There’s lots of advice out there for starting breastfeeding but not much about what happens when you want or need to stop.
Last week, under doctor’s orders, I stopped breastfeeding my baby. As it happens, it was the day she turned 6 months old. Having had two children close together and my fourth child feeding until he was 16 months old, as much as I treasure breastfeeding, I was feeling worn out with it.
Despite being on antidepressants and battling anxiety, I was determined to feed my baby until she was 6 months if I could. Each week that went past was a personal achievement. I can honestly say that while she was an absolute dream to feed, and thrived, I didn’t. I felt awful. Perhaps my body is finally saying enough is enough!
So, having given her a few bottles in the day, which thankfully she took well, I was encouraged to keep going. I knew that once I had started the new feeding routine I would want to do the full transition. I also knew what I was in store for… engorgement, discomfort, emotional imbalance (aka moody!). But, being a pro at this by now, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned so any readers can get ahead and avoid the inevitable gripes that go with this.
I must add, this is about fast weaning a fairly young baby. If you wean slowly, feed by feed, you will probably be fine, but you may find some of these products and tips useful in any case. *This post includes affiliate links but I only link to products I genuinely use and recommend*
I only discovered the benefits of breast shells with this pregnancy – after 4 children I was very late to the party! Get some! Knowing how badly I get engorged when my milk comes in, this time I bought some Philips breast shells in readiness – and they were a real help at relieving the engorgement without soaking through my clothes. I had kept hold of them and was very glad I did. When my boobs filled up (fit to burst!) I popped these on and they relieved the overflow. Lovely! Although one tip, don’t bend over when you’re wearing them or you’ll get a face full!
I haven’t needed to use breast pads for a couple of months as my baby feeds frequently, but I was glad I bought some Organic Bamboo Reusable breast pads as they were comfy and much better than the disposables which seemed to get lost in my bra within an hour of wearing them.
I’ve used cabbage leaves and flannels to relief any discomfort in the past but these Mulit-Mam compresses are absolute lifesavers! I’ve recommended them to many pregnant friends and it’s now the kind of gift I would give a new mum – even if she doesn’t breastfeed, they will help in the early days. But when stopping feeding, I found myself reaching for the few I had left and I was so glad to see them again! What’s more, they help to prevent mastitis, which is always a good thing when weaning quickly!
Epsom salt baths
Immediately after birth, Epsom salts baths were a necessity and I bought some lovely Lucy Bee Salts. Not only was it soothing but it was blissful to have 20 minutes a day lying down without a child attached to me. My wobbly post-birth body appreciated to soak in the soft waters, but I was very careful not to get it on my chest area as Epsom salts can reduce milk supply (as they withdraw excess fluids). So, when I stopped feeding I knew I needed to have a good soak – all over. I soaked some flannels in the water and lay them over my chest – ahhhh bliss. I needed to do this every day for a few days and by the evening, getting in the bath to soak my boobs was a priority!
I love, love, love my wheat pillow! I have a purple one just like this. I have a few actually. We all use them, to warm up cold bodies and soothe aches and pains and, yes, that includes boobs! Just a few minutes in the microwave and it’s ready to use.
I found I would get hard areas in my boobs where the milk had collected and it’s important to get this moving. To do this I would use the wheat pillow to massage the flow towards my nipple and then the milk would come out onto a flannel. Be careful not to stimulate or heat too much, you just want to get enough off to ease the load rather than empty them. If you buy one of these, I guarantee you’ll find plenty of opportunities to use it, so it’s a great product to have.
Other things to watch out for when you stop breastfeeding
You’ll still feel sore. I couldn’t let anyone touch me for a few days and holding the baby was a challenge at times as any pressure was painful, I just stayed home mostly so I could get on with it.
I mentioned hormones earlier and it’s weird how stopping breastfeeding gives you a kind of ‘baby blues’ feeling again that comes when your milk comes in. I wanted to cry, sleep, feed, eat chocolate, shout… I was a rat bag through the few days of initially stopping and could tell my hormones were screaming at me to feed the baby.
I was happy to stop, as I’d got to where I wanted to be and knew I had to start focusing more on my health again, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t upset about it. Breastfeeding is an amazing privilege but bottle feeding can also be special. I love it when my baby looks up at me and smiles, or plays lazily with my hair as I feed her. And the benefits of letting someone else experience this, such as my sister below, and the freedom that gives me is definitely worth it.
Oh and then, just when you think you are getting back together, your period will start! Some women find they have periods while they feed, but if you’re like me that side of things shuts down completely until the last bit of milk dries up. Not having one for over a year it’ll be another shock to my system. With my last baby, my period came back within a week of stopping breastfeeding, which was quite a surprise, so get stocked up on sanitary products!
I hope this has been useful. I’d love to know if you have any tips on making feeding more comfortable or products you used when stopping.
I’ve linked this post up with the lovely Farmer’s Wife and Mummy and Maternity Monday. Why not visit her blog to find out what other new mummies are sharing?