Monday, December 30, 2013

Postpartum: Breaking up with the Breastpump

It's taken me a long time to write this post, but weaning from the pump is a very difficult thing to do emotionally and physically.  It is a little crazy that something that is so cumbersome in your life can be so difficult to give up. Nearly everything about being a first time parent has a learning curve and breastfeeding/pumping is no different. When the time finally comes to give it up, there is a whole new set of things to learn.

Emotionally, pumping is a roller coaster ride that I can say I was definitely not prepared for.  When you are pumping, you simultaneously feeling like a superwoman and total crap.  It is exhausting, and you really have to have incredible support at home. This is my break-up with my breastpump; I officially dumped my pump!

When I was pumping round the clock, I NEVER thought I would actually miss anything about it when I quit. Believe it or not pumping mommas here are 4 things I miss about my pumping days.

Things I Miss About Pumping:
1. "Me" Time
Pumping is 20 minutes of built in time for just you. When you are a mom, time is a blessing! Those 20 minutes were mostly time where I was baby free and could sit and read (or blog) or watch a little TV. Now, that I am no longer pumping, taking that time feels a bit selfish. Enjoy the whoosh, whoosh talking of the pumping while you can! 
2. Eating "Free"
When you are pumping, you get to eat extra calories for "free". I was pumping double what my little man ate (60 ounces), so that was practically another meal I could eat and not feel like a terrible fatty fatty two by four.  I know it's silly because you still need to eat healthy for yourself and the baby, but still..
3. The Girls 
Ok, so it's vain. It's ridiculous, but enjoy those boobs! They may be a little leaky, and they might hurt like the dickins. BUT they look great in a top!!!! Where oh Where did they go? Wahhh. 
4. Supermom
When you are pumping, there is this euphoric feeling like you are doing something incredible for your kid! I felt like the strongest woman for doing it for my son, and when you quit, there is definitely a bit of a backwards feeling of it.  I almost felt like I was letting everyone down when I quit.

While I miss all those things about my trusty old backpack of fun, there are several things that I absolutely do not miss at all. And I mean AT ALL!!

Things I Do NOT Miss About Pumping: 
1. Scheduling the Schedule
What time is? When are we leaving? How long will we be there? Is there a place where I can pump? Oh my. Oh my. When you are pumping, you are a slave to the clock. I constantly had to be packed up and ready with my whole kit and caboodle (see what I carried in my pump bag here).  I do not miss having to schedule everything we did around that! 
2. How Much Milk?
Pumping makes you constantly worry about how many ounces you are making versus how many ounces the baby is eating.  Even when you are overproducing, there is this constant need to make more and more and more.  I read somewhere to feed your baby not your freezer, and it couldn't be more true. I became obsessed with filling our deep freezer with more more more milk. 
3. Ouch, Owe, OMG 
I 100% do not miss the PAIN. Anyone who says breastfeeding is pain free is clearly very blessed.  That was not my experience at all. I would say the entire time I fed or pumped there was some dull pain, and at other times it was excruciating. I dealt with mastitis, blisters, and cracks. I do not miss the constant aching boobs. 
4. Slave to the Pump 
This one is pretty similar to 1 and 2, but it is very true. When you are pumping, it is a dominant feature in your life.  Everything revolves around it.  You can't travel. You can't just pick up and go anywhere. That black backpack came with me everywhere, as did my cooler bag most of the time. I am no longer a slave to my pump! FREEDOM at last! 

I had been struggling with pumping and my time management for a while, so I finally had to decide to quit (with some help from my family).

When I Quit:
It was the beginning of October 2013, and I was 5 Months Postpartum. I was right in the middle of football season and sophomore research papers. As a teacher and a cheer coach, these things dominate my fall. It was so overwhelming to teach the hardest thing I teach, to work the toughest schedule for cheerleading all year, and to continue to pump.  Ultimately, something had to give.  I was really defeated because I had been on such a supermom high. I defeated the 2 week breastfeeding goal, the 6 weeks goal, the 3 month goal, and I wanted so, so badly to make it to 6 months. There were several days that I felt disappointed in myself, but I had to let it go. 

Why I Quit: 
It was not a decision I made lightly. I decided to quit pumping for time with my family. (Which I have amazingly so much more of now) I quit to get back my sanity.  I know it isn't true for everyone, but my hormones were completely wack-a-doodle the whole time I breastfed, so I had to give up the pump to get the ME back to ME. I, also, quit because I couldn't take the constant pain anymore.  5 month of continuous itching, cracking, blistering and so on was my limit. I needed to sleep the whole night. I needed to wear a real bra again. I needed to feel like I could sleep on my stomach and not cry in agony. Everything is a balancing act anyways, and I had to finally realize I needed to be a Mom and stop trying to be Supermom.

How I Quit:
When I decided to quit, I did a lot of research on the process. What I learned is that there are few resources for pumping mommas! There is next to nothing out there about full time pumping mommas and quitting. If you are an exclusive breastfeeding mom, then the baby helps you wean over time. Pumping isn't so. You have to do it solo. There are lots of old wives tales out there, and there used to be a drug to dry it all up... not so anymore.  When you quit it's got to be YOU.  It was much more PAINFUL than anyone had warned me. It really hurt, and the pain made me want to give up quitting.

When you commit to quit, be sure you are really ready.  Take pain meds (a cold medicine supposedly helps dry up the milk, too - though I tried this with limited success. I really can't recommend taking medicine for off label purposes because I am way to much of a rule follower for that.) Anyways, these are the things that worked for me.

1. Time and Patience 
When I went back to work in the fall, I began to cut back my number of daily pumps by necessity. My 20 minute pumps also started to become 15 minute pumps (especially during the day) because of the time constraints in my life.  When I decided to quit, I really should have weaned a bit more slowly, but when I decided I was done. I was done. So I went from three pumps a day to 0. OUCH! It took time about a week for me (yes prepare to be in PAIN for a week!) Get help for the first two days because I couldn't lift my hands above my head. I knew that I was risking mastitis again, but I didn't care. I decided I would take the antibiotics if it came to that. 
2. Cabbage Leaves
Yup, I tried it. I smelled terrible, but it really did seem to help. I read online that cabbage leaves helped to dry up your milk, so we bought two heads. I read that you should only keep it on for an hour, but that didn't do much for me. I pulled it out of the fridge and cracked it a bit. Covered each boob with a leaf (the whole boob), and covered that with a towel, then added ice packs on top of that, then another towel, finally one or two sports bras (glamorous - I know)! Enjoy those rock hard lumps of pain, though, because after this your boobs might disappear. 
3. Hot Showers 
I read conflicting information on this, but I took crazy hot showers the week I quit and it was MAGIC. I would massage the really painful lumps. In the first couple of days, I even used my manual pump for just a minute to get some relief.  
4. Tight Sports Bras
I wore a sports bra round the clock (except for in the shower), while weaning. Again, I want to warn you... IT HURTS BADLY. BE PREPARED. Take meds and cry! It's OK. I needed at least a week, and even the second week after I was still decently leakly (though, by the end of the first week the pain was so much better.) Heck, I still occasionally leak, it's part of the fun!

When you decide to wean from the pump, make sure you are really ready to do it. Once you do, there's no turning back.  I am glad I made the decision I did for our family, when I did. I don't think I could have managed it all much longer without a nervous breakdown.  I know so much more for when we decide to have our second child, and I without a doubt will try to breastfeed again.  And if the baby struggles, we will pump once again. I loved my experience and wouldn't trade everything I learned.

Good Luck to all you pumping mommas!
Happy Pumping! 


  1. I'm in the process of weaning off the pump for my work day sessions. It's nice to read that it can be done! I've been decreasing my pump time slowly over a number of weeks and after a clogged duct, I've had to slow down my "ditch the pump" process even more. Thanks for sharing your story!

    1. It was probably one of the hardest parts of the breastfeeding/pumping experience for me. I hated feeling like I was giving up, even though that isn't what I did at all. I tried to be patient, but ultimately I just had to give it up. It can be done, and I promise you, you will sleep on your stomach and wear real bras again! :)

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  3. Autumn, I know this post was written a while ago, but I am so grateful that you were transparent in your successes and struggles as a pumping momma! I am beginning the journey of dumping my pump. My son and I had trouble breast feeding early on, and after supplementing a while, I began exclusively pumping when he was 2.5 months old and he will be 6 months when I'm done. You're right in saying there isn't much info for us pumping mommas, and with that, not much encouragement either. The emotional part of letting go has been and is still very difficult for me. I'm not quitting because of the pain or lack of supply, but simply because I am craving more time and flexibility with my baby! Your encouragement along with the love of friends and family have been an answered prayer during this journey.

    Your sister in Christ and pumping,
    Sarah ��