vendors from my insurance company, and then I picked out my pump and ordered it online and had it shipped to me for free. It was actually really painless. I have the Medela Pump In Style Advanced Breast Pump Starter Set, and I have zero complaints. It’s pretty cushy, actually. I use it 3-4 times per week now that I’m back at work part-time, and it has been great. I haven’t even had to replace any parts yet, and my son is nine months old.
Why should you get a breast pump? I know someone reading this is going to be all like, “women have gotten along just fine for thousands of years without breast pumps.” You know what else we’ve gotten along fine without for thousands of years? Cars, airplanes, grocery stores, antibiotics, the internet. I’m going to guess that you use at least some of those things and don’t find the argument convincing that you should do without them just because they were invented in the last two centuries. So let’s just agree not to be Luddites, here…
Are breast pumps absolutely necessary for modern breastfeeding? I’m sure there are women who have forgone them and hand-expressed their milk when they needed to. But insurance coverage being the way it is at the moment, there is no good reason not to get one. If something changes and your insurance no longer covers it, is it really a necessity? YES. STILL DO IT. Here are six reasons why you should STILL get a breast pump, in alphabetical order, no less!
1. Away time. If you ever want or need to leave your baby in someone else’s care (sickness, work, commitments, exhaustion, just a couple of hours to yourself to go buy some postpartum clothes, or any reason, really) you need a way to get your milk out of your breasts and into baby’s mouth besides the usual way. Breast pump to the rescue!
2. Blisters and bites! Youch! Babies can be kind of ruthless. You can get blisters on your nipples. Your kid can sprout teeth early (mine had his first tooth by three months) and nail you with them. Repeatedly. My son had a bad latch due to undiagnosed tongue-tie, and my nipples blistered and bled and cracked constantly in the first two months. The thing that ultimately allowed them to heal was a day or two away from baby’s mouth. You can’t just leave your affected boob(s) alone during that time (see E below). You need a pump.
3. Clogged ducts. Did you know that the ducts that carry milk to your nipple can get clogged? Do you know that it’s incredibly painful??? Clogged ducts can happen for many reasons, but a pump can be one tool in your kit to help get the milk flowing again. Baby is often the best help, but sometimes baby doesn’t want to nurse as much as you might need him/her to nurse to relieve the pain and pressure.
4. Dad. Dad might want to bond with baby, too! I’ll tell you a secret: ThriverDad felt a little jealous of the ease with which I could soothe our son through nursing. Don’t get me wrong: he was grateful that ThriverBabe and I had bonded so well, but he kind of wished for a way to be involved and maybe for once be the recipient of those sweet, milk-drunk smiles. In the times where I was trying to heal my bleeding/clogged boobs, ThriverDad enjoyed the chance to offer our son the good stuff.
5. Engorgement and other milk supply issues. My first and only clogged duct problem occurred in my first week postpartum because of an oversupply issue. I was able to clear it through pumping and nursing after I nearly passed out in the shower from the pain. Engorgement can cause clogged ducts, which can cause mastitis, which you really don’t want to mess with (I’m not a doctor, so ask yours for more info). On the other side of the boobtacular see-saw, some women have undersupply issues and find that putting themselves on a pumping schedule increases their milk supply.
6. Flukes. Maybe you run to the store for half an hour while your partner stays with the baby. You get back to your car only to find that it won’t start. What was supposed to be a quick trip becomes an ordeal, and soon your partner might be facing an ordeal at home with a hungry child. It’s a really good idea to pump some extra milk to keep in your freezer in case of emergencies. If you never have to use it, great. I’m not trying to scare you into getting a pump here by making you think of worst case scenarios. All I’m saying is that there are real situations you can’t predict that might affect the way you are able to feed your baby, and this might be *especially* true for spoonie moms. Here’s one that happened to me: last month I came down with shingles, as people with weakened immune systems sometimes do in times of stress. Babies can’t catch shingles from you, but they *can* catch chickenpox if they come into contact with the fluid from your shingles blisters (ew, gross, I know). And of course, where did I get blisters? Well, lots of places, but the relevant location here is on my left breast. My doctor at first told me she wanted me to pump and dump on that side, but I was able to convince her to let me carefully and thoroughly cover the rash and pump on that side until the rash cleared. As long as I kept the area clean and covered and the blisters never came within an inch of where the pump flange rested, I could still bottlefeed my son using the milk from that side. It was a pain in the butt, but it worked, and my son didn’t catch the chickenpox. You just can’t plan for or predict some of this stuff, kids. Just get a breast pump. I really don’t think you’ll be sorry.
So those are some pretty good reasons, yeah? You can get a pump for free (at least for now), and you don’t want to opt out only to discover once baby is born that you really need one. You will not be up to running out to Target or Babies-R-Us to get one should the need suddenly arise, and they can cost a pretty penny out-of-pocket.
One last word of advice: get your breast pump early, if you can. ThriverBabe threw us for a loop and arrived two weeks early with no warning. I just woke up one morning in labor, and less than twelve hours later, he was in my arms. My pump came a few days after he arrived and after my milk came in, and I was Engorgement Central by then because of the aforementioned bad latch situation. I’d waited until a month or so before my due date to order my pump because I forgot about it and was busy, I don’t know, knitting a baby blanket and watching Call the Midwife on Netflix or something. Don’t be like me! Heed my warnings!
But most importantly: fear not the breast pump!
Your Breast Friend,