Weaning From Breastfeeding/Pumping

Weaning from Breastfeeding/Pumping

Are You Ready?

  • Some common reasons parents choose to wean from breastfeeding
    • Wasn’t working out for them
    • Too stressful
    • Going back to work
    • Subsequent pregnancy
    • Baby refusing the breast 
    • Low milk supply

Manage Your Expectations and Plan

  • Weaning will likely take several weeks, so plan accordingly and take your time.
  • Moving too quickly through the process can lead to discomfort and possible mastitis.

Weaning Breastfeeding by Age:

  • Babies < 12 months
    • You will need to replace breastfeeding sessions with formula bottles to maintain their nutritional requirements.
    • Start by picking one breastfeeding session and swapping it with a bottle instead.
      • Your breasts may feel full/uncomfortable after giving up that session, so you will need to express/pump just enough milk to feel relief from pain, but not enough to drain the breast. 
      • This will signal the brain to slow down milk production and down-regulate
    • Continue this process of swapping a breastfeeding session with a formula bottle every 3-5 days (longer if necessary).
    • You will gradually be increasing the number of bottle feedings, and decreasing the frequency of breastfeeding.
    • Once you’re down to 1 or 2 feedings (typically morning and before bedtime) you may want to continue those breastfeeding sessions, and not wean any further as your breasts will have acclimated.
      • If you still want to completely be done with breastfeeding then you will just cut out those last feedings in the same manner.
  • Babies > 1 year
    • No need to replace feedings with formula, so often easier to wean at this point.
    • “Don’t Offer, Don’t Refuse” → You don’t offer the breast voluntarily, but also don’t refuse if your baby asks for it. 
      • Avoid common spots where you and your baby are used to nursing.
      • Offer distractions like other snacks or toys to play with instead of nursing.
      • Find other rituals or activities to replace that comfort time like snuggles, singing lullabies, rocking, back rubs, or reading books.
    • Certain feeding times may be harder than others to drop breastfeeding (ie: nap, bedtime), so it can help if another caregiver can be there to take over during those times.
    • If really struggling to settle without nursing, may try a shortened breastfeeding session. Perhaps the length of 1 song or just stopping as soon as they get drowsy.

Weaning from Pumping

  • Very similar process to eliminating breastfeeding sessions.
  • Start by choosing one pumping session to drop (typically sometime midday or early evening is the best as the volume tends to be lowest then). 
    • Only pump your breasts if they are painfully full, and pump just until you feel relief so you can down-regulate your supply.
  • Wait about 4 or 5 days and then choose your next pump session to drop (preferably opposite time of day from the first dropped session), and continue with the same plan.
  • If your breasts are feeling full/uncomfortable frequently, then slow down the process and eliminate pump sessions more slowly.
  • Once you’re down to 1 or 2 sessions you can decrease the time you spend on each pump session by about two minutes every other day. Once you are only pumping for 5 minutes twice a day you should be able to eliminate those pumps altogether.