Deciding whether to stop expressing…

Little M turned six months old earlier this week. I know I probably say it all the time, but where did that time go?! It feels like only five minutes since she was born, whilst simultaneously feeling like she’s been in our lives forever. I’ve been exclusively expressing since that week from hell, and I’m very proud to say that Little M has been exclusively breast fed for six whole months. Excuse me while I pat myself on the back. But I wonder if the time has come to stop expressing.

People are always telling me how amazing I am for expressing all of LIttle M’s feeds. But the fact is, I haven’t really felt like I’ve had much of a choice. I do not judge parents who choose to formula feed their babies, at all. In fact, I see it as a perfectly sensible feeding option. Especially if breastfeeding just hasn’t worked out for them, just like it hasn’t worked out for me.

But I have this crazy, irrational fear over feeding Little M formula.

I know it makes zero sense. Formula is perfectly safe (provided that it’s made correctly to the manufacturer’s instructions). I think it’s that bit in brackets that plays on my mind. I’m worried that I might do something to make Little M unwell. Or formula just may not agree with her little digestive system. She’s been doing so well on breast milk, it seems selfish to stop feeding it to her.

A photo posted by Jules (@ponderingparenthood) on

However, expressing is a massive faff. It really is. Not so much the expressing itself, more the calculation of time. Thinking about when I need to pump so that I can do x, before coming home to pump again before doing y. Or pumping in the car. Or a toilet. Or my friend’s spare room. It would be so much easier to just stop expressing.

I think getting up at 4:30am for BlogFest when I didn’t need to leave the house until gone six was the reality check. That added to the realisation that I just wasn’t getting myself and Little M out of the house enough because it was easier just to stay in and do nothing. But now that Little M is six months that’s not really good enough. I’m failing her in a different way as a parent.

So last week I took the decision to get over my fears and reduce the amount of times in a day that I express, with the idea that gradually my milk would dry up and I’d be ‘forced’ to feed Little M formula. Now, instead of expressing 5-6 times per day (every 3-4 hours), I wait at least five hours between pumps and express 4 times per day.

Great plan! Except my ‘yield’ hasn’t really gone down. I’ve cut my pumping time from 20 minutes to 18 (on advice from the Kellymom website) to see if that would have an impact, but it hasn’t (yet).

Then I looked at the price of formula.

Gee whizz it’s expensive!! So now I have an economic reason to keep pumping. I’m not sure we can afford to fork out all that every month, especially having spent a small fortune on a breast pump. Although I’m also not sure how much of it we’d actually use now that Little M is about to start weaning. Ugh, I hate the unknown!

So I kind of feel back at square one again. I’ve got another blogging event to travel to in a couple of weeks time and it would be really nice to not need to pump at all, but looking at the time it starts and the distance from home, I’m going to need to have to pump in the car again I think. And not at a convenient time, either. Pants.

I know lots of women stop breastfeeding at six months, so why am I finding it so hard to stop expressing? I’d love to hear of your experiences of a smooth transition from breast milk to formula. It might help with this guilty-gut feeling I’ve got going on inside!

Deciding whether to stop expressing

My Petit Canard

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9 Comments

  1. November 28, 2016 / 12:05 am

    I started the transition with Dylan at 8 months, and by that age he was only really having three breastfeeds a day. I swapped one feed over at a time and he was happy and thrived with the formula too. With Finn I exclusively pumped for a short while but it just wasn’t compatible with my life and having a 2 and 3 year old as well so I didn’t last many weeks at all. Little M is beautiful and you really have done amazingly. Formula is not the enemy, it is there for when we need it so don’t feel guilty, feel proud. Hopefully weaning will naturally decrease the amount of milk she needs and your body can start slowing down too. xx

    • Jules
      November 28, 2016 / 12:20 am

      Thank you. To be honest I think what’s holding me back right now is the cost! My breast milk is free and I imagine formula will cost upwards of £40 per month. I’ve decided to keep going with four pumps per day until new year, and then reassess. As you say, hopefully weaning will mean she takes less milk anyway. xx

  2. November 28, 2016 / 1:38 am

    Crazy how they grow so quickly, but yet our life without them seems such a far distance. I feel you about the faff of expressing. I did it for almost 6 months to increase and support my supply. Massive kudos for doing it exclusively.

    Might you consider letting your little one latch on to see if this might work for both of you?

    Breastfeeding definitely keeps food costs down; I don’t like thinking of how much we spent in the few months that we combi-fed with Formula – definitely an expense I was pleased to do away with.

    No advice about transitioning, but wishing you all the best as you decide the best way forward for your family. Are you part of the exclusive pumping group on Facebook? I wonder you might get more experience reads from there. I know they can take cow’s milk from 1 years old and that’s much cheaper, but you’ve 6 months to get to that point. All the best as you decide.

  3. November 28, 2016 / 10:18 am

    Oh wow, what a difficult decision! I know what you mean about the fear of formula. I fed my first until she was one so that I could avoid formula, and my second turns one just after Christmas. I don’t know why it felt better to keep feeding until the time that they could go without milk. I don’t judge people who use formula either. It’s such a lifesaver. But I really didn’t want the extra expensive of buying it. Plus, like you, I’m frightened I’ll make it up wrong! Whatever you decide, try not to feel guilty. You definitely are not failing her in any way at all. Getting to six months is a big deal! xx

  4. November 29, 2016 / 12:09 am

    My body has never been able to successfully breast feed. And every time it fails me, it’s like a stab to the heart. Doesn’t matter what I do after those first few days of having boulders stuck to the front of me, it just dries up. Even when baby is trying to feed. So I have done it both times for as long as possible, feeding and expressing and only managed 8 weeks.

    So i think that 6 months is freaking amazing!!

    Lx

    #MarvMondays

  5. Lucy
    December 1, 2016 / 7:41 pm

    Totally agree with Lisa above- you are amazing!! I expressed for 8 weeks and then supply sadly dried up. Was very sad to feed her last expressed bottle but it was nice to get my life back in some ways. Formula is expensive for sure but nothing to feel guilty about (I do have to remind myself of this often!!!) . Xx

    • Jules
      December 1, 2016 / 8:06 pm

      I completely agree – nothing to feel guilty about in feeding your child! x

  6. December 19, 2016 / 6:17 pm

    I exclusively breastfed my eldest until he was two years old! It was tough and I have no idea how I got through it but working from home was a definite plus. With my second child however, I had to stop expressing before she turned 1. The transition wasn’t easy because she refused to drink from the bottle! It took about two weeks of having to toughen up against her cries but she finally relented.

    • Jules
      December 19, 2016 / 6:46 pm

      We’re so lucky that Little M has been so good at taking to the bottle. I’m still expressing now at nearly seven months. I’m not sure what I’ll do when the prospect of returning to work looms!

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