When Crystal Byrd's second child was born, the doctors urged her to place her baby to her breast. Byrd declined. She had already decided, months earlier, that she would not breast-feed. It was a lifestyle choice, says Byrd, 33, a stay-at-home mom in Cedar Creek Lake, Texas. "I'm a huge fan of breast milk, just not of nursing," she says.
Byrd says she tried breast-feeding her first child, who is now 12, and lasted nine weeks before giving up. "I just did not like it. I felt locked away. I was young and self-conscious, and everyone would leave the room when I breast-fed. I was lonely," Byrd says.
Her plan for Baby No. 2, born in 2003, was to pump milk and exclusively bottle-feed. The criticism came swiftly: lactation consultants warned that she would never be able to express enough milk. Doctors told her she would not bond with her baby. Her friends and family suggested that for all her trouble, she would be better off switching to formula. Byrd held firm.
By the time her baby daughter was 4 months old, Byrd had fed her exclusively with expressed breast milk and had stashed away enough milk in a deep freezer (she estimates she pumped an extra 3,500 oz.) to last until her child turned 1. After the birth of her third child, in 2009, she pumped for 8½ months, bottle-fed and, again, stored enough milk for a year.
Byrd isn't the only mother choosing to breast-feed off the breast. Although there is no official tally of the number of women who pump exclusively, numerous conversations with mothers suggest that the practice is not uncommon and perhaps even growing. Their reasons for doing so are varied: some mothers say they dislike the feeling of a suckling baby. Others say it is painful or that the baby fails to latch on. Some want to avoid the uncomfortable possibility of having to breast-feed in public. For many, including Byrd, a key issue is time. "People think that since I am a stay-at-home mom, I should always have my baby attached to my breast," she says. "Well, sometimes I have other things to do." It takes her half the time to pump and bottle-feed as it would to breast-feed, because she can express milk from both breasts at the same time, rather than waiting for the baby to switch from one side to the other.