I made the decision about a month and a half ago to stop the direct nursing attempts. It wasn't getting anywhere, the pumping was going well, and I didn't find it worth it anymore. It made me sad that he didn't get more chances to nurse, but I have no regrets about how it all played out. He had specific needs that I was able to meet in a different way and I am thankful for that.
As far as pumping goes, it is all cyclical. There is a significant dip in my milk production towards the end of my cycle and it bumps back up as the new one is ushered in. This is pretty normal from what I understand. I do have to pull from my stash in order to have enough milk for Johnny, but it has been less than one bottle's worth per day. And while I haven't been making an incredible amount for storage at other parts of the month, I am usually able to stash a couple bags so I suppose it is an even break in the end. I have tried assisting my milk production with oatmeal, flax seed, extra calcium and Vitamin D, and drinking a lot of oatmeal and haven't noticed a lot of extra help when my body is gearing up for my period. I haven't tried Brewer's yeast or other milk helpers yet, but may next time I need a little assistance.
It's strange being an exclusive pumper. You are working to give your child the benefits of breast milk, but you have to think about keeping a bottle the right temperature, washing bottles, warming bottles, and being tied to getting meals from home at a certain time. When people ask how your baby is fed you don't know whether to say you breastfeed or not because the milk is from your breast, but they aren't fed from the breast. I have become less and less modest (even more so than when breastfeeding) because I have had to pump at other people's house and while I definitely cover up in some situations, I have ventured into pumping in front of others. It is a lot of cleaning up and keeping track of pump parts. It is good work though, and it is work!
I am overall satisfied in how things have gone. I am one week away from 7 months of pumping milk. We have not needed to give any formula in that time which is fantastic because that is what we determined as important. This has been important for a number of reasons to us as listed before, but as I think about it now it is greatly important for me to keep trying for as long as possible for economic satisfaction as well. Even as expensive as needing to buy a replacement pump last month was, it has already paid for itself in not needing to buy formula. Johnny is thriving on the food we are choosing for him too which is first and foremost in our minds. I have an illogical desire to count out all the milk I have stashed to see how long we can make it on stored breast milk, but I am resisting that urge. Giving it a once over I would say we have 1-2 months of stored milk ready to go at any point in time. That makes me exceedingly happy as it means Johnny will probably get breast milk for 3/4 of his first year if not more.
I am glad that I have plugged through so far. Beforehand, I never thought even I, the working and pumping queen, would be able to exclusively pump, but I have taken it a day at a time and sometimes measly drops at a time. While I have a few milestones I would like to make it to, I take it a little at a time so I won't get overwhelmed. I think that is important advice for nursing or pumping moms. Take it a little bit at a time, a day, a week, a few weeks, so you don't get discouraged by the AAP recommendations. If you think about a full year in the hardest of times, then you are likely to think "I will never make it, may as well give up." If you think about a day or a week in the hardest of times with the chance to reevaluate, then it is easier to keep going. I suggest that you get a good friend who is willing to hear you out and support you and remind you that you are doing an awesome job and that your baby is worth it because that is helpful on the bad days. I also suggest that you tell yourself all of that frequently and that you applaud the really good nursing and pumping sessions so you remember why you do it all in the first place. I am glad this has worked for us and look forward to seeing if we can make it another month.