When you decide to wean from breastfeeding, learn how to stop breast milk production and dry up your milk quickly with minimal engorgement and pain.
How to Stop Producing Breast Milk Quickly
You’ve decided to bring your breastfeeding adventure to a close. Why isn’t your body getting the message that you no longer need all that milk? Some women have no problems drying up once they stop breastfeeding completely, but it may take some time for others. If you’re not one of the lucky women who dry up fast, keep reading to learn about some new strategies that may speed up the process or at least make it more comfortable.
How Long after I Stop Breastfeeding Will I Stop Producing Milk?
For most women, the flow of milk stops within 10 days. That means 10 days after you completely stop breastfeeding, you can expect to stop milk production. If you go from exclusive breastfeeding to supplementary or occasional breastfeeding, your body may slow milk production rather than stopping it completely. The best way to dry up is to eliminate all demand for milk entirely.
If you decide to gradually wean your baby from the breast, you may continue to produce milk until the breastfeeding stops. If you also pump, your body will interpret pumping sessions as demands for milk from your baby. That must all come to a stop before most women will completely stop producing milk.
It’s common for women to experience small letdowns of milk for weeks or even months after weaning a baby. You may want to wear breast pads in your bra for awhile because you never know when those small leaks are going to occur. Once you go a couple weeks without any milk leakage, you can assume that you have completely dried out.
How to Avoid Common Problems While Weaning and Trying to Stop Breast Milk Production
Blocked ducts, engorgement and mastitis are common problems that all weaning mothers should know about. You’re more likely to experience these painful problems if you stop breastfeeding suddenly. That’s why most medical professionals will recommend that you slowly wean your baby by decreasing the number of breastfeeding sessions offered over time.
Gradual weaning happens naturally for many women as their babies start to sleep for longer periods of time. Nighttime feedings are often the first to go, followed by feedings at standard mealtimes. Your baby may start to demand less milk because he’s receiving solid foods or juice during the day and he’s sleeping during the night and taking a healthy nap. This helps slowly to stop breast milk production.
What Helps Engorgement When Stopping Breastfeeding?
If you don’t wait for that natural weaning process and decide to stop breastfeeding immediately, you’re at high risk for engorgement. That means that your body continues to produce a lot of milk, but it isn’t expressed from your breasts. It builds up, leaving your breasts hard, swollen, tender and sore. You can relieve engorgement with a breast pump or by hand expression, but don’t express too much or it will prolong the process by stimulating additional milk production.
You can apply cold compresses and/or ice to breasts to ease pain and reduce blood flow to the area if engorgement occurs while you are waiting for your milk to dry up. Over the counter pain medications can also help to minimize discomfort.
How Can I Dry Up My Milk without Getting Mastitis?
As you start to empty the breasts less often, milk can also get stuck in the milk ducts. That may lead to a clogged duct that could become inflamed over time. When inflammation or infection sets in, you end up with a painful case of mastitis. This condition often requires an antibiotic and medical attention.
You’re less likely to experience these problems if you slowly wean your baby over time. If you’re forced to stop breastfeeding without warning, try to mimic the weaning process with a breast pump. Reduce the number of feedings or pumping sessions every few days, allowing your body to slow the production of milk over time.
10 Tips for Drying Up Breast Milk Quickly and Painlessly
It’s time to talk about proven ways to help your breasts dry up faster. While all of these methods may not work for you, they may work for someone else. Keep trying new options until you find what your body needs to get that “stop producing milk” message.
1. Drink sage tea. There’s no scientific proof that this works, but many women swear by sage tea. You can even buy tea blends and pre-mixed teas designed just for this purpose. Tea is a natural product that can have a powerful impact on the body, so it may help even if it isn’t the only reason you start to dry up.
2. Put raw cabbage leaves in your bra. Change the leaves out every few hours throughout the day. There’s no scientific proof that this works, but it will at least feel soothing as your breasts dry up. Women have used cabbage leaves for this purpose for many years, and many swear that it works like a charm.
3. Avoid expressing milk unless you start to feel engorged. The simplest way to dry up is to send the message that milk is no longer in demand. If you’re pumping your breasts empty to avoid engorgement, you’re sending the wrong message. The secret is to express just enough to keep your breasts feeling reasonably comfortable and then stop. Hand expression is enough to accomplish that goal. You will have heavy breasts that aren’t entirely comfortable for a few days or maybe a week, but it should get better with occasional hand expression.
4. Don’t dehydrate yourself. Many women assume that they’ll produce less milk if they have less fluid in their bodies. That’s a dangerous assumption, and you won’t dry up faster if you’re dehydrated. You’ll just leave yourself at greater risk of health complications, so stay hydrated throughout this process.
5. When all else fails, you might consider breast binding. That’s simply the act of wrapping something tight around your chest to confine the breasts. This is done day and night while avoiding breastfeeding, pumping or any demand for milk. This process was used heavily in the past but is far more rare today. Most women can dry up easily without going to this uncomfortable extreme. If you do want to give it a try, go with a tight bra and wear it as much of the day and night as you find comfortable.
6. Consider prescription medication. There are some medications that may help your breasts dry up, but most women can stop producing milk without taking any medication. If you need to dry up quickly or struggle to dry up after several weeks of trying on your own, you may want to talk to your doctor about your options.
Never take a prescription medication from another person. Always discuss it with your doctor first. Your friends and other mothers may be generous in offering their medication, but they don’t know your personal medical history.
Why Is It Taking So Long to Dry Up and Stop Breast Milk Production?
Some women dry up faster than others, but rest assured that it will eventually happen for you. Breastfeeding is a supply-and-demand process. When your baby sucks on your nipple or you use a breast pump, you send the message that there is demand for more milk. Your body responds by making more milk. When those messages start to slow down or stop, the milk production process will start to slow down. It will eventually stop due to a lack of demand for milk.
If you think that your breasts are abnormal and aren’t drying up fast enough, talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant. You may also get information from the La Leche League and other organizations that cater to breastfeeding mothers. Even if there is no magical way to make your breasts dry up instantly, just receiving support and encouragement from professionals can make the process easier to endure.