The Plan: I detailed my plan for stopping in this post. I didnâ€™t want to stop cold turkey (ouch), but I didnâ€™t want the process to take forever, either. Once I was ready to be done, I was ready to be done. In total, the process took 2.5 weeks. First, I focused on dropping ounces, and then I focused on eliminating pumps, dropping the middays ones before the morning and night pumps. The last 4 or 5 days of the process involved pumping on one side every 24 â€“ 36 hours, so it was truly no big deal. Also, randomly, a week after my â€˜last pump,â€™ I felt a duct fill up on my right side and had to hand express it. It was strange!
The Physical Deets: Stopping pumping was hell. I hated every single minute of the process, with the exception of the times that I got to wake up or go to bed without pumping. That was nice!
Stopping pumping after producing a full supply for 8 months was extremely uncomfortable, if not sometimes straight-up painful. I was engorged and leaking for the better part of the first week. I tried several things to reduce the pain â€“ cabbage compresses, Ibuprofen, and Sudafed. Cabbage compresses in my bra made me feel ridiculous, like I was suffering through one more physical indignity of childbirth and motherhood. I donâ€™t know how much they helped, although ancedotal evidence is strong. Ibuprofen and Sudafed made the biggest difference, especially the Sudafed, which I took because it has a side-effect of drying up your milk.
Also â€“ exercise! If I was really engorged, running hurt too much, but if I wasnâ€™t too bad, banging out 30 â€“ 45 minutes of cardio seemed to temporarily reduce my supply and therefore lessen the pain. I noticed this while I was breastfeeding, too. Studies show exercise does not impact supply, but in my personal experience, it did impact my supply in the short-term (clearly not in the long term).
The Emotional Side: Itâ€™s hard to write about my emotions surrounding stopping without sounding like Iâ€™m making commentary on formula feeders or long-term breastfeeders, but Iâ€™m not. I just want to say how the process made me feelâ€¦ and seriously, the LAST thing I want to do is make someone else feel bad about their choices. Our society gives moms (and dads) enough crap; I donâ€™t want to add to the pile. So read my thoughts with that in mind.
I was really broken up about stopping breastfeeding, mainly because 1) I had a full supply and pumping was (relatively) easy; 2) I feel that breast milk is the ideal food for a baby; and 3) the only reasons I wanted to stop pumping were purely selfish. I hadnâ€™t physically breastfed for more than 6 months (due to lots of things â€“ shyness about breastfeeding in public, fast letdown, flat nipples that required a shield, and more). When you combine those three factors, it was extremely hard to give myself the â€˜permissionâ€™ to stop without feeling guilty. Shouldnâ€™t I be able to sacrifice my needs for Henryâ€™s? Doesnâ€™t this make me a bad mom?
What helped me stop with a clear conscience was 1) a few good therapy sessions about the topic (thank God for therapy); and 2) your comments! Seriously, all of your comments on my breastfeeding posts and Facebook pleas really helped me. Hearing from other women that it was okay to put myself â€˜firstâ€™ was so, so amazing and really took away the guilt. One commenter said that I needed to just STOP feeling bad. It was such a simple concept â€“ just STOP â€“ and I jumped on it immediately. I refuse to feel bad about this choice. I just refuse. Iâ€™m at peace with this decision.
Itâ€™s easy to be at peace with the choice when I see how AWESOME the other side of breastfeeding is (this is when I donâ€™t want people to jump down my throats â€“ Iâ€™m not dissing breastfeeding or suggesting people donâ€™t do it, Iâ€™m just being honest). For 8 months, breastfeeding ruled my life. I experienced all the â€˜badâ€™ things about breastfeeding with none of the â€˜benefitsâ€™ (cuddling). I pumped five to six times a day. It was the first thing I did in the morning and the last thing at night. Pumping was always on my mind â€“ when and where will I pump? I pumped in my bathroom, in my living room, in my car, in rental cars, in airplane bathrooms, in stalls of public restrooms. I washed my pump parts thousands of times. To go to sleep without having to pump â€“ AMAZING. To wake up without full breasts â€“ AMAZING. I canâ€™t even describe how wonderful it feels to not have this â€˜choreâ€™ on my mind all time.
Ch-Ch-Changes: While pregnant and breastfeeding, my appetite (and caloric needs) were off the chart. Did you know that breastfeeding burns an extra 500-odd calories a day? Thatâ€™s like running an extra four miles, everyday. I was so used to eating my face off and having an insatiable appetite. Things are slowly returning to normal. Iâ€™m eating in response to hunger cues, so I think it will all pan out in the end.
During pregnancy, I gained 35 pounds. Iâ€™m currently a few pounds under my pre-pregnancy weight. Thanks to an active pregnancy, exercise post-pregnancy, a health diet, and a hefty dose of genetics and luck, my body pretty much looks like it did before pregnancy (which I find amazing). The one difference? My breasts. Oh, my breasts. I went up FOUR cup sizes during pregnancy and breastfeeding, and it only took 3 weeks for my breasts to shrink back to their pre-pregnancy size. Things are predictably â€“ ahhh â€“ saggier than they were before. It was worth it, though.
The other amazing part of stopping? MY BRAS! I owned two bras in my breastfeeding size, and one broke five months ago. That means I wore the same bra every single day (I did a lot of handwashing). It was a â€˜specialtyâ€™ size so I didnâ€™t want to buy another $80 bra when I knew Iâ€™d be stopping soon. I recently pulled down all my pre-pregnancy clothes and hung them back up in my closet; it was so great to see all my old bras and wear my old shirts again. I have a dozen options now!
Other Random Thoughts: People who use formula say breastfeeding is inconvenient; people who breastfeed say formula is inconvenient. There are pros and cons to each method, I think. But I do have to say that I find formula on par with pumped milk in terms of ease of use. Thereâ€™s no pump parts to wash (yay), although Iâ€™m still washing bottles. Formula can only be out of the fridge for an hour, which sucks compared to pumped milk (I followed a 6 â€“ 8 hour rule). This mixing pitcher and this dispenser are lifesavers!
The Million Dollar Question: Will I breastfeed Henryâ€™s little brother or sister? You bet. Iâ€™m going to try really hard to make physically breastfeeding work. I think I could get over the emotional issues that I had about breastfeeding, but the physical barriers will still be there. Iâ€™m going to give it a shot. If I do end up exclusively pumping again, thatâ€™s okay. After breastfeeding for two months and exclusively pumping for another six, I know I could do it again. I donâ€™t know if Iâ€™ll last as long, but I certainly will try. And when it comes time to put away the pump and peel open a can of formula, Iâ€™ll do it with peace in my heart. Being a parent is hard enough â€“ thereâ€™s no reason to make myself feel bad over how I feed my children.
And with that, I feel that my pregnancy journey is really and truly over. It began way back in September 2011, and now, for the first time in a long time, my body is all mine. Itâ€™s a great feelingâ€¦ who knows how long it will last. Maybe less time than I think!