Learning how to stop breastfeeding can be just as difficult as learning how to start, and learning how to wean with oversupply is no different. While making "too much" milk can present a few challenges, experts have a few tips to help moms with oversupply end their breastfeeding journeys as smoothly as possible.
Romper spoke with Candice Echeverria and Candice James, breastfeeding experts and co-owners of GoldiLacts Lactation Consulting, and Devon Rae Tracy, a breastfeeding counselor, to learn more about how moms with oversupply can safely and comfortably wean their babies.
Before you begin weaning, it’s important to be honest with yourself about why you want to wean, Tracy says. In fact, a reported 60% of moms stop breastfeeding earlier than they intended, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If a parent lacks family support or feels frustrated about a particular aspect of breastfeeding, but still wants to continue, Tracy suggests they connect with a local International Board Certified Lactation Consultant or Certified Lactation Counselor to find out how they can continue.
If you are completely ready to wean, James explains that “weaning should be gradual and slow, not only for baby, but for mama too. Physically, the slower mama weans, the easier it will be on her breasts, there will be a reduced risk of clogged milk ducts and infection, and little to no pain with engorgement." If you begin weaning abruptly, the instant change in hormones like can cause extreme fluctuations in your mood while weaning, James continues, so support is key.
“Gather your support network and let them know that you’re going to be weaning and ask for their encouragement as you transition through this time,” Tracy adds.
If you’re already weaning and you’re in need of physical relief, Tracy recommends warm and cold compresses to help alleviate any discomfort and so you can remove just enough milk from the breast without emptying. She also says to avoid anecdotal remedies, like cabbage leaves, because they could contain listeria.
Oversupply does impact how long weaning can take, James says, and comes with a higher risk of developing a clogged duct or mastitis during the process. This is because there is so much milk being created at the time of the weaning process.
"Realize this process takes time. Some parents still express milk months after weaning," she says. "Know that this process can be beautiful and does not need to be stressful, and start early, because the weaning process with an oversupply can take months if done gently."
You can start early by reducing your supply to make just what baby needs, James says, and recommends that, if you can, you do so under the care of a lactation professional. Since the weaning process is unique to each person, working with a lactation professional can help a parent assess exactly how much milk they’re producing throughout the entire process so that an individualized plan can be created and followed through.
“Lactation professionals are trained for this very purpose, and if you do meet with one who you don’t jive well with for any reason, you can always ask for a different provider," Tracy adds. "Lactation professionals can be found at hospitals, birth centers, your local Women, Infants, Children (WIC) program, and privately as well."
What's most important, though, is the fact that stress-free weaning is possible, even if you have oversupply. It may take longer, but if you plan ahead and stay mindful of your needs, it shouldn't be painful.
"As long as mommy is putting herself first," Echeverria says, "breastfeeding and weaning can be successful."