Breastfeeding your baby is a bonding experience unlike any other. Not only does it help you build a lasting relationship with your child, but your breast milk gives your child anti-bodies and defenses that bottle-feeding cannot. Whether it is your baby’s choice or yours, there will come a time when you need to wean your little one. Below you will find our Rookie Mom tips on how to stop pumping safely!
When and How to Stop Pumping Safely
When to Stop
Everyone’s breastfeeding journey is different. Some mothers will breastfeed well into the toddler years while others stop at 12 months. Children are able to eat solid foods between the ages of 4 to 6 months, so how you decide to incorporate breastfeeding during that time period is up to you.
There is no true right answer as to when to stop pumping! Some moms stop cold turkey while others decrease the time slowly. Above all else, you must be prepared mentally and emotionally for the weaning process before you begin. It is okay if you just feel done as a mama. Breastfeeding for more than 6-12 months (when most toddlers go on solid food) is a major commitment, so this is probably the most popular time to stop. Whatever the case, when you are ready here’s how safely set the breast pump aside and stop pumping!
How to Stop Pumping Safely
First, talk to your partner. Make sure he or she understands that weaning can be very emotional, as well as physically difficult. Any type of radical change in your body chemistry will create stress and fatigue. This can make you impatient, crabby, or make you cry at the drop of a hat.
Next, come up with a plan. Take a look at your current feeding and pumping schedules. When would be the easiest place to start making changes? Let’s look at an example:
Original Pumping Schedule
|6am-8am||Feed at 6am; pump at 7:30||Feed at 6am; pump at 7:30||Feed at 6am; pump at 7:30||Feed at 6am; pump at 7:30||Feed at 6am; pump at 7:30||Feed at 6am; pump at 7:30||Feed at 6am; pump at 7:30|
|10am-noon||Pump at 11:30||Pump at 11:30||Pump at 11:30||Pump at 11:30||Pump at 11:30||Feed as needed||Feed as needed|
|Noon-2pm||Pump at 2pm||Pump at 2pm||Pump at 2pm||Pump at 2pm||Pump at 2pm||Feed as needed||Feed as needed|
|2pm-4pm||Feed at 4pm||Feed at 4pm||Feed at 4pm||Feed at 4pm||Feed at 4pm||Feed as needed||Feed as needed|
|4pm-6pm||Pump at 6pm||Pump at 6pm||Pump at 6pm||Pump at 6pm||Pump at 6pm||Feed as needed||Feed as needed|
|6pm-8pm||Feed at 7pm||Feed at 7pm||Feed at 7pm||Feed at 7pm||Feed at 7pm||Feed as needed||Feed as needed|
|8pm-10pm||Pump at 9pm||Pump at 9pm||Pump at 9pm||Pump at 9pm||Feed as needed||Feed as needed||Pump at 9pm|
The First Cut
So, let’s take a look at places you could start weaning by dropping sessions for both the child and the pump. The dark highlights indicate times we suggest you safely stop pumping.
As you can see from the chart, start small. Try to use the weekends or your days off as part of the weaning process so you don’t have to radically adjust your schedule at first. Try this for a week, then gradually decrease pumping in place of solid foods. Here is an example of how your chart should look after 4-6 weeks of weaning.
Always be prepared to make adjustments! Do not get upset with yourself if you miss a pump or have to adjust the time. These charts are simply a suggested way to get yourself organized and have a visual of how to plan to wean.
Complications You May Face
There are multiple, potential complications to weaning from the pump: feeling too full, mastitis, depression, nausea, mood swings, and headaches. This is why you need to take the proper steps to stop pumping safely. All of these complications are a natural part of the weaning process. Your body will be adjusting to a new schedule, your hormones will be changing, and you may feel a loss of connection with your child.
Feeling Too Full
Once you have gotten into a routine for breastfeeding and pumping, your body will produce enough milk to meet that demand. However, as you wean, you may feel overly full in your breasts. This could be very uncomfortable, but your milk production will decrease as you continue the weaning process.
Mastitis is a very painful, localized infection in the breast tissue. It can be treated with warm compresses, expression of excess milk, and, if necessary, antibiotics. This tends to happen when weaning too quickly, so stay safe and make sure you stop pumping and nursing gradually.
Depression and Mood Swings
As your body chemistry changes during weaning, your hormone production will vary, sometimes creating depression and/or mood swings. Sometimes these can be dealt with in therapy or your physician may prescribe short-term, safe anti-depressants to get you through the process.
You may also simply start missing the physical connection you have had with your child up to this point. Your body recognizes this process as weaning your child ”“ and this can cause hormone changes like the ones mentioned below.
Nausea and Headaches
When you stop pumping, the change in your body chemistry may cause nausea and headaches. As the levels of prolactin and oxytocin (two neurotransmitters that support breastfeeding) drop as you wean, your brain chemistry will be off-balance for a bit. Over-the-counter remedies can help with both issues.
Conclusion on How to Stop Pumping Safely
Knowing when to wean, especially when to stop pumping, is always tricky. While making the decision to do so can be easy, stopping the pump and weaning the child will be demanding both physically and emotionally. You must be prepared for the challenges and issues you can run into during this change of life.
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