Sadness. Doubt. Joy. Relief. These are just a few of the great mix of emotions that come with weaning your baby from the breast. It’s kind of expected, since you’re leaving behind one precious stage and moving forward into an exciting new one.
My baby is growing up. I’ll never nurse him again. Maybe we need one more last time.
Thank God I can finally chug coffee without keeping him awake too!
Am I doing the right thing weaning him now?
I finally get to wear a regular bra again!
Another feeling that’s never quite as expected is pain – agony in the form of engorged breasts. No matter how slowly you try to wean, it’s hard to escape the painful swelling that comes in the first few days without nursing.
While it’s tempting to nurse your baby, keep in mind that this happens now or later. If you’re truly not ready, by all means keep breastfeeding! Who cares how old your child is?!
If you really are weaning now, you’re just going to have to overcome the discomfort. I’m sorry, I know it’s miserable.
Here are the best tried and true methods for handling engorgement and the pain that comes with it.
Hot showers – ease swelling and reduce pain
Ordinarily I wouldn’t recommend a hot shower because it can seriously dry your skin out, but desperate times…
When your boobs hurt so bad you can hardly think of anything else, a nice hot shower is in order. It eases breast pain the same way it eases sore muscles. It’s such a relief to feel the hot water on achy breasts. Try not stay in there all day!
Many times, engorged breasts will leak in a hot shower with no help from you at all. If you need a little more relief, you can gently press your breasts to help the milk flow out.
Added bonus: no cleanup!
Breast massages – ease engorgement
This is my go-to first line of defense. Lay a towel on your bed, then lie down an massage your breasts in a circular motion. Don’t avoid the most tender and swollen places. Those parts need to be massaged most!
Word of warning: this will make milk leak or spray out, so leave plenty of towel around you to catch sideways sprays or wipe milk off your skin.
An option for breast massage when you’re on the go is to line your bra with plenty of paper towels or breast pads and massage through your bra.
Don’t wait until you’ve reached the point of excruciating pain to try massaging. When you first start to be uncomfortable, it’s time to start.
Ice packs – reduce pain
Ice packs are just lovely! They really do a good job of numbing the pain.
I like to put a thin towel over my skin and then place the ice packs on the towel, and my bra over the ice packs to hold them in place. It’s even nicer if your ice pack comes in a breast-friendly shape like the Lansinoh TheraPearl packs.
Leave it on for 30 minutes, longer if you can stand it. The longer you wear the ice, the longer you have relief.
Hand expression – ease engorgement
When the pressure gets to be too much, don’t be afraid to express some milk. It’s not going to kick your production back into overdrive, I promise! During a breast massage or hot shower is the perfect time to express a little. (Notice I said a little. You just wanna take the edge off, not fill up a bottle!)
Typically, you hand express by squeezing gently above and below the areola, but if you’re engorged, any old squeeze will get milk out. Even pressing on a swollen “pocket” of milk that’s bulging out will send milk spraying.
Try to avoid using a breast pump. You don’t want to remove so much milk that it re-stimulates your supply, just enough to ease your discomfort.
Cabbage Leaves – ease swelling and reduce pain
Some people eat cabbage. That’s not me. I’m convinced the only reason God created cabbage was to put on painful ta-tas!
Buy a head of cabbage, refrigerate till it’s nice and cold, then tear off a complete leaf. Oddly enough, it’s the perfect shape for an engorged breast. Coincidence? I think not!
Next, wash the cabbage leaf and use a blunt kitchen tool to gently smash the leaf. Then line your bra cup with the cold cabbage and sigh in relief.
Whenever your leaf starts feeling wilted, grab a new one and repeat the process.
I don’t know how this works, but you’ll thank me for telling you about it!
Peppermint essential oil – slows milk production
I love essential oils! I use a few different brands, and I’ve never avoided using peppermint essential oil while breastfeeding. I have friends who avoid it, but I never noticed it affecting my milk supply.
That is, unless I apply it directly to the breast! I discovered this technique out of sheer desperation one day.
When your breasts get engorged – DURING WEANING ONLY – apply a light coat of oil (any kind will work, I prefer olive oil or coconut oil) and then place 1 drop of peppermint essential oil on the top of your breast and rub it all around, avoiding the areola and nipple.
I usually notice that I have less swelling within 3 or 4 hours of the first application, and try to apply it 2 or 3 times a day.
As an added bonus, it gives a nice cool tingle similar to an ice pack. Ahhhh relief!
Sage tea – slows milk production
You can buy sage tea online or from health food stores, but probably not at your local grocery. It’s renowned for drying up the milk supply!
Word of caution: it has a very strong taste. Blech. Add cream or sweetener if the taste is too much for you.
Drink a cup every 6 hours or so and say goodbye to your milk supply!
Sudafed – slows milk production
I have to admit, I haven’t personally tried Sudafed or pseudoephedrine to dry up my milk. I only include it on the list because I’ve heard a lot of people swear by it.
Including a woman who wasn’t ready stop breastfeeding, and didn’t know it would dry her milk up. Yikes!
You have to buy it from the pharmacy; but you don’t need a prescription. Follow the directions on the box.
In The End
Letting go is hard, and although logically we know that weaning our baby isn’t really letting him go…it can still feel that way. The lump in your throat and pain in your heart will just have to ease over time, but fortunately you don’t have to wait for the breast pain to subside!
Weaning is a fact of life, but pain and engorgement don’t have to be. Try any of these tips – or combine them! – and get relief for your aching girls while your body adjusts to not breastfeeding.
Do you know a priceless tip or no-fail method for easing engorgement and/or breast pain? Please share!