Weaning from exclusive pumping can be a BIG shift, mentally and physically!
Note: I count “weaning” as the process from 4ppd (pumps per day) to none.
Here are some tips to help the process go smoothly:
- Wean when you are READY to wean. Many women feel guilty at first, but if you are truly ready, this emotion should pass quickly.
- Look forward to seeing LESS milk in those bottles. You have focused on increasing and maintaining your supply for so long, this can be a BIG mental shift.
- Drop pumps SLOWLY. I gave it two weeks between each drop, from 4ppd to 3 to 2 to 1. – It may take your breasts a few days to get used to the change, and it may hurt at first. Follow the tips for clogs in my recent post concerning clogged ducts!
- FROM 4 to 3: Merge (pick a time in between) your two middle pumps to bring it down to 3ppd.
- FROM 3 TO 2: Push the middle pump ahead toward your last pump of the day little by little until you are 12 hours between pumps.
- WHEN YOU GET TO ONE, try to go longer and longer until you pump again. Pump when full/uncomfortable and only pump to relieve yourself (From hard boob to squishy but not empty)
- Use a manual pump (long, slow pulls) when you get down to 1ppd, and massage hard areas of the breast with fingers as though you are squeezing that milk toward the nipple.
- Wear cabbage leaves in your bra
- Certain herbs, in concentration, aid in stopping milk production, like peppermint.
- Certain medications can cause a reduction in supply, like Sudafed
- Take sunflower lecithin and milk reduction tea/herbs if you wish .
Weaning from the Pump E-Book:
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Dropping a Pumping Session:
Many EP mommas stick to a pumping schedule in order to build, maintain, and protect their milk supply. How do you know when it’s time to drop a pump, and HOW do you go about dropping the pump without suffering from engorgement and clogs?
WHEN TO DROP: Check out the sample schedule below. You’ll most likely need to pump frequently for the first 2 or 3 months to build your supply. (Dropping pumps too early can result in an overall decrease in supply! Your body regulates supply by 3 months) That means every 3 hours, around the clock. When you feel like you can drop a pump without decreasing your supply too much, or if you assess your priorities and need to free up your schedule, it may be time to drop a pump.
HOW TO DROP: There are two methods to dropping a pump- Gradually moving the pumping session, and decreasing the amount of time you pump. (I do not advise dropping the pumping session cold-turkey.) The method I highly suggest is moving the pump session you’re going to drop a half hour ahead each day, stretching out the time between pumping sessions. Go slowly. Adjust your pumping schedule to equally space the remaining pumps.
Exclusive Pumping Schedule
A successful EP journey begins AT BIRTH. Make sure to get baby OR a pump on the breast within the first hours after giving birth!
You might see a different schedule that begins at birth with 8 ppd (pumps per day) and ends at 12 months with 1 ppd (pump per day). That schedule is great if you’d like to be completely weaned by 12 months. Use this schedule as a sample for building and maintaining your milk supply until you are ready to wean. Alter as needed, based on what’s best for your schedule and family priorities.
⏰ You want to aim for 120 total minutes of pumping in a 24-hr day. Usually around 15-20 minutes double pumping (pumping both breasts at the same time) when you’re still pumping frequently. You may need to use heat, and hands-on massage to empty efficiently.
🔽 I consider anything under 4 pumps a day “weaning” and during weaning you are going to want to begin creating less and less milk. You would not pump as long (no more 120min a day) because you would not be aiming to keep your supply up at that point.
❗️ This is a SAMPLE schedule based on typical/average output. Every mother is different! Every breast has a different storage capacity and every mother produces a different daily total. Some mothers need to pump more frequently, some can go longer between pumps because their breasts can store more milk! If you see a drop in your supply after dropping a pump, you may need to remain at a higher number of pumps per day. Do what works for you and your baby. ❤️ .
Dropping the MOTNP:
Babies NEED to wake to eat in the middle of the night, and sometimes that’s when they eat THE MOST! Our bodies produce the highest levels of prolactin (milk-making hormone) in the night.
So for exclusive pumpers, it’s incredibly important to pump at least once in the night during those first few months. (We call it an MOTNP- Middle of the night pump!) Around 3 months, your body will have regulated its supply and you may be able to drop that pumping session without negatively affecting your total daily output.
(What does “regulation” mean? It happens by 3 months. It means that you built your supply, and now you could attempt to go longer between pump sessions while still getting the same daily total ounces)
What do you do when it’s time to drop that MOTNP?
High milk production in the middle of the night is very common. That’s why it’s so difficult to drop that middle of the night pump! HOW TO DROP IT– You can do one of two things or do them together. You can gradually pump fewer minutes on that middle of the night pump, little by little. Or, you can keep moving that middle of the night pump half an hour per night until eventually it’s morning. (This is my recommended method!) Straight up skipping the pump session can lead to discomfort, clogged ducts, or even mastitis.
REMEMBER- it’s only for now!
If you are finding that you desperately need the sleep, and you’re okay with sleep taking priority, you may choose to drop this pumping session and realize that you may be producing a few fewer ounces per day. A momma’s mental and physical wellbeing is priority!!!
Weaning is a Mental Shift
LET ME TELL YOU… Weaning from exclusive pumping is as much a MENTAL shift as a PHYSICAL one!
We spend so long concerned, fixated, even obsessed with producing more more more, and now all of a sudden we have to SHIFT to making less, less, less! It’s weird, right? That shift? It’s hard, right?
On top of that, we often experience GUILT about weaning, which is ridiculous because we have enough to worry about as it is!!! On top of THAT, our hormones can really throw us for a loop while weaning.
Sigh… it can be rough. So what can be done about it?
Work on getting excited to see less and less and less. Trick your mind into switching perspective by saying celebratory things aloud “Yes! Half an ounce less than yesterday!” Or something like that.
Let yourself feel the emotions. Vent about them. Journal about them. Heck, write to ME about them!
Then, honor your journey- write a thank-you to your pump, toast with your favorite beverage, get breastmilk jewelry, whatever!
[ The last bottle of milk I ever pumped, after 22 combined months of exclusively pumping ]