Every mother’s breastfeeding journey is unique. There may be many reasons why you choose to discontinue breastfeeding. Once you decide weaning will be best for you and your baby, you can try several methods for drying up your breast milk supply. There is no set timeline for the lactation suppression process. Instead, how quickly your milk dries up depends on several factors, including the age of your baby and your average milk supply. Breast milk can take days, weeks, or months to dry up.
It is recommended that you gradually wean your breastfed baby. However, there are many factors that can lead a mother to wish to dry up their breast milk. Always consult your doctor before attempting to dry up your breast milk supply.
Methods for Drying Up Breast Milk
Whether you have an overabundance of milk or are trying to wean your baby, there are several methods you can try to suppress your breast milk supply, including:
Stop breastfeeding. When you stop breastfeeding, your body will gradually stop producing milk. The lack of stimulation tells your body to stop lactating. To use this method:
Use herbs. Research suggests that there are a few herbs that may help reduce your milk supply. To utilize herbs for lactation suppression:
- Drink sage tea made with 1 to 3 grams of dried sage leaves.
- Appy jasmine flowers to your breasts.
- Take chaste berry orally.
- Eat parsley.
- Use peppermint oil topically only if you’ve completely stopped breastfeeding — it can be toxic to your baby.
Always consult your doctor before using herbs orally or topically. Carefully watch your baby for any change in behavior.
Apply cabbage. Cabbage may help soothe engorged breasts as you stop breastfeeding. To apply cabbages:
- Wash leaves of green cabbage and chill in the refrigerator.
- Place leaves under the bra and over each breast.
- Change the leaves every few hours.
Take birth control. Taking estrogen as a part of a combined birth control pill can help stop lactation. Most mothers see a drop in milk production after taking one pill a day for one week. Birth control should only be taken under the close supervision of your doctor.
Take Sudafed. Pseudoephedrine, or Sudafed, is a common over-the-counter decongestant. Research shows the Sudafed causes a noticeable decrease in milk production. Like birth control, Sudafed should only be used to suppress lactation under the supervision of a doctor. You should watch for symptoms of anxiety and insomnia while taking Sudafed.
Use Vitamin B. Research shows that — in women who have not yet started producing breast milk — vitamin B can limit lactation. Always consult with your physician before trying to reduce or prevent your milk production.
When to Seek Help
When you are trying to dry up your breast milk supply, it is normal to experience discomfort. However, if you are experiencing pain or other concerning symptoms, it is time to call your doctor or lactation specialist. You may be more at risk for engorgement, infection, or blocked ducts if you stop breastfeeding suddenly. To help reduce uncomfortable symptoms, hand express sparingly.
You should reach out to a medical professional if you experience:
A blocked duct. Blocked ducts are a common issue for women who are breastfeeding or weaning. When experiencing a blocked duct, you may feel pain, warmth in the breast, or a low-grade fever. Blocked ducts can be treated with a gentle massage or applying heat and cold to the affected area.
Breast infection. Mastitis is an infection in the breast. It is often the result of a blocked duct that has become inflamed. Symptoms include:
- Fever and flu-like symptoms
Your doctor may treat this condition with antibiotics. Seek medical attention if you are experience blocked ducts, pain, or flu-like symptoms.