After discontinuing breastfeeding, it is not uncommon to experience pain in your breasts for several days or longer. Engorgement, plugged ducts and mastitis are painful complications of weaning, especially abrupt weaning. Fortunately, breast pain after weaning is preventable by slowly weaning your baby, and it is treatable with home care and medications.
Pain in your breasts after weaning occurs anywhere in the breast, including the areola or the body of the breast, according to certified lactation consultant Kelly Bonyata. The pain develops in one or both breasts, often peaking a few days after weaning and then slowly decreasing. Your breasts might swell, feel hard or lumpy, and you might run a fever. Leaking of milk from your nipples is not uncommon, especially when you shower, hear your baby or another child cry or when you experience friction from your shirt or bra against your nipples.
Abrupt weaning causes pain in your breasts due to engorgement, especially if you were breastfeeding or pumping frequently or if you had an oversupply of milk. Your body will continue to make milk for several weeks after weaning, which sometimes pools in the milk ducts, leading to a plugged duct. Mastitis, a painful breast infection, results from plugged ducts left untreated and manifests with symptoms similar to the flu, along with swelling, red streaks and pain in your breasts.
If you begin to feel pain from engorgement, hand express or pump to empty your breasts one time, then pump or express just enough milk to reduce the pain as needed, recommends the Baby Center website. Drinking several cups of sage tea daily decreases your milk production, although you should check with your doctor before taking any supplements. Putting cold cabbage leaves into your bra and swapping them out every few hours once the leaves wilt reduces breast pain resulting from engorgement after weaning. Take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce breast pain from engorgement, clogged ducts or mastitis. If your pain results from a plugged duct, massaging the duct and applying heat to the area helps loosen the plug. If you develop a fever or notice red streaks on your breasts, your pain is likely a result of mastitis, which requires antibiotic treatment.
When you wean your baby, slowly dropping the number of daily nursing sessions helps prevent pain from engorgement, plugged ducts and mastitis. Dropping one nursing session every three days helps your body adjust to the decrease in demand. Slowly cutting down on the amount of time that you pump, such as decreasing by one to two minutes daily for each pumping session helps prevent painful engorgement for mothers who pump milk to feed their babies.