I mentioned in What I did on my Winter Break post that I stopped pumping. Since sharing my first post on my low breastmilk supply, I knew I had to tell the full story of turning to exclusively pumping and then how long that lasted. Unlike nursing, our little guy was never going to tell me when he was done, so this was always going to be a self-imposed decision – for better and for worse. So here is the final installment of my breastfeeding story and my pumping farewell!
How to Wean Off of Pumping
So I talked about my plans to wean from pumping in my 3 month exclusive pumping update and that was exactly the plan I stuck to.
SIDENOTE: I’m making sure I link to every other post I’ve written because we are all at different places on this journey. The mental and emotional space of just starting to exclusively pump (regardless of supply) is different than a few months postpartum when you’re making your own schedule, and those two phases are starkly different than when you decide to pull the plug (somewhat literally)!
So since my 3 month update, I dropped a pumping session at each month marker of his birth. With each session less, I felt so much freer. It was so much easier to have control of my day. And as soon as I only had morning, noon, and night – then I just had to worry about pumping while being the only caregiver for my son once per day. That was manageable. And then with just morning and night, it was great…sort of.
Losing Milk Supply
So while I started to have more control of my day, my supply started tanking (as it’s supposed to). While I understood that was the goal, experiencing the loss of an already low supply of breastmilk was difficult. And the thing is, I wasn’t generally sad all day, but with each pumping session, I got a reminder of my inadequacy.
With our little guy eating 5-6 oz. per feeding, once my supply dropped below that, my self-esteem started tanking too. I couldn’t even make enough milk for one meal for my baby. I understand I was too hard on myself, but regardless of whether my thoughts were realistic or merited, they were still there. It was still so hard.
When I was pumping three times per day and getting 8-9 oz., I really thought I’d pump longer than six months. It was going pretty well and I didn’t mind those sessions.
I dropped that midday pump, however, and my supply hit 3-4 oz. With my decreased supply and the ensuing depression, I started to realize that the work I was putting into this was outweighing my joy in being able to give my son my milk. So not long after that, I brought up to my husband that I was planning to stop soon.
Because we’re in cold/flu season, we were hesitant to stop, believing that my milk gave him good antibodies. At first I used our discussion as encouragement to keep going. But not long after (a day or two), I knew it couldn’t happen. I couldn’t take the twice daily reminders of my inadequacy. I know, I know – I wasn’t inadequate at all, but my mind and heart went there each time.
How it feels to Not Be Pumping Anymore
Because of all these self-deprecating thoughts, I was actually worried about quitting. I wondered if my feelings of inadequacy would redouble – I wasn’t doing anything for my son…
I’m happy to say ABSOLUTELY NOT! Without those twice daily reminders of how many ounces I could(n’t) provide, I’ve been so much happier. Going to bed is a quicker affair now. And if I wanna sleep in (or really just lay in bed), I can (until C is ready to get up obviously)!
Not pumping has also helped me be a better wife. My husband was always so patient with my pumping, but now I can sit on the couch and watch TV with him before bed without counting down minutes on the clock to pumping. Now he and I (and occasionally C) can all just lay in bed on weekend mornings. It’s really lovely.
Would I Change Anything about My Exclusive Pumping Story
When I first decided to exclusively pump after learning my supply was so low, I set a goal of three months. And when three months came, I decided to keep going. I ended up lasting six months.
I don’t feel proud for lasting so long. And I don’t feel sad that I only lasted 6 months. The frequency and duration of my breastfeeding story is really just a number to me now. I think each mom has to decide how long she wants to nurse, pump, etc.
A few people have asked about having more children. And truthfully this breastfeeding struggle has made me incredibly reticent to commit one way or another. Of course I don’t have to breastfeed any future children, but I genuinely believe in the magic of breastmilk. With that I think I’d try to do the same thing for all my children. Who knows. All I can say for now is what I did this time… and that I’m SO thankful that chapter of my life with Conrad is over!