Eight weeks and two days. That was when I officially stopped trying to breastfeed my older kids. And that was when I stopped pumping for Ellie.
I first seriously considered stopping about two weeks ago, when my supply officially stopped keeping up and she had her first full formula feed in more than a month. Seeing the color of formula, not a breastmilk combo, in that syringe pump sent me into an initial wave of tears and had me stepping back. It was so demoralizing to spend so much time and effort on pumping when it wasn’t even enough. Eight times a day, 30 minutes at a time, for that scant two ounces, maybe two-and-a-half on a good day. But sheer volume alone wasn’t quite enough to get me to stop. I backed off for a day or so, then stepped back in. I wanted to keep going, even if it wasn’t 100% of her nutrition.
But the final death knell for pumping was the combination of our return to the Big Hospital and the big kids being on spring break. Spending that much time attached to the pump went from “challenging” to “ludicrous.” It stopped making sense. I was taking literally hours away from all three of my kids to do it, and was being rewarded with a slowly dwindling supply, anyways.
One of the things that kept me going during previous periods of doubt (oh, and I’ve had plenty in the last two months), was when I asked myself a simple question. If you stop now, will you be able to say, “I did my best?” Before, I never felt like I could say yes to that question. But today, I’m done with the tears. I’m disappointed, for sure, for a lot of reasons. But I’m done. I did my best.
Stopping isn’t too hard when you never had a gangbusters supply to begin with. I stretched the every-three-hours schedule to every four. Four became five, then six, then seven. Last week was crazy enough that extending the intervals between pumping sessions happened pretty naturally – once I stopped letting my pumping schedule dictate everything else, it took a dramatic backseat to the rest of my life.
I didn’t bother with the “pump just for comfort” advice that everyone gives, because I knew the supply would dry up quickly enough on its own. I’d go six hours, then pump for 35 minutes and still only get 2.5oz. I last pumped at 10PM on Sunday and got a single ounce. It is noon on Monday and I’m not in pain. I’m done.
I’ve saved about a day’s worth in the freezer to give to her next week, for her first feeds post-surgery (yes, she’s having surgery next Monday, more on that soon). I want her to have the stuff that’s easier to digest. But I knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep pumping until then. It was time.
So much for the hooter hiders I made. So much for the unused nursing pillow in the closet. So much for my preparation and determination and dreams of breastfeeding redemption. Life had other plans. Ellie had other needs. So it goes.
I lasted the exact same number of days. I’m even publishing this post on her two-month birthday, just like I did three and a half years ago. This time is different for a hundred reasons, but for one, I’m not beating myself up about it. I did my best. I tried again. I’m done.