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Breastfeeding Questions Answered

Ditching the Pump

By Amalah

Dear Amy,

I have a seven month old daughter, and she is a healthy, happy little chunk. She’s always been exclusively breastfed (nursed at home, bottles of EBM at daycare while I’m at work.) But I’d really love your take on two aspects of infant feeding that seem on a collision course for us: bottle striking and weaning.

My daughter has developed the delightful habit of REFUSING a bottle from me, or near me, or from my husband who I guess reminds her of me. Doesn’t matter when or where. (At daycare, or with my mother-in-law, she’s totally fine. No issue with bottles as long as I’m not around.)

But at seven months, I just feel done with breastfeeding. Actually that’s not fair – I’m done with PUMPING. I LOVE to breastfeed my babe. But my job is just so stressful already, and pumping has made the days combative and exhausting and difficult to navigate. I’m at a point where the unhappiness with pumping is interfering with my ability to relax and enjoy time with the baby it’s all for.

I’ve built up a significant stock of frozen milk (about a month’s worth), which makes me feel better about extending my daughter’s intake of breastmilk before switching to formula. Slowly I’ve dropped extra pumping sessions that were more for building a frozen stash than baby’s daily intake. So a couple of questions:

Am I a terrible mother for wanting to wean my baby before she’s ready? It seems clear she’s NOT ready, since she’s refusing bottles when there’s boob nearby. I feel selfish, and guilty, and like I’m just choosing my own convenience over her comfort.

But even if I get over that, how to handle a baby who won’t accept the bottle from me OR my husband? I’m afraid I’ll emotionally scar her, or (a lesser worry but still significant) throw our entire bedtime / nighttime sleep routine off because she’ll be unhappy and hungry at night.

Please help! And thank you!

Just so I’m clear:
– you’re done with pumping (totally understandable) but not breastfeeding;
– you’re fine switching your seven-month old to formula when the frozen stash runs out (totally practical);
– and, she’s fine taking a bottle at daycare or from a caretaker who is not you.
This is all fine!

It’d be one thing if you were talking about weaning her from breastmilk altogether, as…yeah, she needs to accept a bottle from SOMEONE in your household before you do that. But since you still love breastfeeding (and will probably love it MORE once you free yourself of the pumping obligation), I don’t see her selective bottle striking as being that big of a concern here. You nurse her when you’re home and available to nurse. She gets bottles of expressed breast milk (EBM) at daycare until that runs out, then switch to formula.

I did not pump the entire time I breastfed my babies either! I hated it!!! It was super necessary at first because I was prone to supply issues, but once our routine settled in I only pumped occasionally, like when I missed actual feedings (travel, nights out, etc.) and didn’t want to risk a supply drop. I didn’t pump to build a freezer stash and always supplemented with formula when I needed to. But I never considered “not pumping” as anything close to “weaning.” I breastfed when we were together. When we weren’t they got bottles of whatever was available, be it EBM or formula.

(Random: I had one baby who LOVED nursing, but was never all that jazzed about breastmilk in bottle form and clearly preferred formula over EBM. So fine! We did actual boobs or formula for him for well over a year. He’s also fine.)

I think that setup will work well for you, and I wouldn’t stress over the fact that she doesn’t want to take a bottle when you’re not around too much just yet. When the boobs are available make the boobs available. When they are 100% not available, you know she’ll take a bottle and not starve.

I understand that getting the occasional break at nighttime probably sounds really nice as well, and so I’d say you could mayyyyyyybe have you husband get up and try to get her to take a bottle every now and then? Just to see if she’ll bite? But I wouldn’t push it, since yes, you might risk disrupting her sleep more than necessary if she fights it and refuses. And then you end up getting up to just nurse her anyway. Might not be worth the hassle just yet. (Maybe ask your mother-in-law to take her for an overnight so you can get a luxurious night of uninterrupted sleep?)

If you’re concerned about actual weaning from the boob…well, that’s a whole other advice column topic. But for now, I bet you’ll find that ditching the pump will have a pretty great effect on your relationship with breastfeeding in general. It won’t be such a chore and a slog, and you’ll be able to go back to relaxing and enjoying your baby. And breastfeeding your baby! For a least a few more months, until you’re both ready.

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Abby
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Abby

I did this – right at 7 or 8 months too – I was just DONE pumping. We slowly eased into the formula. I started by having an 8 oz bottle that was 7 oz of breast milk and 1 oz of formula (mix formula separately per instructions). Every few days I would increase the ratio of formula to breast milk. By the end of a month we were at bottles that were just formula. This helped me process the transition and I like to think it helped my baby ease into formula.

Shelbey
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Shelbey

I kept breastfeeding after I was done pumping! I stopped pumping at a year (I honestly don’t know how I did it that long), but kept nursing until the first was about 20 months and the second was about 18 months. And it was totally fine. I was able to just switch to regular milk since they were a year, but I think it’ll work out the same. Don’t feel bad! Pumping sucks! Especially at work!

Mary Cook
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Mary Cook

I also ditched the pump at 8 mos with my son, but while my supply kept up at morning and bedtime feedings, there was no milk there midday. So that meant on weekends when my son was with me instead of at daycare, we had to give him a bottle of formula. So the bottle strike might be an issue you have to take up. I wish I had advice on that, but we didn’t deal with that issue. It’s possible that once your daughter figures out that the well is dry, she’ll take the bottle. Good luck!

Sarah S.
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Sarah S.

I totally agree with Amy’s advice – I stopped pumping at about a year, but nursed at night and in the wee hours of the morning for another few months until I was just DONE with nursing all together (and baby wasn’t that into it either). We supplemented with cows milk after our freezer supply ran out. I do want to offer 2 other thoughts: 1. If you want to keep breastfeeding but not pumping, follow Amy’s great advice. But if you find yourself ready to be done nursing too – that’s OK too! Remember you’ve had a great 7/8… Read more »

LP
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LP

Hi, original poster here – can i just say this comment really meant a lot (i’m reading it again for like the tenth time ha.) Thanks for the encouragement and support mama.