How to stop…?

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The time has come.  Babybum is one year old and, quite frankly, I’ve had enough.  I can’t quite believe that I’ve kept this up for a whole year but, I have and I still believe that, for me, it was the right thing to do.  My pumping schedule has been somewhat erratic of late.  I’ve been pumping three times a day and, seeing as I’ve had no pain, I’ve kind of let a time schedule go by the wayside.  Around the time of Babybum’s birthday, i kept forgetting to pump - yes, FORGETTING!  How?  I have no idea.  One morning I only remembered at 11 am when I was starting to get a little uncomfortable.  Yesterday, having forgotton my middle of the afternoon pump, I decided to let it go and see whether  a twice a day schedule would work.  By 9pm I was very uncomfortable with perturbing, mishapen lumps in my boobs - ouch.  I shan’t be doing that again… at least not for a while.

I’ve been reducing the time I pump for  and have been aiming to express no more than 190 mls in each session.  I’ve been doing that for a week now.  The first thing that happened was that my periods returned with a vengeance.  Oh joy.  However, I still seem to be producing the same amount of milk despite not emptying.  I suppose I shall just have to keep going for a while and hope that it will start to dwindle.

Now I’ve made the decision to stop, I just want it over and done with and pumping has started to irritate me and get me down again.  It’s cold now and it reminds me of how dire it was in those very early days to keep having to whip your clothes off and get hooked up when it was cold and dark and dank.  

Bring on the end.  Bring it on. Please.

Dropping to 3x a Day

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Well, I took the plunge and did this nearly a fortnight ago and so far so good.  I’m now pumping at about 7am, about 3pm and then around 11pm.  It’s so great!  The best bit (and I know I could have done this sooner) is not pumping in bed anymore.  I used to take the pump up with me and pump whilst sitting in bed. Stupid, stupid habit.  The freedom is superb.  

My supply has dropped a little but it doesn’t really matter because Babybum is beginning to reduce her intake, preferring fruit and toast.  I’m not freezing any at the moment and, deep breath here, am actually throwing milk down the plug hole.  My freezer is full of milk and Babybum is already approaching 11 months so I just don’t see the point.

I’m starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel but am also beginning to get to grips with the feelings I have about actually completely weaning myself from the pump.  Hmm… this is a strange one:  I hate pumping yet I’m saddened by the thought of stopping (that mere thought frequently brings me to tears).  Perplexing. 

Lactation Specialist’s Advice

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I did finally, after many phone calls and much hassling, managed to speak to a lactation consultant (of sorts).  I hassled my health visiting team into sorting it out for me and sure enough, after saying how I needed support, a lady from down the county got back to me.  She had never encountered anyone who’d continued to pump for so long and was either impressed or asking herself what kind of a nutter I was (perhaps both).  I told her that there were actually quite a few of us doing this and that the web was really our only source of information.  

Her advice was based on an understanding of the differences between pumping and breastfeeding which was a relief to me.  She recommended that I don’t drop a further pump (go down to 3 times a day) but instead, start reducing the time spent at the pump.  It all works on supply and demand so, less time spent pumping produces less milk and so the weaning process begins.  

 

After so much moaning about lack of support, I’m slightly ashamed to say that I haven’t taken her advice - I’m too scared to have my supply drop like that.  However, I did feel so much better, knowing that there was somebody out there who could sort of understand what I was doing and why I was doing it.  Initially, she did question my motives, almost as if I’d chosen to do this (er, no) and I didn’t hold back in my criticism of most of the hospital midwives in Treliske I encountered in those crucial early days.  

Hanging Up The Horns

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So, I attended a breastfeeding group for the first time.  I finally plucked up the courage to go and armed my daughter with a couple of bottles and myself with a whole heap of witticisms and retorts to use if necessary.  Of course, no such cynical preparation was required.  The women I met were most friendly and genuinely interested in what I was doing.  

I went with the intention of picking someone’s brain about how to go about slowing down the pumping process.  If you are breastfeeding, your baby does that for you - demanding fewer feeds so your supply diminishes accordingly.  For full-time pumpers it is entirely up to you to wean yourself (and not the baby) from the pump.  For me, this is a terrifying desire: I want to be freed from the tie of the machine so much yet I am terrified that dropping one, two, three pumps will hit hard my milk supply. TBC

Storing Milk

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There appear to be mixed messages about this but I tend to go by the advice found here:

http://www.breastpumps.co.uk/acatalog/storage___expression.html

I keep milk in the fridge for perhaps, at the maximum, two days and frozen milk stays in the freezer for up to three months.  To defrost, I generally leave it in the fridge overnight. 

When I was pumping during the night, I invested in a cool bag and a couple of those freezable ice things  so I didn’t have to even get out of bed.  I know that would probably have the Health Visitor running screaming but, it worked for us - no tummy upsets for Babybum and no nocturnal fridge visits for me.

If I’m going out for the day, I generally take a supply of milk in the cool bag and that has worked just fine.  I’m not sure what I’d do f the weather was extremely hot but, I suppose you’re always pumping a fresh lot so you’d have to pump then feed.

I did read somewhere on the Interweb that fridging your milk makes it slightly less full of all those benefits.  I have never taken too much notice of that, though  I do make sure my daughter has one lot fresh from the pump every day.

Tints and Hips

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OK, so here are a few things to help exclusive expressing work.  I can’t verify the efficacy of all of them but some are tried and tested.

  1. During a pump, when the milk seems to dwindle (in my case after about 10 minutes), don’t stop - squeeze the breast slightly, not hard enough to induce pain, but enough to squeeze out a few drops.  Very often I find this is enough to stimulate a second letdown and sometimes even a third. 
  2. Gentle massage can help with initial let down and some people suggest using one of those microwave heat pads prior to pumping.
  3. Apparently, looking at your baby or, if not possible, looking at a photo of your baby can also help with let down.
  4. Buy a car adapter - one that runs from the cigarette lighter.  Pumping becomes less of a bind when you can go out for longer periods of time than 4 hours.
  5. Remember that your pump will run on batteries too - you don’t always need the mains adapter.
  6. Relax (if possible) - this really does help to establish productive letdown.
  7. Sitting forwards is the best position - let gravity help you!

 

How much?

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The way I handled the how much question was to demand feed so I don’t actually know for sure how much Babybum took over a day (she probably averaged 100mls per feed for the first 3 months but was feeding pretty frequently and erratically).  In the beginning it took me a while to get a bottle ahead of her and it was mighty stressful but we got there and now I’m nearly always three feeds ahead.

When bf, you have no idea how much your baby is getting so I try not to get hung up on the numbers just because the milk’s in a numbered bottle.  If Babybum finished a bottle, I always offered her another just to make sure she’d had enough.  The worst days were growth spurt days and I did have to defrost my tiny supply of frozen milk to make sure she had enough :(  I would advise anyone not to take any notice of how much is recommended for formula fed babies - it always seemed like loads to me.

I’ve learnt that as the baby gets older, the amount of milk they take tends to plateau but, at nearly six months, on two solid feeds a day, my little girl is still taking between 500-600 mls a day.  Apart from the odd hungry day, the amount she takes has remained about the same from about 3 months I think.

Pumping in Your Dreams

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‘Twas the night before Christmas

When all through the house

Not a creature was stirring

Not even a mouse…

except for a new mother and a whirring, bleepy sound accompanied by a steady ‘drip drip’. 

The night-time pump is a onerous task, there’s no denying it.  My daughter was sleeping through the night from when she was three or four weeks old (what a star!) so for me, night time pumps were particularly silly and a little bit lonely.  However, it seems that this session is one of the most important. Here’s what is written on this site:

http://www.breastfeedingmums.com/Help_Me_Breastfeed-17.htm

Prolactin (the milk producing hormone) levels reach a peak in the early hours of the morning. So it is not a good idea to give expressed milk at night. The reason for this is that breastmilk is made on supply and demand and night feeds are an important way of increasing your milk supply.

I have been told that the pumps aren’t as efficient at stimulating supply as a baby’s sucking therefore, though a breastfeeding mother whose baby sleeps through doesn’t have to get up to express, exclusive expressers should.  To be honest, I’m not sure that anyone knows this for certain (information is so scant) but I certainly didn’t want to test the theory and risk dwindling my supply.

I’ve now dropped the night session but I did keep it up for 5 months.  I stopped because, on a few occasions, I found I had switched off my alarm in my sleep.  On other occasions, I found myself nodding off at the pumps, sat upright with my head drooping lower and lower.  It was definitely time to give it up.

I didn’t find that my supply dropped too much - perhaps 30-40 mls over all.  This might be because I carried on night-pumping for long enough that my milk supply was well established. Who knows?  

 

Frequency of Pumping

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In the first week, I was told by a midwife to pump every four hours night and day in order to establish and maintain supply. However, according to women writing here: http://messageboards.ivillage.com/iv-ppexcluspump, the advice from lactation consultants in the States is to pump at least every 3 hours for the first 12 weeks - this gives your milk supply the chance to settle.  My supply is verging on the low side (about 30 fl oz per day) so perhaps this would have helped me… You can always freeze if you produce too much and, if you don’t produce enough, then don’t feel guilty about supplementing with formula (plus there are ways to boost your supply).

In summary then, oh no!  That’s the extent of it - every two  to three hours for the first 12 weeks at least.  It’s a nightmare really but, feel noble and remember why you’re doing it.  When you’ve been doing it for a couple of months, it just becomes ’something you do’ and there are ways to make yourself feel better - forums and chocolate being the two I find most helpful.

These days, six months in, I’m still pumping approximately every 4 hours.  I do now skip the night-time session and am still producing about the same amount of milk.  I can’t really find any advice on when to drop pumps.  I believe it’s dependent on your supply. If you have loads of the stuff then obviously you can afford to drop a pump or two but, if you’re like me and supply is on the scant side, then dropping a pump might not be such a good idea.  Up to you…