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When is it Really Time to Stop Pumping?

The first time I saw a lactation consultant outside of the hospital Eli was 4 days old and not breastfeeding. At all. She asked me what my breastfeeding goal was and I told her it was a year, BUT, if he didn’t nurse and I had to pump, no way was I going to go that long. It was too hard, took too much time and just not worth it. And I meant that.

But stubbornly, I kept going and somewhere along the way, it got easier. I could just time my pumping with naps, or if not, Eli would happily play in his swing for the 20-30 minutes I needed for a pumping session. I would say from months 4-7, pumping was no big deal. I didn’t mind it, didn’t resent it, it was just a part of life and I was getting my son breast milk. In fact, for a good portion of those months, I didn’t even need to supplement with formula, which had been a big part of the struggle initially.

And then things changed. For starters, Eli was sick, and then sick again and then sicker, then sick again and oh my God the snot and coughing and antibiotics. And he was trying, desperately, to get mobile, but was only able to go backwards. He didn’t want to be in his swing and his nap schedule shifted so it was really difficult to try to time my pumping with his naps. I couldn’t just put him on the floor to play while I pumped, because of his mobility frustrations. And I couldn’t put him in the swing either because he wanted to be mobile.

My pumping went from not a big deal to 4-5 times a day where we were both frustrated. And I thought maybe it was time to stop.

So last week I reduced the frequency and duration of pumping and at the same time, Eli learned to crawl. Now he doesn’t get upset while I pump, which means I really didn’t need to cut back, but I’ve already lost a chunk of my supply. I really thought I was ready to slow down or stop because of how frustrating it was for both of us, but now that I’m seeing my production fall and now that pumping isn’t 20-30 minutes of my child being miserable, I realize that I don’t think I am ready at all. I have hated pumping so much of the time, but I think I also loved it, deep down.

Objectively, I see all my personal benefits to stopping. No more packing the pump, or the cooler. No more taking time away from family gatherings or work lunches to pump. No more seclusion, more time with the baby and more sleep at night. But I just have this tiny voice in the back of my head that’s telling me that I should keep going because I can. Because there’s no longer any real reason I need to stop. There’s no real reason that pumping isn’t what’s best for everyone. Sure, maybe the mornings I work would be a little easier if I wasn’t pumping, but I just don’t know that the ease is worth being done getting my son breast milk.

And so I am toiling. I want what’s best for both of us, but I can’t figure out exactly what that is. I feel like I really can make it to a year, but that I don’t want to do that just so I can say I did it, but because it’s what we all really want. Because all of us will benefit most from me spending 2-3 hours a day hooked up to the pump to get my child breast milk. And I just don’t know if that’s true. And I’m not sure I’ll ever be completely confident or comfortable with my decision.

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