Ceasing Milk Supply
There may be times when a nursing parent needs to cease producing human milk.
This may need to be done for various reasons including: nursing challenges, health issues, returning to work or school, or loss of a child.
The ideal process of weaning should be gradual and can be emotional. By weaning gradually, it allows for replacing the nursing relationship with other nutrition and affection. Sometimes weaning is chosen, and other times it is chosen by circumstances. It is important for you to feel supported during this transition, and to take time for emotional and physical self-care.
Tips for Weaning:
- Do not wear tight clothing, or clothing with underwires. This can create clogged ducts or lead to more intense difficulties. A firm bra can help you with support.
- Express a small amount when your breasts feel full. Do not fully drain the breasts of milk.
- Drink fluids when thirsty.
- Discuss herbs with your care provider to help with minimizing milk supply, such as sage.
- If the infant/toddler is reluctant to wean, find a special activity that can be inserted during your typical nursing times, such as reading a book, a special toy, or music time.
- Use hot/cold therapy to help with discomfort, and discuss over the counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen for relief.
- Cold, green cabbage leaves can help with discomfort when worn inside the bra. Change them as they wilt.
- Sleep on your back or side to help with discomfort.
- It is normal for weaning to bring on lots of different emotions and feelings, such as anxiety, sadness, and grief, and it is okay to feel these things as the relationship created by nursing is changing, just as with any other relationship, and hormones are shifting as milk supply shifts.
- Seek support from a partner, chosen support, care provider, or WIC if the feelings become too overwhelming.
There are times due to disaster, loss, or other circumstances that weaning must happen without the ability to gradually decrease milk supply. In these situations, parents are more vulnerable to potential health challenges of the breast, such as infection, and increased risk of mood swings and depression.
For information on sudden weaning due to the loss of an infant, download this brochure on Lactation after Loss.