Say goodbye to the pump slowly to minimize side effects.

How to Wean From Exclusively Pumping

by Rachel Kolar

Congratulations -- you've survived the trials and tribulations of exclusive pumping and have reached the point where you can stop! Unfortunately, one of the many things that makes exclusive pumping so difficult is that it can be hard to wean yourself without either going too fast and suffering from engorgement, or going too slowly and ending up with stockpiles of frozen milk that your child will never drink. By eliminating your pumping sessions gradually, though, you can get yourself off the pump without any side effects.

Drop one pumping session from your daily routine every three days or so. Some women can stop this session cold turkey, while others need to cut it more gradually, ending it a few minutes earlier every day until they eventually aren't pumping at that time at all.

Space your sessions a little farther apart every few days if cutting a session isn't working for you. If you normally pump every three hours, then pump every four hours instead. Keep stretching your pumping sessions out every three or four days until you don't feel the need to pump anymore. This can be easier on your breasts than up and quitting a session, but it requires more flexibility in your schedule -- if you only get one break a day, you might have trouble moving it back an hour.

Shorten your sessions instead of eliminating them if your breasts feel ready to explode whenever you miss a turn at the pump. You can either shorten the amount of time you spend pumping, like going from 20-minute sessions to 17-minute ones, or decrease the amount of milk you pump at each session, like pumping 4 ounces at each session instead of 5. Then, after three or four days, shorten the time or pump less milk again. Eventually, you can get yourself down to zero minutes or zero ounces -- and have weaned from the pump!

Listen to your body. If your breasts feel so sore and swollen that you want to scream, you're going too fast. Try dropping or shortening sessions every five days instead of every three, or cut down on your sessions in smaller increments. For instance, instead of going an extra hour without pumping or pumping an ounce less, try going an extra half-hour or pumping half an ounce less.


  • If your breasts become engorged, wear a loose, comfy bra and put an ice pack or bag of frozen veggies on your chest to relieve the pain. You may also try tucking clean cabbage leaves into the cups of your bra -- no scientific studies have proven that cabbage leaves relieve engorgement, but it's one of those home remedies that works wonders for some women.
  • Call your doctor if your breasts become hot, tender and inflamed or if you feel feverish. You may be developing mastitis, an infection that comes from engorgement.

About the Author

A resident of the Baltimore area, Rachel Kolar has been writing since 2001. Her educational research was featured at the Maryland State Department of Education Professional Schools Development Conference in 2008. Kolar holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Kenyon College and a Master of Arts in teaching from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images