While most of us want to ensure that we are only giving the best milk to our babies which is breast milk, there are instances that we need to do the exclusive pumping. Most of the time we have to go back to work, so we need to pump and store the milk. But would you know how to stop pumping and wean from the pump?
There is no perfect time to wean from pumping but according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends giving milk for the child’s first year of life. However, some mommies believe that although exclusive pumping is difficult, stopping from it is easier.
The decision is up to you whether you want to stop pumping entirely but is best to do it gradually so your body can adjust well and your milk will be reduced without you suffering from discomfort.
During pregnancy until the first few days after giving birth, a woman’s milk supply is driven by her hormones. Hence, the endocrine control system. So as long as the hormones are in place, a mother will produce milk and will increase in volume after birth.
To reduce the supply, one should take the necessary steps below. But before that, here are interstitial things to get you started.
Apparently, you still need your pumping equipment. Keep it clean and sterilized. While breast pump comes in various sizes and shapes, we highly suggest that you use the most basic or manual pump instead of the high-powered, electric models. Remember that your goal here is to lessen the amount of milk you produce and not the other way around.
Moreover, pumping should give you a natural tugging sensation without the pain, pinch or bite-like kind of feeling. Thus, if you feel any discomfort, find yourself a comfy breast pump. Some brands come with different-size breast shields to fit nipples.
Exclusive pumping requires you to invest in a high-quality nursing bag which is specifically designed to keep the milk fresh and sterile. If nursing bags are not available, you can use glass or plastic containers as well as feeding bottles with tight lids. Avoid storing it in disposable bottle liners.
You can also deep freeze your breast milk but make sure to leave ample room at the top of the container for proper air circulation. Stockpiling is okay as long as it is okay for your child to drink thawed milk. It tends to smell soapy although it is still safe for consumption. However, some babies don’t feel like drinking them.
The process might seem daunting regardless if you are weaning because your baby is old enough to eat solid foods or to transition them to formula, but do not worry. Take note that this is all about supply and demand.
You should need to maintain your milk supply for quite some time then gradually decrease the production of milk.
Understanding Milk Production
When a breast is full, it contains a higher level of FIL or feedback inhibitor of lactation which is a small whey protein. Its primary role is to signal the production to slow down. Hence, when the milk accumulates in the mother’s breast, there is more FIL and slow milk synthesis.
Likewise, the walls of the alveoli tend to expand and change in shape when the beast is full of milk. Hence, preventing prolactin from entering through its receptor sites. Despite it, the body will continue to make more milk.
This theory suggests that frequent removal of milk will increase the production by increasing the number of receptor sites.
Milk production works according to the supply and demand concept. The body can create milk if there is stimulation and the milk is consumed. Without these two factors, the brain will communicate with the body to reduce or entirely cease the production.
Another factor to take note is the woman’s “storage capacity.” It refers to the amount of milk the breast can store. Those who were blessed with larger capacity can pump less more often. However, weaning could be a more challenging process for them.
The storage is not determined by the size of a woman’s breast, and it varies from one mother to another. Those who have more significant capacity can go longer between feedings while those with smaller capacity might need to nurse their child more often to satisfy them and sustain their milk supply.
There are no rules when a woman should wean from pumping breast milk, but it pays to listen to one’s own body. You will be surprised that your milk supply will adjust according to the needs.
Reducing the Milk Production
If you are pumping more than three times a day, start to make it two sessions daily. It will also help if you will reduce the amount of pumping time per every session. Those who are susceptible to mastitis or clogged ducts, we recommend that you reduce the volume of milk by a couple of ounces daily.
Try dropping 2-3 minutes every other day to allow your body to adjust. For instance, if you regularly pump for 25 minutes, lessen it to 23 minutes and then make it 21 minutes and so on. Continue this process until you can drop the entire session. After dropping the session for the first time, you must have to wait a few more days before dropping the next.
One session at a time. You can reduce a session for that specific day. Example, you are pumping at 10 am, 1 pm and 4 pm, drop one session but continue the other two. After some days, try to drop the other session and continue with only one session. Then finally, if you are comfortable you can cut the last session. You can do it for a week or a couple of weeks according to your body’s adjustment period. Whenever you feel full, pump some milk to relieve yourself.
The process is the same regardless if you are an exclusive pumper or pumping occasionally. Weaning from the pump gradually will minimize discomforts and prevent you from having plugged ducts and mastitis. Spreading out the pumping sessions should be guided by comfort. If you are used to pumping every four hours, adjust it to every five hours instead. Then, slowly extend the time. The weaning process takes time and you might able to drop a session over the next week or a couple of weeks.
Others’ strategy is to lengthen the time in-between every session. However, you don’t need to set a precise schedule. It is still best to judge your body’s reaction. Once you are getting the hang of it, try pushing a little more by just pumping whenever you feel full.
As you go through the process, see if you can skip a day of pumping then do the last pump. Pump as little as you can as long as it makes you comfortable. Some women experienced supply drop as they get their period. Hence, it is the perfect time to wean from pumping milk. It is when the body is making less milk.
- If you experience pain and discomfort when weaning, try to take it a little more slowly. Consider taking lecithin to prevent blocking ducts and having mastitis. There are also some herbs that can help reduce your supply of milk. There are other measures such as taking ibuprofen, using sage and cabbage leaves or warm compressors to help mothers stop pumping milk, however, make sure that you discuss it with your doctor first.
Other moms find it hard to wean and tend to have mixed feeling about it. They might feel loosing a special connection with their babies especially for those who are exclusively pumping. Experts consider it normal to have these hormonal changes so don’t fret. It is a normal phase of every mom’s life.
Just think of this: your life will become much easier, no more washing of pump parts, no more preparation twice or thrice a day and no more pumping sessions at work. Focus on the benefits of weaning from the pump and remember that you did a good job mama!
OTHER MILK ALTERNATIVES
Those who are weaning before 12 months, the AAP recommends that they use their frozen milk. If the baby is one year old and above, there’s no need for alternative milk. You can still nurse the baby at least three times a day and offer him or her meals and water.
Some mommies find it healthy to introduce drinks such as rice milk, coconut, and almond but these are not efficient substitute as they contain a shallow nutrient value. Likewise, if you are giving alternative milk, do not mix it with your breast milk. Make sure that the baby can tolerate taking the alternative before you totally cut out pumping.
AT THE END OF THE DAY
We hope you enjoyed the tutorial. Remember that it is essential that you take some time to reflect first on the whole process as many emotions will be present. Always think that you have reasons for pumping and reasons for weaning from it. Now could be the time to move forward. Stopping from pumping milk doesn’t mean you are less of a mother to your child.
Got questions and tips? Share them in the comment section below.