DISCLAIMER: This is a bit personal and may be a little TMI for some people.
I have been weaning down my milk supply for over a month, and I think I’m finally done pumping for comfort. For 21 months I provided human milk for my son each day. It is the end of an era. It seems appropriate to take a moment to reflect.
Max received a diet of exclusively human milk (fortified with formula off and on) for nearly his entire first year of life. To achieve this, I pumped for him 6 to 8 times a day for at least 25 minutes at a time. That’s a lot of time. In his second year, Max began receiving a whole foods blenderized diet in addition to a significant amount of human milk. As the year progressed I began to wean my milk supply. I heard of crazy hormone shifts and mood swings from other mothers who had weaned suddenly, and I didn’t want to add any more stress to my already stressful life. So it would be a slow wean. As an added benefit, I could offer my son a few extra antibodies through the cold and flu season – which would be even more important now that I am working in a hospital and bringing some brand new germs into the house. I pumped 4 to 5 times a day, then 3 to 4 times a day. As of April I was actively weaning. I pumped morning and night for a week. then just morning for another week. Then one day it was obviously time to quit.
After pumping for my usual half hour, one of my nipples was killing me! I examined it and I noticed two good sized cracks or broken skin on the outer edge of the nipple. Eeek! No wonder it hurt so bad. I wondered how I could pump even once a day with this “injury”. As I expressed my concerns to my husband, the voice of reason said: “Stop! This is your body telling you it’s time to stop!” This coming from a man who has always been in great support of breastfeeding, I knew I had to listen to him. He was right.
Those first couple of week felt weird. I’d be doing something in the middle of the day, stop suddenly and gasp. In a split second I would think: OMG, I need to pump! When did I last pump?! Then in the next split second I would think Oh right, I don’t have to do that anymore. And when I got engorged five days after later I thought I had mastitis, cancer, a tumor…I hadn’t felt engorged in over a year- I couldn’t remember what it felt like!
At any rate, this era of my life that has come to a close. When I think about all that time I must have spent pumping, I can’t believe I made it all work. When did I find time to wash all those bottles and pump parts? I remember several occasions on which I was just getting ready to head out the door to run an errand or do something fun, when I realized that I had forgotten to pump. For quick errands I could get away with it, but on other occasions I had to drop everything and do at least a quick pump before I left.
It was tough, being a “slave to the pump”, as they say. Exclusive pumping is much more difficult than breastfeeding (not that I’m an expert, as I have never breastfed). It is a route for only the most stubborn and determined mothers. And no woman need feel like less of a mother because exclusive pumping didn’t work for her. I would never recommend it to anyone, and I know other mothers in my shoes who feel the same way. I’m glad I did it, I’m glad it worked out for me and my family, I’m glad I was able to give Max the best nature can offer, but I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else. I’m happily saying farewell to my breast pump and welcoming the new found freedom. Now I only have to schedule my life around Max, one factor is taken out of the equation.