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How to Stop Milk Production if Not Breastfeeding

July 12, 2022 10 min read

How to  Stop Milk Production

Our bodies can do some pretty amazing things, I think we can all agree that moms producing nutritive milk for little ones is an astounding accomplishment. Health organizations everywhere agree that breast milk provides the optimal nutrition for babies.

Given this fact, the World Health Organization recommends exclusively breastfeeding babies until 6 months of age and encourages mothers to continue breastfeeding for as long as possible. While that may be the perfect case scenario, of course, life doesn't frequently beat to the drum of perfection.

Breastfeeding looks different for everyone and there's a wealth of reasons as to why you may wish to stop your milk production. Once you cease breastfeeding, your milk supply will naturally dry up on its own with time.

But in the meantime, dealing with breast engorgement and struggling to dry up breast milk is not a lot of fun. The good news is that there are many things you can do to aid you on your journey to stop breastfeeding, and we're here to give you the low-down in hopes that your breast milk supply will slow down! 

P.S., We like to keep things safe, so be sure to seek the advice of a lactation expert or medical professional before attempting to prevent or suppress your milk production.

 

10 Tricks to Make it Easier to Stop Milk Production

The key strategy here to stop milk production is to ensure that 1. you aren't expressing more milk than required and 2. your breasts are well supported. These are important practices to gradually decrease your breast milk supply but also to give you some added comfort.

Top Tips When Suppressing Milk Flow

One of the most difficult parts of suppressing breast milk is coping with the pain that your breasts most likely feel. In recognition of that, these tips aren't only here to help stop producing milk but also to make you feel more comfortable while in the process of drying up breast milk.

 

1. Wear a Supportive Bra

The ache of full or swollen breasts is like no other, when all you want to do is hold the girls up, a bra will be your best friend! Giving your breasts firm support is super but be wary of binding.

Binding your breasts is vintage medical advice that's unlikely to come back in fashion, and for good reason. Not only can it result in even more pain for your breasts but it can also be a danger to your health leading to issues such as blocked milk ducts or mastitis.

 

2. Avoid Hot Showers

There are few things in the world quite as peaceful and calming as a nice hot shower. Refreshing, soothing, and warm, who wouldn't want that? Well if you're one of the many women who find that the heat of a shower elicits milk ejection, then you'll probably want to take a pass on hot water for a while.

However, if you find it unrealistic to abstain from the heat altogether, you can also turn your back to the showerhead or even put a towel over your breasts for added cover!

 

3. Resist the Urge to Pinch!

We know, we know, you're totally fed up with the process of lactation suppression and you want to give your nipple a little squeeze to see if your milk has finally dried up🤞.

And trust us, we get it but stimulating your nipples or your breasts can actually put you on track to produce small amounts of milk for even longer. A better way to tell if your milk supply is drying up is if you feel your breasts starting to become softer.

 

4. Pay Attention to Your Diet

Have you ever heard of lactogenic foods before? Well, it's a fancy term for describing foods that can stimulate more milk production in your body (it may sound like magic ✨but it's just nature’s fine work!)

Of course, if you're looking to suppress lactation, then you'll want to steer clear of these foods altogether which include things like oats, garlic, leafy greens, and reddish veggies among a host of other things worthy of spending some time reading up on.

 

5. Experience the Benefits of Cabbage Leaves

If you're wondering what cabbage is doing on a list of tips for suppressing lactation, we totally understand your confusion. It may seem kooky but several peer-reviewed studies have boasted that green cabbage leaves placed atop your chest can help to relieve the pain and hardness of engorged breasts and may reduce swelling.

Researchers have even found that cabbage leaves compared to ice packs are equally effective at reducing pain. But the good thing about cabbage leaves is that they fit perfectly under bra cups. As it turns out, frozen vegetables aren't just for eating!

Place your chilled or frozen cabbage leaves between your bra and your breasts and once they begin to wilt or after roughly 2 hours, feel free to swap them out for some more cool and comforting cabbage!

 

6. Birth Control

Birth control is prescribed by doctors to women for a cornucopia of different reasons. But what do birth control and milk supply have to do with one another? Well, your healthcare provider may prescribe you birth control with estrogen for off-label use (i.e for use other than contraception).

This is because it has been known in some cases to help dry up your breast milk supply. However, the effects of estrogen on lactation suppression aren't universal or well documented yet so more research is needed in this field. Be sure to seek professional medical advice before trying out this method 👩‍⚕️!

 

7. Hello Herbs!

In many ways, herbs can be seen as super plants that when used correctly bestow their medicinal properties upon us. Certain herbs have even demonstrated success when it comes to reducing women's supply of breast milk.

Drinking herbal teas such as a nice warm cuppa sage tea can be not only tasty but also a great way to support you in your lactation suppression process. Other herbs with the potential to help your milk dry up include peppermint oil, chasteberry, jasmine, and parsley 🌿.

It's important to be aware that while herbs are often well-tolerated by adults, they can be potentially dangerous for babies. If you're interested in any of the herbal remedies we mention here, talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant first.

 

8. Pain Relief Medication

If cold packs, cold compresses, or cabbage leaves aren't doing the trick for you and your breasts feel sore still, it may be time to talk to a medical professional about what medication you can take to safely and effectively relieve pain.

 

9. Sudafed

Suda-what now? Sudafed or pseudoephedrineis a cold medicine though one study also found it to be very effective when used off-label to dry up breast milk. While this medication is often available over the counter, you should always speak to your doctor before taking medication while breastfeeding.

 

10. Vitamin B

If you're in the earliest stages of your lactation suppression process and have actually yet to begin producing breast milk, vitamin B may be your new sidekick. Some research suggests that prior to building up a milk supply, taking vitamin B may work to limit lactation.

Although vitamin B is generally safe for use, you should always speak with a lactation consultant or healthcare provider before using it to prevent milk production.

10 Tricks to  Help Stop Milk Production

 

How Long Before the Breast Milk Goes Away?

How long before breast milk goes away?

While it isn't an exact science, a good rule of thumb is that the longer you've been nursing the longer it will take to be able to dry up breast milk. But take that with a grain of salt as it really depends on several factors including...

🍼 Your stage of pregnancy if you've yet to give birth

🍼 How much your nipples are touched (remember this encourages more milk production)

🍼 If you've had another pregnancy

🍼 How much milk you're still expressing

🍼 If you've begun the weaning process, how much milk you were making and your baby's age when you began

While some mothers go weeks before their milk supply dissipates completely, other moms are lucky enough to dry up in just a few days. It's also not uncommon to express a few drops of milk even months down the line.

All this is to say that if you want to dry up your breast milk, remember that the journey is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get so your path will almost certainly look different from other mums out there.

That being said, if you've completely stopped breastfeeding or pumping, your body will usually take approximately a week to 10 days to return to its usual non-lactating state. If you've been breastfeeding your baby and pumping but are only just beginning to wean your baby your milk supply will typically decrease in around 3 weeks.

You may also be interested in: How To Transition From Breastmilk To Formula?

 

Things to Watch for When Decreasing Your Breast Milk Supply & What to Do

Common Problems When Decreasing Milk Supply

Milk leakage 💧 can be a pain to deal with. You just donned your favorite top and were ready to face the day ahead only to look down and notice wet spots on your breasts. Well back to the drawing board for what to wear today…

But don't fret; it's a common issue that most mothers face and there are a few effective tricks to help deal with it! It's time to break out one of your roomier bras and slip on some breast pads to help absorb any leaks.

It's best to take a pass on the breast pads out there that hold moisture against your skin. And if at the end of the day you prefer to crawl into bed with your bra, make sure that it doesn't dig into you while you lay down otherwise it could result in a blocked duct or two.

Blocked Ducts and Mastitis 🤒 are risks that you run if your breasts remain full for an extended period of time. If the ducts that allow milk to flow to your nipples become blocked, lumps in the breast begin to form and cause soreness.

This may also be accompanied by other symptoms such as breast tissue heat and redness, inflammation, and flu-like symptoms such as chills or body aches. If you end up with these flu-like symptoms it means that you've likely developed a breast infection called mastitis.

It's important to see your doctor when this happens or if after a couple of days your milk ducts do not become unblocked. If this medical condition is left untreated, you may develop breast abscesses so it's imperative to seek medical attention ASAP.

Engorgement 🤦‍♀️ is not a lot of fun, it takes some time for your body to catch on to the fact that you won't be breastfeeding your baby. In the meantime, you may have to deal with engorged breasts from being overfilled with milk and the discomfort that can come with it.

To help combat the pain, some women may benefit from pumping all the milk from their breasts just once to help relieve the pressure. From then onwards, this may help to prevent pressure from building up so strongly again. Keep in mind that the more times you express, the more breast milk you will produce!

 

Can Stopping Breastfeeding Cause Depression?

The connection that you build with your baby through breastfeeding is sacred and special, it's no wonder that many women go through some rather hefty emotions once they've given it up. But these complex feelings don't just stem from adjusting to the difficult change of weaning your child; your hormones undergo a great deal of change as well. 

This is because while breastfeeding your body releases 'happy hormones’ (oxytocin and prolactin), and after you cease to breastfeed your baby, the levels of these hormones drop significantly which can contribute to a shift in your mood.

If you've ever felt depressed as a result of weaning from breastfeeding, we want you to know that you're not alone! There are extensive reports of mothers suffering bouts of depression following weaning. Common symptoms include:

  • Anxiety & depression
  • Guilt
  • Grief
  • Mood swings
  • Increased sensitivity
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability

While not always attainable, it's usually recommended that you ease into this new cycle of your life by weaning your baby gradually rather than suddenly which may take the burden off of sudden hormonal fluctuations.

If you feel depressed after weaning, know that you have nothing to feel guilty about, and make sure to reach out to a mental health provider if you feel it's too much for you to manage on your own.

Depressive Symptoms Post-Nursing

 

Conclusion

Many moms around the world ask the question of how to stop milk production if not breastfeeding? This is a perfectly valid question to ask no matter your reasoning! It's important to remember that drying up your milk is a highly individualistic process and it can take some time. 

Patience, guidance from a qualified health professional, and self-care are critical components to smoothing out your breast milk suppression journey. We know it can be tough, but we also know women are tougher and we believe that you've got this 🙌! 

 

Please be aware that this information is based on general trends evidenced in babies, it is in no way medical advice. Your doctor should be your first source of information and advice when considering any changes to your child’s diet and when deciding to stop breastfeeding. Always consult your pediatrician prior to making any decisions about your child’s diet or if you notice any changes in your child or in your own health. 

Disclaimer: Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for your baby, because breast milk provides your child with all the essential nutrients they need for growth and development. Please consult your pediatrician if your child requires supplemental feeding.

 

Sources

  1. Lactation suppression. Australian Breastfeeding Association. June 2020.  
  2. How to stop breastfeeding.NHS. March 2, 2020.  
  3. How to dry up your breast milk supply. WebMD. March 4, 2021.
  4. 8 great lactogenic foods for increasing milk supply. Nourisher. June 7, 2019. 
  5. The effectiveness of cabbage leaf application (treatment) on pain and hardness in breast engorgement and its effect on the duration of breastfeeding. JBI Libr Syst Rev. 2012.
  6. Application of cabbage leaves compared to gel packs for mothers with breast engorgement: Randomised controlled trial. Int J Nurs Stud. 2017.
  7. Infant and young child feeding.World Health Organization. 2021.

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