When I was pregnant with my first child, I had that distinct, new-mom glow — aka, an unquestioning confidence that bordered on arrogance about my intentions to exclusively breastfeed my still-gestating baby. I mean, why wouldn’t I? Why doesn’t everyone? These, of course, were questions I only ever posed rhetorically; I never actually considered that they had real and very valid answers. It never occurred to me that people choose not to breastfeed for any number of reasons or that people were unable to breastfeed, or to breastfeed exclusively, or do breastfeed for as long as they might want to. I just assumed, like so many young new moms, that I would do the “best” thing for my baby and that I would effortlessly be able to do so.
You can probably guess how this story goes: Eventually my baby popped out (via a birth that was itself a humbling departure from my carefully laid plans) and immediately I found breastfeeding to be a total nightmare. My newborn, who seemed committed to making me as miserable as possible when it came to feeding, simply refused to latch. My breasts were completely uninteresting to him (rude).
My baby was not only boob-averse but also quite large. Truly a huge chunk of a newborn. Thus set up a perfect storm of postpartum feeding hell: a big ol’ baby who needed a lot of nourishment and had no interest in nursing, combined with a low milk supply (perhaps because my baby wasn’t nursing or perhaps because the universe decided to punish me for my prenatal hubris). All of this meant that my breast pump was my new best friend.
Only when I say my breast pump was my best friend, I mean that I loathed it and was miserable every minute that I had to use it — and that was a lot of minutes. This was back in 2012, when the breast pumps on the market were not as bad as they were earlier than that, but the technology definitely had not come as far as it has since then. Even with a top-of-the-line breast pump (I think it cost more than a month’s rent on my apartment back then), using it to feed my baby exclusively breast milk meant I spent 20 minutes every 2-3 hours chained to my desk so I could be milked by a big machine, not unlike an actual cow.
Trying to feed my baby this way wasn’t just inconvenient — it hurt. I could use as much coconut oil as I wanted, there was really no escaping the raw, sore feeling that ensues when your nipples (and frankly, a good inch of breast meat along with them) are being vacuumed into plastic funnels over and over for hours a day. And discomfort aside, the nature of my breast pump — its bulk and cords and all the limitations that came with them — were entirely not conducive to life with a newborn or really life at all. Whenever I was pumping, I pretty much couldn’t do anything that required being away from my desk. And even desk-bound activities were hard to do: reading, returning emails, talking on the phone, hell, even swiping through apps — it was all nearly impossible to focus on and completely impossible to enjoy when I was pumping.
I mostly sat there, staring into space, feeling rotten about myself, and doubting all the choices I’d made.
And that’s really the thing about having an awful relationship with your breast pump: it can make you feel awful about so many other things. For starters, it makes you hate breastfeeding, which can be a difficult feeling to navigate if you are dedicated to the project. Of course, even a decade ago, I had plenty of people in my ear telling me the obvious truth, that my baby would be more than fine if he never had another drop of breastmilk, that formula was great, that “fed is best”, that I’d already worked overtime and made myself plenty miserable for him to have the benefit of all the breastmilk he’d had so far; that it was perfectly okay to simply stop at any time. Chalk it up to postpartum anxiety or the fact that I was a stubborn overachiever who, at 25, still had something to prove or whatever. To me, all of these things were objectively true, but not acceptable for me. For me, more than anyone else (somehow, insanely I believed this), stopping breastfeeding at any time before my baby was at least a year old meant I’d failed. And by my measure, the fact that I couldn’t get my baby to nurse and that I had to pump overtime just to get my damn body to make enough milk for him… those were failures enough. I sure as hell wasn’t going to quit on top of that. So there I sat, hour after hour, wincing through the repetitive sucking of my motorized prison, feeling like shit but refusing to stop.
I tell you all of this so you know when I say that a better breast pump would’ve changed everything for me, I’m not being dramatic or overreaching when I say it — it would’ve changed everything. So when I had a chance recently to talk to the brilliant team at Elvie about their new hands-free Elvie Stride, I got weirdly emotional thinking about what my breastfeeding experience would’ve been like if I’d had this miracle (sorry, I’m calling it that) device back in 2012.
Here’s the rundown
The Elvie Stride is an ultra-quiet, hands-free breast pump that sits under your clothing, offering more mobility and discretion. It’s easy to set up for single or double pumping. There are no sockets or restrictive wires. There’s an app, naturally, where you can control the pump remotely, save preferred settings, and track pumping history. (Wow, did I not mention my pumping spreadsheet? So depressing.) In short, it’s everything I dreamed of. It’s also covered broadly by US health insurance providers, which is huge since roughly 80% of breast pump sales happen through insurance.
Learning that my dream breast pump is now out there in the world, fully a reality, making moms’ lives better in the specific way I so desperately wanted mine to improve back in the day… I mean, of course it made me wonder what that would’ve been like. In the end, I’m not sure that there was ever any device that could’ve successfully unburdened me of the punishing pressure I subjected myself to when it came to “doing everything right” for my baby. It was an impossible standard that, unfortunately, there is still no tech-powered cure for. So while my biggest “if I could go back in time” wish for myself as a new mom would still undoubtedly be to simply chill out and listen to all the (correct!) people who told me that not breastfeeding wouldn’t be the end of the world, a close second-place wish would be to have an Elvie Stride. Nothing can stop new moms from putting way too much pressure on themselves, but at least now they can be a lot more comfortable and have a lot more freedom while they pump. And honestly, that’s not nothing.