Many moms that are still exclusively pumping when their baby turns one decide to transition their babies to cow’s milk and start the weaning process. However, some exclusive pumpers choose to keep on pumping! Here’s why that might make sense, and some common challenges and tips for exclusively pumping past one year.
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Why Exclusively Pump Past a Year?
There are lots of reasons that an exclusive pumper might continue pumping after her baby turns one. Some of these include:
- Difficulty transitioning baby to another milk – Transitioning your baby off breast milk can sometimes be challenging. For example, some babies have allergies, and it may take some time to find a substitute milk like goat, soy or almond. Babies may also need their new milk mixed with breast milk while they adjust.
- Reach a donation goal – Some exclusive pumpers with oversupply donate their extra milk to a milk bank, and they may have a goal of a certain number of ounces that they want to give. Others might be milk sharing with another family, and want to continue to do this until the other baby reaches a certain age or milestone.
- To help with illness – Some moms decide to continue pumping if their baby’s first birthday coincides with when flu season is starting or when baby is starting daycare, in order to continue getting the benefits of antibodies in breastmilk.
- Baby has special needs – Some babies have certain medical needs (such as silent aspiration syndrome, and issues with digestion) where they could benefit from continuing to receive breastmilk.
Common Challenges with Exclusively Pumping Long Term
The biggest challenge that exclusively pumping moms face after the year mark is milk supply.
The culprit here is often hormones. Even if you stick to your pumping schedule perfectly and do all the things that you’re supposed to, sometimes changes in hormone levels can cause drops in milk supply.
This is especially common when you get your period back, or if you were to become pregnant again.
(Both happen of these have happened to me. When I got pregnant again at 14 months postpartum, my supply went to almost nothing overnight. And before that, when I had gotten my period back, I would see a consistent drop in supply each month, and it seemed like there wasn’t anything that would work to bring it back up.)
Another thing that some moms struggle with is getting support from family and friends. Exclusively pumping can already feel like being on an island – after all, you might not know anyone else that pumps – but doing it past a year can be even more isolating if the people close to you don’t understand why you’re continuing to pump.
Another challenge can be getting out of the house and dealing with pumping in public or traveling with breastmilk. Obviously, lots of moms deal with both of these in the first 12 months. However, when your baby becomes a toddler, you may want to get out of the house more so your little one can work off some energy. You might also want to go on trips that you put off when your toddler was a baby and not sleeping through the night. Getting pumping sessions in and managing breast milk when you’re more active can make all of that more complicated.
Tips for Exclusively Pumping Past One Year
If you decide to keep pumping past a year, here are some time for working through these challenges.
- Be consistent with your pumping schedule and routines to minimize the risk of losing supply. You can’t control your hormones, but being on a consistent pumping schedule is something that you CAN control.
- If you do get your period back, there are a few things you can do to mitigate the supply loss, like take a calcium-magnesium supplement. Here are some additional strategies.
- Make sure your schedule is manageable and realistic for this point in your life. If you’re still waking up in the middle of the night to pump, consider dropping that session, even if it means a loss in supply, or moving it to the daytime. Figure out what works for you at this point in your life – which might not be the same as it was a few months ago – and set your schedule up to fit it.
- If you have pumping sessions that aren’t during your child’s naptime, get as comfortable as you can with pumping in public when you need to so that you’re able to get out of the house with your toddler.
- Seek out support online. If your friends and family aren’t particularly understanding, join exclusive pumping Facebook groups (here’s the one I started, but there are more out there!) and subscribe to the newsletter. You’re not alone!
Have you exclusively pumping past one year? Tell us about your experience, and share your tips with us below in the comments!References
- Email interview with Aiswarya M., conducted 8/25/18.
- Exclusively Pumping Mamas Facebook Post, 9/9/18. https://www.facebook.com/exclusivepumping/posts/867187293488366