When it was time to give up breastfeeding completely, I pictured a painful experience of engorged breasts, mastitis and a baby who was NOT happy about the change. Never did I think that I would be able to quit breastfeeding without complications.
I’ve come out on the other end of this journey to tell you that this is not how it has to be! I have managed to dry up my milk after 4 weeks. With no pain whatsoever.
I’m here to tell you how I did it so maybe you can have a good weaning experience; and maybe even do it better than me.
The aim is to slowly tell your body that the milk is no longer needed, rather than quitting cold turkey and your hormones taking ages to adjust.
No one tells you that giving up breastfeeding comes with its own hormonal shift (are you used to those yet? Yeh, me either)…
As you reduce the frequency of feeds, pro-lactin (breast-milk hormone) reduces, as does Oxytocin (the love hormone) causing grumpiness, fatigue and irritability.
It’s important to keep this in mind as you may not feel like your usual self until your hormones regulate and you are back to you.
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When they tell you to wean, they don’t explain that this is a gradual process that takes several months. Usually the recommendation is dropping one feed each week. But, this is not enough time for your body to readjust at such a fast pace, only for 7 days later having to readjust again… rinse and repeat.
My biggest tip if you want to really avoid any complications would be to take it slow, like, really slow!
In order to understand how we weaned Jaxon you will need to have a rough idea of our original feeding schedule:
- 7am – wake – breastmilk
- 8am – breakfast solids (fruit with weetbix/oats)
- 9am – nap 1hr
- 10am – wake – breastmilk
- 11am – snack optional
- 12pm – nap 1hr
- 1pm – wake – breastmilk
- 3pm – nap 1hr
- 4pm – wake – breastmilk
- 5:30pm – dinner solids
- 7pm – bath – breastmilk
- 7:30pm-8pm – bed
Pick one feed during the day to replace with formula.
For us it was the afternoon feed after his second nap for the day (1pm). We did this for 2 weeks before moving onto the next step. We implemented 180mL (3 scoops) at first.
At first Jax wasn’t keen on formula at all! He would scream when offered the bottle and I would cave and stuff a boob in his mouth just to find quiet. Then one day after his nap I offered him the formula and he took it!
I was on tender-hooks as he guzzled, waiting for him to realise my deception, ready with my breast just underneath my nursing clothes. But he finished the whole bottle in one hit, success!
It took us a few different formulas before he finally accepted Mamia Step 1 from Aldi (and a bargain too at only $12.99 a can (thanks little guy).
This happened more and more often and eventually he knew that it was formula-o’clock after his afternoon nap and stopped fighting it.
Replace one more feed with formula.
We then replaced the 4pm feed with 180mL (3scoops). This time we waited longer before moving onto the next step (1 month).
We did this to give my body ample time to process the new schedule.
This feed was easier than the previous one to implement as Jax had gotten a taste for formula and recognized that this was just as good as mama’s breastmilk.
Replace the final day feed after the morning nap (11am). Again, an easy transition.
At this point we had to upgrade to phase 2 formula as he hit the 6 month mark. We finished off the step 1 can and I was worried that he would find the phase two different somehow but it must taste pretty similar as he didn’t flinch at all.
So now Jax was being fed only in the morning and the evening with breastmilk (usually nursed by me in the morning but sometimes expressed breastmilk from a bottle in the evenings by Alan).
Replacing the bedtime feed with formula
By that point my body started to get the hint and expressing
difficult pointless around this time.
My routine up until this point had been expressing every night before bed where I would manage to get between 80-120mL. Now I was only able to pump about 40mL. I decided to quit pumping and just nurse him in the evenings after Alan had given him a bath… because #dadbonding #mamaneedsabreak
I wasn’t expecting that he would start to get frustrated with my low supply in the evenings (an issue that had always been present for me) and so we had to move onto step three earlier than planned. In fact, we had not planned to cut this feed at all.
This is where we were going to stop.
I had planned to go back to work the following month and so this was the plan for another 6 months so I could breastfeed him when I was with him and formula would be the option for my mother-in-law who would be baby-sitting while I was away.
I had made peace with only breastfeeding him once a day (originally, I had planned for twice) and we were going to continue this until 12 months.
Then he bit me… with his shiny new teeth and it was all over, red rover!
I was devastated at first because I do know that breastmilk is superior to formula on a molecular level. It hurt that I had put wheels in motion to end our breastfeeding journey early, without realizing it.
Jax would be rough and unforgiving with my nipple because he was becoming more and more used to the bottle – which of course, doesn’t scream out in pain when he bites it.
I could have persisted though this moment but decided that since we were already on the path to quitting, we may as well continue.
He was getting more and more into his solids as well so I was happy for him to give up breastmilk and decided to incorporate fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy into his diet to ensure he is still getting the best start in life.
For me the last time I breastfed was unexpected and unplanned. I cried and apologized to him over and over through tears of failure.
I’ve since made peace with the decision I made that day and have realized that breastfeeding is just a moment in time. That there will be so many more opportunities to bond and connect with my little being and that funnily enough… life goes on.
If you are thinking of that final time you do breastfeed, I recommend you check out my letter to Jax after our impromptu final breast-feed – if only to gain some perspective:
Let me down slowly
After dropping the final feed, I was determined not to face mastitis or engorgement or blocked ducts. I had experienced the latter two during my induction into motherhood and my milk came in all at once.
So, this is how I slowly cut out the final feed.
I would recommend pumping in the morning when the feed would have occurred but I just couldn’t find the time and it just didn’t fit my day so I reverted back to my night pumping.
I pumped before bed for 1 week. I managed 40mLs to begin with but this quickly dropped down to about 10-20mLs depending on daily water intake.
I didn’t bother freezing this milk, I just used it in his breaskfast solids the following morning.
Pumping definitely draws out less milk than a baby’s latch – although this is my experience.
I had planned to pump a full feed (about 100mLs) and build up some supply in the freezer to give Jax when he was ill or had a tummy bug or just as a once a week immunity booster but I just wasn’t getting enough and in hindsight I should have planned this much earlier when I had much more milk!
Depending on your supply this phase may take up to 2 weeks – you want to get it to a point that you are hand expressing after pumping and only getting about 10-20mLs – so really drying up.
Hand expressing only, every 2 days.
I was getting drops so I didn’t bother with a bottle but you are welcome to save everything. I would just express in the shower for about 5 minutes (or less depending on how much was coming out).
This was just to make sure that my ducts wouldn’t get blocked and that any pressure building up would not cause pain.
I noticed that the milk was drying up and turning into cheese (gross I know) and blocking the ducts like little pimples. I would have to squeeze these lumps out before any milk would come out.
This is what happened when I had a blocked duct at about 1 week post-partum. I managed to catch it early and squeeze out the gunk.
If you are still managing to spray the shower wall when you hand express you can choose to express for longer or more often – i.e. every day for a week and then cut down.
Eventually I was able to squeeze my nipple and barely anything would come out. It would spray anymore like it used to.
I continued until this was the result for 3 days in a row and then stopped.
After this it took another 4 weeks for the supply to completely stop – I don’t think me squeezing to check every week wasn’t helping my cause to be honest.
Overall, I wish I had a plan in place when I first started weaning. I wish I had known that once I was on the mix-feed journey that it would not only affect the feeds I was dropping but also the other feeds in terms of supply.
Had I known these consequences; I would have probably waited a couple more months; I would have built up a freezer stash and I would have even considered pumping at work.
That being said Jax is happy as ever and we have even increased his formula. Currently he drinks 180mL at the morning, night and 11am feeds; 240mL at the 1pm feed and 120mL at the 4pm feed (as otherwise he doesn’t have interest in his dinner. A total of 900mLs a day plus two solid meals and a snack.
We have a pretty good little routine going and the best part is that Alan can now help out 24/7 which takes a lot of pressure off me.
When it comes to weaning it is really important to take it slow. This is a marathon, not a sprint. I do recommend that if you plan to switch to formula by a certain date (i.e. going back to work etc.) that you consider mix-feeding for a while to ease your body and baby into the process.
Remember that the longer you have breastfed for, the longer it will take to teach your body to stop producing milk.
We started this journey after about 5 and a half months breastfeeding and ended completely at 8 months.
Listen to your body and you too will be able to achieve a pain-free weaning experience.
Have you recently decided to give up breastfeeding? Are you worried about pain of engorgement or moodiness from the hormone shift? Let me know what you are most worried about and we can work through it together!
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