Now that your breastfeeding journey is winding down, it is time for you to gradually wean yourself from the pump.
There is a risk that you may experience pain or discomfort if this process is not managed correctly.
If you think back to when you were trying to ramp up your milk production, it was a process of training your body to a new routine which in turn triggered a biological response.
Now it is time to trust that your body will respond in the same way when we reverse that conditioning, and establish a new routine.
Again you will need to be patient and persistent.
Supply and Demand
The human body is very adaptable. The presence of stimulation (pumping), when combined with milk drainage, will stimulate milk production.
In order to stop pumping, you need to do the exact opposite. This means that you need to limit the stimulation and milk drainage.
Steps to Stop Pumping Breastmilk
Decrease your pumping sessions gradually
There are three methods you can use to stop pumping your breast milk. It will require some trial and error to work out what you are most comfortable with, and what your body responds to.
So pay attention to what your body is telling you and you will be able to work through the most suitable method to eliminate some of your pumping sessions.
This is a process of dropping one full pumping session from your routine. Then waiting for your body to adjust before dropping another.
You have to do this one schedule at a time. So let’s say you are pumping every three hours. Your pumping schedule will look like this:
Morning Pumping Schedule:
- 12 noon
Afternoon Pumping Schedule:
You can start by dropping the session you feel most comfortable with. If we drop the 6pm session from your schedule your afternoon will now look like this.
New Afternoon Pumping Schedule:
It can be an abrupt change and may result in some discomfort at first. So test things out and see how your body responds. If you notice that your milk supply drops after a few days then you can move on to drop another session.
Reducing Pumping Time
If you are in no hurry to wean off the pump then you can ease into things a bit more with the reduction method.
The idea is to gradually reduce the duration of one pumping session at a time. So if your standard session is 20 minutes, wind it back to 15.
Again observe how your body responds, and when you feel ready you can drop it to ten minutes… then five… then eventually zero.
After you eliminate the first session, move on to the next one. Rinse and repeat.
Reduce the Milk Volume
Rather than measure your sessions in minutes, you could instead be guided by the volume produced. This is most suitable for moms who typically produce higher volumes of milk.
The method is very similar to the reduction in pumping time. Again target a specific pumping session, and pump one ounce less than your regular volume.
Wait until you are comfortable, and reduce by another ounce.
Continue on until that session is eliminated completely.
Increase the time interval between pumping
Once you have dropped one to two pumping sessions, you can then increase the time between pumping sessions.
If your pumping schedule usually has a two-hour interval, you can now push this out to two and half hour intervals.
Then progress it to a three-hour interval, and so on.
This technique, when combined to the different methods in step one will allow you to decrease the number of pumps that you need to do each day.
Pump once per day
As the space between pumps get wider, you can work towards doing just one pump per day.
There is no need to force this. Just continue to widen that gap between pumps until you can get to one session without the discomfort.
If it is too much for you, go ahead and pump. You do not want to risk any blockages developing.
Skip a Day
After you have jumped the once per day hurdle, the next is to go one full day without a pumping session. Give it a try and see how it goes.
Again, if you feel full or uncomfortable feel free to pump. But only do so until you feel the relief. There is no need to exhaust your supply.
If you do empty your breast fully it will only lead to further stimulation of production. So you may need to show some restraint here.
Next, you have to ask yourself what you are going to do with all of this extra time you now have!
Listen to your body
Give your body time to adjust to the new schedule and routine, and take things as slow as you need.
Everyone will change at a different pace as the demand for milk drops, and those biological triggers kick in.
Risks in Reducing Supply
This happens when your breast is full of milk and it is very painful!
Your breast becomes firm and swollen. You can take the following steps to deal with breast engorgement while trying to stop pumping.
- Wear a supportive bra to make you more comfortable.
- Use cold gel packs to help relieve the pain. Put it inside your bra for convenience.
- A good alternative to gel packs are cold cabbage leaves. Use the leaves only and remove any hard part or veins to avoid bruising.
- Ask your doctor if you can use mild pain medication to help with the pain.
- Try to express or remove some milk from your breast but up to the level of comfort only. Do not completely drain the milk.
Mastitis or Blocked Ducts
You may also manifest some flu-like symptoms, such as chills and low-grade fever.
- If you suspect that you have mastitis, consult your doctor right away. In the meantime, you can apply hot packs on your breast and try to release some of the milk to lessen the swelling.
- Go ahead and try to empty your breast when you have mastitis. This is to avoid further blockages and inflammation.
- After the mastitis has passed, you can go back to reducing your milk supply and weaning from the pump.
Ask your doctor about painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications that you can use.
There is no telling how long you can stop your body from producing milk. It is different for every mom. It will probably take as long as you’d established your milk supply.
Just remember to do it gradually to avoid any complications and take into consideration your comfort as well.
Be sure to seek out guidance from your regular doctor, and seek assistance if you experience any unusual pain.