Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How I Stopped Exclusively Pumping

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.


Lauren Delgado said...

Thanks for writing this....my baby is nine months olld and I've been exclusively pumping for....nine months. Bleh. I'm starting to research how to switch her over to regular milk in a few months since I'm trying to get to a year and there really isn't much information out there.

Jane said...

Yes, thank you for this. My baby is lost nine months to one I m stopping exclusively pumping too. Bye bye pump!!!! This blog was a Godsend so thank you.

Anonymous said...

This is exactly the article I've been looking for. Thank you so much for posting it! I have one question, when you went to one pump per day did you do it in the morning or before bed?

Kenz2410 said...

Thanks so much for sharing this! You're right, there's hardly any info out there about weaning off the pump.

Mll said...

Thank you for sharing your experience. I've been searching for info and been unsuccessful and am frustrated and unsupported by my dr. 🙏🏻

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