If you are a nursing or exclusively pumping mom, there will come a time when you are ready to scale back your pumping or say goodbye to the pump for good. This guide will help you wean from the pump quickly or slowly scale back pumping if you have an oversupply. Weaning from pumping is actually much easier than you anticipate as YOU are in control over when and how much you pump and can choose the method that suits you best.
How to Wean From Pumping – Breastfeeding Tips from a Pro
Why Would You Wean From Pumping
You may be a mom to a premature baby and have been pumping while babe was in the NICU or hospital. Now that baby is home and nursing beautifully, you are ready to reduce the amount you are pumping.
Or you may have been pumping to help establish supply or build a freezer stash of breastmilk. Now that you have a great supply and/or a freezer full of liquid gold it may be time to decrease your pumping.
You could be an exclusively pump and feed mama and your little is starting to wean from the bottle and you are ready to decrease your pumping efforts.
Or you may have returned to work and have been pumping in the day but now your little is taking solids or another source of milk in the day and you no longer want to continue pumping while at work.
No matter what your reason for weaning from the pump, whether you plan to pump less or completely stop pumping altogether, these tips can be used individually or combined to reach your goal.
Increase The Time Between Pumping Sessions
If you currently pump every 2-3 hours slowly start increasing the time between sessions. Go slowly at first adding 30 minutes to 1 hour in between pumping sessions. Let your comfort be your guide. If you are feeling overly full or uncomfortable wait until those feelings subside before further increasing the time between pumping. Eventually, as the time increases between sessions you will be able to drop a session or two.
Decrease The Amount Of Time You Pump At Each Session
Start by decreasing the amount of time you pump each session by 3- 5 minutes every 3- 5 days. For example, if you currently pump for 20 minutes 4 times a day you would decrease to 17 minutes 4 times a day. After 3-5 days you could then decrease your pumping time further, going from 17 minutes to 14 minutes per pumping session. If you are a mama who has struggled with low supply in the past or if you notice a significant decrease in milk production, I would wait the full 5 days before decreasing further. Also, if you currently have an oversupply I would decrease your time every 3 days.
If you only want to drop certain sessions, only decrease the amount of time pumping at those sessions. For example, if you are pumping while at work and only want to drop the sessions in the day, you would decrease your daytime pumping session times and preserve am and bedtime pumping/feeds.
Drop A Session
If you want to eliminate a pumping session or wean completely from pumping, you can drop a session at a time. If you currently pump am, noon, supper and before bed, I would recommend starting with dropping the noon pumping session. Once your body adjusts, you could then continue dropping sessions as you feel comfortable.
If it seems too much to drop an entire pumping session at once you could decrease the timing of that session until you are able to drop it. Usually, once you get down to 7-8 minutes you can drop the session without too much engorgement or discomfort.
Pay Attention To Your Body
In a perfect world, you could just stop pumping, and all would be great. Unfortunately, it can be a bit more complicated than that. Stopping cold turkey could deplete what supply you have, cause blocked ducts, mastitis or significant discomfort. It is important that you pay attention to the cues your body is giving you during this process.
Remember that milk is a supply and demand process. By decreasing the amount that you pump you will decrease the amount of milk you produce. The process is slightly delayed though. It can take a few days for your supply to drop in response to the decreased pumping. This is protective so that you don’t lose your supply every time your baby gets sick or goes on a nursing strike or you miss a pumping session. It is important to be patient with the process. Wait until you no longer feel very full or uncomfortable before further decreasing your pumping. Decreasing too quickly or all at once could cause clogged ducts or mastitis which can be painful and difficult to deal with. For more information on clogged ducts, you can check out my previous article Clogged Milk Ducts? Here’s What You Can Do.
If you want to decrease your milk supply quicker you could try drinking peppermint tea, eat or drink sage, or use cool cabbage leaves in your bra (only use cabbage leaves if you are not allergic to Sulfa medications and if you do not have cracked or open areas to your nipples).
I hope you found these tips helpful. If you have any questions or if I can help in any way, feel free to reach out to me, I am always happy to help!
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