Pumping Counts Too

I sat and stared at the box.

I eyed it cautiously from afar, not yet daring to take a closer look.  My baby girl felt warm and heavy in my arms; would I really need this cold plastic pump to turn our shaky start at breastfeeding into what I could allow myself to define as a 'success'?

I was tired; so very, very tired.  I was recovering from a traumatic birth and I was well and truly out of my depth.  My nipples were cracked, my breasts were engorged and I was quite simply, terrified of my breast pump.

And it seems that I'm not the only one who viewed pumping with a mixture of distrust and disappointment.  Time and time again, I hear of moms who approach pumping as some kind of secret art form.  Time and time again, I hear of moms feeling disappointed that they have to pump...that there is something cold and foreign in the spot so perfectly designed for warm and familiar baby squidge.

This concept of Pumping Disappointment seems to be some sort of a phenomenon, and all of those many months ago, it made imperfect sense to me.  But with a little time and with nothing short of a mountain of learning curves, I've come to realise that this particular phenomenon needs to be firmly kicked out of our collective mommy consciousness.

Because pumping counts too.

So when I came across a report* analysing the world breast pump market, I opened the link with a new mixture of emotions: Curiosity and Hope.

Thankfully, it seems that my hope was well-placed, because the number of moms choosing to pump is rising.  By 2018, the market is set to reach a value of $1.03 billion, and while this data focuses on the financial market of pumping, its overall message is much more powerful.  Its overall message jumps right out of my computer screen, waving and smiling, because the data tells us that for moms, pumping is a worthwhile investment.

I say again, pumping counts.

This data is testament not only to the fact that moms are choosing to breastfeed, but also that there is a growing supply of resources available to support moms in making this choice.  Whether that support comes in the form of legislation, practical guidance or a supportive community; every last piece of it is invaluable.

Because we are in fact, supported by laws which protect our right to lactate and pump in the workplace, which is certainly a step in the right direction.  Yet I would argue that we are still missing a giant piece of the puzzle, particularly in the US.  The missing puzzle piece?  Maternity leave.  Because if a working mom chooses to breastfeed, she enters into the pumping world by default, since the US government doesn't protect maternity leave as standard.  Thank you government, for your pumping legislation...now let's see improvements to maternity leave protection, as well.

It isn't any surprise then, that North America is named in the data as a dominant player in the market, since pumping is quite simply essential for the growing number of breastfeeding moms needing to return to work within the first few weeks after giving birth.  And for those moms who have to be apart from their babies, for those women that somehow manage to fit scheduled pumping sessions into their days and nights, the message (again) is clear: breastfeeding is worth it, and pumping counts.

Yet where the government is lacking, the industry as a whole is certainly working to address the shortfalls.  Companies like Lansinoh, which was named within the data as a key player in the market, are actively making pumping easier with better technology, better accessories and overall, better support.  Because pumps and websites don't just come with product descriptions and price-tags.  In fact, the pumping industry feels less like an industry and more like a sisterhood; where moms are supported with information and guidance about both the practical and emotional aspects of pumping.  It turns out that I needn't have been so afraid of that box sitting patiently on the table.  I needn't have felt so alone and untrusting, since there is a wealth of information and guidance just waiting to be utilised.

And when we discuss the concept of support, simple conversations cannot be overlooked.  Conversations between women; between mothers and friends.  Conversations that open a positive dialogue around the very normal phenomenon of creating life, birthing life and…not so surprisingly…sustaining life.

I wish I could turn back the clock and reassure new-mom-me that the box in front of me needn't have been so scary.  I wish I could turn back the clock and convince new-mom-me that breastfeeding is a journey and that every journey is different...beautifully different.

So let me say this:

Pumping counts.

Every drop counts.

Every nursing relationship counts.

Whether that nursing relationship uses a pump or is mouth-to-breast, we are all a part of the same conversation.  Speak up mamas, and nurse on.

Thank you to Mama Suoe-Yuen, for allowing me to use her picture for this piece.  For more photos in celebration of breastfeeding and motherhood, join the Mama Bean village on Facebook!

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*Data source: Global Industry Analysts, Inc. @ www.strategyr.com