Breastfeeding, but not nursing.

There is an important delineation we make around here:

A mom who pumps for her baby but does not latch her baby is breastfeeding, but not nursing. A mom who latches her baby is breastfeeding and nursing. We use the term nursing to specifically describe feeding baby directly from the breast. We use the term breastfeeding anytime a baby is fed a mother’s milk by any vehicle.

I’d like to further clarify the difference between being an Exclusive Pumper and exclusively pumping.

Exclusive pumping (“EPing”) is pumping in place of latching with the goal of eventually latching. This includes pumping in place of nursing for varied reasons (nipple pain, separation, safety), while actively working toward getting your baby to latch, or latching for practice since baby can’t efficiently nurse yet. A mom who is EPing is still holding onto the hope that her baby will nurse.

An Exclusive Pumper (“EPer”) is a mom who pumps in place of nursing with the goal of pumping instead of nursing.

We make the shift from EPing to EPer when we let go of the goal of nursing the baby. It may seem like a tiny difference, but the mindset shift from one to the other is huge: Exclusively pumping is an action you take to protect your milk supply when baby cannot do it alone. The goal of the EPing mama is to eventually achieve some or all direct latching. “Exclusive Pumper” is an identity a mother assumes when she lets go of the possibility of latching, at least for the foreseeable future. The goal of the EPer is no longer to nurse the baby, but rather to incorporate pumping to collect breastmilk for baby’s bottles into everyday life.

We all share the intention to nourish our babies, but our though our goals may be different. Can you see how the tiny difference in wording can make a huge difference in overall mindset? The EPing mom is actively struggling toward her goal. The EPer has adjusted her goal and is now set firmly on the path toward the new goal.

The ultimate question is how long is it safe, reasonable, and fair for a mother to be exclusively pumping before she steps into the identity of Exclusive Pumper?

How long can one woman edure eight latch attempts and eight latch failures each day?
How long can she triple feed for an hour, then repeat it an hour later?
How long can she hope, get discouraged, then dig deep to find more hope, only to be beaten back down with disappointment?
How long can she struggle in limbo?

I would say that it depends on the partner, professionals, and friends she has found to support her through the struggle. Only she can decide when she is ready to make a decision to step into the identity of Exclusive Pumper. She just needs the right people around her to lift her up when she seeks to go higher and to catch her when she is ready to let go.