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Exclusively Pumping Moms Exist Too

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In almost every first-time mom group, there is always the breastfeeding advocate mama. Oh sure, plenty of women breastfeed, but this mama is passionate about it. She likes to chat about it, dares you to say anything to her about nursing in public and is a walking PSA for all things breastfeeding.

I was never that mom. But I was the exclusively pumping version of that woman. It's a hidden world, yes, but this world does exist.

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We like to think that there are some moms who breastfeed and there are some moms who formula feed — and that's it. Exclusively pumping mamas are hardly ever thought about because who in their crazy mind would choose to pump? Well, not every mother and baby can have a successful breastfeeding relationship, okay? But you knew that, right?

Exclusively pumping moms know that breast milk provides the greatest amount of nutrients for their babies and don't want to give their babies formula, but for whatever reason they can't give them an actual boob. I am one of those mothers. I can't really consider myself a "breastfeeding" mother, but I never fed my baby formula either.

I've had strangers say all kinds of things to me because they've seen me give my baby a bottle that they assumed was full of formula. They don't know that it was breast milk.

They don't know that for the first three months of my daughter's life I cried daily and tried to get her to latch on. They don't know that I went to several lactation consultants and pediatric oral specialists to learn exercises on how to get her to latch. They don't know that every time I brought her to my breast, we would both end up in tears.

They tell me that "ALL babies can latch" and that I don't try hard enough. They don't know how hard I tried.

They don't know that I was so dedicated to giving her breast milk, that for 12 weeks straight I pumped milk every two to three hours, which meant I woke up every three hours to express milk. They don't know the pain I got when I received my first milk blister or clogged duct. They don't know that I still have a sore spot in my heart for not being able to have a breastfeeding relationship with first and only child.

They think I'm okay with spending hours on a pump, obsessing over how much I would make and constantly making sure that I'm producing enough. They think that I'd choose washing bottles over offering my baby a breast. They think I'm okay with turning down social activities because I had to pump. They think I'm crazy for pumping in the car, at work, in airports and hotels.

They don't know that the reason why I couldn't volunteer at The Big Latch On event was because I couldn't emotionally handle being in a room of nursing mamas doing the one thing I always thought would come so naturally to me.

They tell me that "ALL babies can latch" and that I don't try hard enough. They don't know how hard I tried.

"Give her formula," they say. "Formula isn't poison." They don't know my story but still they'd judge me.

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I am envious of friends whose babies latch perfectly right away. Exclusively pumping is perhaps one of the loneliest times in my life, even though the birth after my first child should be one of the happiest times of my life. Yes, motherhood is indeed a joy, but I always still long for the nursing relationship I've never received. And while plans for another child aren't even in the works yet, I have a ton of anxiety at the thought of even attempting to breastfeed baby No. 2.

Exclusively pumping, however, gave me strength I didn't even know I had. I spent 13 months attaching myself to a breast pump every single day, even though I wanted to quit every single day. But I didn't quit until I reached my goal.

Sticking with exclusively pumping is one of my greatest achievements. And I will always be the voice for us women who can't nurse — but still believe in giving our babies that liquid gold.

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