Adventures in Breastfeeding: Weaning (The How)

Cabbage leaves, hot showers, and the dreaded breast pump. These are the tools with which I've combated my arch nemesis for the past week or so. I'll admit that I probably didn't go about this whole weaning thing in the most intelligent way. You'll have to cut me a little slack though, as I hadn't planned to do this at all. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago I borrowed a breast pump from a friend and fully planned to use it to continue to give my baby breast milk after I returned to work.

 (And of course gratuitous photos of the babe as always)

It all just happened so fast - the plague, the pumping, the realization that we've been starving our child, and the panic and guilt that quickly set in. I suppose I could've continued to pump after V started drinking formula, but you all know our history - pumps and I are not the best of pals (see Adventures in Breastfeeding: Pump Wars).  So rather than doing the rational thing and cutting out one pumping session every couple of days or so, I decided to do it my own way. Not the best idea I've ever had.

V with her Pop Pop
I started out by pumping only enough to relieve the absolutely awful mind-numbing pain discomfort. I thought that I had read somewhere that this was a good idea. Then my mom spoke to her lactation consultant friend and informed me that this wasn't a good idea because my body would continue to produce milk. Apparently I should be using cabbage leaves and taking hot showers instead.

So I went out and I bought me a head of cabbage. And do you know how many different kinds of cabbage there are? Apparently there are over 400 varieties - FOUR HUNDRED, people.  After perusing the various heads of red, green, savoy, and bok choy varieties, I decided to go with the one that was the cheapest. I washed it, slipped it under my shirt and went about my business for a few hours. And guess what? It didn't do a darned thing.*

So I moved on to Plan C - the hot shower. Getting to take as many hot showers as you want in the dead of winter? Now THIS was something I could get on board with. Okay, so I did get kind of tired of them after a while - but they did really help. They relieved the absolutely awful mind-numbing pain discomfort just enough without telling my body, "Make more milk!"

Now in order to put this plan into effect you need help. I mean, if you're the only one home with your baby, taking six showers a day is probably a bit out of the question. Luckily this all occurred while my sister was visiting from Australia, so my parents were off of work, my sister was around, and the Hubster was still home on holiday break. And I should mention that it wasn't all good times, because although the showering thing helped significantly with the engorgement, it didn't do a thing for my skin. You know that stretched-out pregnant belly feeling? Well it was kind of like that to the point that I even busted the cocoa butter back out.

V with her Grammy

The other thing you should really know about weaning is that the absolutely awful mind-numbing pain discomfort makes everyday things really difficult. So again - if possible, enlist help. I discovered a whole new way of carrying the babe during the process and sleeping comfortably was a definite challenge. Comfy clothing is a must and invest in a nice big box of Lansinoh nursing pads - worth. every. penny.

Now that it's (mostly) over and done with I'm really relieved and happy to have my body somewhat back to normal, but in the midst of it all I could totally see why some women just. keep. pumping...I mean, hey, did you hear that you can apparently sell that liquid gold online? (At least in some states - in some it's illegal, so don't get thrown in jail please) (Oh and FYI the FDA doesn't recommend it) Or you could donate it to a milk bank (but where's the controversy in that?)

I hope some of you out there have weaned in a more planned and intelligent manner and can share some of your more useful tips. Next time around I'd love to have a few more tricks up my sleeve!

*Oh and in case you noticed the star in the above paragraph, in the interest of full disclosure, I was later informed that I was going about the cabbage thing all wrong. Apparently you're supposed to crush the leaves up or some such nonsense - either way I am still going with the hot showers all the way. (Sorry cabbage.)


  1. I've been nursing almost non-stop since 2005 (3 different babes). It is much less painful to stop when they are older and breast milk isn't their main food source. I can only imagine that the pain of weaning her now is comparable to mastitis, which felt deadly.

  2. We weaned at 11 months. I had already been pumping daily at work for 8 months and I think it helped to be pumping. I did it over the course of almost 2 months, really slowly and i only felt discomfort for a few days and it wasn't really that bad. I started by going longer and longer between pumping sessions at work, then I cut out the afternoon session, the about 2 weeks later I only did one session mid day, and then a few weeks later I ditched the pump ( wooohoo) and only nursed in the mornings and at night and then one day we just stopped. The little guy had already started drinking from a zippy cup during the day and only got 2 bottles morning and night, he had no issues making the transition. Good luck going back to work, if you keep busy it makes it a bit easier!

  3. Even though you're having some 'discomfort' I must say that 1st pic of your babe is absolutely beautiful! She looks delightfully happy!

  4. When I had too much milk in the first months of breastfeeding my lactation consultant said to pump out only an ounce when I was engorged. That relieves the pressure, but it doesn't tell the body to make lots more milk. Maybe you could have tried that? I'd love to know how you got your baby to drink the yucky allergy-free formula. We're trying soy formula now to relieve the face rash we think is due to the regular formula we just started. I'm afraid if she's allergic to soy we'll have to go to the dreaded allergy-free stuff. How did you do it?

  5. Oh my goodness! If I stopped out of the blue, I would totally get mastitis - ouch! You have certainly gone through a lot to do the best for your daughter.

    Just for other readers (and maybe you, if you're still in the process), hot showers are generally thought to stimulate milk production. A cool shower/compress, a sports bra, and tylenol are recommended for moms who plan to FF at my hosptial.

    Also, pumping just a few minutes to take the edge off is okay, as long as you taper off/increase the time between as you go. It's a little more similar to gradually dropping a nursing/pumping session at a time than just stopping cold turkey.



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