All nursing mothers at some point of their breastfeeding journey face the situation when they need to phase out. In our previous article, we have already discussed how to wean from breastfeeding gently and in the least stressful way for your child. However, it is equally important to take care of your breasts to avoid breast engorgement and inflammation. This article will guide you through weaning from breastfeeding without pain by providing few important tips on how to take care of your breasts once you have stopped nursing.
Breast pain and engorgement are less likely to occur when weaning gradually. Under normal circumstances, the speed of milk production depends on how frequently and well the milk is removed from breasts. The less milk we remove, the less we produce. Therefore, a gradual decrease in the frequency of breastfeeding and in the duration of nursing sessions will lead to a gradual decrease in milk supply. Gradual weaning can be pretty simple: prepare a breastfeeding weaning schedule and take out nursing sessions one by one in small increments.
However, in certain cases, mainly due to medical reasons, women may need to wean “cold turkey” – to stop breastfeeding abruptly. Depending on how old the baby is and how well mother’s milk supply is established, sudden weaning may increase the likelihood of breast engorgement and thus imply additional care of breasts.
Seven Key Tips on Weaning from Breastfeeding without Pain
- When necessary, express a little milk to avoid engorgement. Every time you feel your breasts are so full that cause discomfort or pain, express just enough to soften your breasts and relieve the fullness. A warm shower and a gentle breast massage may be of great help. Do not empty your breasts completely.
The frequency of expressing depends on your comfort level. You may need to express more often in the first few days. Don’t let your breasts become engorged because if they do so, you will have to express significantly more milk or to empty your breasts completely, which will stimulate milk production.
- Apply cold after expressing and during the day. Apply cold compresses on breasts to decrease swelling, inflammation, and pain. Cold causes blood vessels to constrict, reducing milk flow and lowering milk supply. Put ice packs in a clean washcloth and place them against the skin.
- Put cabbage compresses. Cabbage leaf compresses are believed to be effective in reducing breast engorgement and drying up the milk. Rinse and dry leaves of a plain green cabbage. Put them in the refrigerator. Gently pound leaves. Wrap around breasts and areola, covering the entire breast, and if needed, the area under your arms.
- Drink plenty of sage and mint tea. Sage and mint have good levels of natural estrogen that suppresses milk production. Simply steep 1 tsp of rubbed sage or mint with 1 cup of hot water and let it steep for 15 minutes. Few cups of sage and mint tea a day will significantly lower the milk production.
- Wear a good supporting bra. The bra should be supportive but not tight. Think of clothing that is less likely to show leaking milk or use breast pads.
- Stick to thirst-drinking and hunger-eating. Despite the common belief, restricting fluids or food does not reduce your milk supply. Instead, cut down the intake of salt which causes your body to retain fluids.
- Don’t bind your breasts and avoid using drugs suppressing lactation. The old-fashioned method of binding breasts is no longer recommended by lactation consultants. Binding is not only uncomfortable but also may cause plugged ducts and mastitis that will destroy all your plans for weaning from breastfeeding without pain. Wearing a supportive sports bra is enough. Also, avoid using drugs that “dry up” the milk due to their low efficiency and serious side effects. Some lactation consultants advise taking 200 mg of vitamin B6 each day for 5 days to relieve engorgement.
Your breasts have produced milk for weeks or even months and years, and they cannot stop lactating in few days. Involution of lactation starts 40 days after the last nursing session. While spontaneous leaking usually stops within 2-3 weeks, it is very common to express small amounts of milk for weeks, months, or years after weaning. Those mothers who have breastfed longer or stopped breastfeeding abruptly may be able to express milk for a longer time. Seek medical advice if you are still producing a significant amount of milk at 6 months after weaning or you have spontaneously re-started producing milk.
How did you wean from breastfeeding? Any other tips on weaning from breastfeeding without pain?