How to Wean and Stop Pumping Completely
In this read, you’re going to learn about weaning from the pump and how to do it safely.
I’m sure you’ve heard the term “wean” when used to describe a baby gradually nursing less.
For exclusive pumpers, weaning from pumping to produce less breast milk over time is a task that cannot be handled flippantly.
So keep reading, because these are some great tips on how to stop pumping safely and effectively!
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Why do I Need to Wean From Pumping, Can’t I Just Stop?
The reason you want to gradually reduce your pumping sessions, (especially if you are exclusively pumping) is because it’s dangerous for your health to not do this task properly.
I’m sure as an exclusive pumper you’ve been made well aware of the dreaded word mastitis.
Which is a nasty infection caused by trapped breast milk that grows dangerous bacteria.
You can easily get mastitis when you stop pumping due to milk ducts not being evacuated regularly. This can also happen if you are not fully emptying your breasts at each pumping session.
Not only will fully emptying your breasts prevent infections, but it will also help to maintain and increase milk supply.
Avoiding mastitis and over all discomfort is the best reason I can think of as to why you want to slowly wean from the pump verses quitting it cold turkey.
How to Wean from Exclusive Pumping
Below you will be guided through safe steps that can be used to stop pumping completely over the course of time. This should be a gradual process, not an overnight homework assignment.
Likewise, these steps are meant to keep the process safe to avoid breast infections like mastitis.
1. Drop A Night Time Pumping Session
In order to stop pumping completely, you want to begin dropping pumping sessions slowly until you get down to 2 pumps per day.
As an example, the first pumping session to begin your weaning process with could be one of your middle of the night pumps.
Your body should adapt pretty nicely to this shift since it is a very natural course to take. If you’re only pumping once per night, drop the last pump of the day instead.
You will want to wait at least a few days in-between dropping sessions to avoid complications.
You can continue this process and choosing which session to drop each time that would work best for you. Try and pick a time when you are naturally the least full.
2. Reduce Time on the Pump
Every pumping session you have left, reduce the amount of time by 2 minutes every week until you are out of time. Simple, yet effective. And most importantly safe!
You want to take this process slowly.
Like I said earlier, this may be a trial and error process.
So, take it in stride and listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel right, reevaluate your strategy and do what’s best for your health and well-being.
3. Increase Time Between Pumping Sessions
For reference, say you normally would pump every 3 hours.
To safely extend time between pumping sessions, begin to add 15 additional minutes between pumping sessions every week until you are weaned.
I can’t reiterate this enough; if you begin to feel pain or are uncomfortable with this weaning process, please do what feels best for you and consult a lactation counselor for more guided help.
4. Take an Anti-Histamine to Help You Dry Up
Now, you could also be a little more pro-active and try and over the counter anti-histamine to help speed up the process. We know these work to dry up milk supply because while breastfeeding intentionally, we avoid these things adamantly.
Ever had a cold while breastfeeding? It’s miserable.
I must encourage you to do your research and also ask your doctor if it’s ok to take these kinds of medications while feeding your baby breastmilk.
5. Eat Anti-Galactagogues
Incase you aren’t sure what that weird word means, (galactagogue) it is a food or medication that helps increase lactation in a breastfeeding mother.
You can actually consume foods and herbs that naturally reduce lactation.
Here’s a short list of some anti-galactagogues:
6. Use Cabbage Leaves
While on the subject of food, here’s another natural route you can take to wean from pumping and dry up your milk supply. Applying cabbage leaves to your breasts actually helps reduce lactation.
This is also a great tip for removing clogs.
7. Stop Pumping Altogether
Once you are down to 2 pumps per day and have also been shortening your pumping sessions as well as going as long in-between pumping sessions as possible – just don’t pump for a day.
See how your body responds. If you don’t run into any serious discomfort or issues, then it would seem you are OK to quit pumping safely.
How to Not Lose Supply while Weaning
Here is what you need to do If you are ready to reduce the amount of pumping sessions per day, but are not willing to lose output.
- Add a small amount of time to the remaining pumping sessions (5-10 min at the most).
- Power pump once a week.
- Take sunflower lechitin to help move milk out of sticky milk ducts.
- Keep making those boobie bites and eating a milk promoting diet.
Adding time to your pumping sessions is crucial when you are weaning down sessions and want to maintain your supply.
It may seem to be a little counter-productive to the end goal of pumping less, but it is only necessary if you are worried about losing a signifiant amount of milk output.
This course of action may require some trial and error.
When Can I Start Dropping Pumping Sessions?
I don’t know about you, but during my exclusively pumping journey, I was counting down the days that I could drop at least one pumping session a day!
Those first few months of pumping around the clock 8-12 times per day were the hardest – by far!
A good indicator of when you can drop that first pumping session, is when your baby begins to regularly sleep through the night.
Since exclusive pumping is the intentional mimicking of a baby’s eating habits, you can take that cue from your baby that your body will hopefully adjust to this new pumping schedule accordingly.
This first dropped pumping session usually happens around month 3 or 4.
However, many babies at 6 months or older are still waking at least once per night to feed.
With that in mind, you can determine when to cut out your middle of the night pump based on when your baby signals that their tummy is big enough to hold the right amount of milk to keep them full throughout the night.
Months Postpartum VS Pumps Per Day Chart
- 1-3 m.p.p. / 8-12 p.p.d.
- 4 m.p.p. / 6-8 p.p.d.
- 5-6 m.p.p. / 6p.p.d.
- 7-8 m.p.p. / 4 p.p.d.
- 9 m.p.p. / 4-3 p.p.d.
- 10 m.p.p. / 2 p.p.d.
- 12+ m.p.p. / 1 p.p.d.
The simple bulleted chart above is a helpful example on how often you should be pumping based on months postpartum.
This graph is intended for those who are planning to continue to pump, but want to slowing decrease the number of pumping sessions without losing their milk supply.
Why I Had to Stop Pumping
This answer will be different for everyone, but I can speak for myself and what my experience was like.
The biggest reason why I stopped pumping at 10 months postpartum (2 months shy of my goal) was mostly because I got my period back at 7 months postpartum. Boo!
I was a little shocked and very disappointed when this happened, because I thought as long as I was pumping (4-5 pumps per day at the time) my period would not come back. Well, mother nature (as always) had her own plans.
Unfortunately, no matter what I did to maintain my milk supply, it wasn’t a fair fight with determined hormones – they won.
I was eventually only producing a quarter of what my baby needed per day.
So, instead of forcing myself to pump through sore breasts from menstrual hormones and stuff my sad, deflated breasts into flanges that were now too big, I quit.
The day came that I didn’t feel full, there were no more letdown signals and barely any milk was dribbling out when I tried to hand express.
How to Wean from Pumping Summary
We’ve covered many different scenarios for ways to wean from the pump, now lets talk about how to quit pumping completely.
For many reasons, it is the end of your pumping journey and you need to know how to go about finishing the process without pain or getting a nasty infection.
I can give you the tips that worked for me when I went off the pump, but just know, this was a process – it did not take place in a day.
I worked up to weaning off the pump over a 3 month period before I completely stopped.
I was also 10 months postpartum when I pumped for the last time.
The duration of how long you have been pumping may also affect how long it takes you to stop pumping.
Just some things to consider before you implement these strategies.
Hopefully me sharing my story will help you better relate to what it may look like for you, when you begin weaning from the pump.
The biggest tips I want you to take away from this read, is to always prioritize looking after your health and comfort first.
Listen to your body, take things slow and be patient. Being in a hurry to quit pumping isn’t worth the risk of mastitis or losing your milk supply when you’re not ready to.
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