7 Steps to Wean When You're Exclusively Pumping

If you’re anything like me, your breast pump has been your best friend over the last several months. It’s allowed you to return to work without the need for supplementation, build up a freezer stash for the occasional mom’s night out, and let your husband take part in the feedings.

There’s no question your breast pump has had your back and given you peace of mind in knowing you’re always giving your baby the best. However, you’ve finally reached that point when it’s time to ask: “How do I stop?”

If you would like to learn how to effectively wean from the pump in a way that avoids the discomfort and negative side effects of quitting cold-turkey, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s everything you need to know.


How Do I Wean From the Pump?

A woman’s breast milk production is a pretty remarkable process. Your body wants to make the perfect amount of milk for your baby, so the volume readily increases if a baby drains the breast quickly and continues to suckle after it’s empty. If a baby continually leaves milk in the breast, the body registers this and begins reducing the amount it makes (source).

Remember:

The breast needs to be drained regularly for milk production to continue.

When nursing babies wean from their mothers’ breasts, it happens naturally; their nursing volume and frequency decrease as their consumption of solids increase, and their curiosity and independence calls them further away from their mother for longer periods of time. This process happens gradually over time, and the body responds safely and effectively.

When weaning from a breast pump, there are several different approaches:

  • Quitting cold-turkey.
  • Dropping pumping sessions one by one.
  • Increasing the length of time between pumping sessions.
  • Gradually decreasing the length of pumping sessions.

Keep In Mind:

If the weaning process happens too quickly, it can result in too much milk being left in the breast before your body’s production can effectively ramp down, causing the tissue around the milk ducts to become inflamed.

This can close off the milk ducts altogether and cause a blocked duct (source). If it’s not treated, it can become infected, which is known as mastitis. For this reason, abruptly dropping pumping sessions or quitting cold-turkey isn’t recommended.

Thankfully, it’s considerably easier to convince your body to decrease your milk production than it is to try to coax it to increase. If you follow these steps, you should be able to gently and effectively stop your body’s milk production with minimal discomfort.

Related Reading:
How To Dry Up Your Breast Milk After Weaning

How to Stop Pumping Breast Milk in 7 Steps

1. Stop Supplements or Nursing Boosters

If you’re taking supplements or following a special diet to maintain your milk supply, stop. If the supplements are being taken under the care of your doctor, make sure to consult with them first to see whether you need to decrease your dose gradually.

2. Drop Evening Pumping Sessions

Most women’s bodies have peak milk production in the morning, and gradually taper off into the evening (source). It might be possible to drop an evening pumping session without any extra effort or discomfort. Your body isn’t producing much anyway, so it won’t be much of a shock to stop pumping in the evening.

3. Decrease Pumping Time by 25%

Cut down the amount of time you pump to decrease your output. For example, if your pumping sessions typically last 20 minutes, reduce them to 15.

This will cause you to relieve the breast discomfort of being overly full, but won’t drain the breast completely. Keep your pumping sessions at this length for 4-5 days. After failing to empty your breasts on a consistent basis for several days in a row, your body will automatically reduce its production to meet your new, reduced demand.

4. Increase the Length of Time Between Sessions

Gradually add time between pumping sessions. Let your comfort level be your guide — if you’re uncomfortable 30 minutes after your usual time, then pump. If you can delay your pumping session by an hour or two, then go for it.

Don’t try to push it and wait until you’re experiencing extreme fullness or breast pain as that can cause clogged ducts or mastitis, but do try to extend the times between sessions as much as you can. This technique can be done in conjunction with Step 3, meaning you’re reducing your session length and frequency at the same time.

5. Repeat Steps 3 & 4

Continue to combine steps 3 & 4 — slowly reducing your pumping length and extending times between pumping sessions. Pay attention to your body and its comfort level, and let that be your guide.

6. Watch for Clogged Milk Ducts and Mastitis

Clogged milk ducts usually feel like localized pain in the breast. Sometimes you can feel a hard lump or the area feels hot. Other times you can see where you have a clogged duct; the area will look swollen or enlarged (source).

If you have a clogged duct, make sure it’s resolved before you continue with the weaning process. If you do notice a clogged duct, keep pumping on that side to empty the breast, and don’t worry about how long your sessions “should” last according to your weaning schedule.

Put hot compresses on the area or massage it during pumping. Once the pain and swelling are gone, this means the duct has reopened and you may return to your weaning plan. If you develop a fever, have chills or flu-like symptoms, or notice unusual discharge from your nipple, you may have mastitis which is a bacterial infection within the breast (source).

If you develop mastitis, you can self-treat at first using massage, heat, frequent feedings and rest. If the pain doesn’t subside, you may need to see your doctor for antibiotics to heal this infection.
Headshot of Michelle Roth International, Lactation Consultant

Editor's Note:

Michelle Roth, BA, IBCLC

7. Stop Pumping

You are likely to get to a point where your output is so low that you’ll start to wonder, “Am I ready to just quit pumping now?”

The best way to know is to try. Stop pumping altogether and see how you feel.

If you start to feel uncomfortable fullness, you may have to work on your weaning plan a little more. And if you don’t, then congratulations! You’ve successfully weaned yourself from the breast pump.


The Bottom Line

Weaning from the breast pump doesn’t have to be complicated. By gradually reducing your pumping frequency and shortening your pumping sessions, your body will naturally respond to the lowered demand and automatically decrease your milk supply.

This will hopefully allow you to drop the need to pump with minimal breast discomfort and other side effects.

What tricks did you use to stop pumping? Tell us in the comments, or share this with a friend who’s ready for freedom from her pump!

11 Reader Comments

  1. Mollie

    Thank you for this post! I have been trying to hang on to my milk supply while exclusively pumping since my little girl was 2 months old. She is almost 11 months now and I am finally calling it quits. I tried many things to boost my milk supply but I am now barely producing 1 ounce from each side during a pumping session, and I pump 6-7x per day. So, I don’t think it will take me long to stop all together. I feel like I’m producing so little I could almost quit cold turkey! I am planning to pump 3x tomorrow- morning, noon, and evening. I also read elsewhere to try things that decrease milk supply so I took a psudoephedrine.

    • Jenny Silverstone

      Congrats on a great run Mollie! 11 months is very admirable. Thanks for sharing your experience with us and good luck with the weaning!

  2. Meredith

    Wow, this came along at the perfect time for me … I’m in the middle of weaning from the pump after 1 year. All of your tips are clear, well-written, and so helpful … I’m actually bookmarking this. Thank you, and I’m off to explore the rest of your site!

    • Jenny Silverstone

      Thanks for leaving such kind words Meredith! Good luck with the weaning, and I’m glad I was able to help 🙂 xx

  3. Melissa

    This is right on time.. i have been exclusively pumping for three months but i will be returning to work soon and need to stop.. i currently pump about 7x day… so i should start off by reducing the length of my pumping session and instead of every 3 hours switch time in between to every 4 hours…

  4. I have been pumping for 13 months and am having trouble reducing my supply. I am down to pumping three times a day, but I’m still producing about 25oz. I will keep cutting a little at a time in hopes my body will slow down on the milk production. Do you have any advice?

    • Jenny Silverstone

      Hi Becky, I’m sorry you are having trouble reducing your supply, and I hope your body starts to slow down production soon. How long have you been attempting to stop?

  5. Jennifer

    I’m nervous about weaning, and I’m not sure why. My baby is seven months old, and I’m feeling guilty. But I’ve had mastitis, several clogged ducts, and cracked and painful nipples. My son refused to nurse at five months, and now it’s getting worse. I’ve just had it.

    I need to keep telling myself that I should be proud for going this long. Thanks for providing a clear and straightforward process for me to follow, I’m going to try dropping my evening session tomorrow!

    • Jenny Silverstone

      Hi Jennifer, I’m sorry you have been through all of that. I completely understand why you would want to wean. How is the process going so far? I hope that it is a quick and smooth transition!

  6. Zeynep Akcay

    Great timing for me too 🙂
    I have been pumping for 5 months and need to stop in a month because I will start a medication. I’m pumping from only one breast. Currently, I’m pumping 6 times a day and producing 24 oz of milk each day. I would like to keep the weaning period as short as possible so that my baby can get more. What do you think would be a good estimate for how long it will take?

    • Jenny Silverstone

      Hi Zeynap,

      Unfortunately, I can’t answer that for you. Every mom and baby is different. Have you considered dropping one feeding at a time to ease your baby into weaning? Please let us know how it goes, and if you find any tips to help other weaning mama’s feel free to share!

      Best,
      Jenny

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