All Dried Up – How to stop producing breast milk when you are an exclusive pumper
There are so many tips for weaning your baby off breast milk when they nurse, but what about those of us who don’t nurse? Sure, the mouth to boob connection between a mother and her child is what can make weaning so difficult. Nursing is a pacifier, a comfort, a bond, and this can be a very tough time on mommy and baby emotionally.
Although my child is well accustomed to a bottle and has had formula throughout his 8 months of life, there is still a bond and an emotional attachment to pumping and feeding my child breast milk for ME.
I have been pumping at least 5 times a day since Zay was only a month old. I pumped at work, on vacation, at the airport, in the car, anywhere and everywhere. When Zay was about 7 months old, I came down with a terrible stomach virus that dropped my supply down to 3.2 oz worth of expressed breast milk in a 24 hour time period. THREE POINT TWO OUNCES. That is less than half of a single bottle that Zay receives a day and at the time he was drinking 4 bottles a day. So, crap. I was devasted that might be the beginning of the end of my breastfeeding journey. I was in tears every time I pumped out only a few drops. I wasn’t ready to stop yet and no one around me understood why I was upset. “But you’ve done so good up to now, it’s not a big deal.” “He’s been drinking breast milk for 7 months, that’s so much longer than most babies.” Well I was upset because I felt like my body was battling my heart, I felt betrayed and I felt like a failure.
My point of telling you this is NOT to make you feel like a failure if you feed your child formula at any point in their infancy, it is to help you know that if you feel or felt the same way I did, that you’re not alone and these are normal emotions. You are not crazy for feeling crazy, that’s your hormones talking.
But, back to the point. I was fortunate to regain some of my supply back after that virus thanks to a pretty delicious boobie smoothie and some other supply increasing activities, but still not enough for a full day’s serving for my son. I continued to pump for a month and express around 13-15 oz daily. At this point, I decided pumping was more of a hassle and a frustration than just giving my son formula. So when my son was exactly 8 months old, I decided I was ready to begin the weaning process.
Now I call it weaning because I gradually stopped. I did not cold turkey this process and I am so happy I didn’t, because even a gradual change affected me and my body drastically.
So how did I do it? It’s not hard, but the emotions are!
- I went from 5 pumping sessions every day down to 3.
I cut out my mid morning and mid afternoon sessions and pumped when I first woke up, at lunch and when I went to bed. I did this for about 3 days.
- I shortened my 3 sessions from 20 minutes down to 10-12
- I dropped my lunch session
- I dropped my before bed session
- I finally dropped my morning session
For three days after dropping this session, I was extremely sore and slightly engorged. My biggest piece of advice is don’t try to self express to release the pressure. That only made me produce more and prolonged my pain.
Cabbage leaves applied to your breasts have been known to help stop breast milk supply. I didn’t use any drugs or lotions or leaves to stop producing, I just slowly cut back my demand and the supply followed suit.
My attitude spiked around Day 2 of Step 3, so be conscious of any hormonal shifts in behavior you might experience. Let those close to you know and just be mindful. I also want you to embrace whatever emotions you may be experiencing. It’s ok not be 100% confident in your decision or to second guess yourself after it’s all said and done. Know that you thought about this when you were rational (lol) and that you’ve made this call for the right reasons, no matter what those reasons were.