So, you are ready to stop pumping! I’m guessing this is not a decision you came to easily. Or, maybe you are just over it. Either way, in this post we will be discussing how to wean off pumping.
There are a few scenarios that will be reviewed. With one option being stopping pumping and, if applicable, breastfeeding, completely. And, the other possibility is that you are weaning from pumping but still breastfeeding.
Depending on your needs and if you are planning to nurse, there will be different ways in which you will need to go about weaning off pumping.
How To Decide To Wean Off Pumping
Maybe you’re thinking I want to stop pumping but feel guilty. Or, you are nervous because you are wondering what happens if you stop pumping. These are just some of the factors that could play into your decision to stop pumping.
As a mom who struggled to pump for preemie twins, I have been there! In my particular case, I was so exhausted and stressed, but I wanted my baby girls to have as much breast milk as possible.
But, after 11 weeks of this, I just couldn’t do it anymore. Underneath I knew it was more important that I was mentally healthy to care for my babies, than it was for them to have breast milk. This was the main factor in my personal decision to quit pumping and switch to formula feeding.
Some things to consider for your own very personal decision to wean off pumping include:
- Will this create less stress for you?
- If switching to nursing – how are nursing sessions going?
- If switching to formula – has your baby tried formula and does he or she like it?
- Will you regret not pumping anymore?
Stopping Pumping But Feeling Guilty
Your decision to stop pumping could lead you to have negative feelings. Are you feeling like a failure? Do you feel selfish for wanting to quit pumping? These are totally normal feelings to have. If you are not feeling this way, feel free to skip this section.
How can you overcome these negative feelings? Let’s start with focusing on the positive. You are here because you are weaning from pumping. This means your baby did get fed breast milk for some time. That is so awesome!
Your baby was able to receive the benefits of getting breast milk for a period of time and you need to celebrate that.
Now let’s focus on the fact that your mental health is more important than your baby having breast milk. If you cannot care for your baby appropriately, and pumping is one of the things stressing you out, then you need to remind yourself of this fact.
In my personal experience, I had both my husband and my mom encouraging me to keep pumping. Which is great, this is what we were taught in our twin breastfeeding class.
People around the breastfeeding (or pumping) mother need to be their cheerleaders. And, if mom feels down about breastfeeding, you need to be supportive and encourage her to keep going with it.
I also had a friend who told me that the people she knew that didn’t breastfeed just didn’t try hard enough. I love my friend, but for anyone dealing with a similar issue, get these negative comments out of your head! You need to do what’s right for you and your family.
At the end of the day, you need to follow your instincts. You will know deep down inside what the best decision is. And, once you do stop breast pumping, it will probably feel weird for a few days. But, you will get used to your new routine and life will go on.
Weaning From Pumping Cold Turkey
Can you wean from pumping cold turkey? Well, I would say that it depends. If you are looking to just completely stop pumping AND breastfeeding (if you are breastfeeding too), then the answer is NO!
The reason you cannot stop pumping and breasting cold turkey, is that it’s not healthy for your or your baby. The goal would be to slowly reduce breast milk feedings over the course of a week or two. This issue will be discussed more below.
Now, if you are looking to switch to breastfeeding after exclusively pumping or you have been doing a combination of pumping and breastfeeding, then you might be able to wean from pumping cold turkey.
Basically, as long as you replace each pumping session with a nursing session, then you can safely wean from pumping cold turkey. You can also safely remove one feeding session if you choose to.
For example, if you are pumping three times per day and nursing four times per day, for a total of seven feedings per day, you could safely reduce your total feedings to six per day. You would need to replace two pumping sessions with a nursing session. And, you could do this at the same time you are weaning from pumping, while still breastfeeding.
Weaning From Pumping Side Effects
Now, let’s move on to discussing how to wean from pumping for those moms that will not be breastfeeding after weaning.
First, we should discuss weaning from pumping side effects that you should be prepared for. When you start the weaning process, your breasts will feel fuller. This can put you at higher risk for mastitis and clogged milk ducts.
One way to help prevent this problem would be to massage your breasts, paying special attention to the localized harder spots on your breasts. Additionally, it’s important to slowly drop pumping sessions according to the schedule below.
Weaning from pumping hormone changes are another side effect. For many women while producing breast milk their period stops. As their body shifts back to a menstrual cycle, hormonal changes will likely accompany that.
For help navigating the changes you might experience when weaning from pumping check out these tips for your mental health when weaning.
How Long Does It Take To Wean Off Pumping?
The amount of time it takes to wean off pumping depends on how many pumping sessions you are currently doing.
The general rule would be to drop one pumping session every three to four days. See the chart below to get an idea on how long it might take to stop breast pumping completely.
# of Pumping Sessions
Days Until Weaning From Pumping Complete
How To Wean Off Pumping
Now that you know some side effects to expect when weaning off pumping and also how long the whole weaning process will take. Let’s review a step by step process for weaning from the breast pump.
- Start by dropping one pumping session. For example, if you have been pumping 6 times per day, then you reduce to 5 pumps per day.
- Aim to drop your late afternoon or evening pumping sessions first. Drop the first pumping session in the morning last.
- You might need to slightly change your pumping schedule each time you reduce a pumping session. The purpose of this is to keep your sessions evenly spaced throughout the day.
- After at least 3 days, drop another pumping session. From the example above, you would now drop down to 4 pumping sessions.
- Continue dropping sessions every 3 to 4 days until you are down to zero pumping sessions.
- You are now almost completely weaned from pumping! Go as long as you can between sessions, hopefully at least a day.
- If you need to pump for relief, only pump for a short time, until you feel relieved. This might happen every few days for a short time.
- Eventually your breast milk will dry up and you will not need to pump anymore.
And, that’s it. Good luck as you navigate weaning from pumping. It can be a big decision for you to make as a mom. Make sure you are definitely ready to stop before proceeding. Once you do proceed with weaning from pumping, the most important think to remember is to wait a few days before dropping another pumping session. You got this mama!