coming to terms with weaning from the breast pump

breastmilk bottle

When Juliette was born, the nurses and lactation consultants were trying to help me to get her to latch, but her tongue-tie (short frenulum) was preventing her from doing so. I was determined to get her to breastfeed, but unfortunately Jules had other plans. And so, I gave in to feeding her formula. I felt like a failure. I knew early on in my pregnancy that I wanted to breastfeed and was absolutely adamant about it. But here I was giving her the bottle of pre-made Similac from the hospital that I swore I would never resort to. But she was being fed and I knew that’s what was most important so I tried not to dwell on my disappointment.

I did feel guilty though. The vast benefits of breastmilk are touted everywhere (even on formula bottles!) so it just felt like I was giving her something inferior. I wanted so badly to be able to exclusively breastfeed her for at least 6 months. No supplementing. Just straight immunity-boosting liquid gold.

The lactation consultant urged me to get her frenulum clipped by an ENT doctor and in the meantime keep pumping my milk to keep up my supply. So I did. I wasn’t making enough to feed Jules only breastmilk, so I was still supplementing with formula. The next few weeks were tough, as there were a few instances that prevented me from bringing her to my breast. I ended up in the ER for half a day (more on this in an upcoming post) and had pain meds in my system that weren’t safe for me to be passing on to Jules. Soon after, she got thrush on her tongue and I held off so that she wouldn’t pass the thrush on to me. Once that subsided, I ended up on strong antibiotics for almost two weeks from a supposed infection that I would later find out wasn’t an infection at all (more on this later too). Once I was finally able to breastfeed her, we had issues. She could barely latch properly and when she did she would get so frustrated with the slow flow of milk that she would cry and whine. After a few more attempts, I decided I would just keep pumping and feeding her with a bottle, the easier option for both of us.

Pumping is hard work and I commend any woman who has done it exclusively. Pumping on a schedule, every 3-4 hours for about 20- 30 minutes at a time is tedious and it doesn’t allow for many outside activities, like going out for a long dinner. Unsurprisingly, finding somewhere to express milk outside of your home is difficult because most places don’t have a designated private room for it. I’ve even been told on more than one occasion to do it in a bathroom stall. It’s also very time-consuming. With an electronic pump, you can’t really venture far from the outlet it’s plugged into so forget about being productive.

(Side note: this app is has been hugely helpful in finding places to pump wherever I go.)

After 4 months of pumping, I’ve decided to wean. I had been toying with the idea for weeks, but I always felt too guilty about giving up. Am I really going to not give my baby the better source of nutrition, even if I am only producing enough to feed her 1-2 bottles of milk per day? Am I really going to break the promise that I made to myself and to her? As ridiculous as it may sound, it feels like a selfish decision. Not only because it’s widely said and known that “breast is best”, but there are many people that knowingly or unknowingly make mothers who are unable to breastfeed feel horrible about their decision to formula-feed. To make matters more difficult, formulas are full of ingredients like processed sugar, palm oil (which isn’t easily digested by infants) and/or synthetic nutrients. Finding the right one required lots of time and research. A few weeks ago, I moved on from Similac to organic formulas. First, it was Honest formula and now we are switching to Baby’s Only because it is affordable, accessible and overall the best choice for Juliette. It may not be all-natural and from the breast, but it will keep her nourished and growing and that’s all that matters. It gives me peace of mind to know that I’ve made an informed decision about my baby’s health. There’s also the added benefit of feeling like I have a piece of my life back. I will no longer be a slave to this pump and have to work my schedule around it!

Oh and wine. I can drink lots and lots of wine once I’m completely off it. I look forward to the day.

Obviously my feelings are mixed. But ultimately, it’s the right call for both of us. I really do believe I will be a happier, more successful mother for it.

2 responses to “coming to terms with weaning from the breast pump”

  1. rooth says:

    The things I’ve learned in just this post alone! I also have a short frenulum (which I wasn’t aware of until I was in high school) and my parents said I learned to eat and talk around it. I’ll be sharing your blog with others who switch off the pump

    • Jillian says:

      I actually remember you telling me this a while ago! Yeah, the pediatrician told us that it was possible for her to learn to talk and breastfeed around it, but she still recommended clipping it. Thanks Ruth!

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