I’ve been “chasing the milk” for a while now. Since about November I’ve been pumping less and less each day – while a good day used to be pumping around 12-14 ounces during the workday (from 3 pumping sessions), that number was rapidly dropping.
This decline also coincided with my starting a new job, where not only am I not 100% comfortable in the designating “pumping room,” but I also had to shift my normal pumping schedule because the room is also used by another mom. Oh and, you know, fitting a few daily pumps in while also being new on the job wasn’t ideal.
Ok, let me back up a bit, as telling you what Baby H need per day will provide you with a little more context. Baby H eats 18 ounces via bottles between 8am-6pm while I am at work. I nurse her morning and evening. To meet her needs, I had been pumping 3 times a day at work plus a pump first thing in the morning. That could usually get me 18 ounces. To give us a little extra, I would always do morning pumps on Saturdays and Sundays to get an extra 10-12 ounces that we’d use during the week if I ever came up short.
This had been working until November, right around when Baby H was 7 months old and I changed jobs, as I described above. When I began pumping less I tried my best to boost my supply. I stayed extra hydrated. At my oatmeal for breakfast. I regularly took my More Milk Plus supplements. I tried to relax and think happy thoughts while pumping. And I just kept on telling myself I needed to make it another month. Another week. Another day.
Because of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays and other random vacation and sick days I took during November, December and early January, we were able to maintain feeding Baby H only breastmilk. Any day I was home with her was a day I was able to nurse so we weren’t reliant on milk for bottles. I’d begun only pumping twice a day at work because, quite frankly, I didn’t pump very much more with a third session, and eliminating one session helped me manage timing with work meetings.
But by mid-January, when Baby H turned 9 months, we were struggling to make it. I was lucky to pump 4 ounces during the work day and my “first thing in the morning pump” was only yielding 4-5 ounces (instead of 6). So we decided to regularly give Baby H formula. She’d had it a handful of times when she was smaller, but this was the first time we were making it a regular part of her diet.
At first formula was just one of her three daily bottles and I was trying to make up the rest. But one day I was at work pumping and seeing barely anything come out. And I started to wonder why I was driving myself crazy trying to do something that just wasn’t going to happen for me. Baby H had a fabulous 9 month run of exclusively being fed breastmilk. I knew I had wanted to make it 6 months, so 9 months was a huge personal achievement. And most importantly, Baby H has continued to be happy and healthy. Whether she receives formula or breastmilk or a combination of both, she’s doing great.
So with some advice from some fabulous moms I know, I decided to implement the following plan:
- I nurse Baby H morning and night, as always (I don’t want to give up that time with her).
- I pump once during the day at work to keep my body in “milk making mode” for morning/night nursings. I don’t worry about how much I pump during that time – all that matters is that I do pump.
- I leave my pump at work! (this is huge for me because I’ve been commuting on the train with my pump every day for 6 months!)
- Baby H receives all formula while I am at work, except for 1 bottle every few days when I have finally pumped enough between multiple work pump sessions.
- I rejoice in the newfound freedom this allows: I no longer lug around a pump, I can occasionally do things in the evenings (I couldn’t before because we never had enough milk in the fridge, so I always had to be home to nurse), I get to SLEEP IN on the weekends instead of trying to pump before Baby H gets up, and the stress of keeping up with demand is completely gone.
Even though so many happy, healthy babies are formula fed for all or some of their babyhood (including me!) I had a lot of guilt in the beginning of making these changes. I was mad at myself for not trying harder or giving up too soon. But I have finally been able to let those feelings go and just relax, because the decision to just let things go has made a world of different in my daily life. I’m happier. I no longer resent my pump or want to throw it off of a building. The anxiety of opening up my fridge and wondering how little milk we had has completely gone away. I am no longer “chasing the milk!”
And, most importantly, Baby H loves me for being me, not for how many ounces I can pump in 15 minutes flat! She’s getting so big, and I know she’ll only continue to grow and thrive with the formula.
Have you had a similar experience with trying to pump enough? How did you handle it?