How To Dry Up Breast Milk – 9 Tips And Facts

How To Dry Up Breast Milk – 9 Tips And Facts

Wondering how to dry up breast milk?

A child has weaned when she has drank 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.

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, 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

Here are 9 helpful tips and facts about how to dry up breast milk.

#1: Medications Are No Longer Routinely Used

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 you 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Binding breasts is an outdated way to try to dry up milk.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 her 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

Pink Stork No Flow

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 2 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: Wear Cabbage Leaves In Your Bra

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 breastmilk, or relieving engorgement.

But there is anecdotal support as some mothers have found their use helpful for these reasons.

If using cabbage leaves, 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.

There are organisations, such as Eats on Feets or Human Milk 4 Human Babies that share milk on a mother-to-mother basis.

If a baby dies, or cannot receive his 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 For Milk To Dry Up?

If you’re wondering how to dry up breast milk, you next question will likely be, how long does it take for milk to dry up? 

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.

* This article contains affiliate links to quality products we recommend. Rest assured, it won’t cost you extra. It just means we may be paid a commission if you decide to buy something. BellyBelly would never link to products we wouldn’t use ourselves. We appreciate your support purchasing items via these affiliate links.

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Renee Kam IBCLC CONTRIBUTOR

Renee Kam is a mother of two daughters, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a physiotherapist, author of 'The Newborn Baby Manual' and an Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor. In her spare time, Renee enjoys spending time with family and friends, horse riding, running and reading.


20 comments

    1. Actually the best thing that worked for me was feeding more. The more you feed the more breastmilk your body will produce. I hope you found a natural way since your post was a few months ago.

  1. I want to stop my baby who is 2yr4mnt baby from weaning. It is very difficult for me because he is asking when he fall asleep n with out he is unable to sleep. And more over he is asking for it 2to 3 times in between the sleep. Please help me.

    1. I also have a same problem wth my baby boy 2yr 8mnths.i wish I can wean him bcz it’s really tirering & also thinking of something can dry my breast help

  2. I feel bad for having to wean. My daughter is 20 months, and her breastfeeding dependency makes it hard for others to be able to watch her. Along with me looking for employment, so some time soon she will be in daycare. I just started no breastfeeding 2 days ago, which is hard mostly at night. Now I’m dealing with the painful engorging.

  3. i HV problem I stop breastfeeding is when my bby is 5 month BT even now my breast a still HV milk n my bby is two years now. please help me I’m so stress

  4. I have to stop breastfeeding as I have been diagnosed with cancer and must start chemo next week. I have cried lots and I on lots of pain- my little guy is 15 months old and it’s not an easy age to wean as he doesn’t understand what is happening. I have tried the cabbage leaves but I’m not really sure if they are helping much

    1. I wish you best of luck with chemo. I have a son who is 12 month old and start wean recently. I didn’t try cabbage leaves but warm shower works great.

    2. Hello, I’m so sorry. I too was diagnosed with cancer mid September this year and had surgery in October. I will have to go through Radiation(Radioactive Idodine) which will keep me away from my 14 month old daughter for at least 5-7 days. I will not be able to resume nursing so I have to dry out. I have started the weaning but is going so slow. It pains me to not nurse her, specially during the nights. If you have any tips please share.

  5. I have too much milk. Wish I could donate some. My whole day revolves around expressing milk. What can I do to make it less. I dont necessarily want to stop breastfeeding but its so irritating having to pump the whole time since im a working mom.

    Please HELP???

  6. I’ve been trying to dry up my breast milk since Saturday 8/12/17 since noon. I’ve been hand expressing for comfort. My left breast has a bard ball (clogged duct) under my armpit and I can’t seem to get it out. I’ve also been using cabbage and ice packs for the engorgment but, my breasts keep getting hard and uncomfortable. What else can I do?

  7. My breast is still coming out up to this day after one year and that I lost my child am not comfortable making love with my partner I want to dry it up help me please

  8. I have five months old baby boy. Mostly he didn’t drink my breast milk. He drink when he is sleeping or when he’s not active but when he wake up he even never want to see that side whn i try to breastfeeding…why he did so ??

  9. I recently lost my baby in an accident at 21 weeks. My breasts have reached maximum capacity and it’s so painful. It’s so upsetting to see them leak. Is there any way I can make them go down quicker

  10. I have a question about reducing my supply while nursing twins:
    I have reached my goal of breastfeeding my twins for 18 months. This was my goal because at 18 months they can make their own IgA. I struggle with depression and anxiety. It was debilitating with my first during and after pregnancy. It has been better with the twins but lack of sleep (perpetually on opposite sleep/wake cycles) is starting to set me up for issues. I do not want to abruptly wean but I’m ready to start working toward it. Are there ways to reduce milk supply while I am still nursing? It just seems to me like if I could reduce my milk supply they would lose interest. Is this even a possibility?

  11. I just had my baby for 2 weeks. I plan to breast feed and pump however things didn’t go accordingly so I decided to just pump. I am so tired and irritable with pumping. So far I became real sick with fever and chills and now I’m having burning and shooting pain. I am sad to say that I will be stopping breast pumping. Can I dry up my milk quicker then cabbage or with the recommended things? I also have 2 younger children that I’m losing my patience with pumping. It’s driving me insane and I can’t take the soreness or enforcement anymore. Please help!

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