So, you’ve made it to your baby’s first birthday and you’re still breastfeeding – take a moment to applaud yourself for all the hard work you’ve done this past year! If you are a working mother, this past year has probably consisted of countless hours hooked up to your pump, something most women are eager to stop. Your child is probably now eating a wide range of solids and drinking other liquids, but as much as you would like to ditch the pump, you and your little one are not ready to wean completely from breastfeeding. The good news is you can wean from your pump without weaning your child. Here is my story!
I returned to work full time at just 6 weeks post partum, so I started out pumping twice per 8 hour work day. After about 3 months, I was able to drop down to one single session per day. I continued to pump daily until my daughter turned 12 mos. A few weeks after our big celebration, I was able to completely eliminate my daily pumping session. My daughter is now 20 months old, and we continue to breastfeed on demand whenever we are together on evenings, weekends, and the middle of the night. I’m happy to report that I have had no decrease in supply despite dropping my workday pumping session, which is probably the greatest concern a momma has when contemplating doing the same herself.
If you are looking to wean from the pump, but continue to breastfeed, you should work on eliminating only one session at a time. You can do this one of two ways. The first way is by shortening your pumping session by five minutes every few days until you are at zero. The second way is by pushing back your pump time by about a half an hour every few days, until you are at your next regularly scheduled feeding or pumping session. (http://kellymom.com/bf/pumpingmoms/pumping/weaning-from-pump/) No matter which method you choose, this is a process that should be done slowly so that you avoid leaking, plugged ducts, or mastitis. Be prepared for the process to take several weeks for each session that you intend to eliminate. Personally, I chose the second method. I pushed back my pumping time by 30 minutes every 2 or 3 days until I was down to the end of my work day. The first day I went to work without my pump was so liberating! It is a wonderful freedom to be able to continue to breastfeed my daughter without the nuisance of pumping.
After a year old, your child’s nutritional requirements can now be met with as little as 15 oz of breast milk in 24 hours (http://kellymom.com/ages/older-infant/ebf-benefits/), which you can easily provide in just a few nursing sessions per day. Your child will also eat solids and drink other liquids in your absence. Despite common advice, you do not have to offer cow’s milk if you don’t want to or if your child refuses it. (http://kckidsdoc.com/the-alterna-milks-cow%E2%80%99s-milk-alternatives-for-toddlers.html)
Remember, your milk is still perfectly suited for your child as they transition from a baby to a toddler. Your milk supply will adjust to the changes, and you will be able to nurse just fine when you’re together. You will also enjoy being liberated from your pump, while still knowing you’re providing the best for your child that you possibly can.
Heather McMackin is not only a working (now, pump free) mom, but she also serves as a Moderator on the Breastfeed Chicago’s Facebook Group!