Do not bind your breasts to help your milk “dry up.” This is an outdated practice that can cause plugged ducts, breast infection, or breast abscess.
If your breasts feel full and uncomfortable when you don’t nurse at a specific time, then express just enough milk to relieve the fullness. You can do this by pumping for a couple of minutes or hand expressing. The less milk you remove, the quicker your body will realize it doesn’t need to produce. Sometimes just taking a hot shower will do the job – anything that relieves the fullness is fine. If you are comfortable without expressing at all, that’s okay too.
Do express or pump if you get uncomfortably full. It’s not good for your body to not have any way of relieving the fullness. Pumping or hand expressing just enough milk to relieve discomfort will not prevent your milk supply from decreasing. What causes milk production to stay the same or increase is adequate milk removal. If only a small amount of milk is removed from the breast, then milk production will decrease. In addition, expressing a little milk will relieve your discomfort and make it less likely that you’ll develop plugged ducts, a breast infection, or an abcess.
These things are commonly used to increase mom’s comfort during the weaning process:
- Ibuprofen or other pain relievers
- Cabbage leaf compresses
These things are occasionally used to reduce milk supply during the weaning process:
- Herbs and other natural treatments for reducing milk supply
- Birth control pills, especially those containing estrogen
- Sudafed (pseudoephedrine), a decongestant
It’s not unusual to feel tearful, sad or mildly depressed after weaning; some moms also experience mood swings. These feelings are usually short-term and should go away in a few weeks. This is caused, in part, by hormonal changes. One of the changes that occurs with weaning is a drop in prolactin levels. Prolactin, the hormone that stimulates milk production, also brings with it a feeling of well-being, calmness and relaxation. The faster the weaning process the more abrupt the shift in hormone levels, and the more likely that you will experience adverse effects. Moms who are forced to wean before they are ready (or for reasons beyond their control) and moms with a history of depression are also more likely to experience depression after weaning.
Even for mothers who feel ready for weaning and wean gradually, there may still be some sense of loss and sadness. Weaning marks the end of a physical oneness with your child, the close of a very special period in your lives. Remember that your child’s strong need for your presence continues, even if it is now expressed in other ways.
Weaning: The Physical Part for Mom by Becky Flora, IBCLC
Weaning as a Natural Process by Brylin Highton, from Leaven, Vol. 36 No. 6, December 2000-January 2001, p. 112-114.
Weaning Video Series #3: Emotions of Mom and Nursling During Weaning from CodeNameMama.com
Depression and Weaning from the Berkeley Parents Network
Weaning and Depression Linked in Many Women by Catherine Pearson
Handouts on Depression by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, PhD, IBCLC
Stuebe AM, Grewen K, Pedersen CA, Propper C, Meltzer-Brody S. Failed lactation and perinatal depression: common problems with shared neuroendocrine mechanisms? J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2012 Mar;21(3):264-72. Epub 2011 Dec 28.
Trad PV. The emergence of psychopathology in a previously adaptive mother-infant dyad. Am J Psychother. 1990 Jan;44(1):95-106.
Susman VL, Katz JL. Weaning and depression: another postpartum complication. Am J Psychiatry. 1988 Apr;145(4):498-501.