Knowing When To Stop Pumping

Without a doubt, the hardest part of both my breastfeeding journeys has not been what you might expect. It has not been those initial weeks where you and baby are still figuring each other out. It has not been managing the hunger that comes with nursing. It has not been cracked nipples, mastitis, or engorgement.

It wasn’t even going back to work.

It’s knowing when to stop pumping. It’s knowing the moment that it isn’t worth it anymore, and grappling with the crushing disappointment of not hitting your goal. It’s struggling to explain the despair you feel knowing you can’t reach it, knowing that there is no way you can beat the mountain of a challenge ahead of you, knowing that you’ve tried everything you can think of, everything you’ve researched. You’ve tried eating more, sleeping more, drinking more water. Knowing you’ve even tried random old wives’ tales, countless supplements, power pumping and more. Knowing that the odds of getting to your goal are just so stacked against you there is no feasible way to get there. It’s being two months short of hitting your goal of one year.

It’s heartbreaking.

It’s heartbreaking in a way you can’t easily explain. It’s feeling like you’ve failed at the most basic part of being a mom. In the moment, none of the accomplishments so far matter. In the moment, all you can think about is when is the breaking point. When to finally throw in the towel, when to give up.

I’ve been living those moments for the past few weeks, as I watched my daily pump sessions at work produce less and less milk. I’ve been living in a constant state of battling with myself, of wishing I had done more. I’ve been thinking how I should have kept pumping at night and on weekends. I should have been more consistent on supplements. I shouldn’t have been away from Ella when it wasn’t for work. Thinking that maybe I can still do it – but then knowing there is just no way. I’ve been looking at what I’m pumping each day, at my dwindling freezer stash, and I know. I know without a doubt there is absolutely no way I can make it to my goal of a year of exclusive breast milk.

I know, logically, things will be okay. I went through the same thing with Abbie, just months earlier – and she was supplemented from the start. Just one glance at her reassures me that Ella is going to be just fine. I am thankful for formula, thankful for the miracle that it is, and for how many babies it has helped. But right now, I’m not ready for logic. Right now, I want to grieve. I am grieving the loss of a goal I really wanted to hit, something that was so important to me. This is the beginning of the end, and I know it.

So I don’t want to hear “she’ll be fine.” I don’t want to hear “look how well you did.” I am not ready for that. I know in the future, I will be so proud of these past ten months. I know, in the future I will give praise to fellow moms for how hard they worked, and that however they choose to feed their babies is okay. I know in the future, I will be fine, Ella will be fine, and that our family will be happier for this – that my sanity and well-being are arguably more important than this goal. That pumping for nearly 2 hours a day for 4 ounces – it just isn’t worth it anymore.

But right now? I’m not ready. Right now, all I want to hear is support and acknowledgment. I want to hear “I’m sorry, that sucks. I know that was really important to you and you wanted to make it to a year.”

Because Ella had formula for the first time today, and right now – this just sucks.

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6 Comments

  1. September 7, 2017 / 5:26 pm

    I understand it so well. I can only dream to make it even close to 10 months with my little one.

    But I know what you mean. I have grieved since I had to supplement. I have grieved for 6 long weeks since she was born. It’s ok to take time to do it. To this day a part of me shatters a bit when I reach for the formula. It’s what she needs though, so I brave on. You did wonderfully well – but as you said – take your time to grieve and to come to terms with this change. It makes a world of a difference to move on after you do.

    Stay strong!

    • Jess
      Author
      September 12, 2017 / 11:21 am

      Thank you so much for your kind words! It’s so hard to understand unless you’re in it. I’m thankful for the time we did have nursing and I know I’ll look back and have fond memories of that time.

  2. Ariane
    September 8, 2017 / 5:46 pm

    Aw, hugs! You’re doing a great job!

    • Jess
      Author
      September 12, 2017 / 11:22 am

      Thank you!

  3. Nan
    September 11, 2017 / 3:14 pm

    Ugh, I’m just reading this and I’m SO SO sorry lady. It absolutely sucks!! I’m right there with you too Gracie is 9mos and I’m just praying that I can try to keep going as long as possible because she absolutely hates formula & often refuses it. I’ve been trying to mix a little formula with what breastmilk I have so that I change her palate. Makes it even more of a sore spot when I think that she’s probably my last. There probably won’t be a third, so this is the last of it. It feels finite. Sending hugs & kisses from one mama who gets it to another. xx

    • Jess
      Author
      September 12, 2017 / 11:24 am

      So, so hard. I am thankful I got this far and Ella is slowly getting used to the formula so I think we’ll be okay – we’ve just had to be consistent with it… which is of course tanking my supply even more since I’m replacing weekend feedings with bottles and pumping. I know what you mean about it possibly being the last – we’re in that weird limbo where we don’t know if Ella is our last or not, so it’s just a weird spot. Hugs, mama! Hope you can keep it up!