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Weaning from the Pump: Sarah & Emerson’s Story

Sarah’s story of grieving her pump

by Sarah Knavel

We battled low supply at the beginning of our breastfeeding journey. Starting when my son was three weeks old, my pump became Emerson’s twin. For two weeks until I met with Katie after seeing a different LC, I was a crazy, exhausted mama! With each feeding, I would breastfeed and then bottle feed whatever little bit I pumped the time before plus formula. Emerson would fall asleep with a full belly, and I would pump. This cycle took about one hour. When he was eating every two hours, I quickly became exhausted. In stepped Katie with her super hero cape! She helped me find balance between pumping to increase supply and working my body to complete exhaustion. I know Katie saved our breastfeeding relationship, and I am forever grateful for this.

I was determined to breastfeed! After having my birth not go as planned and feeling completely out of control, I did everything in my control to make our breastfeeding relationship be what I had dreamed it could be. Around three months, all of my hard work paid off. My supply had finally caught up to what my son needed. Actually, I even built up a freezer stash!

Somewhere along the way, I became slightly crazy about pumping. The pump went with me everywhere, like a second baby. I pumped so many different places: car, breastfeeding group, the mall, the movies, in work meetings… wherever I had to! This was my life and my crutch. Even when I had enough milk, I worried it wasn’t enough. After struggling with low supply in the beginning, I became a milk hoarder.

I would read on Pumpin’ Mamas’ Facebook group about moms who stopped pumping. They would talk about how excited they were as they approached one year and dumped the pump. When Emerson turned one, I was starting to see my supply dip as he weaned a few breastfeeding sessions and ate more solids. This totally freaked me out, so of course I added extra pumps and I called Katie. I met with Katie to talk about what to do with weaning and my supply–and, really, to deal with all the emotions that were raw remembering my birth experience and early breastfeeding problems. She was amazing with her support, her listening ear, and real feedback! I decided to take my first step in weaning by stopping all the supplements to increase supply: fenugreek, brewer’s yeast, flax seed, mother’s milk tea, and oatmeal. My supply dipped even more, but Emerson didn’t seem to care. He was transitioning to cow’s milk just fine, and he loved food. He was happy to have “mama milka” along with all of his other food and drink options.

It took me a long time to be ready to walk through the rest of my breastfeeding journey without my crutch. At 16 months, I started dropping pumping sessions. The first to go were the evening and weekend extra pumps. I really struggled with dropping these pumps because I knew they were helping to keep my supply where it was. I wasn’t ready to wean completely, and I didn’t know how a lower supply would change our relationship. I filled these pumping times with playing and connecting with Emerson. I loved not being connected to the pump while we played! He didn’t seem to notice or care that there was less milk. He continued to breastfeed six times a day, and I was happy with this!

Next came weaning the workday pumps. I dropped from three to two, and Emerson was totally fine with less milk. I had a hard time watching the milk in the bottles get less and less. Sometimes I would cry over worrying if Em would wean before I was ready; other times I would grieve the early struggles and work that went into the low supply battle. I let my feelings come as they would, and I would keep positive about the wonderful relationship that Emerson and I built through breastfeeding. Through it all, Emerson was happy to continue breastfeeding.

At 18 months I was down to one pump a day. I wasn’t getting much milk–maybe one ounce per pump. I knew it was about time to end the pumping chapter in our relationship. Emerson threw me a curve ball, though. He decided that he didn’t need his morning mama milka before I went to work. I was waking him up to breastfeed, and he would be cranky and tired. One day I decided to see what would happen if I didn’t wake him. He slept another hour, and was much happier for my husband when he woke up. While it broke my heart, I stopped waking him because he needed sleep more than mama milka. I still go into his room and watch him sleep for a few minutes before I leave in the morning. He is an angel and so perfect when he sleeps! It starts my day out right!

By 19 months I was getting half an ounce per pump; it was time to stop. Nineteen months was enough! I remember the last time I pumped. I thought, “Good job, mama! You did it! Goodbye, pump room!” I shed a few tears as I walked out of the room, but I also smiled knowing it would be okay.

At two years and two months, Emerson loves his mama milka! He nurses before bed, and it’s our special time to tell stories and sing. Sometimes he falls asleep, and sometimes I tell him, “Mama milka is all done tonight” and he lays in his crib holding my hand as he drifts off to sleep. I’m not sure exactly where our breastfeeding journey will end, but I am so glad we are where we are. I can actually say that whenever we wean completely, we will both be ready.

Thank you, Katie, for the amazing community of support you have built for every stage of breastfeeding! I can’t imagine experiencing breastfeeding without having Balanced Breastfeeding! I have leaned on these amazing women throughout our journey. Even without me going into the details of this emotional experience, these mamas know exactly where I’m coming from. They have either been there, too, or are there with me. I can feel their love and support coming through the Internet and wrapping their arms around me. It is my honor and privilege to be a member of the Balanced Breastfeeding community. As a mentor, I have the opportunity to give back a bit of what has been given to me. Thank you, Katie for all you do! You truly are a super hero!

Click here to register for the upcoming Weaning Gracefully Live course.