Full: when it feels like it is time to feed or you are a few hours late for feeding. Your breasts will feel heavy, warmer than usual, maybe a little tender. Your body is sending you reminder signals that it is time to feed baby such as an intermittent throb, zing, or cramp. When your breasts feel full and you do not drain them by breastfeeding or pumping, it sends a message to your brain to slow milk production. This is a protective mechanism to your body so your boobs don’t explode. Just kidding. They won’t explode, but they will start to kick into an inflammatory response if they hit the uncomfortably full point.
Uncomfortably full: when it feels like your boobs are going to explode. You may remember this feeling from when your milk came in if you experienced any engorgement. You may know it from the first time your baby surprisingly slept a longer-than-usual stretch of sleep overnight. Uncomfortably full is when your body starts to get upset about how full your breasts are. Heavy turns to a feeling of boulders on your chest. Warmer than usual turns to really warm or even hot. Your skin may feel stretched and your breasts may be tender to the touch. Your body has mounted an inflammatory response against the stagnant milk in your breasts. If you sit too long in the uncomfortably full phase, you are at a higher risk for plugged ducts and mastitis. Uncomfortably full will down regulate your milk supply, but it isn’t the most pleasant way to go about doing it.
There are a few elements that all will help all when weaning:
- A well-fitting, non-underwire bra Find a sport bra-like bra to help you through this process, but make sure it fits well. You don’t want any areas that feel uncomfortably tight or dig into your breasts. Keeping your breasts high and tight helps manage the discomfort of having big heavy milk-filled boobies hanging off your body. You may want to sleep in this bra as well.
- Ice Swelling is an inevitable part of the weaning process. Your body is not a fan of stagnant milk, so there is usually an attempt to mount an inflammatory response inside of your milk ducts, which causes more discomfort and an increased risk for mastitis. Pack your breasts with cool or cold compresses for 20 minutes on, then 20 minutes off to keep swelling at bay.
- Cabbage leaves Cabbage happens to be one of those old wives tales that has actual proven benefit. Keep a head of green cabbage in the fridge, peel off a leaf, wash it, and stick it in your bra–it is boob shaped! Once the cabbage wilts, remove it.
- Parsley, sage, and peppermint These three herbs are known to decrease supply if taken in high enough dose. If you are going to mess with herbs or tea, your best bet is to drink a preprepared tea with these ingredients or, better yet, order some No More Milk Tea which has all three.
- Ibuprofen This non steroidal anti-inflammatory will keep swelling at bay as well as control any pain you may be having.
- Pseudophed If you really want to dry up your milk fast, take a few doses of the real deal pseudophed. You know, the one you get behind the pharmacy counter and need to sign your name for. It dries your sinuses and your breastmilk up really quickly. Just take it as directed as if you were taking it for allergies.
- The mastitis flush protocol without the part about breast drainage Keep the plugged duct and mastitis flush protocol handy as you go through this weaning process. All weaners should boost up their fluids, Vitamin C, and rest. Remember, your body is not pleased it has to do this. If there is a glitch in your immune system, you are at an increased risk for mastitis.
- Your OB or midwife’s on-call phone number A low grade fever is sometimes seen during this process; however, if you spike a fever of 100.4 or higher during this process, call your OB or midwife. Let them know that you are weaning and ideally do not want to drain your breasts to remedy the mastitis. They will most likely offer you an antibiotic. That’s good. Now you can continue to wean and the infection will be well controlled.