I learned firsthand that trying to stop breastfeeding cold turkey is NOT the way to go.
I repeat: NOT THE WAY TO GO.
It was the second most painful experience of my life.
I exclusively pumped for both my girls until they were 3 months old.
I pumped because it allowed my husband to help with feeding them and I felt like I had more freedom to leave the house.
Stopping after 3 months was a personal choice because it was very difficult to continue after going back to work full-time.
I give it to you Mamas out there that go to the full year and even beyond.
Anyways, with my first born my milk supply wasn’t coming in very well, so cutting cold turkey really didn’t bother me too much.
I was sore for a few days, but it was tolerable.
The second time around? OH MY LANTA.
Right from the start I had more milk than I knew what to do with.
By the time my daughter was 2 months old I had 150oz of stored milk in the freezer.
The reason for the drastic difference in my milk supply is still unknown to me. Maybe my body just knew what to do this time around?
When the 3 month mark creeped up, and it was time for me to go back to work, I figured I would just stop all together like I did last time.
No big deal. My daughter was already using a bottle, so there wasn’t really a weaning process for her to be done.
FYI, after I stopped pumping I didn’t need to use formula for a long time since I had a huge reserve of breastmilk stored.
The first day I stopped cold turkey my husband wanted to go for an hour drive out to an IHOP for lunch. Call it a date if you will.
We dropped the kids off at Grandma’s house, who happens to live right next door to us, and we took off.
Since I didn’t pump at all since I woke up I was a bit engorged but not in super pain…YET. I didn’t bring my pump with me either, which was the biggest mistake of my life.
By the time we got there it was about 11am. When I got out of the car and started walking into IHOP was when I thought “Ouch, this kind of sucks.” Good thing I was wearing an over coat because I was leaking SO much through my shirt.
My husband and I sit down and he immediately could tell there was something wrong with me. Apparently the pain I was feeling was showing all over my face.
The nice time out with my husband was being ruined by my boobs. Thanks a lot guys.
After our meals came, I ate incredibly fast and was ready for the check less than 5 minutes after the plate hit the table. By this point I was nearly in tears and I couldn’t take it anymore.
The fact that I still had an hour drive home was so disheartening.
Then I remembered that people can hand express milk, which I read about in some article many moons ago. I never done it before, but at the time it was my only option.
I told my husband I was going to the bathroom and would be right back.
Yeah right. I was gone for about 20 minutes, maybe more.
I go into the bathroom and see it was a one person bathroom. THANK YOU IHOP! It would have been incredibly awkward if people were coming in and out while I was trying to hand express milk over the sink.
I lifted my shirt and saw that my breasts looked so red and swollen, even turning purple in some spots. In order to hand express milk, I had to squeeze them.
How on Earth was I going to do that when I couldn’t even touch them without wanting to die? I decided to just go for it, I mean, what choice did I have?
I started with my left, I squeezed as if I were milking a cow.
The pain was incredibly intense, but after a few minutes the milk started to come out and let me tell you about RELIEF. I worked on that one until the pain was subsided. It was still very sore, but tolerable now.
Now, onto the right side. This one I had a harder time with, but without giving up I was able to get some milk out and relieved some pressure.
When I was done I felt so much better, but I knew I needed to get home ASAP to get the rest out.
When I finally got home I pumped nearly 10oz on each side. It was insane.
That’s when I looked up ways to wean off the pump the RIGHT way. It was a slow process, taking me about 3 weeks from start to finish, but it worked out so much better.
Here is how I weaned off the pump without feeling much pressure or pain:
1. Drop One Pumping Session
I was pumping 8 times every day, so I started pumping 7 times. I dropped the 2am session because it was the easiest one for me to skip. I did this for 3 days to let my body get adjusted.
2. Drop Another Session
Now I was down to 6 pumps a day. This time I dropped the 9pm session because I was making less milk in the evening than in the morning, so dropping an evening session meant less pain if I skipped it. I did this for another 3 days.
3. Rinse and Repeat
This is a rinse and repeat cycle until you are down to 1 pump session a day. Each time I dropped a session I would wait 3 days so my body could catch up.
4. Drop Your Last Session
Drop your last session and you are free!; You might leak and feel a tad sore for the next couple days, but it should be tolerable.
Another thing to note is that during this process, instead of pumping until nothing comes out, pump just enough for the pressure to go away. This lets your body know that it doesn’t need to make as much milk anymore.
Remember, breastmilk is all about supply and demand. Once the demand lowers so will the supply.
If you are still feeling pain and discomfort during this process, some helpful things you could do are:
- Wear a tight fitted bra (I used a sports bra).
- Avoid excess stimulation, such as shower water hitting your breasts directly.
- Ibuprofen, Motrin or Advil
- Take your pump with you at all times, just in case (I learned this the hard way)
- Use a cold compress to reduce swelling
- Cabbage leaf compresses. Some say this works faster than ice packs to reduce swelling. This technique can hinder milk supply, so depending on your situation will determine how long and often to use this one (see step 7 below).
- Put a head of cabbage in the fridge until cold.
- Take two (or more) of the leaves and place the rest back in the fridge for next time.
- Rinse off the leaves and pat dry with a towel.
- Either cut out the steam from the center of each leave or crush it with a rolling pin.
- Place a few leaves over your breasts, but leave your nipples exposed.
- Either hold it in place like a compress or put them inside your bra.
- If breastfeeding, take off after 20 minutes and limit this to 3 times a day. If weaning, leave on until cabbage leaves wilt and reapply as often as you need to.
As you can see, the weaning process does take some time, but to make it as less painful as possible the slower way is the best way.
Listen to your body and give it time to adjust.
This process worked for me and I hope it will help you as well. Happy weaning!