How to Wean when Exclusively Pumping.
-Image owned by Littlepumpling, product featured is Fraupow in-bra breastpump
Weaning from the pump is not as easy as deciding one day that you're stopping completely, instead, it's wise to understand weaning first and have a few techniques in your repertoire beforehand so you can plan the last chapter of your exclusive pumping journey to ensure it's stress-free allowing you to smoothly transition into the next phase of parenthood.
Whether you've made it to your goal and you're excited to stop pumping or something's changed and you feel it's best to stop now, it's good to familiarise yourself with various techniques used to wean off the pump and then to pick what suits you and your lifestyle the best.
Making the decision & having peace with it.
The first stage to weaning is actually coming to terms with the decision you're making. As an exclusive pumper, you've spent hours at the pump throughout your journey, you've perfected your set-up and you have learned how to bottle and breast feed your baby. It's been a huge learning curve and it'll be an experience you'll never forget. It takes dedication and determination to continuously pump day after day, so it's really important to take a moment to truly understand why you are wanting to wean and what this will mean for you if you decide to stop doing it. This process is really important for your mental health so please give yourself time to come to terms with the decision.
If you are confident in your decision to wean off the pump and accept that you're going to stop lactation because of it then this process will be easier on your mental and physical health.
I am an advocate for taking care of parental mental health and find that postpartum mental health is so often overlooked, however I cannot urge enough how important it truly is. If you are deciding to conclude your breastfeeding journey (remember, pumping is breastfeeding) you'll be making a decision which is highly personal and no one can tell you otherwise. Be kind to yourself when you are going through this process. Be aware that like all important parental decisions, you may second guess yourself during the process. However, if you have made peace with the choice and you're confident and comfortable as to the reasons why then the transition will be much easier on you. You will be more likely to be empowered by the new phase you're entering into and you may find yourself finding positives in moving away from exclusively pumping too.
If you do feel negative in anyway, be sure to speak to someone you trust like a family member or close friend and share your thoughts and feelings with them. Whatever you're going through is natural and nothing to be ashamed of. If you do not have a friend or family member to share your thoughts with you are welcome to join conversations online via Little Pumpling (see top of website for links). The online community has grown to be hugely supportive of each others experiences as each exclusive pumper has been there in some way too.
Ways to help you come to terms with the end of your journey:
Plan on making an exclusive pumping celebration cake at the end of your journey
Purchase a piece of breastmilk jewellery to commemorate your journey
Take pictures of your last pumps or bottles (Little Pumpling has a reel using this idea).
Create a journal or diary which will become a collection of your last moments of your journey. This exercise is great for your mind as you create time to write down how you're feeling but also gives you a chance to look back on it all in the future if you ever want to revisit what you were going through.
Once you've made the decision to wean. How do you do it? One method is moving a session along every few days until the chosen session becomes obsolete and therefore dropped. You then repeat the method with another session until they are all dropped and you are no longer required to pump.
1. Move a session along until it's gone
This way of dropping is ideal for anyone who's body is really perceptive to timings of sessions. You may feel overwhelmed by weaning as your routine is too rigid to drop a sessions and you don't know where to begin. This technique will allow you to wean from the pump gradually, dropping a session at a time. This way of dropping sessions will provide your body with subtle signals. It takes time to drop pumps this way but because it subtly teaches the body that your schedule is changing, you are likely to avoid inflammation. Inflammation often referred to as clogged ducts and the infection related to this called mastitis.
What do do:
1. Look at your schedule and decide which session is first to go.
Let's imagine you normally pump around the clock at 3, 6, 9, and 12 and your wanting to wean. Let's walk through dropping your MOTN session at 3am.
2. On the first day of moving the session, you are going to pump half an hour later than normal, at 3.30am. Session should be normal duration.
3. On day 3 and 4, you're going to pump at 4am, meaning you'll be pumping half an hour later than day 2.
4. On Day 5 and 6, you're going to move your session by half an hour again and pump at 4.30am.
5. Moving on to Day 7 and 8, you're going to move the session by half an hour again so you'll be pumping at 5am.
6. You've reached Day 9 and 10, you're going to move the session another half an hour at pump at 5.30am.
7. From Day 11, your 3am session is officially dropped. Today you will pump one less session than normal. Note that all your sessions will remain the same duration as normal. This way your body is slowly understanding that there is no longer a need for milk.
Here's a graphic to use as a quick reference. You can find this image on instagram.
Image owned by Little Pumpling
This is just one way to slowly drop pumping sessions to eventually not pump at all. You may find others and that's okay, we are all different and there are various ways to stop lactation. Dropping pumps will risk supply.
Other ways to wean will be published soon, subscribe to the website (below) to keep updated with blogs & updates from Littlepumpling.com