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How Do I Wean Off Breastfeeding?

How Do I Wean Off Breastfeeding?

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In this article:

 

How To Wean Off Breastfeeding

Weaning can be difficult depending on how long you’ve been breastfeeding. It might be challenging if you’ve already established a strict routine. But just think, what woman do you know that is still breastfeeding her child 25 years later? My point is, everyone makes the decision eventually to wean their child off of breastmilk, and all who have been there, have survived.

It can be unpleasant at times, so just know you are not alone. 


  1. Pump Exclusively.

    No, this does not help you produce less milk, but it does help get your child out of the routine of drinking from your breast. You can introduce the bottle this way. Work toward replacing all your feeding sessions with breast milk from the bottle, and then intermittently replace the bottle with formula.

    You can also freeze breast milk using storage bags, so your baby is getting those health benefits longer.

  2. Wear a Snug Sports Bra. 

    Wearing a form-fitting bra will help with comfortability. You know the feeling of engorged breasts… not fun. As long as you can help it, you want to signal to your body that you don’t need to produce more milk. They key words here are “as long as you can help it,” meaning the duration of time between pumping/feeding. It’s all about progress.

    Don’t forget to stuff your bra with nursing pads! In this timeframe, you will encounter some leaks. It’s completely normal.

  3. Use Ice Packs. 

    Just like sore muscles after a vigorous workout, ice helps relieve the pain associated with inflammation. The cooling sensation will feel glorious on your engorged breasts during the period of “toughing it out” between sessions. There are special ice packs made just for the occasion. 

  4. Take a Shower.

    Although a warm shower can trigger a let-down, occasionally you need to express a small amount of milk to get some relief. A little release will help you avoid infection without indicating to your body that your baby demands a four course meal.

  5. Take Ibuprofen. 

    Engorged breasts are hard in more ways than one—hard to deal with and hard to the touch. There’s no reason to be miserable if you are suffering in pain. Take some medication to assist you with the process.

  6. Use Cold Cabbage.

    Is this just another old wives’ tale or does it actually work? Studies show that it’s no superstition. By wrapping cold cabbage leaves on your breasts, women have noticed a reduction in pain and swelling. Make sure to leave your nipples exposed and wash the cabbage.

 

 


 breastfeeding mom and baby

 

Why Do I Need to Wean Off Breastfeeding?

Wondering why you can't just go cold turkey? If you can help it, you want to gradually wean your child off of breast feeding because backed-up milk can clog ducts in your breast, which leads to the painful infection: mastitis.

 

Clogged milk ducts can occur when you don’t completely empty your breast at a feeding (so be on the look-out.) 


Signs of mastitis will resemble flu-like symptoms. You will feel tired, feverish, achy, and it will hurt to touch your breast where the clogged duct is. It may even be red and feel warm. 


If you feel feverish at any time, call your doctor immediately. Seriously, do not wait because mastitis will kick you on your ass.


 bottled milk


How I Stopped Breastfeeding In 10 Days

My story: I started incorporating a breast pump about a week after my milk supply came in⁠— basically once we discovered our baby would take a bottle. Our baby was still solely drinking breast milk, but it helped tremendously that my husband could feed her. He felt more involved, more useful, and I could get a little break. 


So, when I decided to wean off breastfeeding, the first thing I did was switch to pumping only (no more drinking directly from the breast). I could be in complete control of when I pumped, how long I pumped for, and the length of time I waited between sessions.


Next, I started eliminating pumping cycles. So instead of pumping 8 times a day, on day 1 of my weaning journey, I only pumped 7 times. On day 2, I only pumped 5 times. On day 3, I pumped 4 times.


I made sure to document everything. I recorded every pump cycle and important details. You can do this the old fashioned way, with pen and paper, or there are apps on your phone now available to help. 


In addition to eliminating pumping sessions, I also slowly decreased the minutes I pumped. I was originally pumping 30-35 minutes at a time, but I made sure to decrease the duration as I moved forward in the weaning process.


Below is a chart that details exactly how I stopped breastfeeding, starting on the fourth day of my journey. By day 4, I was already down to pumping only 3 times a day!


As you’ll see below, my progress was not always linear. Sometimes I had to pump earlier than I expected... I wanted to push the limits, but if my breasts were in a lot of pain, it wasn't worth risking mastitis.

It will be uncomfortable and your boobs will be annoyingly sensitive and tender, but you shouldn’t be in torturous, insufferable pain.


On day 10, I pumped for 5 minutes and then packed the pump away!


Date

Time

Minutes Pumped

Hours Since Last Session

8/4

2:30am

20

6.5

8/4

10:00am

20

7.5

8/4

4:30pm

18

6.5

8/5

3:30am

18

11

8/5

11:00am

18

7.5

8/5

8:00pm

18

9

8/6

7:30am

18

11.5

8/6

5:30pm

15

10

8/7

3:30am

15

10

8/7

4:30pm

10

13

8/8

8:00am

7

16

8/8

11:30pm

7

15.5

8/9

10:00am

7

10.5

8/10

1:30pm

5

27.5

8/11

7:30pm

5

30

 

pump breast

The important thing to remember about all of this is IT IS NOT A RACE. Though sometimes the situation dictates a specific timeline, if you're not in a rush, take all the time you need to transition from breast milk to formula.

 

Mayo Clinic, Mastitis, July 2018.

Office On Women's Health, Weaning your baby, May 2018.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Weaning, May 2018.

National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, The effectiveness of cabbage leaf application (treatment) on pain and hardness in breast engorgement and its effect on the duration of breastfeeding, 2012.

National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, Weaning your child from breastfeeding, April 2004.

 

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