If you and your baby have decided it's time to stop breastfeeding, or if you have to wean due to a medical condition or new medication, there are a few things to consider to make the transition as easy and painless as possible. Letting your milk down gradually is the healthiest way to stop lactating, according to experts at La Leche League International. Quitting cold turkey can lead to painful engorgement and infection.
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Don't bind your breasts. According to experts at Breastfeeding Basics, this is an old wives' tale that doesn't hold true. Avoid binding to prevent conditions like blocked milk ducts or mastitis, a painful type of infection common in breastfeeding women.
Use home remedies to help with pain and engorgement. Apply cool cabbage leaves to both of your breasts to soothe and cool your sore breast tissue. Take several cups of sage tea throughout the day. Sage tea is said to slow milk production.
Get enough fluid and reduce sodium intake. Avoid your body's instinct to retain fluids as you become dehydrated. As your body retains water, it also retains fluid in breast milk. Ensure you're properly hydrated to avoid painful, sore breasts as you wean.
Pump or express small amounts of milk. Pump or feed a small amount of milk each day. Express just enough milk so that you don't feel engorged. As your body senses less need for milk, it will produce more. Expressing small amounts of milk will actually help you stop lactating. Never empty the breast, as this will tell your body that you need it to make more milk.
Use over-the-counter pain relievers if expressing some milk doesn't relieve your pain. Be aware that any medications you take will be passed on to your baby if you're still providing her with your milk. Often, when you're not able to express, anti-inflammatory drugs and pain relievers can ease your discomfort.