Being a NICU mom almost always means that if you plan to do breastmilk, you will be an exclusive pumper. This experience is extremely different from a mom with a term baby who plans to breastfeed. In either situation, making the choice to breastfeed your baby is truly a commitment. It is even more of a commitment for moms who have to pump exclusively. This is in part due to not even being around your baby at all times. With baby in the hospital, it’s nearly impossible to always be with them, and even if you are, nursing just isn’t an option when it comes to micro-preemies. Therefore, the breast pump literally becomes your best friend. You take it everywhere you go and/or make sure there is one available to you (our NICU provided one in our son’s room for me). You’re up with it in the middle of the night, EVERY night… and between the constant worry about your baby and pumping around the clock, you become extremely tired and emotionally drained to say the least.
Shortly after Emerson was born and after being in the recovery room, my nurse helped me get setup to pump. I was told that I needed to pump for at least 15 minutes every 2-3 hours. Imagine how daunting this was for someone who had just gone through major surgery and had a 26-weeker in the NICU. With my body in its post-operative state, I couldn’t wrap my mind around just how I would have the strength to pump that often. Luckily, my husband was there to help with keeping my parts clean and ready to help make it easier for me to begin my journey of exclusively pumping. By the end of the week, I was in a good routine with pumping and starting to get a good amount of milk. After a few months in, I was averaging about 750-850ml (about 25-28oz).
Now, after almost 9 months of pumping, I am starting to become very jaded. I find myself going back and forth in my mind about the idea of completely stopping my journey before the 1 year mark (August). The fact that I have quite a bit of milk stored in our deep freezer is partially why I’m considering stopping although I know I don’t have enough milk stored up to make it to August. Here’s where I would love some advice/inspiration/comments: Should I stop pumping completely?
As tired as I am and as much as I want my life back, I haven’t brought myself to completely stop yet. I’ve already gone from pumping 8 times a day to 5 or 6, which has decreased my supply of course (because that’s what happens when you aren’t nursing and you don’t pump at least 8 times a day). I feel like I am truly at a crossroads… I could either try really hard to increase my supply through lactation supplements and pumping more often, or I could start to slowly wean myself off pumping altogether. What would you do?