It's been a week since I quit pumping. I just woke up last Sunday morning and knew it was over.
Breastfeeding did not go as I had planned, and though it was apparent early on that my journey would be a short one, I had such a difficult time deciding when to finally stop. The amount of milk I was producing at the end was, well, negligible. A good session for me had turned into maybe a little more than a tablespoon's worth, and a bad session was merely a drop or two. That last week it had become common for me to get only a few drops or nothing at all.
You may be wondering why on earth I would put myself through pumping to get such trace amounts. Honestly, I have no idea.
If someone else had told me this story and said they were thinking of giving up pumping, especially considering the actual amount they were pumping, I would have said "Duh." (Well, I probably would have said something nicer than "duh," but might have been thinking it!) Hang up the pump, lady. It’s over. Clearly, it’s over.
My body knew long ago that breastfeeding wasn’t working. It played along with me though, as my brain insisted we keep trying. It probably cringed every time it saw a pumping bra, or me washing pumping parts over and over. It probably sighed deeply when it saw me suctioning out drops of milk with a tiny syringe, trying to save every single micro-drop. It tried. It really did.
And my brain is finally catching up to where my body was and decided it too, was done. We tried and it is now time to stop.
There’s no shame in formula feeding. Or supplementing. I shudder to think what would have happened to my baby had I not supplemented with formula days after birth, when he was already showing signs of dehydration. My baby is happy, healthy, and growing perfectly thanks to formula. Instead of burying that formula can down in my diaper bag, I should be showing it off, proudly.
My baby got at least a few drops of breast milk almost every day for three months. Did it make a difference? Who knows? Should everyone make the same decision I did to pump for weeks (and weeks) even if you’re not producing milk? Absolutely not. In fact, I wouldn’t even tell myself to make that decision again! I’m not necessarily proud of the extra time I spent, it’s just something I kept doing because I wasn’t sure how/when/why to stop.
This week I “celebrated” my journey, in a way. I bought myself some jalapeño chips I had been avoiding for months and ate a sleeve of Thin Mints. I put away my nursing bras and pulled out regular bras (with the good underwire!) again. I felt more like myself again, not because I was no longer breastfeeding or pumping, but because I had removed a gigantic cloud of guilt from hanging over my head.
My breastfeeding struggle is one of the hardest things I’ve experienced. I had to accept things were out of my control and find solutions that weren’t always ideal to me. But I made it through to the other side and feel good about where I am now.
Have you had a tough time with breastfeeding or pumping?
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