A few stars aligned for us to be able to bottle-feed breast milk. First, before Sam was born, I received a very generous gift of a Medela Pump in Style double electric breast pump from my step mom who said simply, “You’ll want a nice one.” Second, Max was home during Sam’s first weeks and helped me immeasurably by taking care of the baby while I pumped and encouraging me to keep going. Third, at work, there is a private place to pump, a dedicated refrigerator, and a culture that accepts breastfeeding. Finally, I found an online community where I discovered I did not invent exclusively pumping.
At first, I pumped 7 or 8 times a day for about 20 minutes each. By 5 weeks, I was in much less pain and the engorgement had eased, so I dropped to 6 pumps a day, 10 minutes each. Now at 5 months, I am down to 4 pumps, without getting up in the middle of night to pump. It takes me about an hour a day to get 35-40 oz. of milk, a bit more than Sam eats.
The benefits of exclusively pumping are that Sam gets human milk, best for his health; it might be healthier for me too; I quickly returned to pre-pregnancy weight; other people can feed Sam; we can observe how much he eats; it’s free (or only the cost of the extra calories I eat); I get to bond with my baby while feeding without being in terrible pain; and I got to donate breast milk to another baby. The detriments are that we wash a lot of plastic parts for the pump and bottles every day; I have to drag the pump and parts around and tuck myself away at certain parts of the day; some benefits of breast milk may be lost when it is stored and fed at another time; I have to buy bottles and milk storage bags; and we have to bring milk and bottles with us when we’re away from home.
There are moments when it seems totally ludicrous to be attached to the pump. For example, in the middle of one night when I was up pumping and Max was up at the same time feeding Sam, it all seemed especially kooky. I was sad at those moments that I couldn't breastfeed.
I tried nursing again when Sam was about three months old. The pain returned and after a few feedings, and things just didn’t feel right. I called off the experiment. We had our system, and it worked for us.