At some point, every breastfeeding mum has to stop doing what comes naturally and wean her baby off the breast. Whatever your reason for stopping, your body won’t be any the wiser so your breasts will carry on producing milk. So how can you quit without it hurting?
Cold turkey or slowly does it?
‘When you decide the time is right to stop breastfeeding, it’s important to consider the impact it will have on your body and take things slowly,’ says Ilana King, breastfeeding counsellor for the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers. ‘If you go “cold turkey”, you risk developing blocked ducts that can lead to mastitis as well as great physical discomfort, so it’s best to do it gradually.’
One feed at a time
The best way to stop is to gradually cut down on the number of feeds you give your baby. ‘Start by eliminating one feed per day,’ says Ilana. ‘If your breasts feel uncomfortably full at this time, express just enough milk to make you more comfortable. The less milk you remove, the quicker your body will stop producing it. However, it is important not to get engorged as this will cause blocked ducts.’
Easing the pain
- If you’re very engorged, express a little milk – but only enough to relieve the pressure.
- Wear a comfortable, well-fitting (but not tight) bra, with breast pads to soak up any dribbles.
- Insert a handful of fresh, cold cabbage leaves inside your bra (replace them when they wilt). It really works… honest!
- Apply a cold compress (such as frozen peas wrapped in a towel) to your breasts.
- Gently massage away any painful lumps in a warm (but not hot) bath or shower.
- Take painkillers (such as ibuprofen) if you need to.
Reducing the supply
- Keep drinking water and other fluids. Drinking less won’t dry up your milk; it will just make you dehydrated.
- Try not to use heat on your breasts, because it encourages the let-down reflex, triggering milk production. Even a hot shower or bath can do this, so resist.
- Avoid nipple stimulation: it has the same effect as heat.
- ‘Don’t bind your breasts,’ says Ilana. ‘It’s an outdated and dangerous practice that can cause blockages.’
- When your boobs are bursting, stay focused by reminding yourself that all mothers manage to wean their baby… eventually!
Now tell us what worked for you…
Have you stopped breastfeeding without pain? We want your tips!