There are several different reasons why you might be thinking about stopping pumping. Whatever that reason is, you should know that it is best to wean slowly and gradually. Stopping pumping “cold turkey” can have painful and even hazardous consequences, such as inflammation and infection.
Why is it Important to Wean from Pumping Gradually?
Stopping pumping too suddenly can lead to experiencing sensations of fullness and/or discomfort. It can cause inflammation, blockage of milk ducts, and even infection (mastitis).
Always be guided by your level of comfort. You may need to transition very slowly. For example, you might need to start by making one or two individual sessions shorter rather than dropping full ones.
Some of the Reasons for Weaning from the Pump
There a number of different reasons why you might be thinking of weaning from the pump. Some of these can include:
- Your child has reached 12 months and you no longer need to pump at work or school.
- After exclusively pumping, you are ready to wean off of it.
- Your child is under 12 months but you want to wean from the pump for whatever reason and give your child formula or your own previously frozen milk.
- You have just brought your premature baby home from hospital, and you plan to move completely to direct breastfeeding.
- You were pumping simply to increase milk supply and you no longer need to.
What Does Supply and Demand Have to do with Breastmilk?
Milk production depends on the forces of supply and demand. When milk is not removed and there isn’t any stimulation, the brain will send the body a message that milk is no longer required.
The milk production won’t completely cease immediately. The body will simply make less milk when there is no stimulation.
This is the reason why some mothers are able to go without using the pump during a full work day and still have no problem nursing when together with their baby. The body always tries to make the perfect amount of milk.
How To Stop Pumping Safely
When you want to start weaning from the pump, stop taking any supplements or nursing boosters you have been on. Think about starting the weaning by dropping an evening pumping session. The body does not produce as much milk in the evening, so it will be less of a shock.
Below are some weaning options that you might find helpful:
- Eliminate one pumping session every three to seven-day period. One way to do this would be to drop one session on day 1, another on day 4, and a third on day 7.
- Another option is to gradually decrease the time for pumping for every session, all at once. For example, eliminate two minutes from each pumping session.
- A third option is to gradually lengthen the time between pumping sessions. This will slowly reduce the number of sessions per day.
If you experience soreness, there are several things that you can do. You can use warm or cold compresses (whichever you find to be most effective), OTC pain medication (including ibuprofen or acetaminophen), and other home remedies such as cabbage leaves.
To use cabbage leaves, put cabbage leaves in your bra for approximately two hours. Keep them in there until they wilt. If you find that cold is very helpful, you can put a bag of frozen peas on your breasts. You can also try taking a warm shower, and while in the shower gently massaging your breasts.
Wear a bra that properly supports your breasts. It should not be too tight, however. If you are worried about milk leaks, put cotton breast pads in your bra cups.
Make sure to drink water whenever you are thirsty. There’s no need to restrict your fluids in any way. While you may not feel very hungry, make sure to keep up a healthy diet.
If you feel at any point that you may have inflammation caused by a buildup of milk or clogging of a milk duct, make sure to use the pump to empty the breast and then try to go back to your weaning plans.
This is important, as leaving a buildup of milk in the breasts can lead to inflammation and even infection, as we discuss elsewhere in this article.
Symptoms of a Clogged Milk Duct
As we discussed earlier, suddenly stopping pumping can lead to problems such as a clogged milk duct. Symptoms of a clogged milk duct can include localized pain in the breast.
You might also feel a hard lump, or the area might feel hot. You may also see swelling or enlargement. Make sure to deal with clogged ducts before going on with the weaning process.
Upon noticing a clogged duct, empty the breast completely by continuing pumping. You can massage the area during pumping.
Hot compresses afterwards will help bring down inflammation. When the swelling and pain have disappeared, you can be quite sure that the duct is clear.
If you develop fever, chills, or other flu-like symptoms, or if you have strange nipple discharge, it is possible that you could have mastitis. Mastitis is a bacterial infection in the breast. You must seek medical attention (including antibiotics) if you think that you have this infection.
Stopping pumping too quickly can lead to discomfort and pain, as well as problems such as infection that needs treatment with antibiotics. It is essential that you wean yourself from the pump in a slow and gradual way, ensuring that you do not cause a buildup of milk or blocked milk duct. Try the many tips that we have set out in this article to help you along the way.