Friday, November 5, 2010

When pumping ends...or There's a light at the end of this tunnel!

Now that my youngest is 10 months old, I've allowed myself to start looking forward to the end of pumping.  I support pumping moms 1000% (since I am one), I'm in favor of laws to protect a woman's ability to provide milk for her baby, I think it's wonderful that we have this ability to feed our babies their ideal food when we have to work away from home...but let's face it - pumping can be a pain, and I'm so glad that it's coming to an end.  To me, finishing my pumping journey will mean:

The end of lugging around an extra bag.

The end of washing bottles and pump parts every night after the kids go to bed.

The end of worrying about supply.

The end of obsession over whether daycare is over-feeding baby.

The end of being chained to my pump at lunch/during breaks/etc.

The end of worrying about coworkers barging in on me half-exposed.

And best of all....

The return of just a small measure of free time in my day!  Yay!

But how does this transition from pumping mom to pumping graduate happen?  What needs to be done?  How do you prepare baby? Does this mean you'll have to stop nursing altogether?  I'll address these and other questions over the next few posts.  Today's topic - how do I wean myself from daily pumping?

In our family, we prefer not to use formula at all.  Because of that, I need to pump at work up until my babies' first birthdays.  After that point, they are physiologically mature enough to drink whole cow's milk while at daycare.  That does not mean that I wean entirely - I prefer to continue nursing my young toddlers until they are somewhere between 18 and 24 months old.  It just means that if I'm not with them, they don't have to starve. You may choose differently, and that's ok too,  but what I will discuss is my experience with weaning from pumping only.

Weaning Your Body from the Pump
If you've been pumping for a full year, chances are your body is pretty well adjusted to it.  This means that you can NOT simply just stop pumping one day and expect everything to go well. If you stop cold turkey, at minimum, you will experience painful fullness and leakage.  You run a very good risk of painful plugged ducts, which can lead to a serious case of mastitis.  No busy mom with a mobile baby can afford to be sidelined unnecessarily! 

Instead, you will need to drop your pumping amounts gradually.  This can be done in 2 ways - either space out your sessions progressively further apart (from every 3 hours, to 4 hours to 5, etc, until you've pushed them right out of existence), or reduce the amount of time you are pumping per session by a few minutes at a time (from 20min, to 15, to 10, etc).  Either way, give yourself a few days to adjust.  Depending on your body's responsiveness, this process may take you from 1 to 4 weeks to complete - if you're not sure, slower is always better!

If you are still nursing your child frequently on the weekends, be prepared to find that your supply is higher on Mondays and Tuesdays due to the increased stimulation.  I found that for a month or so after I quit regular pumping at work, it was very helpful to bring in my small hand pump on Mondays.  It allowed me to relieve a little bit of pressure mid-afternoon.  Alternatively you could hand express into a sink (or toilet!), but I never wanted to risk getting milk all over myself at work.

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