I Packed Up the Pump – For Both of Us

I Packed Up the Pump - For Both of Us: It's a hard decision to stop pumping or breastfeeding but sometimes it's what best for you and your baby.
I packed up the pump. Well, pumps, because I’ve tried everything to build my supply. But they are packed up, along with all of the gadgets and accessories. The nursing bras. The organic boob goop. It’s all packed up, because I needed to make that decision for us.

I pumped for 200 days.

I know that’s not much, in momland. But for us, it was enough. When you were first born, I pumped ’round the clock; I did my best to hit the prescribed 8-10 pumping sessions after whatever nursing you would do to establish my milk supply. It didn’t work. We spent most of your first week with the lactation consultant; we ruled out thyroid issues, diabetes, etc.


We tried it all.

Nipple shields, power pumping, SNS (supplemental nursing system) on my breast and then taped to our fingers so you wouldn’t get dreaded nipple confusion, and then, finally, a bottle. I fed you what I could, whether at my breast or after hours of pumping, to provide you with as much breastmilk as I could.


Within days of becoming your mom, I felt my first and (to this point) greatest failure: I could not feed you on my own. And it feels like it will take forever for me to forgive myself for it.


I still sometimes feel shame when I mix you a bottle.

“Fed is best” echoes through my head. I know. I feel twinges of something – jealousy, remorse, disappointment – whenever I watch someone nurse, say, wandering around in a park with a baby in a carrier. And I know that I do not know that woman’s journey, or how hard she has worked to sustain breastfeeding. But still, I feel the twinge. I always wonder if I tried hard enough. I probably always will.


You are healthy, strong, and amazing.

And for that, I am eternally grateful. I would remind myself of gratitude every time I wrestled with the pump, and yielded a measly 60/30/15/10 ml. Your dad encouraged me, applauded me, and tried to help me forgive myself for my body’s lack of cooperation. And, as he watched me cry over and over again, supported me by telling me that every drop I gave you was beneficial and that I could and should stop whenever I was ready.


And, sometime last week, I guess I decided I was ready.

You stopped nursing altogether when we introduced solid food (and oh, how you love food), yet I persisted in my pumping for well over a month. I know it would be best if you could have my milk until 12 months. And most days, I felt like I could keep going, even for a few ounces.

But as my already low supply dwindled and I started to count the seconds until I returned to work and you started daycare, I watched the minutes tick by that it took to get 10 ml. And I decided that that sip, which took 20 minutes to pull from my body, was not worth 20 minutes of playing with you. 20 minutes of giggling with you. 20 minutes of singing “Yellow Submarine” over and over again to calm you to sleep.


I pumped for 200 days, even though I was encouraged to consider stopping after 10.

Maybe someday soon I will believe it when I say I tried hard enough. Maybe I will stop replaying all the places where I think I went wrong, and just accept that my body couldn’t do this part of motherhood, but the most important part was it gave me you.


If I am honest, I feel relief.

Every time I pumped for the last few weeks, I anxiously watched the meager drops collect in the cups, and beat myself up for the diminishing amounts. I feel liberated, that we can leave for hours and not worry about a pumping schedule. That I can wake up and just play with you. That I can go to bed after we’ve said goodnight to you. That I do not need to haul the machinery back and forth to work. And with that relief comes a bit of guilt, as I tell myself I should probably not relish in this liberation. No need to momshame, folks. I’ve got that under control myself.


But you know what? To hell with it.

Just as I am going to try to embrace your foray into daycare and my return to work and other parts of my adult life, I am going to try to not let the guilt win. I have done my best for you, little one, and I will always do that. And doing my best for you right now means bidding adieu to the pump and the momguilt, and spending that time on you, sweet babe.


Related: I Flunked Breastfeeding

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  • Honey, you need to forgive yourself! There is nothing you did wrong and you did go above and beyond to bf your little one!
    I had low supply and was given wrong advice so I gave formula early on (that’s what I need to forgive myself for) and then I tried to cut it out gradually with SNS, I took everything I could (gained 10kilos from domperidome). I didn’t happen so I kept supplementing. At 12 months I gave her fresh goat milk and we still bf at 21 months. I know it’s really a small amount of milk but I keep at it. I have a very supporting husband like yours!

  • You did great. You did the best you could and that was a lot better than you give yourself credit for. Well done for keeping up the pump as long as you did.

  • Thank you so much for the courage it took to write and share your story. I cried when I read it, because my story is so similar. I just couldn’t make enough milk, no matter what I did. And I still feel like a failure at one of life’s most important jobs. But it helped a little to know that I’m not alone. So… thank you. So much.

  • This post felt so true and familiar to me that I second guessed if I’d written it myself and forgot. Thank you for sharing. My son is 6 months old and I never was able to produce enough for him, despite trying everything I could find to increase my production. I pumped for 5 months before I realized I was spending over 2 hours a day to get a total of one or 1.5 measly ounces and I finally let it go. Still haven’t quite rid myself of the guilt, but I know I’ll get there. Best of luck to you and thanks again for sharing.

  • Thank you for this! This was my exact experience – the stress, the frustration, the guilt, the difficult decision and finally the relief…. and I decided to stop pumping for the exact same reason and I don’t regret it. I hope this post and all the supportive comments can assure and speak to a struggling new Mum in the future!

  • I am in tears, as this is very similar to my breastfeeding journey. Thank you for this. It has lifted a bit of that guilt for when I decide to put away the pump as well.

  • The guilt will go away. Before you know it, your sweet baby will be eating solid foods, drinking from a cup and the disappointment of not being able to pump and provide breastmilk will be a distant memory. I know because it happened to me too. My son was never able to breastfeed and I only made it about a month and half before I threw in the towel with pumping. It was hard. I cried so much out of sadness, guilt, and disappointment. But once it was over, I finally was able to spend that extra time just enjoying my little baby. After a while, it didn’t seem to matter anymore. He grew and continues to grow and strive. You’re doing great! FED is best!

    • I was just going to say this! I felt all of that too with my twins when I couldn’t breastfeed them like I had wanted to, I was so sad, disappointed, angry, jealous and I felt ashamed mixing them formula. But, now they are 4 and I’m not sad anymore I did what I could at the time and they lived and thrived off of the formula that I fed them! There will come a time you won’t feel sad anymore, hang in there! You did so so so amazing!!

  • It is ridiculous that you feel any guilt, you are a hero, pumping for so long and so much! Well done, enjoy going back to work and time with your little daughter.

  • You did more than I did. I had very low supply with my first two because of PCOS and insufficient glandular tissue. I tried to pump but just couldn’t bring myself to be as regimented with it as I should’ve been. You did amazing.

    IF you plan on another child and IF you try breastfeeding again (if in caps because I don’t want to assume either is true) it may be better next time. #1- you build breast tissue every pregnancy, so if that’s an issue that helps. Things that helped me be able to breastfeed my third and fourth babies: progesterone shots (natural progesterone) as soon as I found out I was pregnant, progesterone is what makes those breast changes in early pregnancy that lead to breastfeeding. Mine was low so I found a doc that was trained in the NaPro protocol.

    And I took metformin. Something only likely to help if you have PCOS and/or are insulin resistant. I also took Goat’s rue after 36 weeks pregnant, it’s also supposed to help build breast tissue. I wonder how if taking goat’s rue before getting pregnant would help, too? No idea.

    The last thing is I took domperidone.

    Whatever your future, it kind to yourself.

  • I love this post. I feel every word as my own truth as our breastfeeding journey was the same…i spent so much time pumping and trying to encourage my son to nurse from a body that wouldn’t produce.
    My baby is healthy and so happy and I know I did the best I could. And so did you. That is what matters.

  • You did amazing Mama! I totally know how you feel. I was hell bent on nursing exclusively with my first but as soon as he started loosing weight I knew I wasn’t giving him enough. He was fussy and crying a lot. I was heartbroken to give him formula but once I saw his mood improve and his weight go back up I knew I had to do whatever was best for him. We ended up breastfeeding and formula feeding and it worked out well for us. He’s now a healthy, strong 18 month old 🙂 You were able to give him your milk for as long as you could and that will definitely benefit him. That’s a big accomplishment and as his mom you know what’s best for your little one.

  • Thank you for this article. So many points really resonated with me. I know the “fed is best” phrase all too well and it’s frustrating because most people just don’t get it the feeling of failure and hopelessness. Solidarity sister!

  • I can’t love this enough! You basically described my journey….the guilt is strong, even though 10-15ml per pumping clearly would have starved my now 15m old to death, and almost did. I still feel twinges, they get easier with time but haven’t gone away yet.

  • You are incredible! I’ve had a very similar experience and I have been exclusively pumping for 10 weeks. And I know the feelings of guilt, jealousy and incompetence that you have felt. I know that you never get that warm and fuzzy feeling for your pump like you would nursing your child. And quite frankly exclusively pumping suuuucks. But it is a huge accomplishment. I am proud of you for keeping it up for 6 months! I am not sure i will make that far. My short term goal is 3. I wish you the best in your motherhood journey and I hope you know that you are amazing for everything you do for your baby and you will never regret following your heart. Xoxo

  • You are a warrior!!! 200 days IS a long time, even in momland. The extra time you can now devote to playing, cuddling, singing, etc, with your child is absolutely more important. And don’t forget time for you – sounds like you deserve to pat yourself on the back for a job well done. I raise a glass to you.

  • I feel like we are the same person! We did it all, up to the SNS taped to the finger and then the boob. I’m on month 3 and still feeling good about it- 200 days would be a great goal. Thanks for the post- made me feel less alone! Congrats on no more pumping- good riddance!! 🙂

  • I’m bawling because this brought up all my feelings of how I could not breastfeed from low supply to! You are a great mom and having a happy fed baby is more important than all that breast is best crap they push on us!

    I have to constantly remind myself that. I know how hard it is and if nothing else know what I (as well as so many other) are with you! Mom guilt is real, but we trief our hardest for our babies.

    Thank you for this post.

  • I quit after two rounds of mastitis and so so so many tears. As soon as the guilt went away and I saw how fine my baby was, and how much more SANE I was- we never looked back. Happy, healthy baby, and tons of time to snuggle!

  • You are a great Mom. You are doing the exact right thing for you and your baby. Fed is absolutely best. What has become a single minded focus on breastfeeding in our culture – accompanied by a cult of judgement and pressure is ridiculous – there are tragic stories of mothers who were so hellbent on breastfeeding that their child starved (of course that was the last thing these parents wanted but with these messages of breast is the only option it’s easy to see how this could happen). Don’t listen to it. Trust yourself and your instincts. Many of us were raised on formula and shockingly turned out ok. Your baby got the benefits for a solid 200 days and that is amazing and an accomplishment. I too pumped for about that long and your feelings resonate with the way I felt as well. You are amazing!!!

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