The past couple of weeks since ceasing breastfeeding suddenly has afforded me thinking time. Mainly because the at times there was uncomfortable swelling meant that I was unable to complete simple actions so was taking much time to rest. And at times I was rested in bed nursing another blocked duct, and hoping that the antibiotics fight any chance of infection.
So I have thought of five things that were significant for physical wellbeing during this important but very difficult time of transition.
1. A breast pump in good working order, even a hand manual held pump (I am using this now two weeks since the cessation). There have been times when my breasts were too engorged to be able to hand express. However this was also traumatic for me as it reminded me of the once precious nature of my milk, which was now deemed unfit. Despite the emotional pain, expressing (apart from being vital for my physical comfort) became a consistent way for me to stop, and reflect on our breastfeeding journey, allowing me much needed focus and time to grieve.
2. Cold Cabbage Leaves (savoy is best, but otherwise a large-leaved whole green cabbag
e) to place inside bra between feeds. I use about one cabbage per day. Although it is at times embarrassing to be smelling like cabbage, I need to reduce my supply fast, and the cold compress-like nature of the leaves assist. Additionally, cabbage leaves are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties.
3. Bras in abundance across a range of sizes have been vital to ensure support is provided for the engorgement. I tried crops without sizes cups, however found that they did have enough support for my very large breasts. I am typically a C cup, went up to a DD after Master X, and as high as an E cup during severe engorgement. Plus I need to fit in the cabbage leaves, breast pads and ice packs.
4. Antibiotics are a good idea to help reduce the chance of mastitis. I have been hospitalised on multiple occasions for mastitis, and given that, I began a course the moment that I stopped breastfeeding and continued taking them under the guidance of my doctor.
5. A schedule of supply reduction personally tailored by contacting the Australian Breastfeeding Association.
Every day for the first week of cessation I began with a hot shower to relieve some of the pain and pressure with gentle massage under the water pressure. This was an integral step in ensuring that I was relaxed enough to express in the morning.
For the first two days I expressed every bottle feed that Master X had which was approximately every three to four hours. I only expressed what I needed to be comfortable with the aid of paracetamol and
ibuprofen. Between pumping sessions I rested and lined my bra with cabbage leaves and breast pads.
Every night before bed, I took another hot shower, massaged and then expressed.
By the end of the first week I could hand express in the shower, but still required pump expressing twice a day.
Every day I reduced the amount that I was expressing. So the first morning I needed to express 150ml to be comfortable, and by the middle of the second week I was expressing only 40ml in the mornings. At the end of the second week I am expressing every two days, about 80ml.
Having some idea of when I would need to express, shower, play with Master X, feed Master X helped in the physical transition over such a rapid reduction of breastfeeding.
Of upmost importance to maintaining some kid of physical wellbeing is to make decisions based on medical support. I contacted Health Direct, my counsellor and the Australian Breastfeeding Association and am thus far, mastitis free and my supply has reduced dramatically!