How To Dry Up Breast Milk
If you’ve decided to stop breastfeeding or pumping, it’s essential to know how to dry up breast milk safely and efficiently. Drying up breast milk can be uncomfortable and challenging, but there are steps you can take to minimize discomfort and speed up the process. In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about drying up breast milk, including why you may want to do it, how to do it, and what to expect.
Why You May Want to Dry Up Breast Milk?
There are several reasons why you may want to dry up your breast milk. Some mothers choose to stop breastfeeding or pumping because they have reached their breastfeeding goals, while others may be experiencing difficulties with breastfeeding, such as pain or infection. Additionally, some mothers may choose to dry up their milk supply if they’re going back to work or if they’re taking medications that are not safe to take while breastfeeding.
Preparing to Dry Up Breast Milk
Before you start the process of drying up your breast milk, it’s essential to prepare yourself mentally and physically. It’s important to remember that drying up your breast milk can be a gradual process, or it can be a sudden process. You can choose to wean gradually or stop breastfeeding or pumping cold turkey. Whatever method you choose, it’s crucial to take care of yourself during the process.
Methods for Drying Up Breast Milk
There are various techniques you can explore to decrease your breast milk production, whether you have an excess supply or are attempting to stop breastfeeding.
Gradual weaning is a gentle way to dry up breast milk. It involves reducing the frequency and duration of breastfeeding or pumping sessions over time. This approach allows the body to slowly adjust to the decrease in milk production, reducing the likelihood of engorgement and discomfort.
Cold Turkey Weaning
Applying a cold compress to the breasts can help reduce milk production and relieve discomfort. Simply wrap a cold pack or a bag of frozen vegetables in a towel and place it on the breasts for 15-20 minutes at a time. Be sure to avoid applying ice or anything too cold directly to the skin, as it can cause tissue damage.
Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when using this method:
- Wear a supportive bra that can secure your breasts in place.
- Use ice packs and over-the-counter pain relievers to ease pain and swelling.
- Occasionally express milk by hand to relieve engorgement. Be careful not to overdo this, as it can lead to continued milk production.
Sage may be helpful for weaning or oversupply issues. However, there is currently no research on the specific effects of sage on excess milk production.
It is unclear whether sage is safe to consume if you are breastfeeding, as there is limited information on this topic. It is recommended to start with a small amount of sage and monitor how your body reacts. Herbal teas containing sage are available and can be diluted to find the best amount for you.
Other herbs that may potentially decrease breast milk production include peppermint, chaste berry, parsley, and jasmine. However, there is limited information on their effect on infants, and some can be harmful to babies. Due to the potential negative side effects for both you and your baby, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider or lactation consultant before using these herbs.
Cabbage leaves have been used for generations to help dry up breast milk. The leaves contain compounds that can help reduce inflammation and swelling in the breasts, which can help decrease milk production. Simply place cold cabbage leaves inside a bra and change them every two hours.
Here are the steps to use cabbage leaves:
- Clean and separate the leaves of green cabbage.
- Place the leaves in a container and refrigerate them until they are chilled.
- Put one leaf over each breast before wearing a bra.
- Replace the leaves every two hours or when they become wilted. Cabbage leaves may help to alleviate swelling as your breast milk supply decreases. They are also commonly used to alleviate engorgement symptoms during the initial stages of breastfeeding.
Use Birth Control
Progestin-only birth control typically does not have an impact on breast milk supply. In contrast, birth control pills containing the hormone estrogen can be effective in reducing lactation, even after the milk supply has been established.
Although not everyone may experience these suppressive effects, many individuals do. It’s recommended that you speak with your healthcare provider about the optimal time to begin taking estrogen-containing pills after giving birth.
While birth control is not FDA-approved for this purpose, it may be prescribed in specific situations, which is referred to as off-label drug use.
A small study conducted in 2003 on eight lactating women found that a single 60-milligram (mg) dose of pseudoephedrine, a cold medication also known as Sudafed, was effective in significantly reducing milk production.
Furthermore, taking the maximum recommended daily dose of Sudafed, which is 60 mg, four times per day (for a maximum of 240mg in a 24-hour period), did not have any negative effects on babies who were still breastfeeding while lactation was being suppressed.
It’s essential to consult with your healthcare provider before taking any over-the-counter medication while breastfeeding. Sudafed is often used off-label to reduce breast milk production, but it may cause irritability in breastfed infants.
Use Vitamin B
To suppress lactation before breastfeeding, high doses of vitamins B-1 (thiamine), B-6 (pyridoxine), and B-12 (cobalamin) may be effective.
A study from the 1970s showed that high doses of B-6, B-1 and B-12 suppressed lactation for 96% of participants with no negative side effects. However, more recent studies, including a 2017 literature review, have presented conflicting information about the effectiveness of this method.
The 2017 review found that participants received a B-6 dosage of 450 to 600 mg over five to seven days. Two studies showed that vitamin B-6 effectively suppressed lactation, but the other five studies did not.
The negative effects of taking high doses of vitamin B-1 or B-12 and the safe duration of elevated doses are not well known. However, at doses of over 200mg per day, vitamin B-6 can cause a loss of sensation in the arms and legs. With prolonged use, this effect can become permanent.
Before taking any new vitamin supplement, consult with your healthcare provider or lactation consultant.
Pain and discomfort are common during the process of drying up breast milk. You may experience breast engorgement, breast pain, and breast tenderness. Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen can help manage pain and discomfort. You can also try applying a cold compress or cabbage leaves to your breasts to reduce swelling.
Breast engorgement is a common side effect of drying up breast milk. Engorgement occurs when your breasts become overfull with milk, causing them to feel firm, swollen, and painful. You can relieve engorgement by applying heat or cold to your breasts and gently massaging them. It’s also essential to wear a well-fitted bra to provide support and avoid stimulation.
Self-Care During the Dry-Up Breast Milk
It’s crucial to take care of yourself during the process of drying up your breast milk. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest. You may also want to consider taking a warm bath or doing some gentle exercise to help reduce stress.
Medications to Dry Up Breast Milk
If you’re experiencing significant discomfort or pain during the process of drying up your breast milk, your healthcare provider may prescribe medication to help reduce milk production. These medications, such as cabergoline or bromocriptine, work by suppressing the production of prolactin, a hormone that stimulates milk production. However, it’s important to note that these medications can have side effects and should only be taken under the supervision of a healthcare provider.
What are the potential risks or side effects of drying up breast milk?
There are some potential risks and complications that may arise when attempting to dry up breast milk. These include:
- Breast engorgement: Stopping breastfeeding suddenly can lead to breast engorgement, which is when the breasts become painfully swollen with milk. This can increase the risk of developing a breast infection or mastitis.
- Blocked milk ducts: If milk is not regularly removed from the breasts, it can lead to blocked milk ducts. This can cause pain, swelling, and redness in the affected breast.
- Breast infection or mastitis: When milk is not removed from the breasts regularly, it can increase the risk of developing a breast infection or mastitis. This is a painful condition that can cause fever, chills, and flu-like symptoms.
- Emotional effects: Stopping breastfeeding can be an emotional experience for some mothers, and they may experience feelings of guilt, sadness, or anxiety.
- Hormonal changes: Drying up breast milk can lead to hormonal changes in the body, which can cause mood swings, irritability, and other emotional symptoms.
It is important to talk to a healthcare professional or lactation consultant before attempting to dry up breast milk to minimize these risks and ensure a safe and healthy process.
How long it takes for milk to dry up?
The length of time it takes for milk to dry up depends on the method used and how long the person has been breastfeeding. It can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks or months. Additionally, even after most of the milk is gone, a person may still produce some milk for months after weaning. If milk production returns without any apparent reason, it’s important to consult with a medical professional.
When to Seek Medical Attention?
In most cases, drying up breast milk is a natural and safe process. However, in some cases, complications can arise, and medical attention may be necessary. If you experience any of the following symptoms, it’s essential to seek medical attention:
- Severe pain or discomfort
- Signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or warmth in your breasts
- Flu-like symptoms, such as fever or chills
- Nausea or vomiting
- Mastitis is a breast infection that causes flu-like symptoms and breast pain
Drying up breast milk can be a challenging process, but there are steps you can take to make it more comfortable and efficient. Whether you choose to wean gradually or stop breastfeeding or pump cold turkey, it’s essential to take care of yourself and manage any pain or discomfort that may arise. Remember that drying up your breast milk is a personal decision, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it.
Yes, most women are able to dry up their breast milk without medication. Gradual weaning and cold turkey weaning are two common methods.
Yes, cabbage leaves can be an effective way to relieve engorgement. However, it’s important to avoid using them for too long, as they can reduce milk production.
Yes, in most cases, it’s possible to breastfeed again after drying up your breast milk. However, it may take some time for your milk supply to return.
No, it’s not safe to donate breast milk after drying up. Breast milk can carry viruses and bacteria, and it’s essential to ensure that the milk being donated is safe for infants to consume.
Stress is the primary culprit in reducing breast milk supply, especially during the first few weeks after giving birth. Due to lack of sleep and adapting to the baby’s routine, hormone levels like cortisol can increase, significantly decreasing the amount of milk produced.