Now that I'm at full milk production, what next?

You achieved full milk production. You’ve maintained it for a time. Now what do you do?

Pumping for a non-breastfeeding baby brings many rewards. It feels great to see your baby grow and thrive on your milk. And it sets your mind at ease to know that you’re giving your baby the best. But it is not easy. Experts recommend mother’s milk for at least a baby’s first year. Even so, many mothers find it hard to make exclusive pumping work long-term. This is not surprising. Exclusive pumping takes at least twice the time and effort of breastfeeding.

But you have options. Even if you’ve been pumping for weeks or months, you can still make the move to breastfeeding. But don’t expect to do it alone. Although it may be easier than you think, most mothers need help to make this change. And make no mistake. Getting help is well worth it for both you and your baby.

The best person to turn to for help is a lactation consultant. Part of her job is to know the tricks to make breastfeeding work. To find a board-certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) near you, go to www.ilca.org. What can you expect? When you see her, the lactation consultant may help your baby take the breast by showing you how to help your baby to the breast in new ways. Sometimes tools can help. Most good lactation consultants can get you any tools you might need.

But even if you decide to wean from the pump rather than making the move to breastfeeding, there are still things to know. First, the safest and most comfortable weaning is almost always a gradual one. Here are some ways to make this happen.

  • Drop one daily pumping. Give your body 2-3 days to adjust. Then drop another daily pumping. Leave your first and last daily pumpings until the end. Repeat until you’re fully weaned from the pump.
  • Keep the number of pumpings the same but pump for a shorter time. If you were getting 4 ounces (120 mL) at each pumping, stop after 3 ounces (90 mL). Give your body 2-3 days to adjust and then do it again. Repeat until you no longer feel the need to pump.
  • Note: While weaning, if your breasts ever feel full, pump just long enough to make yourself comfortable. Don’t pump fully. Letting your breasts stay too full puts you at risk for pain and infection.
     

When you are fully weaned from the pump, give yourself a big pat on the back. Always remember how lucky your baby is that you were willing to work so hard to give him the best!

Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA, Lactation Consultant, Ameda Breastfeeding Products
Coauthor of Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers