There are many ways to wean. Some are safer and more comfortable than others. The faster you try to stop making milk, the more discomfort you may experience. Some women are looking to totally stop making milk, while others simply want to decrease the number of nursing or pumping sessions.
Many healthcare providers are still recommending that women bind their breasts with a tight material or bra if they want to stop making milk. This method has an increased risk of blocked ducts and mastitis and is not recommended.
Recommend weaning for an established nursing dyad:
Drop one nursing session every 5 to seven days or longer. Ice the breasts if they feel uncomfortable while they are waiting to be drained again. Some people will remove ˝ to 1 ounce out with pumping or hand expression for comfort while the breasts wait to be drained. This will only need to be done in the first one or two days after dropping the session.
In choosing the next session to drop, it may be more comfortable to choose one that is not directly before or after the last dropped session.
Many women will save the morning or late night feeding as the last to drop because the baby may be more attached to these nursing times.
For women who are prone to blocked ducts/mastitis:
Instead of dropping a nursing session abruptly, you may want wean off more gradually, using the pump. For example, if you want to stop nursing at 3pm, you can first switch to pumping at 3pm. Then, gradually decrease the amount of time you pump over the next 5 to seven days. If it takes 15 minutes of pumping to drain the breasts, the next day, pump for only 13 minutes, then 11 the next and continue to drop by 2 or 3 minutes per day. Ice as needed for comfort.
For a faster weaning using the pump:
Switch all the nursing sessions you wish to drop to pumping. Then, gradually decrease the amount of time you pump over the next 5 to 7 days. If it takes 15 minutes of pumping to drain the breasts, the next day, pump for only 13 minutes, then 11 the next and continue to drop by 2 or 3 minutes per day. Ice as needed for comfort.
If you are weaning completely, you can also use ice, cabbage and sage tea to decrease the production more quickly.
Ice packs will provide significant relief. Make sure that you protect your skin from getting “freezer burn” by putting a protective layer between your skin and the ice pack.
Ice for as long as you feel is comfortable.
Use ice and cabbage leaves over the breasts to decrease production.
Cabbage leaves can provide relief for engorgement and decrease production. The reason is unknown. Take a green cabbage, separate the leaves and freeze them. Cover breasts with 2 or three leaves and change the leaves when wilted or when you remember. Some people also recommend crushing the main vein of the cabbage and placing the leaf so that the main vein goes over the nipple.
Sage tea will also decrease milk production. You can buy sage tea bags and drink 1 to 3 cups daily. If you are using fresh sage leaves and brewing your own tea, take care not to drink too much as it may make you feel dehydrated or faint.
Many women ask about using a medication to stop producing milk quickly. The name of the medication is Dostinex. The medication has a minor risk or stroke so I only use it when a woman needs to wean off emergently, ie major surgery or illness where weaning is required.