By Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, Ameda Products
Co-author of Breastfeeding Made Simple and The Breastfeeding Answer Book
Not every mother can pump at work. But some mother's milk is always better than none. With a partial weaning, you can keep breastfeeding even if you have limited time to pump. You can even keep breastfeeding if you work full-time and cannot pump or choose not to. With a partial weaning, you can breastfeed at home yet work for all or part of the day without breast pain or fullness.
A partial weaning is an option if you will be going longer at work without pumping or breastfeeding than your baby's longest stretch between feedings at home. A partial weaning allows you to lower your milk supply slowly without pain or breast fullness. Too much breast fullness can not only be painful, it can also cause infection. With a partial weaning, you should be able to go comfortably for longer stretches without breastfeeding or pumping and still have milk for your baby when you get home.
To do a partial weaning, plan to bring down your milk supply a week or so before returning to work. The first step is to notice your usual breastfeeding times. Pick any feeding during the hours you'll be working. (Avoid the first morning feeding, when you will likely be full already.) If your baby is younger than a year, talk to your baby's physician or other healthcare provider about what to give instead and feed your baby what is recommended at the missed breastfeeding. If your baby is older than a year, cow's milk or solid foods can be used.
Continue to give what is recommended at this same feeding every day. Whenever you drop a breastfeeding, give your body at least 2-3 days before dropping another. If your breasts ever feel overly full, express just enough milk to feel comfortable. This means pumping just to comfort and no longer. Express a little milk whenever needed to stay comfortable.
When your breasts feel fine without breastfeeding or pumping for the length of time you will need to go between feedings or pumpings at work, you are ready. You can keep breastfeeding at this level for as long as you wish.
This is general information and does not replace the advice of your physician or healthcare provider. If you have a problem you cannot solve quickly, seek help right away.
Every baby is different, and your baby may not be average.
If in doubt, contact your physician or other healthcare provider.