After being tied to your breast pump for weeks or months, it can be hard to know what to do when you’re ready to stop. I’ve written a step by step process for stopping pumping, and here’s my personal experience weaning from the pump.
The goal that I had in the back of my mind when I started exclusively pumping was to pump until my son turned 12 months old, and then switch him to cow’s milk. I knew that 12 months was an ambitious goal and I might need to wean earlier, but that was what I was generally aiming for.
Therefore, I was really excited for my baby to turn one, because I’d been looking forward to weaning pretty much the entire time that I’d been pumping! I was so excited for all of the extra time I’d have on my hands once I wasn’t tied to a breast pump for two hours a day/washing millions of pump parts and bottles. I especially couldn’t wait to give up my least favorite pumping session – the early morning one. I hated getting up half an hour early to pump before my baby woke up, and then being stressed out the whole time that I pumped that he would wake up before I was done.
But even though it was a relief to be “off the hook” for pumping when my son turned 12 months old, I was still a little hesitant to wean for a couple of reasons:
- My son had a difficult transition to solid foods, and was still drinking quite a bit of breast milk – about 30-35 ounces – when he turned one. He didn’t really like purees and couldn’t yet self-feed. (I had to resort to holding Cheerios in my hand for him that he would swoop in and chomp with his mouth). While we worked on getting him to eat more solid foods, I felt that if we transitioned straight to cow’s milk, he’d be drinking too much of it and have issues with constipation and possibly anemia.
- I had issues with infertility and recurrent miscarriages before I had my son, and I didn’t know if I’d be able to have another baby. Part of me felt like by weaning, I’d be giving up the physical connection that we’d had for almost two years, and maybe it would be the last time that I would ever have such a connection. (Luckily, I was wrong, and I got and stayed pregnant the first month we tried for #2.)
- I loved being able to eat 700 extra calories a day! The way that I looked at it, I could run 7 miles a day, or I could burn the same number of calories sitting on my butt pumping and watching The Real Housewives of Something.
Because I wasn’t sure about weaning completely, I decided to just start the process by giving up all pumping at work. I dropped down to two sessions per day, one in the morning and one in the early evening, about 12 hours apart.
I used the cold turkey method of dropping the daytime pumps, more info here:
I figured that I’d see how it went and go from there, and it was great! So freeing to not be carrying bottles back and forth every day.
I did the two pumping session per day schedule for about a month and it worked really well. Then two things happened: first, my son started feeding himself and became a lot less dependent on breast milk, and second, the waking up 30 minutes early every day thing got really old. I decided to drop the morning pumping session, which I did by gradually reducing the amount of time that I pumped until I was only getting two or three ounces during that session.
The first day that I totally skipped the morning pumping session, I felt sort of … guilty. I’d spent the last year obsessively sticking to a schedule to make sure that I got enough milk and didn’t get a clogged duct, so it felt strange to skip it and sleep in instead.
(However, I quickly got rid of the guilt when I realized how awesome it was to have all that extra time!)
I was careful to wear breast pads that first day (something I hadn’t had to do for quite a while), but I didn’t have any problems with leaking. When I came home and pumped that night, I got more than I usually would get, but not a tremendous amount more.
While I loved my new schedule of just one pump a day, done right after my son went to bed, I noticed that my supply was slowly tanking. I went from getting 10 ounces in that single session to about 3 ounces in 3 weeks. It was starting to feel like it wasn’t worth my time to get hooked up and wash everything, especially given that my baby was now a toddler and didn’t really need the milk anymore.
I had already decided to quit when I got a positive pregnancy test, which took a lot of the angst out of weaning. I had morning sickness from very early on – it started two days after I tested! – and one should never have to hook oneself up to a breast pump when one feels the need to throw up. The pregnancy also destroyed whatever was left of my supply, making weaning a fait accompli.
I dropped my last session by just not pumping one night – since I was only getting 2 or 3 ounces, I decided to just see what happened. If I felt full, I’d pump the next morning; if not, then I was done. I didn’t feel the need to pump again until three days later, so I pumped then – and that was the last time (for nine months, anyway, until baby #2 was born)!
So that’s my experience weaning from the pump! How long do you intend to exclusively pump? Are you looking forward to weaning?
(Need more information about weaning from pump, including the four methods of weaning, how dropping pumping sessions is different when you’re weaning, and sample weaning schedules? I wrote an e-book on these topics and more that you can check out here!)