Pumping: the end grows nearer

In the days leading up to Kaia’s first birthday, my milk supply suddenly decreased quite drastically without any warning. It had already plummeted a little in October once I had my first postpartum period, and then again in November when I went down to three pumps a day. Around her 1st birthday was when I planned to drop to two pumps per day, but when I realized the Thursday before that my body had its own plans for my milk supply, I decided to do it the day before her 1st birthday. What’s an extra day? I thought.

The drop was over 200ml, nearly overnight. When it happened one day, I thought it was just a fluke. But in reality, it was real… because it kept happening every single day after that. Now, I am lucky if I pump even 300ml in a day, and even that seems a bit of a stretch. I originally thought I would keep going until 15 months, so the 10th of March, but at this rate, if my supply keeps dwindling, I may just need to fully wean and hang up the pumps sooner than that. I can’t continue to pump for two hours a day and not even get eight ounces of breast milk total per day. I know she loves my milk, though. So that also is another reason I want to keep going. But if the numbers keep going down, it’s just too much time for too little return at this point, especially since she does not really need my milk anymore now that she’s over 1 year old.

Dropping down to two pumps per day is quite bittersweet. I worked so hard to get my supply up, and now to see it dropping so drastically in a short space of time really hurt. It’s like I could almost feel the pain in my boobs and my heart when I saw the numbers consistently stay so low, day after day. Granted, it was my choice to drop pumping sessions when I did, but that’s the issue with exclusive pumping: it feels like a constant love/hate relationship where you are really battling with just yourself. The emotional roller coaster continues, even at the end of the journey. Can’t I just keep going? Why can’t I be one of those mothers who breastfeeds until 2 years? Chris keeps trying to make fun of me, saying that the “udder isn’t working anymore” and “the cow isn’t keeping up.” It’s easy for him to make fun; he never put in the blood, sweat, and tears into this maddening process. He’s never pumped milk; no man really has. And even those women who nurse and have never pumped… they don’t get the sweat and toil that goes into this. Chris’s cousin’s wife, who breastfed (nursed) all three of her babies and pumped occasionally for overnight bottles — she told me that what I did was the most intense work of all forms of baby feeding. And her husband said, “Pumping — it’s so many bottles to wash, so many pump parts to clean all the time!” Yep. He sees it, at least as an observer.

I love knowing that my body had given my baby so much sustenance and more in the last year plus of her life. I am grateful for what my body allowed me to do and the food it provided my baby. But I also look forward to the day when I no longer need to pump any milk at all and have my body fully back to myself. I will admit, though: two pumps per day is so liberating compared to 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 pumps per day at the insane beginning. I may not even know what to do with myself and all this newfound free time as my nanny keeps making fun of me about. I may even put my Spectra breast pump on display in the apartment to remember my long, hard-fought journey to feeding my baby via exclusive pumping.

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