Whatever your reasons, if it’s time, let’s look at how to dry up breast milk, with or without meds.
You’ve decided it’s the end of your breastfeeding journey and are wondering how to dry up your breast milk.
Whether it lasted one day, one week, or one year, well done!
Maybe you’ve decided formula is best for you and your baby.
Maybe you have a medical procedure coming up that requires weaning. Maybe you’ve experienced a loss.
Whatever your reasons for stopping, they’re yours alone.
Peanut is here to help.
In this article: 📝
- How do you dry up breast milk quickly?
- How long does it take to dry up breast milk supply?
- How to dry up breast milk naturally?
- What medications help dry up breast milk?
- How can I dry up my milk without getting mastitis?
How do you dry up breast milk quickly?
In ideal circumstances, gradual weaning is recommended for both mama and baby.
Slowly dropping one feed from the breast over a period of time is more comfortable and less stressful for everyone.
Sometimes, however, gradual weaning is neither possible nor ideal, so let’s look at some of the options available to you.
There are certain medications that can help speed up the process, and then there are natural options that can gently nudge it along.
No medication is without risk, and that includes herbs.
They all come with their own side effects.
So whether natural or man-made, have a chat with your doctor, midwife, or lactation consultant before taking anything.
How long does it take to dry up breast milk supply?
This is a tricky one, simply because our bodies are all so different.
There are a bunch of factors at play, like how long you have been breastfeeding and how big your supply is.
If you have just given birth and your milk has yet to come in, drying up breast milk is relatively easy and quick.
On the other hand, if you have a fully established supply and have been exclusively breastfeeding for six months, it’ll take a little longer and needs to be done with a little more care.
It can take less than a week for some but a few weeks for others.
Some women continue to produce small amounts of milk long after their child has weaned.
In the meantime, be gentle with yourself, and remember to stock up on breast pads to deal with any leaks.
How to dry up breast milk naturally?
Breastfeeding is the OG supply-demand situation.
The less baby feeds, the less milk you’ll make, so the most obvious answer here is to slowly drop one feeding at a time.
We know that that’s not always possible, so if you need to stop completely, here are some natural ways to look after yourself.
To start, a comfortable, supportive (but not restrictive) bra is a must.
Underwire be gone!
You can hand express or pump some of the excess milk if you get engorged, but only to the point of comfort.
Any stimulation of the nipples or breast can trigger milk production (including just-for-fun stimulation with your partner).
So you’ll want to leave those puppies well alone for a while.
Binding of the breasts has long been suggested to help this process.
Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence to show that it works, and it is only likely to cause you pain in an already tender area.
Cabbage leaves are also a classic. Science has yet to make up its mind as to whether cabbage leaves meaningfully affect supply, BUT the cold cabbage leaf can be very soothing.
To use cabbage leaves: Separate and wash the cabbage leaves. Store inside a sealed bag in the fridge, then pop one into your bra as needed. How convenient that they’re boob-shaped!
No time for a trip to the market?
Fear not, OTC pain medication, such as Tylenol, and regular ice packs can also be helpful to ease some of the soreness.
How can I help the process along?
A 2014 study suggested that sage could reduce breast milk supply for those with excess milk, so it follows that it could also work for those mamas wanting to dry it up completely.
The study also mentions peppermint, parsley, chasteberry, and jasmine as helpful. Try them in tea or tincture form.
Not much is known about how these herbs affect baby if you are still nursing while gradually weaning, so it’s wise to check in with your healthcare provider.
Peppermint oil can cause a tingling feeling when applied directly to the breast, easing engorgement discomfort.
This can be toxic to babies though, so only use it when they’re no longer feeding.
High doses of Vit B1, B6, and B12 have been used to dry up milk since the 70’s, especially for women without an established supply.
Recent reviews of the available studies give conflicting results as to whether elevated doses are really effective though, and while there are no known side effects, chat with your doctor about this one.
What medications help dry up breast milk?
There are a couple of meds you can look at together with your doctor if you’d like some help drying up breast milk.
First up, estrogen reduces milk production.
So you may consider a contraceptive pill, depending on what your fertility plans are going forward.
OTC cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine are also an option and seem not to negatively affect babies who continue to nurse during this time.
They work to dry up bodily secretions, and a small study in 2003 showed pseudoephedrine to be very effective in reducing breast milk supply.
You may have heard of other drugs like bromocriptine and high-dose estrogen from friends and family, but they are no longer used to stop breast milk production as they come with serious side effects.
How can I dry up my milk without getting mastitis?
One of the challenges of working towards drying up breast milk can be mastitis.
Mastitis is a painful infection of a blocked milk duct and requires medical treatment.
Your doctor will probably prescribe antibiotics and something like Tylenol to help with the pain and fever.
Blocked milk ducts can occur when a breast is not drained fully, and can happen even when breastfeeding is progressing happily.
It’s important to begin treatment the moment you notice symptoms of a blocked duct.
This could be things like pain, swelling, or heat in one area of the breast.
You can do this with warm compresses and gentle massage.
If the discomfort doesn’t settle and you develop any of the following mastitis symptoms, be sure to visit your doctor:
- Severe pain
- A clogged duct that does not go away after a couple of days
- Swollen, tender red breasts
The key to avoiding mastitis is to take the process of drying up your milk as slowly as possible and treat any blocked milk ducts ASAP.
Remember: Your body, your rules.
If you’re wondering how to stop producing breast milk, there are both natural and medically managed ways to do it.
As always, check in with your doctor before taking medications.
And if you’re looking for support from other mamas who have been in your situation, head over to the Peanut community!
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