Stopping breastfeeding abruptly is not easy, comfortable or stress-free but sometimes you have no choice.
About two weeks ago my baby bit me, on both nipples, so hard it bled. I have no idea why she did it, she’s teething but has been before without chomping down with quite so much force.
Needless to say it hurt when it happened and holy c**p did it hurt for about a week afterward.
I tried to keep feeding but it was like being stuck with a hot poker every time she latched on and throughout the feed. It was agony.
I had been planning to quit for ages, so this was the right time for us having been pretty much exclusively breastfeeding, with the odd bottle when I needed a break, for eight months.
Obviously the ideal scenario is to drop one feed at a time over the course of a few weeks.
Unfortunately I couldn’t just wean her off as it hurt too much. I had to just stop.
This meant I had painful nips (see a few tips below on how to help those heal if you find yourself with a biting baby) and was uncomfortably engorged.
Simple steps for quitting
So, now I’m over a week through going cold turkey, here are my tips for stopping breastfeeding:
1. I’m not going to advocate stopping without any form of expressing at all. You will need to express. It’s not good for you to just stop feeding when you’ve been doing so exclusively. You risk infection and a lot of pain that you can avoid.
2. Make sure you have a pump. Electric is best, I love the Medela Swing, but manual will do.
3. The trick is to pump just enough to take the edge off engorgement. I pumped off about 100ml from both sides in total a few times a day at first.
4. You can hand express over the sink but I’ve never got on well with this technique if you need to get a lot out. It takes forever and if you’re already engorged, the manhandling and squeezing of already swollen flesh is going to make you more uncomfortable.
5. Try to remember to express before going to bed. This is especially important if you were doing night feeds. Otherwise you may wake up in a bit of discomfort. We don’t need more reasons for not getting good sleep!
6. If it really hurts you may have clogged ducts. Try a warm flannel to ease the milk out and very gently massage the lump while leaning over the sink. This should encourage the milk out. A cold compress can be equally soothing. Try putting a nappy in the freezer for 30 mins then stuffing it down your bra, it helps!
7. It has taken about seven days for me to stop being engorged. Be patient.
8. Now I’m on day eight of quitting cold turkey and there are still hard and sore areas of the breast, but I’ve stopped pumping now. I’m just hand expressing a little bit when I really need to.
9. Be careful picking up your kids. It will be a bit painful holding your kids for a couple of weeks. See if your other half can give you some extra help wherever possible. Encourage your toddler to walk a bit more, it’s good exercise!
10. If you get feverish, the pain is really bad and you’re feeling unwell, see a doctor. You may have mastitis.
11. When it comes to introducing your baby onto a bottle you may need to try a few different ones to find one they like, babies can be picky! It helps if you introduce a bottle early. I gave my daughter a bottle from day two and she’s never had a problem switching between the two. We use the bog standard Medela tests (not the Calma ones) and she’s great with them.
12. If bottles aren’t going down well, try a cup. The NHS is recommending this from six months for milk now anyway.
13. Try to line up your baby’s breastfeeding routine with giving the bottles. Also think about how you want your days to play out. I found getting into a routine while breastfeeding virtually impossible because my baby just snacked all day and night. She’s now on three bottles a day, starting at around 6am (sometimes 7am, sometimes 5am) then one after lunch and one before bed. It’s a perfect routine for us.
14. You may be a hormonal mess. I’ve definitely been tearful over the last week or so which isn’t like me at all normally. I definitely blame the end of breastfeeding.
15. Your hair may become greasy. Those hormones are to blame again, I’ve been in the shower every day trying to frantically scrub it out to no avail. Just accept you will have some bad hair days, it will go away in time.
16. You might feel sad. If you do, try to give yourself a pat on the back for whatever amount of feeding you’ve been able to do. Any duration of breastfeeding is brilliant.
I did miss feeding my baby in the first few days and my instinct was often to just pull my top up rather than faff with a bottle.
But it has got easier and it’s just as nice snuggling up with a bottle as it is to breastfeed her.
How to heal bites
I thought I would add a few tips on healing your nipples if you’ve suffered a bite or bites. I do sympathise, it hurts like hell!
Recovery tips if your baby bites:
- Go topless round the house as much as possible. Air helps it heal.
- Go topless for sleep. If you’re going cold turkey for feeding too, sleep under a towel or your mattress will get drenched.
- Lansinoh nipple cream takes the edge off a bit.
- Wear sports bras with nursing pads.
- Grit your teeth and hang in there. It does heal surprisingly quick even when it feels awful.
- Not feeding does make it heal faster. If it’s only on one side, feed on the unscathed side only for a few days. Your body and supply will adjust.
I hope these tips help. Do get in touch if you have anything to add or any questions.