How to Dry Up Breast Milk: Your Ultimate Guide

Published by 
Jess Miller
Last updated: 
November 20, 2019
baby breastfeeding

As wonderful as breastfeeding can be, there comes a time when you know your journey must come to an end. Maybe your baby self-weaned, and you have milk left, or you’re going back to work and don’t want to pump. Regardless of your reasons for weaning, you need to figure out how to dry up breast milk safely.

The risks of breast engorgement, mastitis, and blocked milk ducts make the weaning process pretty scary. Fortunately, there are numerous ways to dry up your breast milk supply without having to go through the complications.

Turning Off the Faucet

Why in the world would you want to end your breastfeeding journey?

First of all, your baby may start to cut down on nursing and prefer eating food or drinking his milk from a cup. Self-weaning can happen as a result of low breast milk supply or when your baby decides to pull off a nursing strike out of lack of interest. It’s worth noting that you shouldn’t feed your little one cow’s milk if he’s under 12 months old.

Secondly, some medicines may be incompatible with breastfeeding. If the medication is excreted into breast milk, your baby may have a difficult time coping with its side effects. If you are under sedatives, chemotherapy, and mastectomy drugs, breastfeeding will have to take a break.

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Third, medical conditions pose some potential health risks to your child. HIV, exposure to lead poisoning, or even untreated tuberculosis are examples of medical conditions you should seek medical advice about safe breastfeeding.

The fourth reason is when you’re not into breastfeeding anymore. The truth is, breastfeeding can be painful. Engorged breasts, cracked nipples, plugged milk ducts, and endless antibiotics can leave you feeling that you’ve just had enough.

Finally, breastfeeding during pregnancy is safe, but there are some cases where weaning is the best option. These situations include a high-risk pregnancy, uterine pain, and if you’re bleeding or at risk for preterm labor.

When to Start

The reasons we discussed above will help determine when you need to start weaning your little one. The best way to do it is to take gradual steps. This helps your body adjust to producing less milk. It will also help your baby get used to bottles and formula.

Phasing out breastfeeding

When you stop breastfeeding abruptly, you not only upset your baby but also risk having engorged breasts and other complications.

You need to make the process easier for both of you. One way to do this is by starting with the breastfeeding session that your baby is least interested in. The next step is to cut out another session after a few days or on a weekly basis.

Another great way to do this is by combining breastfeeding with formula. If your child is below the age of one, use a bottle, and if he is over six months, opt for a cup.

If your baby refuses

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You should look for ways to ease your little one throughout this transition. Play games, sing, or cuddle your baby to get the comfort he was seeking from breastfeeding.

If your child is older, postpone breastfeeding sessions by telling him that you’ll feed him later. Indulge him with other activities to serve as a distraction in the meantime.

As you try to figure out how to dry up breast milk, you’ll realize that it gets harder when your baby falls ill. Breastfeeding is usually your baby’s number one comfort spot in times like these. You can allow this period to be your cheat day because breast milk contains antibodies needed to protect him.

How long does it take?

As you may have noticed, weaning varies depending on how well your little one adjusts and if he falls ill. It may take a few weeks or even months to stop breastfeeding entirely. It’ll take a lot of patience from you but take heart and take it slow -- eventually, it’ll happen!

How to Dry Up Breast Milk

Let us now look at the natural and medical tips on how to dry up breast milk.

Medical options

It’s always better to start by seeking medical advice from a trusted health practitioner before going for medical options. As you know, drugs can have some side effects and contraindications that can have a negative impact on your overall health.

In addition, it’s important to let you know that high doses of estrogen are dangerous. This is why doctors no longer use estrogen injection drugs like pyridoxine and bromocriptine due to their side effects.

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Decongestants

These drugs contain pseudoephedrine that’s used for treating colds. In a research study, Sudafed is the common decongestant that’s used to prevent lactation. You may not require a prescription to buy the drug but check with a doctor to make sure that it’s suitable for you.

Birth control pill

Birth control pills with estrogen have been linked to low milk supply. It’s also important to caution that these pills have the risk of causing blood clots. Due to this, you’ll need a prescription.

Natural options

The possible side effects and risks that the above medical options pose to your overall health make natural options worth trying out. Let’s now dive into the safer ways on how to dry up breast milk.

Cabbage leaves

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One of the oldest tricks in the books is sleeping with cold cabbage leaves in your bra. Even though there’s no scientific evidence or reason why this works, most women believe it answers our question of how to dry up breast milk.

For best results, choose the greenest leaves and cut out any lumpy veins present. Cool them in the fridge and place them inside your bra. Make sure you change the leaves every couple of hours until engorgement stops.

An alternative to keeping a dozen cabbages in your fridge is using Cabocreme. It contains all the milk-suppressing qualities of cabbage but with a better smell. You should apply it every three hours.

Sage

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Sage boasts a natural form of estrogen that helps to dry up breast milk. You can choose to take sage as tea and sweeten it with some honey.

You could also buy pre-made tea with sage and some other herbs that accelerate the process. Earth Mama’s No More Milk Tea is a good example of pre-made sage tea that works within five days. You have to take it three times a day, and it actually tastes better.

Gradual weaning

The more your baby suckles, the more milk your body produces. When you wean your baby off slowly, it helps you minimize the risk of clogged milk ducts and engorgement.

To make weaning easier for you and your baby, start to limit daytime feedings. Offer another liquid as an alternative or distract your little one by doing something fun.

Night feeding will definitely be the hardest, so provide comfort through singing or holding. It may even become necessary to ask your partner to help if you can.

Methods to Skip

As you learn how to dry up breast milk, you need to avoid the following.

Pumping

Until your body gets the memo to slow down milk production, your breasts will feel full and engorged between nursing sessions. You might feel tempted to pump the excess milk to ease the pressure. However, pumping will have the same effect as nursing and increase your milk supply.

Tight bras

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Binding your breasts increases your risk of getting mastitis. Tight bras also increase discomfort and pain when breasts are full. You really don’t need that kind of pressure for a method that won’t even work. Opt for a well-fitted bra that provides firm support as well as comfort.

Nipple stimulation

It’s so tempting to massage your breasts when they’re full and hurting. Touching your breasts signals your body to let the milk down just as if you were nursing. This is the exact opposite of what you want to happen, right?

Don’t worry; there are other ways to reduce breast pain by keeping your hands off. A hot shower, over-the-counter painkillers, and cold packs or cabbage leaves also do the trick.

Possible Risks

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Let’s look at some of the complications you need to watch for when exploring how to dry up breast milk.

Blocked milk ducts

When your breasts are full, there’s always the risk of lumps forming and feeling sore. Warm compresses to the sore area can help. If a blocked milk duct is not treated, it eventually evolves into mastitis.

Engorgement

Engorgement occurs when breast milk fills up in the breasts. This pressure makes the breasts swell and become painful. The best way to deal with breast engorgement is by applying cold compresses to soothe the breast and relieve the pressure.

Mastitis

Mastitis leads to inflammation of the breast tissue, and this results in swelling, redness, chills, and fever. To ease the pain, try placing a warm cloth over the affected breast and stroke the lumpy area. If symptoms persist after two hours, go to the hospital for further treatment.

Before You Forget…

Gradual weaning is the best way to dry up breast milk because it protects you from the possible risks of mastitis. Reducing daytime feedings will make it easier for your baby to adjust. Try to supplement these feedings with fun activities that will keep your little one too engaged to remember it’s time to nurse.

breastfeeding baby
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Always seek medical advice before trying out any of the medical options we discussed above. Give yourself room to be flexible with nursing, especially when your little one is ill. Remember, breast milk contains antibodies to help your child recover faster.

Finally, learning how to dry up breast milk is a journey, not a destination. Even though it will be hard, eventually, you’ll get to a point where your baby has come to terms with the fact that like all good things, nursing must come to an end.

Do you have any good tips on how to dry up breast milk? Sharing is caring. Let’s help a mother out today!

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