Have you finished breastfeeding, but are still producing milk and wondering how to dry up breast milk? Read on to find foods that can stop milk production.

 

By OBGYN and fertility expert Dr. Kenosha Gleaton

Whatever the reason may be for you to begin lactation suppression, it's important to remember there is no set timeline. There are many factors that influence breast milk production, and we're here to help you with the process.

Breastfeeding 101

Breastfeeding can be an incredible experience for many mothers and is an amazing way to nourish your baby. There are many benefits to breastfeeding for both mom and baby including a strengthened immune system, lower risk of SIDS, hormone production, weight stabilization, and more. 

Getting the hang of breastfeeding may take some time and can be downright complicated. From finding the right nursing position and understanding a baby's hunger cues to developing mastitis (an infection in the breast tissue) or inadequate milk production, the struggle can seem endless. It's important to note that sometimes breastfeeding isn't the best choice for you or your baby, and that's okay too!

How long “should” you breastfeed?

It's recommended that women breastfeed for at least one year . Many organizations such as The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend infants be exclusively breastfed for up to six months and continue to breastfeed with additional foods until at least one year of age. Of course, this is up to you to decide, but typically the longer you can breastfeed, the more you and your child will benefit. However, the most important thing is for both mama and baby to be happy and well fed, and infant formula is still a great alternative to breastfeeding. Stopping breastfeeding and/or using formula is different from one infant to another. Find more products and resources for pregnancy and reproductive health on the Natalist homepage.

Foods and herbs to diminish milk production

Once you're ready to stop breastfeeding, nursing, or pumping, you may be left wondering how to stop milk production. Every woman's body is different, and while some may start experiencing a low milk supply on their own, others may not. There isn't necessarily a set way for lactation suppression, but there are some methods that are believed to help. While there isn't much research to prove causation, many women report that adding in various herbs and supplements has helped dry up breast milk. These are thought to decrease breast milk supply as a response to changes in hydration, hormones, metabolism, and more.

While eating some of these foods or herbs in a meal may not yield much of a difference, high quantities found in supplements, oils, or teas may show noticeable effects. Note that there isn’t strong evidence to support these claims, and we always recommend talking to your OBGYN and pediatrician about what makes sense for you:

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Medications to diminish milk production

You may have heard of a pill that can help stop breast milk production. While it’s true there is a pill known as cabergoline or dostinex, this is specifically for those who have not yet breastfed to prevent breast engorgement. This drug is most effective taken 12 to 24 hours after birth. 

For those who have breastfed already and are looking to end nursing, there are few safe medications currently available, which include birth control. Estrogen-containing contraceptives may be useful for stopping milk flow, but first talk to your doctor about whether this is a good option for you. 

A small, single-blind study found that pseudoephedrine, known more commonly by its brand name Sudafed, may be helpful for stopping milk flow. However, this isn't recommended without first consulting with a doctor.

Generally, the best way to stop milk flow quickly is to let it happen naturally. Don’t breast feed, stimulate the breasts, or express milk, and production will gradually decrease. It’s a supply and demand relationship, after all.

At-home remedies to decrease milk production

  • Slowly decrease nursing sessions: a great way to avoid mastitis and to naturally slow down milk production is to drop nursing sessions slowly over time. Begin with dropping one session a day, and gradually increase as you feel comfortable.
  • Cabbage: That’s right, cabbage. More research is needed on this, but this is one of many natural remedies that have been shown to help dry up breast milk. Washed, chilled cabbage leaves can be placed in your bra or directly on the breasts to aid with weaning as well as breast engorgement. 
  • No More Milk Tea: Many women enjoy this tea to help reduce milk production and to help when weaning. It’s a caffeine free, organic tea made with a blend of herbs traditionally used to help reduce the production of breast milk when it is no longer desired.
  • Drink up: Staying hydrated and upping your water consumption may actually decrease your milk supply. 

Breastfeeding tips and frequently asked questions

  • How to handle engorged breasts? Wear a supportive bra, apply ice packs to your breasts, and consider taking over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers if needed.
  • Should you pump/nurse to relieve pressure or discomfort? It’s best not to pump or nurse when you’re attempting to stop breastfeeding. The quickest way to slow down milk production is to stop the flow. If you're experiencing pressure or discomfort, try wearing a supportive bra, applying a cold compress, and taking an OTC pain reliever. If you absolutely must pump or nurse for relief, only express the smallest amount possible.
  • Using nursing pads for leaking. It’s likely you will leak some while drying up your breast milk. This is normal and something you may want to be prepared for! Nursing pads can be helpful for catching these leaks and preventing wet spots. 
  • What if you get a clogged duct or mastitis? The best way to prevent mastitis or clogged ducts when weaning is to gradually stop breastfeeding over a spread out period. If you are experiencing a clogged duct, massaging the breast, or expelling a small amount of milk may help! If the breast becomes red, painful, or inflamed, call your doctor immediately.
  • Do ice packs or cold compresses help? Yes, cold compresses can ease pain and inflammation tremendously when stopping breastfeeding!
  • Shop Pregnancy Products For Expectant Mothers!

Take-aways

  • Breastfeeding can be an incredible experience for both mom and baby but does have its challenges.
  • It’s recommended by AAP and WHO that infants nurse exclusively for the first six months of age, and continue to breastfeed until one year of age.
  • Formula feeding is a great alternative to breastfeeding.
  • Many foods and herbs have shown positive results for decreasing milk production, including sage, parsley, peppermint, and jasmine.
  • Cabbage leaves may be useful for slowing down milk production as well as providing relief from breast engorgement
  • It’s best to wean slowly over time rather than all at once.
  • If you are attempting to completely dry up your breast milk, try your best not to expel any milk.
  • Wearing a supportive bra, using cold compresses, and taking OTC medication can help relieve discomfort associated with engorgement or clogged ducts

 

Featured Image by Arina Krasnikova