Whenever you start to give your baby anything to supplement their feeding sessions at your breast, it is called weaning. Unless it's an emergency situation, weaning is best for you and your baby if done gradually. It depends on how much milk you are producing and how quickly you cut them down to know how long it will take to wean. It could be a few weeks or a few months.
If your baby is under a year, they will need to be supplemented with formula. If they are over a year, some form of milk substitute might appropriate or try to eliminate the need for bottles by transitioning to a cup and more solid foods.
Here are a few tips to make the process as smooth and comfortable as possible:
- First, determine how many times a day your baby eats and try to reduce it. This usually works by lengthening the time between each session. Try to leave the first and last feedings of the day to the end of weaning. The first feeding is when you are most full and could lead to engorgement if you eliminate it too soon. The evening feeding is usually one of comfort and helps your baby sleep through the night.
- Cut each feeding session by 1 or 2 minutes each time until you eliminate the session altogether.
- The breasts make milk slower if there is milk stored in them so only remove as much milk as you need to not feel swollen and over full. Over time, the suppressor peptides in the milk with tell the glands to stop producing.
- Use cold compresses to restrict the blood vessels. This slows the milk productions and reduces discomfort. Don't use heat.
- Avoid pumping as this signals to the body that your baby is still eating. If you need to, express by hand or only pump small amounts to prevent blocked ducts.
- Cabbage leaf compresses can be helpful as when they are crushed up, they release enzymes that encourage the drying up process.
- If you are in a European country, or just happen to be lucky enough to have quark available to you, it can be used to sooth and slow milk production as well.
- For those who need to decrease their supply quickly because of illness, etc., sage or mint tea is recommended. There are many other herbs known to slow milk production and should be avoided if you are not weaning. The oils of these herbs can also be used for massage.
- Wear a tight fitting bra for support but not too tight as to cause inflammation, clogged ducts and mastitis.
- If you feel lumps, this signals a clogged duct. Use massage on that area to unblock the duct. If necessary, use a warm compress before the massage and a cold compress after. This allows the milk to be released from that area while still decreasing the overall production. Consult a doctor if the symptoms worsen or you get a fever.
As the hormones are again changing in your body, be prepared for mood swings. Eat as nutritious as possible and drink plenty of water. Take pre-natal vitamins to help your body adjust again. Try to get a good nights sleep.
Find other ways to spend time with your baby as this is an adjustment for them as well. Remember, you are still their source of food and comfort even if not directly anymore. Replace feeding time with another activity to distract your baby and show them you are still there.