So as I alluded to in a recent post, we’ve been weaning. It’s certainly not what I thought we’d be doing at 8 months, but as I’ve learned with most everything in parenthood, you can only go with your gut and best intentions.
How did we end up here?
I still don’t know exactly. Supply has always been an issue from the beginning, but I had a pretty rigid 2-3 hour pump schedule and was doing about 28-30 ounces a day. As the weather started to get nicer, I still managed to pump the schedule, but once and a while would miss one pump session on Saturday/Sunday. I might dip for a day, but usually rebounded once I returned to work.
Right around the 7-month mark, I noticed over the course of a week that I was pumping about 5 oz. less than normal. I made an effort to check the normal things (water, protein, food, sleep, stress). Nothing was different. So I just kept on.
Day by day I kept losing ounces. Around 2 weeks later, I was at around half the normal amount. What did I do wrong!? I wish I could say that I was frantic, but I found myself somewhat resigned. I didn’t even consider consulting a lactation consultant. After struggling to build, maintain and feed Kaitlan exclusively with breastmilk (via pumping) for close to 5 months, I just felt burnt out. I didn’t want to fight anymore. I didn’t want to pump every two hours anymore. I wanted to live and enjoy my baby, my husband, the weather and life unattached to the box.
So I started reducing pumpings and have been pumping 3 times a day as my supply continues to drop off (currently at about 6 oz a day). It’s definitely an emotional roller coaster. Some days I have the urge to get my supply back, to not give up. Other days I relish my old bras fitting and finally not feeling like a dairy cow. Kaitlan’s been supplemented with formula on-and-off since I went back to work, so she’s oblivious to any of this.
This isn’t where I thought I’d be a year ago. A year ago I was reading Ina May and thinking I’d be breastfeeding and pumping at work for a year or more. Instead, I ended up exclusively pumping by 10 weeks and weaning at nearly 9 months.
I’ve come away feeling okay with my experience but with the opinion that there are some major holes in educating women about breastfeeding. Obviously breast is best, but most of us end up pumping, and a lot of us exclusively. Nothing in the major books or classes I took (and I wasn’t lazy in research) really talked about low supply (common), supplementing with formula (common), or exclusively pumping (common). Instead, we continue to romanticize the issue and tell women that it’s as easy as establishing a good latch within the first hour of birth and filling a few breast milk bags before you return to work.
I still plan to write a little more about how I build and maintained my supply for as long as I did, because if I can save some Googling for at least one person, it will have all paid off.