There are a variety of reasons why moms may need to or choose to suppress lactation. For some it’s a personal decision while for others, it’s out of necessity. Whatever your reasoning is, here are some tips to help you dry up your milk safely and comfortably.
Your body will eventually stop making milk naturally on its own when your baby is no longer suckling at the breast. Unfortunately, it can take some time for the milk production to cease and it can be an uncomfortable process.
Until then, try the following:
1. Don’t be afraid to express some milk. If milk accumulates in the ducts, it can lead to plugged ducts and/or mastitis. When expressing to relieve the discomfort felt from engorgement, express breasts just enough to where you feel comfortable, but not to where your breasts are empty. Expressing until breasts are empty signal the body to make more milk. Here are more tips for relieving engorgement.
2. Ice packs can be used to reduce swelling and relieve the pain of engorgement. Apply ice packs for 10-20 minutes several times a day.
3. Do NOT bind your breasts since binding can cause damage to the breast. This is an old practice that is no longer recommended. Instead, wear a supportive bra that is not too tight. A sports bra, form-fitting top or a supportive sports tank-top are good options. Avoid bras that are too tight or those with underwire since both can lead to plugged ducts and mastitis. If you experience leaking from the breast, put nursing pads in your bra to help absorb the milk.
4. Do not restrict your fluids as this may lead to dehydration.
5. Avoid excessive salt intake since salt causes the body to retain fluids.
6. Cool cabbage compresses can help to reduce swelling and decrease milk supply. To use cabbage to stop milk production, follow these steps:
Prior to applying cabbage to the breast, be sure that you are not allergic by doing a "patch test". Place a small, crushed cabbage leave on your forearm, secure it in place, and allow the cabbage to set on your skin for 1-2 hours. If there is no reaction, proceed with the following steps.
Wash and peel the individual leaves on a GREEN cabbage.
Chill the washed leaves in the refrigerator.
Remove the large vein on the leaf and gently crush the leaf before use. A rolling pin can be used to crush the leaf.
Use enough cabbage leaves to cover the entire breast tissue and leave the nipple uncovered.
Remove and replace the leaves once wilted and see-through. Keep cabbage on breast continuously until engorgement subsides (which may take 2-4 days). Cabbage can be removed for bathing.
7. If pumping, reducing pumping frequency gradually. For example, if pumping 6 times in 24 hours, drop to 5 times in 24 hours for a day or two, then drop to 4 times in 24 hours. Continue this gradual weaning process until you are no longer pumping at all.
8. One study suggests the use of crushed jasmine leaves applied to the breast for several days to reduce milk supply.
9. Sage tea helps to decrease milk supply due to its estrogenic effects. Sage can be purchased at your local health food store and at some grocery stores. To make sage tea: Steep 1 tablespoon of fresh or dried whole leaf in 1 cup of hot water for approximately 15 minutes. Drink one cup every 6-8 hours.
11. Other herbs that can help reduce milk production include:
10. Sudafed has also been shown to decrease milk supply. In one study of 8 lactating women, a single dose of pseudoephedrine 60 mg was shown to reduce lactation by 24% in the first 24 hours. If the normal dosage is used, 60 mg 4 times daily, pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) can decrease milk supply, especially in late-stage lactation. This therapy should be reserved as a last method of treatment.
Before beginning any herbal therapies or medications, be sure to discuss the methods with your healthcare provider. Remember, although you are looking to stop breastmilk production, a lactation consultant can still be a great resource to you.
Aljazaf, K., Hale, T. W., Ilett, K. F., Hartmann, P. E., Mitoulas, L. R., Kristensen, J. H., & Hackett, L. P. (2003). Pseudoephedrine: Effects on milk production in women and estimation of infant exposure via breastmilk
. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 56(1), 18–24.
Mohrbacher, N. & Stock, J. (2003). La Leche League International: The Breastfeeding Answer Book
(4th ed.). Schaumburg, Illinois: La Leche International.
Use of cabbage for Engorgement handout from HALCEA meeting (2010)
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