I realize this post probably isn't applicable to most of you, but I wanted to write it anyway because I think there's a huge lack of information out there about women who exclusively pump breastmilk. I did all kinds of google searching when I was ready to wean myself off of the pump - and for the most part, my search came up dry.
One blogger I follow (Healthy Tipping Point) wrote about her experiences weaning off the pump here and here. I took a slightly different approach than she did...
So I was counting down the days until Bates' first birthday when I could quit pumping! One thing to keep in mind is that you might want to mix breastmilk and cow's milk together for a couple weeks after they turn one before you give the baby straight-up cow's milk (so he/she can get used to the taste). I say keep this in mind because you want to have enough breastmilk to be able to do that.
I hoped to quit breastfeeding slowly so as to avoid emotional side effects. I've heard of women who didn't have much postpartum depression, but then had a lot of trouble with the hormonal fluctuations of ending breastfeeding. I personally did not experience any postpartum depression - so I definitely didn't want to go through anything a year later. I figured the slower I took it, the easier it would be on my body. I imagine one could quit breastfeeding faster than I did (actually, that's how Healthy Tipping Point did it), but as much as I was ready to quit, I decided to take the slow route.
So. The week before Bates turned one, I took my pumping down to two sessions a day (morning and night). At that point, I was still completely emptying both breasts at each pumping session (taking about 30-40 minutes). I saw a decrease in milk supply just from dropping the mid-day session, but I was still pumping a fair amount (maybe 20 ozs/day?).
So a week or so after bringing it down to 2x/day (and getting my body stabilized there, thus producing less milk), I started cutting the time of each pumping session. That is, I would only pump for a certain amount of time, which would not completely empty the breasts. Again, I did this slowly. So maybe initially I would cut 5-10 minutes off of each session. Then I'd do that a day or two. Then I'd cut maybe 10-15 minutes off the original time, and do that for a day or two. I thought it would be super uncomfortable to quit pumping when there was still milk left, but actually, I did it so gradually that I didn't feel any pain or discomfort.
I got myself down to two 10-minute pumping sessions a day (which was a good 20-30 minutes less than my "baseline" - note that your own baseline might be different). So then I started to bring it down to one pump/day. To get there, I did a few days of pumping less than 24 hours between each pump. So maybe if I pumped before bed, I would hold off on my pump the next day until lunchtime or 5pm. Then the next day I'd pump in the morning or during his morning nap. So a little less than 24 hours between each - and still limiting the time to less-than 10 minutes.
A few days of that led to pumping once a day. For 10 minutes. And it only took a day or so for my supply to adjust to that. At this point, my supply had greatly decreased. And Bates was on 100% cow's milk, so I knew I could quit whenever my body would let me.
So then I started pumping every day and a half, and I only pumped for 5-10 minutes. But I only did that a day or two, because then I could just tell I didn't need to pump anymore. My boobs started to feel different. They wouldn't really hook up to the pump that easily anymore.
My last pump ever, unfortunately, wasn't that ceremonious because I didn't realize it would be the last time. I felt like I needed to pump (like, felt that sort of duct-cloggy feeling on the left side), and about 2 minutes in, I realized the right side did not need to be pumped, so I unhooked that one and just did the left side for about 5 minutes - enough to take the cloggy feeling away.
I had the cloggy feeling on the left side two other times (one a few days after the final pump and one about 2-3 weeks after), and I just heated it up in the shower and then hand expressed enough to get the clog out.
So like that - voila - I weaned from the pump! I'm really glad I did it slowly. There were a couple super-emotional days, but that's about it. I obviously don't know if I would've had the same emotions or worse if I would've done it quickly, but I'm glad I didn't risk it. I'm also glad I didn't get a final round of mastitis (I had it twice during the year). I think if your body has been prone to clogged ducts/mastitis during your breastfeeding journey, it would be best to cut down the time of your pumps slowly (so you aren't constantly leaving very full, un-pumped boobs before your supply goes down).
As I said in my other post, I'm so glad to be done! It was actually sort of weird to put on a normal bra again - like, it fits a lot different than my nursing bras did. And I can't wait to wear some shirts and dresses that didn't fit across my nursing chest last year.
Good luck if you're weaning from the pump! I hope this helps a little.