It’s kind of hard to believe, but our little guy turned 3 months last week. Since deciding to do exclusive pumping (read my post on low supply and my struggle with breastfeeding) life has certainly been easier for me. I won’t say that it’s been easy, however. And I’m certainly looking forward to the day when I stop pumping altogether, but for now, the schedule I’ve made and the plans I have to ween off are working for me. Since this isn’t a straightforward path or story, I decided another update (and probably one in a few months) is worth sharing…
So when I wrote that last post, we were 6 weeks postpartum. When I decided to pump exclusively, I set a goal for myself of making it three months and then seeing how I felt from there. It seemed a hefty but attainable goal.
I wholeheartedly believe in the magic of breastmilk. I also wholeheartedly believe in the happiness and sanity of being a good mama. So, I’ve learned that it’s all about finding the right balance of everything (and that is different for every woman and baby).
At the time of that last post, I was pumping 6-7 times per day (yeah, I know, crazy!). I was on a schedule of every 2-3 hours during the day. Each time I pump, I do 12-15 minutes, take a 10 minute break, and then another 5 minutes. So with the break and cleanup it’s a 30-40 minute affair each time.
The difficult part of this – solely in terms of parenting – is that this takes you away from feeding or playing with your kiddo. Feeding is another 20-30 minute affair, so more often than not, the feeding time starts to interfere with the pumping schedule (on more than one occasion per day)…
Somewhere around 8 or 9 weeks, I was talking to a friend who’s currently breastfeeding/pumping with her little one. She said I was pumping too often and I should cut back on the number of times per day. She wasn’t the first one to tell me that, but she was the first one who’s advice I decided to take.
So at that point, I cut back to pumping every 4 hours during the day. This got me down to 5 sessions per day. It sounds insane, but just dropping that one pumping session opened up my world. One extra hour between sessions was HUGE! And my supply didn’t go down – which of course was a concern of mine…
Exclusive Pumping + Weening
I was feeling great with that extra bit of time. And it was all perfect timing because that’s when we started packing up our life to move up to Sacramento! After our first week in our new home, my husband went back to work, so I was back to being home alone with the little guy each day.
The somewhat frustrating part at this time wasn’t the number of times I was pumping, but the location where I was pumping. Our new home doesn’t have blinds/curtains yet, so the only place I can pump without fear of outsiders seeing in is the floor in our bedroom. I got my little area set up, but it isn’t fancy.
And in reality it isn’t the worst place. I can put him next to me in his little chair while I pump. And actually sitting in a place other than the couch has been better for my aches and pains (I’m getting old! – just kidding).
“Your Worth Isn’t Measured in Ounces”
Here’s the thing about pumping. I’ve been measuring every tenth of an ounce of my pumping output for three months. I did manage to get from 8-9oz at 4 weeks postpartum up to over 11oz around 10 weeks. That all made me feel so good about pumping. But then every time my supply went down, I’d have a pity party. It’s terrible to admit, but breastfeeding women (and I know I’m not alone in this) start to measure self-worth based on output. So a day or two of one-half ounce less and I was pretty down in the dumps before bed.
So last week, just before we hit 12 weeks, I made two decisions. The first was that I was going to stop measuring my output everyday. I might check in on it every week or two (but I honestly might not). Since I’ve stopped measuring, those moments of feeling “less” have vanished and I couldn’t be happier with that decision.
The second thing is that I realized that I was hitting that 3 month mark – my goal for pumping. I really don’t want to stop breastfeeding our little guy, but I do want to start claiming my life back and start adding more work back into my day (because my work is actually time and energy spent on me)!
So at 12 weeks, I cut back to four pumping session per day – basically every five hours. And it’s so much better. In four weeks, when he’s four month, I plan to shift to three times per day (then 2x and 5 months, and 1x at six months).
The Emotional Part of Exclusive Pumping
I feel as though I’d be remiss if I didn’t also share the emotional downside that I experienced (am still experiencing). Though I’m proud that I’m doing everything I can to breastfeed our son, there has certainly been an emotional hardship. While I understand I’m making food for our baby, I feel like a bother telling people that I need to stop what I’m doing to pump.
If we’re out, I need to get home to pump. If we’re busy doing chores around the house, I have to “take a break” to pump. It’s hard. In reality, I’m feeding our little guy, but many times, I feel as though I’m detracting from what I’m doing from other people. I think I’ve realized this is almost entirely my problem and that no one else is bothered by it, but it does detract from time with others.
There’s a part of me that wishes I was ready to go months and months with pumping, but there’s that other pragmatic part that sees the hardship with the success. At three weeks, I really wasn’t sure I’d last until three months. Now that I’m here and making plans to last another three months, I’m actually quite proud of myself. But I’ve also realized I need to stay proud of myself as a mother even after I quit pumping.