Thursday, March 19, 2015

Weaning off the Breast Pump for Exclusive Pumpers - How to Stop Pumping!

       The very early days of attempting breastfeeding were not filled with warm fuzzy memories for me.  Cecelia seemed to be able to latch on in the hospital but quickly fell asleep before being able to gain enough milk.  We saw two lactation consultants in the hospital and went home with instructions to "just keep trying".  We were also informed in the hospital that we would need to supplement with formula until my milk came in.  WHAT?  Supplement with formula? Oh heck no, that meant I was a bad mom (hello hormonal new mom).  Regardless we bought some formula and kept trying to breastfeed.   I tried shields and different positions but we continued to have the sleepy baby problem.  Eventually my milk did come in and I was pumping constantly to try to feed my baby.  Waking up twice in the middle of the night to pump was a nightmare.  Some people think EPing is easier than breastfeeding but let me tell you my friends, it is not.  Anyways, Cecelia and I were never able to make breastfeeding work so thus began my time of exclusive pumping. 

     By the time I returned to work around 10 weeks, I was pumping about five times a day.  My goal was to breastfeed at least through six months old.  After about two months of being back at work I was able to cut down to three pumps a day.  Three pumps a day is where I have lived until this month.  Cecelia is going to be 6 months old in about 10 days so at the begining of this month I started weaning myself from the pump.  Here is how I did it with no leaking and low discomfort:

The keyword is GRADUAL!

1.  Drop a pump until you are down to three pumps a day.  If you are pumping 4-5 times a day, start with dropping a pump.
How to drop a pump:  I picked one of the pumps that I hated the most.  For me I dropped my second "at work" pump that took place around 3:30pm.  In order to do this I made my first "at work" pump later.  (ex. I was pumping at 11am and moved it to 1pm).  You can drop a pump by either moving times around like I did or pumping at your normal time but decreasing the actual amount of time you pump.  I like moving the times better.

2.  Let your body adjust to the dropped pump for 3 days to a week.  After a week I was pumping the same amount of milk in three pumps that I used to in four pumps.  At first though you probably will see a decrease in output.  I stayed at three pumps for probably three months.

3.  When you hit the month that you are ready to start weaning, it is time to drop another pump.  I dropped the last "at work" pump and started only pumping when I got up and before bed at night.  It took my body probably 3 days to get used to this. 

4.  Drop to one pump.  This was the hardest for me.  I dropped my morning pump.  My advice is to start this on a weekend to minimize embarrasing leakage and pain at work.  I kept the one pump before bed for about a week.

5.  Decrease the time of your last pump.  I used to pump for around 45 minutes or until I was completely empty.  Start lowering your pump time by a few minutes every day and let your body adjust.  You should start to notice that when it is time to pump you are less engorged and more comfortable as your body gets used to the decreased demand. 

6.  When you are ready, stop pumping.

I have had some mild discomfort but nothing terrible.  Go with this slow wean if you want to lessen discomfort.  This is only how I quit the pump.  There are many opinions and suggestions out there!

You won't have to worry about THIS anymore!

Now as for the emotions of weaning from the pump... much more difficult than physically weaning.  I was wracked with guilt and anxiety.  Was I hurting my baby?  Was I a terrible mother for not continuing to pump?  I answered these questions as yes which is why it was so difficult for me to overcome.  Eventually I was so exhausted of pumping being the first thing I did in the morning and the last thing I did before bed that I knew that I NEEDED to quit.  Cecelia had been receiving supplemental formula since birth so it was really just switching to all formula which she took well.  I still feel some guilt for not pumping but it is so nice to feel like I have my body back.  I gave Cecelia nine months in my belly and six months of feeding her with my body.  For me, it was time.  Whatever you decide is best for you and your baby is absolutely what you should do!

1 comment:

Jasmine R said...

This was sooooo helpful because it really matches my weaning situation. My daughter was in NICU and had physical issues with latching and even though they were supposedly corrected she never got back to a proper latch even with LCs and physiotherapy. At 4 months she started refusing the breast even for the little practice/bonding nursing sessions we had been doing. I tried to coax her back to the breast with various techniques I but it really wasn't working. So I'm exclusively pumping and supplementing with formula since then. She's now 10 months and getting two+ bottles a day of breast milk and she takes four bottles daily. I pump twice, occasionally three times, a day but it's taking longer and longer to get empty and keep up supply, like 90 minutes per pump. I'm starting to think about weaning off the pump and don't anticipate any problems on her end bc she's used to the bottle and formula. I thought I was less attached as well, having had time to learn to accept and even appreciate the formula and plus sides my not being her only source of food, eg, giving her dad a chance to take over bedtime, have that bonding time too, etc. I didn't think there was much else to 'process' about simply allowing more of her bottles to be formula. But when my husband recently went on a business trip and I couldn't pump as long without him to watch the baby, my supply dipped a lot and I was surprised at how devastated I was thinking the end of my pumping and 'breastfeeding' was upon me. I got my supply back up with a lot of effort and now am wondering if I will ever truly be ready, and how to manage my emotional response to it all. No other weaning stories I have read covered exactly my situation until I found yours. I like your last lines, of charting the months of nurturing my body has given her overall be pregnancy and lactating, it has been 18 months already! Maybe I'll make it to my original goal of 1 year and maybe not but knowing that it is always going to be tough emotionally will help me prepare and process ahead of time. I also think doing it slowly seems to help moderate the emotional swings so that will be part of my plan too. Anyway I wanted to write and thank you for taking the time to post your (our) version of the weaning process. I know it was a few years ago for you but it is still helping other moms! I wish you and Cecilia the best! (What a lovely name by the way. ) Take care, mama Jasmine and baby Katarina