All Dried Up – How to stop producing breast milk as an exclusive pumper

All Dried Up – How to stop producing breast milk as an exclusive pumper
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All Dried Up – How to stop producing breast milk when you are an exclusive pumper

There are so many tips for weaning your baby off breast milk when they nurse, but what about those of us who don’t nurse? Sure, the mouth to boob connection between a mother and her child is what can make weaning so difficult. Nursing is a pacifier, a comfort, a bond, and this can be a very tough time on mommy and baby emotionally.

Although my child is well accustomed to a bottle and has had formula throughout his 8 months of life, there is still a bond and an emotional attachment to pumping and feeding my child breast milk for ME.

how to stop producing breast milk as an exclusive pumper

I have been pumping at least 5 times a day since Zay was only a month old. I pumped at work, on vacation, at the airport, in the car, anywhere and everywhere. When Zay was about 7 months old, I came down with a terrible stomach virus that dropped my supply down to 3.2 oz worth of expressed breast milk in a 24 hour time period. THREE POINT TWO OUNCES. That is less than half of a single bottle that Zay receives a day and at the time he was drinking 4 bottles a day. So, crap. I was devasted that might be the beginning of the end of my breastfeeding journey. I was in tears every time I pumped out only a few drops. I wasn’t ready to stop yet and no one around me understood why I was upset. “But you’ve done so good up to now, it’s not a big deal.” “He’s been drinking breast milk for 7 months, that’s so much longer than most babies.” Well I was upset because I felt like my body was battling my heart, I felt betrayed and I felt like a failure.

My point of telling you this is NOT to make you feel like a failure if you feed your child formula at any point in their infancy, it is to help you know that if you feel or felt the same way I did, that you’re not alone and these are normal emotions. You are not crazy for feeling crazy, that’s your hormones talking.

But, back to the point. I was fortunate to regain some of my supply back after that virus thanks to a pretty delicious boobie smoothie and some other supply increasing activities, but still not enough for a full day’s serving for my son. I continued to pump for a month and express around 13-15 oz daily. At this point, I decided pumping was more of a hassle and a frustration than just giving my son formula. So when my son was exactly 8 months old, I decided I was ready to begin the weaning process.

Now I call it weaning because I gradually stopped. I did not cold turkey this process and I am so happy I didn’t, because even a gradual change affected me and my body drastically.

So how did I do it? It’s not hard, but the emotions are!

  1. I went from 5 pumping sessions every day down to 3.
    I cut out my mid morning and mid afternoon sessions and pumped when I first woke up, at lunch and when I went to bed. I did this for about 3 days.
  2. I shortened my 3 sessions from 20 minutes down to 10-12
  3. I dropped my lunch session 
  4. I dropped my before bed session 
  5. I finally dropped my morning session
    For three days after dropping this session, I was extremely sore and slightly engorged. My biggest piece of advice is don’t try to self express to release the pressure. That only made me produce more and prolonged my pain.

Cabbage leaves applied to your breasts have been known to help stop breast milk supply. I didn’t use any drugs or lotions or leaves to stop producing, I just slowly cut back my demand and the supply followed suit.

My attitude spiked around Day 2 of Step 3, so be conscious of any hormonal shifts in behavior you might experience. Let those close to you know and just be mindful. I also want you to embrace whatever emotions you may be experiencing. It’s ok not be 100% confident in your decision or to second guess yourself after it’s all said and done. Know that you thought about this when you were rational (lol) and that you’ve made this call for the right reasons, no matter what those reasons were.

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27 thoughts on “All Dried Up – How to stop producing breast milk as an exclusive pumper”

  • Great honest process breakdown and I’m sure it will be helpful to those there right now! I think Wyatt and Zaylen might be the same age! Wyatt is 1/23/15. I appreciate the commentary regarding your emotions as you decreased sessions… my experience was similar in that I was just not fun to be around and even shorter fused! It’s nice to hear that is not uncommon despite me feeling like I must have been seen as a monster to some! Even worse than during pregnancy! My hormones were WAY worse from 0-3 months after the boys were born. Ha! Ha!

    • Yes, they are! Zaylen is 1/30/2015. How exciting that we have little ones so close in age. It makes sharing these milestones and obstacles so much more relatable. Even though I say don’t feel crazy, I often times feel this way. The amount of pressure we put on ourselves to be perfect mothers all the time is honestly overwhelming. I’m glad I’m not alone and can share my journey with you <3

      • I thought the math might add up just about right! 😉 I feel crazy ALL. THE. TIME. I’m constantly shaking my head at moms who are NOT supportive of all other moms, regardless of their differing crazy. We should all just be one Championship Team! Can’t wait to see what you write next! I’m sure I’ll be right there in that same boat and laughing over here about the similarities 😉

  • Great job mama! I only pumped/nursed for 7 months. I work long hours and was only able to squeeze in 10-15 minute pump sessions at work then most of my pumping was done through the night to increase supply. Basically I switched day and night. It got to a point when I was arriving to work and parking and not remembering how I got there because I was so exhausted. So after having a meltdown and literally a verbal altercation between my heart and my mind LOL, I have decided that it was time to slowly cut back. My coworkers were making fun of me about the cabbage leaves but it literally saved me. It WORKS!

    • Ahh I don’t know what I would do if I was still waking up throughout the night to pump! I definitely pumped the most in the wee-mornign hours, thanks to the increased hormones at that time of the day, but when it is just me and little man, mama needs her sleep! Props to you for doing what you had to to continue your pumping journey, it is so much harder than I think people realize.

  • I wish I had this three years ago with my first son! No one told me about the hormone fluctuations so I had no idea what was going on! Pumping was what kept me from feeling guilty about giving him formula, but I had to stop because we were doing a cross-country move. Moving + extra mommy guilt + crazy hormones = a rough time for this momma! Yay you for sticking with it this long!

  • The cabbage thing is interesting. =) The key is really to slowly reduce the number of pumps. The same principle applies for breastfeeding moms. We slowly reduce the number of times we breastfeed the baby. =)

  • I was an exclusive pumper, also…. With my first she had bm for almost a year… my second, I just didn’t have the time to be as disciplined (and I felt like a crazy person) so I weaned at 6 months. I followed many of the same steps you did- it took about a month to dry it up- but overall successful. My methods were pretty much trial and error because of a lack of resources. Thank you for sharing!

  • I never thought about this side of pumping before, especially exclusively pumping. I went through a bout like that when I was sick and my supply dropped, so I totally get that part of it and I pumped a work too, so I get that as well, but in both cases with my kids I went back to nursing and then they self weaned. So its interesting to hear this side of it. Thanks for sharing it.

  • I love your honesty and this completely relates to me right now. After 2 daughters who wouldn’t breastfeed (I pumped for 4-5 months with each before I dried up), I had my son and he’s been a nurser for the past 18 months now! Exclusively. No bottles at all even when my husband would try.
    Well 2 weeks ago I went on a blog trip for 4 days. My first trip away from my son… EVER! I was hand expressing while gone but my body knew it wasn’t the same and by day 3 I was practically empty and when I would try to express nothing would come out!

    When I came home my son honestly hated me. He wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. I tried nursing him over and over and he would scream bloody murder. I felt like a complete failure and that I hurt his feelings. When I would manage to get him on the breast he would suck for 2 seconds then scream and run away. I’m assuming because I wasn’t letting down as quickly and he didn’t want to try a bit harder.

    After 4 days he finally settled down and tried. He got a little bit and a little more later on in the day and a little more the next day. Now 2 weeks later, my right breast (which was my over producer) really isn’t giving anything but my left side gives all he needs and we’re back to our regular schedule of 3-4 times a day.

    My point is that I completely understand where you’re coming from. Everyone was telling me that we made it so far and that it was okay but I knew it wasn’t. It was my fault he stopped and it hurt me so bad that I forcefully weaned him instead of him doing it on his own. Like I said, we’re back to normal now but those were the worst 4 days ever.

  • Now that’s a problem I never would have had, because I never was successful at pumping even when I was producing plenty of milk and needed to because I was hospitalized. But that looks like a great plan that will be as helpful to others as it was to you.

  • When my kids were born, we were all over the place with breastfeeding. With #1, my ducts were blocked, so I had to chose formula. With #2 I was able to breastfeed for 6 months and then my milk dried up. Baby #3 was FTT and could not latch. So, pumping was not much of an issue for me. Whew. That was like a novel.

  • Is it possible to miss the bonding time I experienced with each child when I breastfed. Man I miss it. My kids are older but that’s what I did when my kids were ready to wean. One did it at 1 and one did it at 7 months. But they are all perfectly healthy kids 8 years later! Miss that baby stage.

  • Wonderful post! Bought back a lot of memories. Our oldest wouldn’t latch on so i was an exclusive pumper for both kids. It was for sure a process weening off. Almost more painful then the births them selfs.

    Brooke

  • I never thought about what an exclusive pumping mom would need to go through to dry up like this. This is amazing advice for any mom that is done nursing by choice or other causes. It can be a painful process to go through.

  • Hormones can be a real *itch, can’t they? I’m glad you figured out what worked for you (and I love the boobie smoothie recipe, I’ll share that with my postnatal yoga classes!) 🙂

  • I cannot imagine how hard it is to be an exclusive pumper. Congratulations for lasting so long! I haven’t worked outside the home, so my babies were all exclusively nursed. With my kids, it was a gradual weaning over a long period of time, so that I never felt engorgement. My youngest is still nursing at 5 years old, but just once a night now.

  • Exclusive pumping is sooo very hard and unless you have been there one can not realize the commitment it takes on both the body, your time, and your mind. When my daughter was in the NICU I was pumping 3x a day for 3 months straight. It literally was the bane of my existence. Luckily, after 3 months I was able to exclusively nurse her but I totally appreciate pumpers soooo much more now. Thank you so much for your honesty!

  • I haven’t had kids yet but your post gave me great insight! Motherhood is no joke, and it’s great to be informed through articles like this. I’ll definitely take note of your points!

  • I know this can be a tough dilemma for moms. Breastfeeding can be a lot of work and not only are there hurdles to jump when getting going, but then nature pulls a fast one and you need help with stopping the flow sometimes too! Out of my 3 kids I did not have this issue but know many who have.

  • I was young when I had my son and didn’t really know all the benefits of breastfeeding… However that’s for another day. I can understand how this can be a mother. I can’t relate and wish I could but I can say if I ever have another child I will have this bookmarked for that moment. Thank you for sharing. <3

  • What a very interesting post! I didn’t even know there was an option to wean oneself out of pumping. Thank you for your insight and generously sharing your story. I have four new mom friends who gave birth this year and they are all breastfeeding. I would love to share your post with them.

  • Thank you for this post. I am a first time mom and my son is 10 months old and I have been exclusively pumping. I’ve never talked to a mom that has only pumped. (SO EXTRA THANK YOU!)

    After 10 months of being home I have to go back to work so I’m trying to stop pumping because it’s getting way to much!
    The last couple of days I’ve significantly slowed down the number of times I’ve pumped. (From about 7 times a day to 3) on the third day of this I woke up with old sores, my body aches everywhere, have a sore throat and a fever. Do you think there is any correlation?

    • I don’t think there is a correlation but I’m not a doctor or a nurse so I honestly don’t know! I never experienced any of these symptoms so it may just be a coincidence in timing. Hope you feel better soon!

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