Tips to Wean From Your Breast Pump
Making the choice to stop pumping is a big decision for the majority of mothers. Trust me, I totally get it. Weaning from the pump is no quick process and doing it the right way can really make a big difference.
Over 83% of infants are breastfed at one point (from the CDC).
This means that there is potential for that many moms to be pumping. And all pumping moms need to learn how to stop pumping at some point.
For whatever reason you’ve decided to wean from the pump, we’ll cover the basics of how to stop pumping and reduce your chances of feeling uncomfortable while quitting.
Deciding to Stop Pumping
The reasons to decide to stop pumping can vary greatly based on each individual – but are often very personal. Here’s just a few of the most common reasons women choose to stop pumping:
- Poor workplace support
- Difficulty with maintaining supply
- Emotionally draining
Poor workplace support for breastfeeding
While many more workplaces are rallying behind the ideas of becoming breastfeeding friendly, there are still several without lactation rooms, adequate breaks, and proper encouragement from management.
Check out this statistic:
A breastfeeding friendly workplace is a “significant predictors of continuing to breastfeed for more than 6 months after returning to work”
Many women just can’t or don’t want to manage the potential stress or feelings of poor workplace support – and I can’t say I blame them.
Keep in mind that there are breastfeeding and pumping laws that employers need to be abide by – and if pumping is something you want to do, don’t feel you can’t!
Related: How to Pump at Work Like A Pro
Difficulty with maintaining supply
Another reason women may not breastfeed for as long is due to the difficulty of maintaining their supply while pumping milk.
Simply put, your pump is not quite as good as your baby at expressing breast milk.
Some women adjust easily to the breast pump, but others may struggle to pump enough breast milk for their baby.
That being said, there are a few tricks you can try to increase your breast milk supply if you wish. These could include:
- power pumping
- adding a pumping session
Just keep in mind that there’s no guarantee that these tricks will work for all women. Always contact your doctor or lactation consultant if you’re worried your baby isn’t getting enough breast milk.
Related: Power Pumping
It’s physically and emotionally draining to pump
A third reason that many moms choose to quit pumping is due to the shear exhaustion of it. Pumping breast milk is hard work. It’s certainly no easy task and takes a very committed mom to do it.
So why is pumping so hard:
It’s not just a physical activity, but a mental one too.
Pumping can be emotionally draining. Moms may worry about things like:
“Am I pumping enough milk? Am I getting my work done? Am I spending enough time with my baby? Am I going to have enough breast milk to replace what my baby ate today?”
And the list can go on!
On top of that, washing your pump parts is a major pain.
Seriously, it was what I hated most about pumping.
You do all that work and then you have to wash your parts too? This might seem trivial, but if you’re a pumping momma – you feel my pain.
Tip: I did find that these bags helped ease some of the pain of cleaning my pump parts – along with a husband who was always willing to pitch in!
How to Stop Pumping
Now that you’ve made the decision to stop pumping – let’s talk about how to do it.
While you can definitely just stop pumping the same day you decide to, weaning from the pump is going to give you the best (and most comfortable) results!
Take It Slow (If You Can!)
I suggest cutting down on your pumping sessions slowly – also known as weaning from the pump.
In all honesty, I did not wean from the pump slowly because we were going on vacation and I didn’t want to bring my pump!
If you choose to skip the weaning process, just know that while it’s definitely doable, you should be prepared for some sore breasts (I’ll talk about what to do about those below!).
How Much Time Does It Take To Wean From The Pump
A lot of breastfeeding and pumping moms are curious how long it takes to wean from the pump. If you plan to truly wean from pumping, you should be prepared to give yourself a good 2 weeks.
This will vary based on when you decided to stop pumping.
For example, if you’ve been pumping for over a year and are only pumping twice a day, you could very easily wean from the pump in a week.
However, if you have been pumping several times a day it’ll take a little more time.
How To Wean From The Pump
One of the first steps to weaning from the pump is by eliminating a pumping session.
You’ll need to decide which pumping session to eliminate and only pump at those fewer pumping sessions for couple days before dropping another session.
Which Session Do You Eliminate First
So which pumping session should you get rid of?
If you’re waking up at night at all to pump, I’d recommend eliminating that session first. Just because you deserve the sleep momma!
As a warning, you might feel quite full in the morning by getting rid of this session, but your body will adjust.
After getting rid of any nighttime pumping sessions, it’s time to choose another session to lose.
I suggest getting rid of one of your daytime pumps, then a couple days later get rid of another one, and so on.
The last session I’d recommend dropping is your first one of the morning or last one before bed – as that’s when you’ll probably be feeling the most full.
To drop the last session you can either slowly cut down on the length of time you pump, or else just drop it completely (depending how quickly you want to be done).
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How to Cut Out a Pumping Session
Now that you have decided which pumping session you’re going to get rid of, it’s time to actually try your day without it.
You have three options and might use all three depending on which session you are trying to get rid of and how your body responds.
Don’t be afraid to try a new method if yours isn’t working.
Here are the 3 ways to cut out a pumping session:
- The Fast Pumping Cut: You can just cut the pumping session out.
- The Slow & Steady Pumping Elimination: Slowly push back the pumping session by 1 – 1 ½ hours at a time. Once this session reaches close to your next scheduled pumping time, simply merge the two sessions together.
- Waiting Longer Between All Pumping Sessions: Change your overall pumping schedule and extend time between sessions. For example: If you normally pumped every 3 hours, change this to every 4 hours. You’ve now gone from 8 pumping sessions per day, to 6 pumping sessions per day. You can then push that to every 5 hours or every 6 hours.
Let’s talk about each of these options in greater depth.
Option 1: The Fast Pumping Cut
For some women, simply getting rid of a session at a time is easy. You just choose the session you’re going to cut out – and you rearrange the rest of your sessions as needed.
If you choose to use this method for getting rid of your overnight pumping session, be prepared that you may wake up with a wet shirt or feeling of very full breasts.
Don’t worry, this will adjust as your body gets used to the change.
Option 2: Slow & Steady Pumping Elimination
While slowly pushing a pumping session back takes time, this option is most recommended when trying to get rid of an overnight session.
You don’t have to worry about rearranging the rest of your pumping sessions and can slowly wean your body to get used to not pumping overnight.
This can be a challenging session for some moms to get rid of as you’ll likely feel quite full in the morning.
The gradual push back of the pumping session will help relieve that fullness and help your body slowly adjust.
Option 3: Waiting Longer Between All Pumping Sessions
You’ll notice that the second method of weaning will take you quite some time if you have a lot of pumping sessions to get rid of and the first option may seem a little too quick for you.
The option to slowly push each pumping session to further apart is a good middle ground to try.
Here’s the downside to this option:
If you haven’t already gotten rid of your overnight pumping session, this method will take the longest to get to sleep overnight, as you’re waiting longer between all pumping sessions, not just the overnight ones.
How To Get Rid of Your Last Pumping Session
You’re down to your last pumping session? Yay! Now that you’re down to your last pumping session you have two options.
- Option 1: Go Cold Turkey
- Option 2: Slowly Reduce The Time Spent Pumping
Option 1 of going cold turkey is pretty self explanatory. If it’s your last pumping session, you can just choose to be done. You might experience a little bit of pain from not pumping or your body may adjust easily.
Option 2 will help you have the least amount of pain. Slowly reduce your amount of time spent pumping. Instead of pumping for 15 minutes, pump for 10 minutes. The next day pump for 5 instead. Then pump only briefly (I’m talking a couple minutes) if you need to!
What If You Experience Pain While Weaning
While weaning from breastfeeding, you may experience some pain. This will especially depend on how much milk you are currently producing and how fast you try to quit pumping.
If you are feeling super uncomfortable between pumping sessions, you can always pump just a little bit, but be sure that you don’t do a whole pumping session!
This will relieve some of the soreness but shouldn’t cause your milk supply to increase.
Another one of my favorite tricks to relieve engorgement and soreness is to use cold purple cabbage leaves!
Trust me, they’re a lifesaver.
Just grab a refrigerated leaf for each breast and place it in your bra. You’ll feel relief fast!
Keep in mind that cold will help constrict your vessels and, while relieving breast pain, it can also help reduce the milk that’s made. You should avoid putting a warm pack on your breasts as this can actually stimulate breast milk let down.
These great little ice packs are perfect to have on hand – they can be used warm when you first start breastfeeding/pumping and cold when you’re ready to wean.
Warmth = stimulation. Cold = constriction.
Tips for Stopping Pumping
Remember that weaning from the pump and choosing to stop pumping can be done many different ways. Your experience will vary depending on how fast you need (or want) to be done and how your body responds.
Always contact your doctor if you notice that you develop unusual pain, swelling, fever, redness or other issues.
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