Making the choice to stop breastfeeding your baby is a personal decision you may come to for a number of different reasons. Stopping breastfeeding cold turkey can carry some risks, such as engorged breasts or infections like mastitis. What happens when you stop breastfeeding abruptly varies from person to person, however weaning a baby off breast milk tends to go more smoothly when it’s done gradually. If you’re ready to start weaning, take a look at how to stop breastfeeding quickly, without pain and with reduced stress.
1. Drop Session by Session
A good place to start is to stop the breastfeeding session your child seems least interested in first. Substituting a bottle of formula for breast milk at these sessions can help your body to reduce its milk production. Give the baby a few days before stopping the next feeding session. Repeat the process up until the last session. The last session is often the early morning or evening feed, and you should allow time for you and the baby to adjust if you can.
2. Consider a Hand Pump
If you’re nervous about engorgement, you may want to consider using a hand pump and pumping a small quantity of breast milk (around 2-3 minutes or until all the pain is gone). Take care not to empty your breasts completely, as that could lead to an increase in milk supply, which is exactly what you’re trying to avoid.
3. Invest in Supportive Bras
Make sure you have a roster of supportive bras to rotate between. Your bras shouldn’t put pressure on your breasts or cut into your already sensitive breasts. Breast pads can also be used inside bras to help soak up any leaking milk.
4. Try to Decrease Interest
Talk to your doctor about offering your child formula or another age-appropriate food item before offering the breast at feeding sessions. This may decrease their interest in breastfeeding and make it easier for you to wean. Keep in mind that children less than 1 year should never be given cow’s milk, soya milk or other similar products.
5. Cut Back on Supply
Use only one breast at each feeding or use the same breast for several feedings to cut back on supply. Also try shortening nursing sessions by a few minutes for a more comfortable transition to stop breastfeeding. As you slowly drop feedings, know that it can take a long time for your milk to completely dry up. The average time is 40 days after your final breastfeeding session, so you may still notice a few drops of milk for weeks or even months after you stop breastfeeding. If you notice significant amounts of milk weeks after you stop, it could be a hormone imbalance, so speak to your doctor for advice.
6. Expect Resistance
Know that it’s normal for babies to resist weaning and that after a little while, they’ll get used to it and begin drinking formula or eating solid foods without any problems. Healthy babies will eat when they’re hungry enough, no matter how bad they’d like to nurse. On the flip side, when your baby is ready to stop breastfeeding, they’ll give you signs. They may hold their head in an upright position, sit with support and express interest in what you’re eating. They also may act indifferent or cranky during breastfeeding sessions, which is a sign they’re ready to wean.
7. Teas and Herbs
There are certain teas and herbs that are thought to help reduce milk supply faster. These include sage, peppermint, parsley and jasmine. If you’re not weaning cold turkey and are still planning to breastfeed, be sure to talk to your doctor before taking any of these herbs.
8. Eliminate Stressors
Weaning is easier for some than it is for others. Taking your time can help prevent stress for you and your baby. Plan ahead and try to choose a time when there are no other significant stressors, such as a deadline at work or an upcoming trip. It’s often helpful if you can spend extra time with the baby, as they are sometimes anxious during weaning.
9. Comfort Your Baby
Breast milk is a source of nutrition, but breastfeeding is also very comforting for babies. Many babies fall asleep while feeding because they feel safe and protected. To comfort them during weaning, try holding them in skin-to-skin contact, offering a pacifier, rocking them, distracting them with a toy, walk or game when they want to nurse, and establishing a new bedtime ritual that helps them fall asleep. Having another parent or caregiver comfort them can also be helpful and reduce stress for you and the baby.
10. Reduce Engorgement
Since pumping and breastfeeding can increase the supply of breastmilk, there are other things you can do to manage engorgement and speed up the weaning process. Try applying chilled cabbage leaves to your breasts, take a warm bath or apply warm compresses before feeding and cold compresses after feeding, and try massaging the breasts to reduce the risk of clogged ducts.
11. Practice Self Care
It’s normal to feel quite emotional during the process of stopping breastfeeding. Your hormones will be fluctuating, plus it’s a huge milestone for you and your baby that you may feel sad about. Show kindness to yourself during this time and practice self care. Nourish your body with healthy food, get rest and make sure to talk about your feelings with a loved one or a professional. Consider picking up a new hobby or indulging in some me-time now that your schedule may free up a little bit with no more breast feeding sessions.
If you’re ready to start weaning, use this advice to help things go as smoothly and pain-free as possible!