It’s been two weeks since Little M had her first bottle of formula and I started to wean myself off the breast pump. Stopping exclusively expressing after nearly eight months was a big deal for me. Here’s how I stopped expressing without giving myself mastitis!
First and foremost, I listened to my boobs. If I felt horribly uncomfortable, then I expressed. But mostly I reduced the amount of time I spent at each pumping session, then dropped pumps as and when my boobs felt comfortable enough to do so.
Step 1 (Days 1-4) Reduce the amount of time at each pump
When Little M had her first bottle of formula, I was expressing for 18 minutes, four times per day. Typically I expressed at 6/7am, 12pm, 6pm then just before I went to bed, which was any time between 10pm and midnight. The first step was to reduce these pumps but one minute each day. So for example on Saturday I pumped four times, for 17 minutes each time. The next day I pumped for 16 minutes each time, and so on.
Step 2 (Days 5-11) Drop a pump
Once I’d got down to 14 minutes per pump, I felt I could drop an expressing session. In fact this came about because we went out somewhere, I lost track of time and got home later than planned, missing my intended session by about three hours!
This was positive though, as before my boobs would have been screaming at me to express and I would never have lost track of the time (a small taste of the freedom to come!).
At this point I switched my expressing times to 6/7am, 3pm, then just before bed at 10pm(ish). I continued to express for around 14 minutes each time for a couple of days, before starting to reduce the time spent on the pump again.
Step 3 (Days 12-14) Reduce to two expressions per day
This is where my milk supply rapidly declined. I dropped the number of pumps per day to just two, at around 7am and 7pm. By this time I was expressing for only around 8 minutes each time.
It might sound like it’s hardly worth it, but I was still waking with painful and lumpy boobs so it was still necessary to relieve the pressure and discomfort. After three days of this (by day 3 I was only expressing for 7 minutes each time) I no longer felt any need to express.
Why it’s worked for me
It’s been really good reducing my expressing in this way, as it’s given me time to adjust mentally to moving to formula feeding. It’s also given Little M the opportunity to be eased in to 100% formula feeding via combi feeding. We’ve been gradually increasing her formula intake and reducing the quantity of breast milk she’s had, as my supply has declined. She’s been totally fine and not suffered from any of the issues that I feared she might.
When I stated exclusively expressing and was looking for information on it, I could find very little out there. The Kelly Mom website was useful though, and I have used some of the tips for weaning from the pump here, at the end of my expressing journey.
I hope others will find this post useful if they choose to stop exclusively expressing.