For working moms breastfeeding can be a problem – and a painful one at that. All of us know nursing is very good for our babies. Many working mothers attempt to breastfeed as long as possible before returning to work, often 3 to 6 weeks. But what then? Breast engorgement is the natural effect of discontinuing breastfeeding.
The glands that make milk do not stop producing milk overnight just because you choose to stop nursing. It’s like filling up a water balloon tighter and tighter. You can imagine that could hurt. The best way to prevent breast feeding without pain is the natural way: a slow taper.
As a young toddler starts to eat different foods he will obviously need less milk. Lengthening the interval between feeds will slowly reduce the milk supply in many girls. Needless to say, if you will need to discontinue nursing prior to your child is old enough to change to regular meals, you will either need to pump your breasts or supplement with baby formula. Breast pumping frequently works because pumping drains the breast less efficiently than does nursing. It’s almost like a child is still nursing, but less so.
The milk supply will dwindle if you pump your breasts sufficient to alleviate the discomfort of engorgement but not enough to fully empty the breast. If you don’t need to pump your breasts, then another alternative is allowing some of the milk to flow out by intentionally tripping the let-down reflex. A hot shower can be quite powerful.
A little milk leaks out, but only enough to relieve the pressure and discomfort. There’s little scientific evidence to advise using other treatments. Breast binding may cause extra leakage and pain. Though some women use cabbage leaves in the bra to suppress lactation, medical studies haven’t confirmed a benefit of the practice. Ultrasound was studied but wasn’t found to be helpful.
Why does milk production stop anyhow?
Unrelieved breast engorgement contributes to an increase in the compound FIL (feedback inhibitor of lactation) from the breast, which inhibits milk production. However, engorgement doesn’t have to be debilitating for this to happen. Allowing enough milk to flow out to alleviate the pressure still enables FIL to collect and do its job. Yet another word on painful breasts. Nursing mothers may suffer from infection or inflammation of the breast (mastitis). If your breast is tender, particularly in a localized region, or if it turns red or seems feverish, you might be suffering from mastitis. Consult your doctor to find out whether you will need to have an antibiotic.