As many of you know, I have been exclusively pumping for Ellington after a difficult start to breastfeeding. And for the past six months, I have thought about weaning daily. Not only about the technical "how do I introduce a new milk to Ellington and phase out breastmilk" and "how do I wean myself off the pump without mastitis," but about the emotional as well. "Is now the best time for Ellington?" "What will our connection look like after he is no longer drinking mama's milk?"
After much thought and conversation, we decided we would wean him at 12 months to another milk and I would stop pumping. Of course, I understand that age one isn't some "magic" number, and that there are many benefits to breastmilk beyond age one. But for our family, this time makes sense.
Switching Ellington to Cow's Milk
Leading up to his first birthday, I researched which milk to offer and we decided to first try a grassfed cow's milk. Ellington had reactions to cow's milk formula at 3 months old, so I decided to try pea or hemp milk as backups in case he reacted. I made sure to include cheese and yogurt in his diet to see if there were any initial reactions. Milk can be very different, but if I had seen reactions to cheese and yogurt, I probably would've skipped trying cow's milk altogether.
Two days after he turned one, we started. Here is the schedule we followed:
Before cow's milk: Ellington had 4 bottles per day, one 6oz bottle in the morning, one 3oz bottle pre-nap, one 3oz bottle mid-afternoon with his snack and one 3oz bottle before bed.
Day 1: Replace 1oz of each bottle with cow's milk
Day 2: Replace 1.5oz of each bottle with cow's milk
Day 3: Repeat day 2
Day 4: Replace 2oz of each bottle with cow's milk
Day 5: Repeat day 4
Day 6: Repeat day 4
Day 7: Repeat day 4, but replace an additional ounce (3oz total) of the morning bottle with cow's milk
Day 8: Repeat day 7, but replace all of afternoon bottle with cow's milk
Day 9: Repeat day 8, but replace all of pre-nap bottle with cow's milk
Day 10: Repeat day 9, but replace 4oz of morning bottle with cow's milk
Day 11: Repeat day 10, but replace all of bedtime bottle with cow's milk (if you're keeping track, this means he only got 2oz of breastmilk, all in his morning bottle)
Day 12+: Use whatever breastmilk we have from the freezer or last pumps in morning bottle and top off with cow's milk; cow's milk for the remainder of bottles (currently, at Day 18, we have 3 more frozen bags of milk that I will defrost for his morning bottles).
Unlike the formula, he accepted the cow's milk right away. Maybe it was because he had already tasted various flavors after 6 months of eating solids, but it was quite the relief for me after our experiences with formulas.
Weaning Off the Pump
I suppose I have been "weaning" ever since Ellington turned 6 months old and I stopped any drastic measures to keep my milk supply high (i.e. pumping in the middle of the night, adding back in pumps, power pumping, etc.). I dropped pumps as my life demanded - usually when my husband was on a long work trip or Ellington dropped a nap. And I let my milk supply naturally decrease.
From 6-9 months, I did 4ppd (pumps per day); 3ppd from 9-11 months, and 2ppd from 11-12 months. When I first dropped to 2ppd, I was producing 18opd (ounces per day). Over a month, this fell to 10opd as my body adjusted. We continued to use my small freezer stash to cover the gap until we introduced cow's milk.
After he didn't react to the cow's milk, I moved my morning pump to his naptime in order to condense it with the evening pump. After a couple days, I noticed I wasn't in any pain so I skipped the naptime pump (on the weekend when my husband could've taken over if I found I needed to pump early). I then was at only 1ppd and my supply fell to 4opd within a matter of days. To prevent any clogs, I continued to take sunflower lecithin and pump until I was empty.
After almost a week at only 1ppd, I decided to only use a manual pump at night. The manual pump does not remove as much milk as the hospital grade suction of the Spectra S2, so it would start to decrease my supply. After 2 days of that, I went 36 hours, then 48, and then 72. I don't have any plans to pump again, but will do so if I feel any lumps or pain.
I actually started writing this post before we had fully weaned Ellington. Much of what I wrote was that I did not feel that this was the "right" time to wean him.
But then something happened. The Saturday after we started weaning, I woke up and didn't pump, as I had been doing so for days. Instead, I got ready for the day and when my husband asked if I wanted to go to the museum shortly, I said yes. As I followed Ellington around the museum, seeing his face light up at the animals and following the other kids around, it was not lost on me that if I had spent 45 minutes that morning pumping instead of getting ready and eating breakfast, Ellington wouldn't have had that experience. Ellington needed that experience more than he needed breastmilk. All the questioning and sadness around weaning disappeared in that moment. I still feel nostalgia about the end of the baby time, but I am also very happy to be done pumping!