Wondering how to dry up milk supply without getting mastitis?
A child has weaned when she has drunk breast milk for the very last time.
Natural weaning takes places over many months or years.
This sort of weaning tends to occur gradually over time and gives a mother and her child a chance to readjust physically and emotionally.
How to dry up breast milk
Gradual weaning is often the ideal for mother-baby pairs.
However, for a variety of reasons gradual weaning might not be possible for every breastfeeding mother and child.
Unfortunately, drying up milk supply cold turkey, or sudden weaning, can have physical and emotional consequences.
For example, sudden weaning increases a mother’s risk of blocked ducts and mastitis, as well as a deep feeling of sadness.
Therefore, it’s important to have effective strategies for drying up milk quickly for situations that require a mother to do so.
Sudden weaning can become necessary if a mother needs urgent medical attention that requires her to cease breastfeeding. Some examples are needing to start chemotherapy, or in the tragic event of a child’s death (at birth, during infancy or later).
The following information is about how to dry up breast milk in these sorts of situations, where needing to wean suddenly becomes a necessity.
How to dry up breast milk naturally
Here are 9 helpful tips and facts about how to dry up breast milk naturally.
#1: Medication to dry up breastmilk is no longer routinely used
You may have heard about using medications like Sudafed to dry up milk.
Medications used in the past to prevent a mother’s milk from coming in are rarely used these days.
This is due to their possible side effects such as extreme nausea (or much worse).
These medications are also not effective at drying up milk if given after the first few days.
It’s usually unnecessary to take anything to dry up your milk other than following the tips below.
However, there are certain medications (e.g. pseudoephedrine and some forms of hormonal contraception) that some mothers find help to dry up their milk.
Discuss the use of such medications with your doctor if you wish.
#2: Binding breasts is no longer recommended
When researching how to dry up breast milk, you may come across breast binding.
Binding breasts is an outdated way to try to dry up milk.
It can make mothers very uncomfortable and could increase their risk of blocked ducts or mastitis.
Wearing a supportive and well-fitted (not tight) bra is a better idea.
#3: Drink according to thirst
Restricting the amount of fluids you drink does not help your milk to dry up.
So, drink when you need to, so you don’t become dehydrated.
Even mild dehydration can leave you feeling fatigued and foggy.
Something even better than just drinking water (with a lemon in it is great!), is drinking electrolytes.
Not sugary sports drinks, but quality electrolytes from a health food store.
Electrolytes are beneficial during pregnancy and in the post-natal period.
#4: Drink sage tea
Although the use of sage to dry up milk has not been researched, some mothers find consuming sage (e.g. in the form of a tea) helps their milk to dry up.
You can find sage tea at any health food store.
It’s important to remember that herbs can act like medications, so speak with a healthcare provider before taking any herbs.
Here’s a review about Pink Stork No Flow, which is Amazon’s Top Choice for sage tea:
“I used this tea to help reduce my milk supply for weaning my 3-year-old. He struggled with constant ear infections and was unable to wean earlier. Thankfully he is finally well, but he was really struggling to let nursing go. I decided to try this tea to reduce my milk supply, and maybe help him begin the process of weaning. This tea helped tremendously!
I could tell a huge difference after just two servings. My son is finally starting to accept weaning since he is getting less milk, along with our constant encouragement. This has been a Godsend for me. It is tasty too!”
#5: Cabbage leaves to dry up milk
Cabbage leaves have been used for a long time to relieve engorgement and help to dry up milk.
Scientifically, it’s unknown if cabbage leaves truly help with drying up breast milk or relieving engorgement.
But there is anecdotal support as some mothers have found their use helpful for these reasons.
If you wish to use cabbage leaves to dry up milk, wash and dry the leaves and cut out any large lumpy veins.
Cool the leaves in the fridge before placing the leaves inside your bra.
Change the leaves every couple of hours and continue to use them until your breasts stop feeling full.
#6: Express for comfort
Expressing no more than needed for comfort will help your milk to dry up.
A warm shower will often help relieve the pain of full breasts.
The shower is also a good place to hand express a small amount of milk to make you feel comfortable.
Initially, you may find you have to remove some milk every few hours.
But as time goes by and your supply reduces, you can go longer between removal sessions and remove less each time.
#7: Use cold packs for pain relief
If you experience any pain in the process of drying up breastmilk, cold packs can be a huge help.
Ice packs, cold compresses or a frozen bag of peas can help to relieve pain and reduce any swelling.
#8: Anti-inflammatory medication may help
Some anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen can help to relieve pain associated with drying up breast milk.
Speak with your healthcare provider before taking any medication.
#9: Help is there for you if you need it
To prepare yourself for any emotional challenges, see BellyBelly’s article about post-weaning depression.
Depending on your individual circumstances, there are organisations that may be of some help to you.
- SANDS (Miscarriage, Stillbirth and Newborn Death Support)
- SIDS and Kids
- Australian Breastfeeding Association
- PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia)
- La Leche League
Sudden weaning often means a difficult situation is happening.
In the situation where a mother has to dry up her milk (e.g. due to a medical reason that precludes breastfeeding), it’s possible for her baby to continue to receive breastmilk, if that’s what the mother wishes.
If a baby dies, or cannot receive their mother’s breastmilk for a medical reason, some mothers may choose to express and donate their milk to such organisations.
For some, this is a healing experience as well as one that allows for a more gradual reduction of supply which can reduce some of the pain and discomfort.
How long does it take to dry up breast milk?
If you’re wondering how to dry up breast milk, your next question will likely be, how long does it take to dry up breastmilk?
Most mothers find it usually takes a few weeks to dry up milk supply.
Others will be over the worst of it in a few days. For others, it will take a bit longer. Every mother will have a slightly different experience. If you have any further questions about how to dry up breast milk, leave a message in the comments below.
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