Pumpin’ ain’t easy

It’s no secret that I am not a fan of pumping breastmilk. It’s been kind of a necessary evil due to an oversupply and a crippling fear of mastitis. Added bonus, a sweet baby gets an extra good start in life. I love the idea and the outcome, but I could do without the actual execution. Truth be told, I’m kind of over it.

I had an unofficial goal of 6 weeks of pumping for Little Miss and we are almost there. I started with 5 minutes every 3 hours during the day (never overnight) and dropped to every 4 hours about 3.5 weeks in. At 5 weeks, I stretched to every 5 hours. Now, at 5w2d, I’m wondering if that change was too aggressive. Is it too soon to reduce?  Am I doing enough?  Am I letting them down?  Can I physically manage this?  By the time I get to the 5 hour mark, I’m definitely uncomfortable and clamouring for Arnold (my pet name for the pump, thanks to an old Arnold Schwarzenegger movie in which he refers to “de pamp”). Clamouring or not, aggressive or not, however, I’m kind of over it.

It’s extremely satisfying for me to be able to help feed another baby. I feel appreciated/valued and helpful. Unfortunately, to have these good feelings, my life has to kind of revolve around Arnold. Every 3/4/5 hours, I need to either be home or set up to pump. Supplies need to be sterilized. I need to be well-hydrated, and pay attention to eating regularly (which I have a tendency to forget). I have avoided my dear old friend alcohol, except for my “white Christmas,” wherein I had 3 little glasses of wine and dumped almost 20 oz of expressed milk (whimper). I need to take these mini time-outs throughout the day, and stay up until the last pump of the evening, otherwise sleep is not happening. Even if I want to call it a night a bit early, I then have to wake up earlier to compensate. Not the end of the world, but not necessarily ideal. I want one night where I can go to bed when I want and sleep until I’m done sleeping without waking up in a swamp. At the same time, I want to know that I’m not giving up. I want to make sure she gets the best possible start. I want to leave the house for more than a couple hours. It’s been fun, but I’m kind of over it.

It’s hard to explain but I feel decidedly…selfish (?) making this change. I breastfed my own littles for about 2 years each so it feels odd to be deciding that it’s done so soon. Logically, I know this to not be the case, but emotionally it’s been a surprising struggle. Then this afternoon as I agonized over when/how to cut back and wrap this phase up, my husband said that pumping and breastfeeding are two very different things and that he thinks I’ve done more than enough, so there’s no shame to be had here. Then he said the words I didn’t know I needed to hear from someone else:

“It’s ok to be done.”

With that, I realized that I was beating myself up over something that I shouldn’t. I realized that I HAVE done my best and that it’s time to take care of what I want and need now. With that, I realized it’s time to stop demanding so much of myself, that my job here is done. With 5 simple words, I feel I have been given the permission to let go and move on. I’m taking that “permission” and tomorrow, I’m going to start the process of suppressing lactation. There are some herbal supplements, teas etc that can help and while it won’t be an instant change, I find myself eagerly anticipating having my time and my body to myself a little.  He’s right, I admit it: I AM over it. I am officially done with pumping.

Of course, as with many of the things that are happening in this journey right now, it’s bittersweet. Once I am done supplying milk, the physical part is officially over. After this, it’s just a matter of moving on and maintaining a relationship with a beautiful new family that we had a hand in creating. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that I will carry this experience with me forever. It’s shaped me/us and changed our lives immeasurably. I’ll never be over that.


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