I’m pretty sure no one signs up for parenting with a deep wish to be attached to a breast pump 24/7, though that is what happens to some new moms who experience problems with breastfeeding their infants. A new dad just took to Reddit to complain about the fact that his wife is doing nothing but pumping, leaving him to care for their baby.
“We have a 5 week old,” distant__gods wrote in the Parenting subreddit on Tuesday. “She is healthy and gaining weight and I couldn’t be [happier] except… I feel like I am the only one actually handling the baby and I am exhausted.”
This sounds like a complaint we usually hear from new moms, which compelled me to keep reading. It seems their daughter was having trouble breastfeeding (maybe not latching, but he doesn’t specify), so the mom was instructed to pump while he bottle-feeds the baby. That sounds like a good deal, right? But the dad complains that she is actually always either pumping or cleaning her pump parts, leaving everything else to him.
“I am watching the baby 24/7 and she rarely does any of the actual parenting,” he said. “I change 90% of the diapers and am ALWAYS the one to comfort the baby and put her down. I wear the baby when I cook etc. Side Note: she will be a working mom and has to return to work before I do and I know she is stressed about it. I am a writer and have had no time or desire to write because of how exhausted I am.”
Sometimes we wonder if these dad posts are written by a woman who just wants to see how people will react if the story comes from a male perspective.
But in all seriousness, this is a tough one. It is no fun to hold a cold-droning machine against your boobs when you could be cuddling your sweet child instead. And I think I would rather change the grossest of poopy diapers than have to clean another pump part (is that just me?). If the situation is exactly as distant__gods describes it, both parents need some help, pronto. And Redditors are here to offer their advice.
“Has she talked to her doctor?” asked Preschoolteach, the mom of a 7-month-old asked. “She could have postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety. I had trouble with breastfeeding and it really took a mental toll on me; pumping is also mentally draining. I would be pumping in the middle of the night and just feel so alone and empty. The baby would cry, and I would have days I just didn’t care.”
Other mothers shared how pumping wore them down as well.
“I went from getting to hold my son for every feeding to having to sit attached to a machine while my husband fed him a bottle of pumped milk,” Amanduhhh1122 wrote. “It was very draining and it was making me become depressed. … My sanity wasn’t worth it. I felt so much guilt when I switched him to formula, but eventually I realized I did right by him and myself. He needed me to be happy and healthy to take care of him. He also wasn’t gaining weight on my breastmilk, but started to gain weight back on the formula. It’s worth gently bringing up, but she has to be open to the idea, and she might completely shut you down for even mentioning formula.”
This is important. Moms are told so often that “breast is best,” it’s sometimes hard to realize there are some caveats to that saying. Breast is great, but not at the expense of a mom’s mental health, or bonding with both parents. At the same time, this isn’t an easy thing to hear, and sometimes we really don’t want to hear something like that from our partners. The suggestion to supplement had to come from a well-experienced lactation consultant for me to hear it. This couple may need a medical professional as well.
“Also, it doesn’t have to be exclusively formula if you don’t want it to be,” expatsconnie said. “Combo feeding would mean that she wouldn’t have to pump as often, which would open up the possibility of more sleep for both of you. And that may be a more palatable idea for your wife if she doesn’t want to switch entirely. I had nasty PPD with my first baby that instantly became 1000x more manageable when I stopped trying to pump with every feeding. It’s amazing how much a little more sleep can improve your mental health.”
If that’s not the option the parents want to choose, there is something else that may ease this situation for them a little: “Just FYI – she doesn’t need to clean everything every time,” greenpotatoes9 said. “Wipe everything with a paper towel, stick it in a Ziplock bag and then into the fridge. Wash every 24 hours (ish). Should only take 2 minutes to put everything away after a session.”
Also, there was this excellent advice: “You both need to sleep,” sheneedsahobby suggested. “The exhaustion is making you crazy. You need to call your friends, family, neighbors, whoever you can muster and have them come over for a few hours in the afternoon or evening so you can both take a nap. Or if you can get a night nanny even better. They cost a fortune, but if you could pull off once or twice a week for the next month or two to find your footing, it would be worth everything.”
In his replies on the thread, distant__gods said that they have decided to have his wife’s parents come help them, which we hope provides relief and not more discord. Whatever they choose to do, they should also remember that all of this gets easier with time — the baby eats less frequently, sleeps for longer stretches, and gives back those much-needed smiles that make everything worth it. Hold on, Mom and Dad!