Ask Judy: Should I Wean Myself From Pumping?

Hi Judy, my daughter just turned one and is still breastfeeding — yay! She’s eating solids three times a day, and taking water and a little breastmilk from a sippy cup.

I’m still pumping at work, but I wondered whether I should “pump wean” — I just started a new job, and unlike my old job, it’s a real hassle to pump at this place, and my daughter is really a comfort nurser now — I don’t think she’s getting nearly what she used to, because I’ve noticed a drop in my pumping production.

My concerns are this:
* Is she at an age and stage that it would be OK to just comfort nurse. She will always take a breast if offered, but only really NEEDS it at bedtime and in the night. I just don’t want to unintentionally push her into complete weaning by dropping the pumping.
* What should I be giving her in place of breastmilk for fluids — I’ve heard conflicting things about cow’s milk, even after one year, and I don’t want her to get addicted to juice and drink her calories. Is water enough?
* How do you recommend going about pump weaning, if it’s OK to do that now.
* Will I still have enough of a supply to keep her interested and comforted when I’m home and able to breastfeed her (about 3-5 times in 24 hours).

Any help is always appreciated!!

Hi Krista,
Congratulations on making it to one year breastfeeding your daughter! That is an incredible milestone! You should feel very proud. Your daughter is one lucky little lady!

As far as weaning from pumping – it is really up to you. From your description, it sounds like that would make your time at work a lot more pleasant and it doesn’t sound like you need a lot of breastmilk while you are away from your daughter, so weaning yourself off of your pump is probably the next logical step.

I will try to address all of your concerns. First of all, you have been breastfeeding for a year now, so you likely have a very strong, well-established milk supply. Weaning from your pump should not affect your ability to meet your daughter’s needs. Breastmilk product is a supply and demand system – so if you stop some of the demand by not pumping, your supply will likely decrease – but as I mentioned above, you have a well-established supply now and it should bounce back whenever you need it to – if the need arises. You can continue to nurse on demand whenever you and your daughter are together. This means on days off from work (weekends, holidays, vacation) you can nurse even during the times when you are normally at work – your body will make milk whenever it is “asked” to do so – so don’t worry about only nursing during times when you would normally be at home.

To wean yourself from your pump, gradually decrease the amount you are pumping at work. If you are pumping three times per day now, then decrease to two times per day for one week and then decrease to one time per day for one week and finally eliminate the pumping at work all-together. Slowly decreasing your pumping sessions will help to avoid any uncomfortable engorgement or plugged ducts that might happen with sudden weaning. Your body is an amazing thing and it will continue to make milk during the times that your daughter normally nurses – and it will make milk on demand anytime she nurses – even if it isn’t a “normal” time.

Once you stop pumping at work, you may notice that you are a bit uncomfortable on Monday’s after being with your daughter and nursing on demand over the weekend. So you can hand-express if needed to relieve any engorgement. Give it a few weeks and this level of discomfort will decrease over time. In addition, you will want to increase your fluid intake on Fridays in preparation for the weekend so that your body can make the additional milk it will need while you and your daughter are together over the weekend. If possible try to nurse every morning before you leave for work to help relieve any engorgement and when you return home. You will be amazed at how quickly your body will adjust to it’s new routine!

For milk substitutes, again much of this is personal preference, but I am a strong believer that humans do not need any breastmilk substitute once they wean. If you think about it, we are the only mammals to offer any kind of breastmilk substitute to our young after weaning. The only reason to drink cows milk at all is for the calcium – so as long as you feed your daughter a diet rich in calcium or give her a multivitamin, then you don’t need to replace your breastmilk with cows milk. My son would never drink anything except my breastmilk and once he got older (15-18 months) he would only take it direct from the source – and refused to even take my milk out of a cup anymore. We also didn’t want him drinking a lot of sugar with fruit juices, so we opted for just water. He drinks a cup of water with every meal and with snacks and he actually will ask for water instead of juice often when given the option. When we do give him juice, we usually water it down by mixing it with water to reduce the amount of sugar he is getting. We tried rice milk, soy milk and cows milk of all kinds and he just didn’t like any of them – so we didn’t see any need to push them on him. He will eat cereal with milk and he will drink chocolate milk if I let him, but other than that, he gets water as his primary source of fluids. You can try rice milk and if you decide to use cows milk, I highly recommend the organic kind as there are any different hormones found in cows milk – which have been implicated in many developmental changes, especially in little girls.

As far as comfort nursing goes – that is a completely normal part of nursing your baby until they are ready to wean. Babies/toddlers nurse for many different reasons – only one of which is nutrition. There are many other reasons to nurse including when they get hurt, when they miss you, when they are bored, when they are tired, and just because. Don’t worry about comfort nursing being a problem. Offer your breast as much as you would like and let her ask as much as she would like. You will both find your rhythm, and weaning will happen slowly and gradually as she gets older.

Thanks for writing in with your question, Krista and please visit again and let us know how everything turns out for you.

Did you wean yourself from pumping at work prior to your child weaning from breastfeeding? What tips worked for you? Please share your tips and tricks with Krista by leaving a comment on this post.

1 comment to Ask Judy: Should I Wean Myself From Pumping?

  • I didn’t have a full-time job when my girls were young, so I can’t speak to the pumping at work issue, but in general, I found that as we dropped feedings, my supply just adjusted naturally. I never really experienced overfull breasts or a lack of supply when they wanted it (twins, by the way). Supply in the toddler years was a very different experience from the infant stage. As you said, the supply was well established, and my body seemed to know what to do: the miracle of breastfeeding!


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