How to Wean from Pumping and Let Your Pump Go
Curious what you can do to make the weaning experience easier on you, your body, and your baby? Read on for some tips and what to do with your pump.
Tips for Weaning Off Pumping Easier
Your decision to wean from pumping is a personal one and solely yours to make, Mama. Though the CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend exclusively feeding your baby breast milk for the first six months of their life and continuing to provide breast milk (alongside complementary foods) for up to 12 months or longer, the reality is that every breastfeeding journey is unique. Some moms may have ongoing milk supply issues, nursing challenges, or a job that makes it difficult to continue pumping after returning to work. Whatever your reason may be, you're likely wondering how to wean from pumping and make the transition from breast milk feeding easiest for you, your body, and your baby.
A few tips to consider include:
- Gradually decrease your pumping sessions. It has been shown that an abrupt stop to pumping can increase your overall discomfort, in addition to potentially upping your risks of developing painful engorgement, clogged ducts, and/or mastitis. Instead, consider progressively dropping a pumping session every few days to allow your breast milk supply to gradually decrease. If you pump five times per day, eliminate one session so you are only pumping four times per day for the next few days. Give your body those few days or longer to adjust, and then drop another pumping session so you are only pumping three times per day. Continue eliminating these sessions one by one until you no longer have any milk to pump.
- Reduce your time spent pumping. You can also gradually reduce the actual time spent pumping during all your daily sessions. Try shortening your pump times by a few minutes at a time and, after giving your body a few days to adjust, progressively eliminating another minute or two from each session until there is no longer any milk to pump.
- Steadily lengthen the amount of time between your pumping sessions. If you have a set pumping schedule, add an hour or two between each session to gradually increase your pumping intervals. Like our other tips for weaning off pumping, this signals to your body that it doesn't need to replenish your breast milk supply as quickly and will eventually slow production to match expression. Remember to give your body a few days to adjust to your new pumping schedule before adding more time between each session, until you don't have any more breast milk to express.
Patience is important when considering how to wean from pumping and dedicated time is essential to avoid stopping suddenly and then risking discomfort or complications. Rest assured that decreasing your overall pumping sessions, the time spent pumping each day, or gradually delaying pumping will eventually slow breast milk production and allow you to fully wean yourself from the pump.
Listen to Your Body and Let it Guide How You Wean
If your breasts become uncomfortably full, try hand expressing just enough to relieve the discomfort - remember, you don't want to become overly engorged, which can lead to pain, clogged ducts, and mastitis. Speaking to a lactation consultant or your healthcare provider for additional tips for weaning off pumping and letting them know right away if you suspect you have a clogged duct can help you proactively avoid complications while making your weaning experience much more seamless. Though weaning from the pump requires time and patience, breast milk is produced on a supply and demand basis - this means that your milk supply will eventually decrease and then fully "dry up", regardless of what strategy you pursue or how much time your chosen method seems to take. Until your baby has fully transitioned onto an alternative food - whether it be formula (which can be used anytime) or a milk like cows' milk, soy milk, or rice milk (which should be used only after 12 months or older), or even something else - you can always mix in increasingly smaller amounts of leftover breast milk as he or she becomes accustomed to the new taste (and their body learns to digest this new sustenance).
Once you've decided that you are ready to part with your breast pump, visit MedelaRecycles.com to learn more about recycling options - we make it easy and it's also environmentally friendly! At Medela, we understand that it's completely normal to have mixed emotions about weaning from the pump. Keep in mind that every drop of breast milk provided to your little one counts and has made a positive difference in their health, wellness, and overall development. No matter how long or short your breastfeeding journey may be, you've given your baby the best possible start in life!