Many mothers around the world are able to make the transition from breastfeeding to other drinks and food gradually and naturally. Sometimes, it is necessary to have to stop breastfeeding suddenly in the event of a mom going back to work, who is sick, or who is unable to breastfeed for another reason.
Your boobs produce milk on demand, which means that the more your baby breastfeeds, or the more you express, the more you will produce to replace it. Stopping your breasts from producing milk can take several weeks, and some women still produce milk even after a year, although it is extremely minimal.
There are two factors you will need to consider when you decide to stop breastfeeding suddenly:
- You need to think and carefully plan how you will transition your baby from boob to bottle.You will need to decide on what your baby will be drinking or eating (6+ months) to replace your breast milk. You should stock up on the replacement as your baby’s new food will not just be “on-hand” anymore.If you are having trouble weaning your baby, you might have to seek support from your partner or a family member as babies tend to associate mom with breast and will drink/eat something else easily with someone else.It is very important that you make sure your baby is getting enough nutrition. Count the millilitres your baby is drinking from the bottle or the food he/she is eating. Baby’s are at a high risk of malnutrition during the transition phase.Be patient with your baby and try not to get irritated or upset. Remember that your baby can feel your emotion and it will make them upset as well. Something new to your baby can be confusing and frightening and they are trying the best that they can.
- You need to understand the process and expect what will be happening to your breasts and hormones.Your boobs will be engorged and it will be sore! You need to anticipate tenderness and pain that can last for 2 to 3 days. Remember that you are at risk of developing Mastitis, so if your breasts are very warm, have red streaks or you develop a temperature, contact your doc ASAP.You may also experience plugged ducts, which feels like a hard knot in the breast. You can massage with a warm cloth or under warm water in the shower.Expect to leak, and leak a lot. Buy some breast pads if you don’t already have some because your engorged boobs will be looking for a way to relieve the pressure.You might gain weight because nursing burns extra calories, so watch what you eat or do some extra exercise if you are concerned.Hormonal changes can occur (surprise surprise, a woman/mother having a hormonal change). Your hormones might be a little imbalanced and you could feel slightly similar to post-partum baby blues.
The Actual Drying Up of the Milk:
Be prepared for some pain, similar to how you felt when your milk first came in. The drying up of your milk could be a lengthy process and will last several weeks (some women up to a year).
- Wear a snug bra. Not too tight else you might cause plugged ducts. Just wear a bra tight enough for sports.
- Avoid letting hot water beat directly on your breasts when in the shower. Rather turn your back to the water and keep the temperature warm, not hot. Warm water causes milk to let down and in turn stimulates milk production.
- There isn’t sufficient research to fully support why, but placing cabbage leaves inside each bra cup is known to help dry breast milk. You can chill the leaves to help for pain. Leave the leaves in your bra until they wilt, and repeat for as long as you need to.
- Express milk ONLY AS NEEDED. Again, the more milk is expressed, the more milk is produced. Express as little as you need to just to feel comfortable, but do not empty your breast. Try expressing with your hand rather than a pump by gently pressing and squeezing above the areola.
- There is NO evidence that medication or supplements help decrease or stop breast production, so beware of what advice you receive or what you’ve been prescribed to take. Talk to your doctor first if you’ve been advised to consume any type of herb etc. and remember there is no proof that any of them will work.
Try to avoid being irritable because of pain, be patient and remember that the process will soon pass and you will be back to your pre-pregnancy self shortly. Rather focus on your baby’s transition and making sure he/she has enough nutrition, support, and love!