Hand to Hold's Official Blog: Written by Parents for Parents

When to Stop Pumping?

My son was born on July 3rd at 24 weeks.  The entire time he was in the hospital, I pumped every 3-5 hours.  Every day.  It was very meaningful to me because I knew how good my milk was for him, and it was something that no one else could do – only I could.

He came home after 4 months in the NICU, and I kept pumping.  I tried to get him to breastfeed but it just never happened.  Anyway, I liked being able to easily keep track of his intake when he first came home.

Now, my son is 8 months old (5 months adjusted).  The pumping is getting OLD!  He is starting solids, and eating 25-30 oz of milk a day.  I stay at home with him, so that makes it easier to pump (which I am only doing 3-4 times a day now).  However, in between cleaning, errands, and caring for the baby, the LAST thing I want to do when I get 30 free minutes is assemble my pump equipment, pump, store the milk and wash the parts.  Not exactly my idea of relaxing.

I am so torn.  On one hand, as I just said, I need some truly free time.  The pump is a ball-and-chain.  I have been a slave to it for 8 months (and I was glad to do it the whole time because I knew it was best for my baby).  On the other hand, I have about  a month’s worth of milk frozen in a deep freezer that I’ve accumulated over the past several months, that should get us to 9 months old.  I figure if I could give Baby 1 or 2 formula bottles, milk bottles and baby food for the rest of the feedings, I could make the milk last until maybe 10 months.  My problem is I feel guilty about not pumping anymore.  I mean, I’m a stay-at-home-mom, caring for him is my priority – I get that.  But between feeding, changing diapers, washing bottles and pump parts (we have no dishwasher), washing diapers (we do cloth diapers), PT and OT in our home, errands, doctor appointments, cooking, and spending quality time with my family – I feel like I am just running out of time to sit and pump!

So: to pump, or not to pump.  Please advise and encourage!  Thanks 🙂


  1. I rarely sat and pumped… maybe instead of giving it up you could do it less, or when you can do something else. I would pump while driving (covered and hands free) Pump while at the computer. pump while reading.
    I stopped pumping shortly after my 27wk little girl came home (about a a month or so). BUT she came home breastfeeding and I wanted to regulate to her and I also had a 2yr old and a 3.5yr old at home to take care of so it was nearly impossible to pump consistently. I wish I would have continued to pump once a day and I may start because We only have a small stash and it may expire before we need it. (she doesn’t take a bottle well and I rarely leave her). She is now 8mo and I couldn’t imagine pumping only for so long. I will say a friend of mine exclusively pumps for her twins but has drawn it out to a couple sessions a day. Have you considered trying to breast feed again? If you decide to quit pumping don’t feel bad. You are doing great for your LO.

  2. I pumped while my 27 weeker was in the nicu for two months but my supply never came in and i became too emotionally upset about it to keep going. You’ve done amazing, my baby’s on formula and although i wish i couldve kept pumping/breastfeeding him he’s doing marvelous and they dont seem to mind the switch. you need time to yourself too!

  3. My little guy was born at 32 weeks weighing two pounds one ounce. I pumped and pumped while he was in the NICU. He was released after being in the NICU for 44 days. I continued until he was 13 weeks old. I watched my supply dwindle down to virtually nothing. I was put on drugs to help and it just never came in. It is a personal choice only you can make. We were always supplementing his meals with 27 cal formula to help him put on weight so I knew he was getting what he needed. It got to a point where I wanted to spend quality time with him instead of stressing about getting my milk for him. Only you will know when the time is right. I wish you the best of luck.

  4. I pumped for 3months and then i breastfed when my 29weeker came home only using the pump when nessacery, now though i alternate between bottle(formula) and breast because i dont seem to fill her up the way she likes and she is now 4 months old (6 weeks adjusted) and all i can say is that im still so tired, so to get to 8 months pumping is amazing you’ve done well but if you really feel you need to then stop sit back and take a break. For a woman with a preemie to get tht far pumping is a miracle in itslef so dont feel bad at all im sure your bubba will do just fine

  5. My little guy was born at 32 weeks 4lbs 3oz. Like you I pumped every 3-5 hours while he was in there for 5 1/2 weeks. when he came home i kept pumping. I had so much milk while he was in the hospital I had to buy a deep freezer just for it.. When he first came home I had to get him use to latching and once he did he wouldn’t even take a bottle anymore.. Long story short around 9 months I started to get antsy but felt like because he was a preemie I owed it to him. He was so attached we put him in daycare for 3 days a week.. He was so stubborn and still is. 🙂 he would only take 8 oz all day and would suck from em all night finally at 9 1/2 months I stopped. I did it to get him to take a bottle and to try to get him to take solid foods. he is being so lazy he didn’t want to do anything. once I stopped he did start taking the bottle. I used a lot of the frozen milk I had and then formula.. you can still have that bond with him. i would say start weening first then slowly cut him off.. that way you won’t go cold turkey and feel bad. you can take it down to once a day. Good Luck look how long you lasted so far..

  6. Ha! I am in your boat right now! I know EXACTLY how you are feeling. My baby was in NICU for one month, I pumped every 3-4 hrs when he was in hospital. He came home after 1 month and I have pumped for 9 months total now. I found after he came home it was harder and harder to get all the pumpings in with chores. I slowly dwindled down to 4 times, 3 times/day, then twice daily, and now I have just decided to be done with it. I am also a stay at home mom.

    He is now 9 months old and I just packed up my pump today. I had the same feelings as you. When I finally get 30 minutes during the day when I’m not cleaning house, playing with baby, making dinner, making lunch, breakfast, yada yada…..it is hard to sit down and pump. I also felt like it was such a ball and chain. Breastfeeding never worked out for us unfortunately.

    I feel very guilty for stopping pumping. But, I was feeling so miserable about it. At the end of the day I’m exhausted then I have to sit and pump for 30 minutes before I can even go to bed. He is eating solids now and takes formula fine. If I was breastfeeding, then there would not be any issue I would continue that with no problem. But pumping gets very very old. I am glad I did it for 9 months.

  7. I have a 31 weeker. Casey spent a month in the NICU. I pumped because it was the only thing I felt in control of. I pumped for 3 months after he came home. He wasn’t gaining fast enough and I had to put him on Neosure. I found that once I started supplementing I started to dry up. Working full time didnt help either. I dried up and had about 1.5 months worth frozen so he for about 6 months worth. Give yourself a break and stop if you want to. He got the nutritional benefits already.

    Good luck!

  8. My daughter is now 16 months old, but was born at 27 weeks in Nov 2009. While she was in the NICU and a few months after she came home I pumped 6-8 times per day. You’re right, it’s tough! I quit pumping in May 2010, when my daughter was 6 months old. However, as the nurses in the NICU dubbed me, I was the ‘Dairy Queen.’ I had completely filled a 14 cubic foot deep freeze with milk so she continued to have breast milk exclusively for 2 more months.

    I have always been at home with my daughter as well and I tried to breastfeed her, but she lost 1.5 oz in 4 days and her doc and I decided it wasn’t a good idea to continue – that she needed to be on fortified breast milk (22 cals per ounce). I like you also eventually dropped down to 4 times per day and by then my goal was to get her through RSV season and I would feel OK to give it up. Although when I quit it was very emotional for me. I was very torn. I felt like I was quitting on her, but in the end it was the best decision for her, because she thrived on spit up formula due to the fact that she had severe reflux.

    I guess after all that rambling my main points are: I understand what you are feeling, you have to do what’s best for your family, and in the end it will all be OK. You’ve worked hard for your baby!!!“You should applaud yourself for the effort you have made so far!

  9. I feel your pain! I am a mother of two… a 3 year old and my preemie (36 weeker spent 43 days in the NICU) who is almost 7 months. I have had my supply drop recently, used my ENTIRE freezer stash and I just up-ed my supply so I am making enough milk. Some days I just want to throw in the towel. It’s a DOUBLE duty. Just remember, only you can decide what is right for your little one. Right now I am clinging to my pump determined to make it to a year… though I know part of me doesn’t want to. My daughter actually LATCHED and was breastfed and I only made it to 10.5 months and the whole time I supplemented at least one bottle per day (supply issues). So, you know… you’ve done more than soooooo many mom’s can or are willing to. Kudos and good luck with your decision!!!

  10. My baby came at 32 weeks weighing 2lbs 9oz. My supply was very low and I always mixed it up with formula and breast milk. Pumping was so exhausting, especially once he came home. I continued to pump for 2 months and stopped,. I too felt extremely guilty but I was not producing much milk:( But he is doing very well now at 18months. You are amazing that you were able to pump it everything you had to deal with. If you have to stop go ahead, your baby will be fine. Good luck…..

  11. My son is a 31 weeker and spent 6 weeks in the NICU. I pumped for 8 months after he got out becuase like you I knew it was the best for him at the time and it was something that I wanted to do for him. After 8 months I decided it was time for me to stop pumping because the time was right and he had already gotten so much nutrition from the milk and I knew he would do well without it. Only you know when it is the right time to stop pumping and it sounds like that time has come for you. You have done so much good for him, pumping that long is not easy. You are the mom and you know what is right for you and your baby. If the pump is getting to be overwhelming and you just need some time to yourself (well deserved by the way) then do what your gut is telling you and ditch the pump. All the best to you and your little man.

  12. Guilt – it never ends once you become a mother! Congratulations on making it as long as you have. You’ve done a great job!
    My opinion – if its too stressful to keep it up then give it up!

    My daughter was born at 27 weeks and weighed 1lb 12oz. While she was in the NICU for 10 weeks I pumped furiously! I filled the NICU freezer, my home freezer and the extra freezer in our garage! By the time she came home I had already returned to work – pumping at work was yuck! I took another 3 weeks off when she came home and we breastfed once or twice a day but mostly I continued to pump. It was what I knew and was comfortable with but it was EXHAUSTING. I kept her on EBM for 6 months before my stash ran out and I transitioned her to formula.

    Today she is 14 months (11 adjusted) and weighs 23lbs. Shes happy and healthy and I still feel guilty for not sticking it out longer!

    No matter when you stop you too will likely feel the guilt! Give yourself a break and if you feel like enough’s enough make the switch!

  13. After 8 months of pumping, I had weaned down to 2 x daily pumpings. It is very hard to keep up with the house/meals/baby and then pumping. Today I packed up my pump. Baby is 9 months old tomorrow. I feel guilty about it, but also relieved. It felt like a big ball and chain. I’m glad I could give baby 9 months of milk.

  14. Maybe since you already have a significant amount of milk stored you can reduce your pumping schedule instead of completely stopping.stopping. It also helps to pump while you are relaxed because stress will decrease your milk supply so mayb…e try pumping while watching your favorite tv show, on the computer or folding laundry. I think I stopped pumping when my son was about a year old. I was a working (active duty military)mom so my 30 minute pumping schedule was my lunch break which I looked forward to! I over produced milk so it also became a medical necessity for me to pump to prevent mastasis which I did get numerous times! The more solid foods he begins to eat the less milk he will consume anyway so you should start to see a natural decline in the amount of milk he consumes. Especially when you start introducing 100% juices at least once a day. Goodluck!

  15. I had a 32 weeker. She was in the NICU for 2 mo. I exclusively pumped every 2-3hrs for 13mo. Then i just had enought. It kind of rules your life. I loved it though! I only was able to nurse a few times during the NICU stay

  16. Katherine says:

    My son was a 28 weeker. He was in nicu 6 weeks and 2 days. I pumped every two hours for two weeks. At two weeks I got to try to nurse him in nicu, he nursed for an amazing 40 minutes. I continued nursing every three hours until he came home. He self weaned at 14 months. I loved the bond Jesse and I created between us, so very special.

  17. My son was a 34 weeker and in the NICU for 34 days. I had a hate/love relationship with my pump, as I loved giving him my milk(he never successfully latched on and nursed), but hated pumping. I wanted to quit so many times, but kept going. Around 6 months my milk supply started drying up, and I continued to pump until I literally ran dry. I was lucky enough to have a huge freezer stash, so he was still able to receive my milk until he was around 1. As much as it felt like a burden at times, I am so glad I never gave up!!

  18. My son was a 25 weeker and we have been in the Nicu for 5 1/2 months (165 days). I pumped 8-12 times a day for the first 2 months. The stress became too much so I started pumping 5-7 times a day. I am still pumping after all feeding times. I hope to continue until he is 1 year adjusted!!

  19. I pumped (every 4 hours for my 30 weeker) and had a bf baby. who at 6 and half months old refused to latch on one day!!! so I pumped for a month to keep the supply during the day. she didnt. she eventually gave up the morning bf just after 9 months old. She is now nearly a year old. xxx

  20. I pumped every 2-3 hours for 5mths for my 27 weeker. A week after getting him home we successfully learned to latch and he’s been nursing (just as often) ever since. I think I’m one of the lucky ones who can exlcusively nurse a preemie. I feel really blessed.

  21. i pumped every 3-4 hours for the entire time my son was in the NICU, 72 days and then continued for an additional month… i was hoping to feed him at home but that didn’t work… and i just couldn’t keep up with the pumping and with feeding him… and my milk just never came in, i never got more than 2 ounces.. it was very frustrating for me, but i’m happy i did it for as long as i could.. and blessed that my little guy is healthy and home

  22. I pumped while my daughter was in the NICU – 67 days. It is truly a great feeling to know that you are providing your child with something that they need and only you can give it to them.

    However, once Roxy came home, my supply starting decreasing quickly. About a month after she was home, I was barely getting two ounces out of each pumping and she had exhausted our supply. We switched to nothing but formula and it worked out for us.

    Its definitely your own decision. Your decision will be the best for you and for your baby and that’s what matters most!

  23. Stephanie says:

    My daughter was born at 25 wks and weighed 1lb 6oz. That was 10 weekes ago and I have been pumping. But I was put on motilium to have my milk come in.
    My deep freeze is full and so is the freezer at NICU. It has been so painful but since she was so early I pumped. She is now at 4lbs, and I want to stop.
    She is till in the NICU but the nurses keep making me feel guilty. Enough is enough for me. I have never enjoyed it and do not want to breastfeed her.
    Can anyone offer advise?

  24. I had my son at 28 weeks and I’ve been pumping for almost 3 weeks now. I have chronic low milk supply and take two different herbs, reglan, and mother’s milk tea. I’m only getting 1cc every time I pump (every 3 hours). I’m struggling with whether I should continue or not. My son is now 3lb. 15oz. This is so emotional for me to actually call it quits, but I’m hardly producing anything. : (

    • This was my story as well. My son was born at 32 weeks at 2 lbs 8oz. I exclusively pumped for 2.5 months and for most of that only got 1-2 oz of milk combined, much of the time also having dry/cracked nipples and a LOT of pain, sometimes with fever attached. LO came home after only 4 weeks in the NICU. He is now 11 weeks, and just last week started nursing. It is sooo nice to be able to put him to breast to eat! We still follow up offering the bottle if he’s not asleep directly after. But — despite the lack of faith from the NICU lactation staff, I am slowly seeing more milk come in, even after all this time of my low production with the pump! I still periodically pump since we have to give him formula daily for the calories and vitamins, but I can’t currently pump every time he eats since I currently am cracked with blisters and bleeding! The time inbetween feedings is needed for healing! Anyway, don’t give up hope – your milk can come in later. While I may never have the two months of milk in cold storage, I am optimistic that I will soon make enough to feed him daily exclusively on the breast when the dietitian oks it! And he’s up to 3 oz per feeding now! So prayerfully I will be up to that soon now too! I am at least consistently getting 2oz per expression, which is an accomplish Kent for me!!!

      I did have to work at getting him to latch and then suck rather than fall asleep. We switched to the avent natural bottles with a preemie nipple since he was lazy getting milk too easily from the dr. Brown bottles we came home from the NICU with. I made sure that every time I had enough to feed him a bottle of breast milk I (not the hubby) did so, and I held him as close to the nursing position as I could with the bottle so that he’d make the connection that the milk came from me. Then one day not too long ago he latched and sucked for like 40 minutes!!! By the following evening, he refused the bottle but wanted the breast! So while I’m stilll having to work with him to figure it out, we’re well on our way to hopefully exclusively breast feeding!!! Or at least exclusively (finally) feeding him my breast milk! I post this just so you know it can be done. Each of us has to make their own determination of what’s best for baby and us, but be encouraged, if you’re hoping to nurse but have poor production pumping, it CAN be done!!

  25. My little one is a month and a half now. I had so much trouble having her to breast feed and I really wondered if she was getting enough. Her doctor suggested to start formula and after that she did pretty good. I would pump as often as I could while I stayed home. But my milk production reduced down the line and on top of it I had to return to work. I’m still trying to pump and give her as much as I could even if its an ounce of it.
    I have mixed feelings about all this..I feel happy that she is doing fine and at the same time I feel sad that I’m not able to give her enough of my breast milk :-/

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