Question: I am in the process of weaning my 22-month-old daughter. She is doing better than I am. We very gradually got down to one nursing a day and would be done, but I can not get the milk to stop flowing. My breasts sometimes get painfully full and I am finding myself wanting to wake her up to nurse, instead of her waking me up. Is there anything that can be done?
Karen Prior responds: The fullness you are experiencing is not uncommon during the weaning process. A mother's body gradually responds to signals to reduce milk production and can continue to produce milk for about 45 days after complete weaning. Some women may even experience months of milk secretion after they have weaned.
Many mothers get relief by placing frozen green cabbage leaves in their bras. This reduces the swelling from the engorgement. I know it sounds odd, but it really works (and I speak from experience!). Carefully peel the leaves off a head of green cabbage and place them in the freezer for 30 minutes or so. (You can store them in the freezer for a long time, so you’ll have them ready when you need them.) Simply place one leaf in each cup of your bra and replace them when the leaf wilts. Continue until you feel relief from the swelling.
There are a couple things you need to watch out for during the weaning process. Take caution when allowing your breasts to become very full, because this can lead to plugged ducts and a breast infection. However, every time you empty milk from the breast, the breast produces more milk. As long as your daughter is nursing, you will continue to produce milk. Milk production normally takes a few weeks to drop off. Pain in the breast including burning or needle-like shooting pains can be a sign of a plugged duct. If you experience these sensations, contact your health care provider immediately.