You might be dreading the end of your breastfeeding and pumping journey because you know you will have to go through the pain of stopping.
However, there are ways to stop breastmilk pumping without the pain of engorged breasts and mastitis. Gradually weaning yourself off pumping over a few weeks can help ensure a smooth transition and reduce your risk of painful side effects.
Let’s take a deep dive:
How long does it take to wean from a breast pump?
How long this process takes depends on several factors, including your individual situation and how you are weaning. Depending on how often and how much you are pumping, it can take a few days up to a few weeks to fully wean from breast pumping.
Try not to rush weaning or stop cold turkey, as it will inevitably lead to engorged breasts and risk of mastitis.
How to easily wean from pumping breast milk
When you’re pumping breastmilk, it can feel like you’re stuck in a never-ending cycle. You pump, store the milk, and then feed your baby. But what do you do when you’re ready to wean from pumping?
When you wean from pumping breast milk, your breasts will start to produce less milk. This is because your body gets the message that there is no longer a baby to feed. The best way to ensure a smooth transition is to do it gradually .
Here are a few things that you can do to make the weaning process smoother and a little easier:
- First, start by gradually decreasing the number of times you pump each day. If you are pumping 8 times a day, reduce it to 7 times. Continue pumping less often every one to two days.
- Use a gentler pump suction over time. This will reduce nipple stimulation and send the message to your breasts that you’re needing less milk.
- Slowly reduce the length of your pumping sessions each time. Try not to reduce your time by more than 5 minutes at one go.
- Pump less milk each time. Using a less powerful pump suction and reducing your pumping time will result in less pumped milk. Stop pumping when your breasts feel light enough. Don’t pump to dry. Only pump enough to relieve the heaviness.
- Over time, you’ll find that you are producing less breast milk.
- When there is not much milk left to pump, stop using the breast pump and only use hand expression when you feel that you need to relieve some breast engorgement.
- Eventually you’ll be able to stop expressing breast milk altogether.
Try to relax and take your time when stopping breastmilk pumping. If you feel stressed out, it can actually make it harder to wean from the pump.
Further reading: Sad about stopping breastfeeding? Here’s how to deal with it.
How to prevent clogged ducts and mastitis when weaning from a pump
Side effects of weaning from the pump include engorgement, clogged milk ducts and mastitis. But all of these pains, including mastitis, can be prevented by stopping breastmilk pumping the right way to avoid a build up of milk in the breast tissue.
When you wean off pumping slowly using the techniques I discussed, you should be fairly safe from these problems. Here are a few other things you can do to prevent clogged ducts and mastitis when weaning from a pump:
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Eat healthy foods to keep your energy up
- Make sure to continue pumping regularly, but use the techniques discussed above.
- Massage your breasts, especially in areas where you can feel a clogged duct.
- Take a hot shower or use a heat pad.
- Get enough rest.
- Make sure your nipples are not dry or cracked. Apply nipple cream to keep your nipples soft after each pumping session. Cracked nipples increase your risk of mastitis.
- Check that your baby is getting enough formula or solids.
- Wear the softest, most stretchy bra you can find for comfort
The Kindred Bravely French Terry Sleep Bra is made from the softest bamboo rayon:
If you develop a reddened area on your breast with pain and flu-like symptoms with a fever, call your doctor or lactation consultant . Mastitis requires antibiotics.
Further reading: Should you wear a bra when you have mastitis?
Why do I need to wean from pumping? Can’t I just stop?
Quitting anything cold turkey can be difficult, and that is especially true when it comes to pumping breast milk. Abruptly stopping can lead to painful engorged breasts and other problems. This is because your body has become accustomed to the steady expression of milk from using the pump. You may also experience nipple soreness and leakage.
Gradually weaning yourself off pumping can help ensure a smooth transition and reduce your risk of painful side effects.
Did you know that repeated breast engorgement can lead to premature breast sagging? Read How to avoid sagging breasts after breastfeeding.
How to wean abruptly
The best way to wean pumping is gradually, over a period of weeks. But sometimes you might need to wean abruptly.
It’s possible to stop pumping cold turkey. However, there are also some risks associated with abrupt weaning, such as breast engorgement and mastitis.
Weaning abruptly from pumping can be difficult, but it’s possible. To be clear, when I say ‘wean abruptly’, I mean weaning pumping over a few days. There is no way you can stop pumping altogether and expect not to run into trouble with breast engorgement.
To wean abruptly, this method might help:
- Stop regular pumping sessions
- Only pump when your breasts start to get engorged and painful
- Even then, only pump the minimal amount of milk needed to relieve the engorgement to an acceptable level of discomfort.
- If you only need to remove a bit of milk, hand express instead of pump.
After a few days of doing this, your breasts will get the message that you don’t need as much milk anymore and your milk production will automatically reduce and stop.
However, I’m not going to lie to you. It will be uncomfortable and you do run a higher risk of clogged ducts and mastitis. You will also have leaky breasts so make sure you wear breast pads. If possible, don’t wean on work days so you have the freedom to focus on how you’re feeling and pump/hand express whenever you need.
To wrap up
Weaning off pumping can be a difficult process. You may have to experiment with different methods to find what works best for you, but eventually you will be able to pump less and less until you no longer need to pump at all.
Remember to be patient and take things slow. It’s important to make sure that you are comfortable with one step before moving on to the next step.
Already dealing with the pain of breast engorgement? These are the best ways to relieve engorgement.
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