Disclaimer: This is just based off of my experience, so I cannot guarantee this will work for you by any means. I’m just stating how I weaned and that it worked for me.
Get a snack – it’s a long one!
If you’ve been following me on this journey of Motherhood, you’ll know I exclusively pumped since Brandon was born because the little monster had NO interest in direct nursing (sorry I’m SOOO boring, Bud) – a long, tiring, but extremely rewarding 9+ months. I’ve heard all the fears of weaning – engorgement, mastitis, hormones (the dreaded menstruation to start again) but our trip down Mother’s Milk Lane was coming to an end and I was ready to have the, “it’s not you, it’s me” conversation with my pump (ok – it really was you).
I never had a goal in mind for how long I would breastfeed – in my case, pump. I literally went on a day-by-day, hour-by-hour basis and did what worked for me, Brandon, Kevin and our schedule. If I missed a pump, I wasn’t concerned…if Brandon napped an hour later than normal then I pumped an hour later. I was fairly diligent but not to the point where it REALLY took over my life. The early months did suck, don’t get me wrong. But I got to a point where it was almost relaxing. No matter how fussy Brandon was, the company we had over at the house or how much laundry had to be done, all I had to say was “gotta pump” and I was guaranteed those 10-15 minutes of “ME” time without any questions asked. I learned to embrace that time. It wasn’t work for me, I didn’t dread it, I began to enjoy it.
As the weeks went by, I realized we were at 7, 8, 9 months post partum and I didn’t know where the time went. I can also say that I naturally weaned when I felt it was right. My schedule would start changing, Brandon would sleep longer, or shorter, or be more active or more fussy. I couldn’t plop him on the bed next to me and pump for 10 minutes because he could roll, or crawl away and that was no bueno. Each milestone brought on its own set of challenges and the made pumping even more difficult. Every 3-4 weeks I found myself dropping another and another pump and shifting around the pumps I had left. If I had 4ppd (pumps per day) it would look like morning, late morning, late afternoon and before bed. When I dropped to 3ppd it turned into morning, noon, before bed. Some women need to slowly morph into this change (if you pump at 10am and then 2pm – they would change daily – 1030am and 130pm, then 11 and 1, and then just one at noon). That was not necessary for me but works for others.
Around the 8.5 month mark my supply was dropping but we were still able to give only breastmilk (since he was 4 months old we had not supplemented). But it was literally going boob to bottle with little to no extra to freeze. I decided at his 9 month appointment I would drop to 2 pumps a day and by 10 months drop to 1 and begin the weaning process. With every pump drop came a huge supply drop. 2 pumps a day was not yielding much milk and we found ourselves side-eyeing the tub of formula that we had “just in case”. We had a little milk in the freezer so I was hoping that would get us to 10 months and then I would be done. This is why I never gave myself goals. If you don’t meet the goals, you feel let down. My body was weaning by itself so I just let it happen.
Since my supply was NEVER substantial (I busted my butt to try any and everything to max out my production) At 2 ppd, late morning and night, I was getting about 6-8oz each but over the course of a few days that diminished drastically!
This was all happening in the two weeks leading up to Christmas and the week after Christmas leading to New Years – so it was a busy time besides! A week after Brandon turned 9 months I was still pumping 3 times. I missed my motd (middle of the day) pump while I was busy working out, last minute shopping, wrapping and meal prepping and that’s when I automatically was down to 2 ppd. Easy as pie. Like I said, my body was weaning itself and pretty much told ME when to stop. We had gone through all of the frozen milk and the milk I was getting between 2 pumps was hardly enough to fill one bottle (Brandon was taking about 2 bottles a day – 6oz each). I dropped to 1 ppd a couple days after Christmas. The day after New Year’s (Saturday) I pumped and decided this was probably my last pump. I got about 2.5oz. It was kind of sad but I was kind of relieved. I went about 6 days and everything felt fine. Come the following Friday my boobs were getting a little sore (not overly full feeling) but sore – clog type of sore. I asked Kevin what I should do (thinking a man may have insight that I don’t). But then I turned to the Private Facebook Group I am a part of (Milking It: Exclusively Pumping with LM) and asked them. I got a few different answers. “Pump one last time until empty, this should be your last pump.” “Don’t pump, just wait it out or hand express until comfortable. Your body will think it needs to produce if you empty completely.” Knowing my body, I knew that if I pumped until empty it DEFINITELY wouldn’t think to start producing more milk because let’s face it – we don’t work like that here! SO, I pumped 1 last time. For 5 minutes. I got 1.5oz and felt much more comfortable. It has been 4 days since that last pump and I think the pump has been retired.
I’m sorry if this post seemed extremely long but I felt like I had a lot to say and share. Pumping is different than direct breastfeeding because I’M telling my body when to ‘feed’ which could be completely different than if my baby was calling the shots. We have to manually wean and make all the decisions (a guessing game if you will) which is not the easiest thing to do. I don’t feel guilt, I don’t feel like I let my baby or my family down. I feel so thankful I was even ABLE to produce something for my baby to help him grow. He’s healthy. He’s smart. And he’s well fed – whether it was/is breastmilk or formula. I did what was right for me and what worked for us. Kevin was by my side the ENTIRE time, I was never pressured one way or the other, every decision was my own. I feel for women who’s husbands/boyfriends/support system make them feel guilty because they spent “too much time” away from the baby, him or company attached to the pump. I was very fortunate to NEVER have that from Kevin, family, in-laws or friends and I feel beyond thankful for that.
And if your eyes don’t hurt from reading by now, here’s a great (quick) read about mother’s needing to stfu and help each other instead of putting each other down because your beliefs aren’t the same as theirs. I don’t care if your baby gets milk, formula, breastfeeds, sleeps in your bed, uses a pacifier, sucks their thumb, is over weight, underweight, watches tv, plays with your phone, or climbs the stairs when no one’s watching (oh yeah, that’s just us!). I really don’t care and you shouldn’t either. What matters is you are doing what is best for you (sanity), your baby and your family. Every baby is different and this parenting thing is all about trial and error until you find what works. A daily guessing game that you never really find the answer to. Enjoy the read!