Once you get through the initial discomfort of breast-feeding, nursing generally becomes easy and relatively painless, until, of course, that fateful day when you decide it is time to wean your baby off the breast. Weaning can be more than emotionally uncomfortable for you, it can also cause physical pain. That's because as you decrease feedings, it takes a little time for the body to catch on and produce less milk in response, so the engorgement of those early days often returns.
There is no consensus among doctors on the best way to wean a baby. Some recommend stopping all at once, while others advise mothers to adopt the more gradual approach. For Mom, it is a little more comfortable to do it slowly, but some babies decide to wean themselves and one day simply reject the breast for good.
If you choose to wean the baby gradually, start by eliminating one feeding every two days or so. Make the morning and evening feedings the last ones you drop, since most babies have an intense desire to nurse at these times. It is also important to never drop two feedings in a row. In other words, if you typically breast-feed your baby twice in the morning, twice in the afternoon, and twice in the evening, avoid dropping one morning feeding one day and another morning feeding two days later. Instead, try dropping one morning feeding, then an afternoon feeding, then an evening feeding.
As far as the pain of engorgement that can result, there are a few things you can do. Applying gentle pressure to the glands can limit the amount of milk they hold, so try wrapping an elastic bandage or towel around your chest. You can also reduce engorgement and swelling with ice packs, which will decrease circulation in the breasts. And with your doctor's approval, you can take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, to ease the pain of engorgement. For a list of precautions to take when trying an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory, click here.
Finally, try to avoid any extra stimulation to your breasts, which will cause them to produce more milk, which is the last thing you want during weaning.
Breast-feeding can be one of the strongest emotional bonds between a mother and a child. With some planning and the home remedies in this article, that experience can be relatively free of pain and stress.
For more information about breast-feeding, try the following links:
- To see all of our home remedies and the conditions they treat, go to our main Home Remedies page.
- To understand the process, read How Breast Feeding Works.
- Breast-feeding is all part of knowing How to Care for a Newborn.
- Bringing home a new baby from the hospital can be quite a shock. Learn how to cope in How to Adjust to a Newborn.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Timothy Gower is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in many publications, including Reader's Digest, Prevention, Men's Health, Better Homes and Gardens, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times. The author of four books, Gower is also a contributing editor for Health magazine.
Alice Lesch Kelly is a health writer based in Boston. Her work has been published in magazines such as Shape, Fit Pregnancy, Woman's Day, Reader's Digest, Eating Well, and Health. She is the co-author of three books on women's health.
Linnea Lundgren has more than 12 years experience researching, writing, and editing for newspapers and magazines. She is the author of four books, including Living Well With Allergies.
Michele Price Mann is a freelance writer who has written for such publications as Weight Watchers and Southern Living magazines. Formerly assistant health and fitness editor at Cooking Light magazine, her professional passion is learning and writing about health.
ABOUT THE CONSULTANTS:
Ivan Oransky, M.D., is the deputy editor of The Scientist. He is author or co-author of four books, including The Common Symptom Answer Guide, and has written for publications including the Boston Globe, The Lancet, and USA Today. He holds appointments as a clinical assistant professor of medicine and as adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.
David J. Hufford, Ph.D., is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.