Last Updated on August 8, 2023 by Jada Glover
Regardless of your reasoning – whether it be starting a new job, successfully transitioning your child to solid foods and a sippy cup, or simply growing tired of the pumping schedule – you might decide it’s time to stop pumping immediately. But is that really a good idea? In this article, we’ll cover whether you should stop pumping cold turkey, the benefits and drawbacks of doing so, and how to go about it step by step. Let’s get right into it!
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What Does It Mean to Stop Pumping Cold Turkey?
Stopping pumping cold turkey means discontinuing pumping all at once. There’s no gradual process – it’s an abrupt stop.
Your breasts make milk on a supply-and-demand basis. The more milk you remove from a breast, the more milk it will make. And the same goes for the reverse. When you remove less milk from a breast, the less milk it will produce. Stopping cold turkey will halt your milk production quickly after an initial period of engorgement passes.
Employing a gradual process requires you to drop pump sessions every few days. If you normally pump three times a day, you’ll gradually decrease that to two times, and then a single session before stopping completely. You could also pump for a few minutes less each day. It could take a relatively long time (a couple of weeks or more) for your milk to dry up, but if you’re not in a rush, it’s an option to seriously consider. When you get to your last pumping session, the hard work will all be worth it.
The Negative Effects of Cold Turkey Pump Weaning
Stopping pumping cold turkey is often discouraged by healthcare professionals because of the many negative side effects that it can cause. Before deciding to go cold turkey, we urge you to learn about the negatives that could come up during the process. Here they are:
- Pain and discomfort from engorgement. When you stop pumping cold turkey, your breasts may become uncomfortably full and engorged. This happens whenever your milk ducts aren’t drained on a regular basis. Engorgement pain may be dull or sharp and range from mild to severe and debilitating. If you were exclusively pumping and stopped cold turkey, you’re at a greater risk of developing painful engorgement.
- Excessive leakage. Leakage is often a consequence of stopping pumping too quickly. Due to the pressure building up in your breasts, you could soak through breast pads, ruin your shirts, and wet the bed as you sleep. This issue won’t be as big of a problem for some as it is for others, but it’s a potential issue nonetheless. You can use nursing pads as a means to help soak up milk in your bra if you are leaking during the weaning process.
- Extreme mood swings. Mood swings and mental health problems are very common among those who stop pumping over a short length of time. It causes abrupt hormonal changes that could send you on an emotional rollercoaster. Several hormones are involved in breast milk production, two of the most pertinent are prolactin and oxytocin – both are happy hormones. As you stop pumping, the levels of these hormones drop and can have a noticeable effect on your mood. As a result, you could experience feelings of depression, irritability, grief, and more.
- Mastitis. If you’ve ever gotten mastitis, we’ll bet you’d do nearly anything to avoid it again. It’s inflammation often caused by a breast infection. Your risk of getting mastitis increases the longer you leave milk sitting in your breast. Symptoms of mastitis include pain, redness, swelling, and warmth. Though some cases of mastitis might clear on their own, you may need antibiotics.
*These aren’t the only issues you could run into if you stop pumping cold turkey.
The Benefits of Stopping Pumping Cold Turkey
Though there are some real cons to stopping pumping cold turkey, it’s important to look at both sides of the equation. There are some real benefits to going this route, and the main one has to do with your time and schedule.
With cold turkey weaning, you’ll be able to say goodbye to your pumping schedule all at once. If your pumping routine makes you feel like you’re on a hamster wheel, we’re sure you’d welcome the possibility of dropping all of your pumping sessions and getting into a new schedule.
No more cleaning pumping equipment, timing your pumping sessions, or storing the pumped milk. You’ll be able to spend your valuable time doing something else you love.
Your Decision Should Best Meet Your Needs
Deciding on a weaning method is a personal decision, one that should best meet your needs, and not necessarily anyone else’s. If you are ready to stop pumping and want to minimize your risk of experiencing pain, mastitis, mood swings, etc., we recommend that you wean from the pump gradually rather than cold turkey. But if you believe the benefits of time and freedom outweigh the risks mentioned earlier, you can stop pumping cold turkey. Just keep reading to learn how to minimize the issues that could come along with it.
How to Stop Pumping Cold Turkey
For moms who want to stop pumping cold turkey, or have no other choice, there are ways to minimize your discomfort and manage your risk of complications. Keep the following tips in mind to make things a little easier:
Talk To A Lactation Consultant Or Healthcare Professional First
We strongly advise you not to just stop pumping out of the blue and throw caution to the wind. Take a moment or two to talk with a knowledgeable professional for a weaning consultation, where you’ll learn more about the cold turkey weaning process, how your body may react, and warning signs to watch out for.
Try Natural Remedies Like Sage Tea
Lactation Consultants also know some remedies to stop milk production quicker through natural or pharmaceutical means; sage tea is a great breast milk suppressant. You can also try peppermint tea. Both of these are shown to have anti-lactogenic effects. In other words, they suppress milk production.
You can try this Pink Stork No Flow Tea to help dry up your milk supply quickly.
Express A Small Amount Of Milk To Relieve The Pressure
Your breasts have a delayed reaction to supply and demand. If you were trying to increase your breast milk supply through frequent pumping sessions, your breasts would take some time to get the message and produce more milk. And the same goes for decreasing or stopping milk production. When you stop pumping, your breasts will eventually stop making milk, but it will take time. And until they get the message, they’ll continue producing milk.
Since you’re not removing the produced milk, your breasts will get really full and may feel tight, painful, and uncomfortable. You can relieve a little bit of the pressure by expressing a small amount of milk when you can’t take it anymore. Don’t express too much milk, though; doing so may cause your breasts to produce more milk and prolong the process.
Read this article for more information about getting rid of clogged milk ducts.
Use Cold Compresses
You may have read on the internet or heard through the grapevine that you should use warm compresses when pump weaning. Though that may feel good, using warm compresses alone isn’t a good idea for lactation suppression. Warm compresses increase blood flow to the area and may promote milk production. Cold compresses, by contrast, reduce or stop milk production. Using them regularly may help a lot with the pain and swelling. If you just have to have a warm compress, apply it first and follow up with a cold compress.
To do a cold compress properly, you’ll wrap a large ice pack or a few small ice packs in a thin towel to protect your skin, and then place it on your breast. Leave it in place for about 10 to 15 minutes. You can also place cold cabbage leaves in your bra and take them out when they’re no longer cold.
These Bamboobie packs work as warm packs and cold packs that you can use.
Massage Any Lumps
When you stop pumping cold turkey, your breasts may get hard or even lumpy. If you notice a lump, that could be a sign of a clogged duct. If you leave it untreated, it could result in the development of mastitis. So, it’s important to treat it, and many will tell you the best way you can do so is with light massage. In this case, you’d use a warm compress only on the clogged milk duct and then massage it with your fingertips in a circular motion. You can also use vibration to unclog the blocked duct.
This warming vibration massager 2-pack works great to help move clogged milk ducts.
Look Out for Signs of Mastitis
Even after taking all of the precautions above, you could still develop mastitis inflammation or an infection. The most important thing to do in this case is see a professional. The quicker you treat mastitis, the better off you’ll be. A good way to ensure quick treatment is to stay in tune with your body and reach out to a healthcare professional if you exhibit signs of mastitis, like fever, red streaks or hard lumps on the breast, flu-like symptoms, hard lumps, or severe pain.
So, there you have it – everything you need to know about stopping pumping cold turkey.
We hope you found all the information you were looking for, and we wish you the best throughout the weaning process.