Weaning describes the process of breastfeeding cessation. This involves decreasing breast milk supply by reducing frequency of breastfeeding or pumping. If you are experiencing challenges which are causing you to suddenly want to stop breastfeeding, we first recommend support from a lactation consultant. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, then continued breastfeeding in tandem with complementary foods from 6 months to 2+ years. Your circumstances and desires to wean are unique to you, and we are here to support your goals.
- If your baby is transitioning to formula or previously stored breast milk, gradually begin replacing one breast feed with a bottle feed. Once your breasts have adjusted to the dropped feeding, drop another breastfeeding session the following day. This process should occur carefully and can take up to 2 weeks for a mother who is fully nursing.
- Continue to follow the baby’s feeding cues, and neither deny nor initiate breastfeeding. Baby will gradually drop feeds over time.
You may experience various symptoms when weaning such as clogged ducts, breast fullness/swelling, and breast tenderness. The more rapid the weaning, the more likely you are to experience these symptoms. This is why we recommend gradually dropping feeds.
Management of breast tenderness and swelling during weaning:
- Take 600mg of Motrin every 6 hours with food to decrease inflammation and discomfort. You can also take 1000mg of Tylenol every 6 hours with Motrin. Discontinue these medications when symptoms improve.
- Apply cold compresses for 15-20 minutes up to 8 times/day for relief. Do not apply ice directly on the skin, we recommend a barrier such as a thin cloth
- Wear a supportive bra without underwire.
- While pumping or attempting to empty the breasts may be tempting, remember that breastmilk is a “supply and demand” system. If expressing some milk for relief, we recommend doing so minimally.
- We do not recommend applying heat or aggressively massaging the breasts, as this can worsen inflammation and cause tissue damage.
- Clogged ducts may be present, which feel like particularly firm areas or “lumps” in the breast. These areas represent milk congestion and resulting inflammation. The milk may take several days to be reabsorbed, eventually decreasing the swelling.
When to follow up:
- If your symptoms worsen or do not improve in 2-3 days of conservative management, or if you develop a fever or flu like symptoms, please follow up with your healthcare provider or our nurse advice line at (415) 666-1250.
- Inform your pediatrician when there is a change to the baby’s feeding plan, such as weaning or introduction of formula/solids.