A mother’s milk is the first food that a child consumes. However, the child does not continue having breast milk for very long. Gradually, the mother weans the baby out of this and introduces solid food, which adds better nutritional value to the diet.
As per statistics, the breastfeeding rate in the USA is seen to be on the rise. However, only 27 percent of the children in America continue breastfeeding until six months. It shows that these mothers are weaning their babies off breastmilk pretty soon and will thus have to start with drying up breast milk.
There can be multiple reasons for early weaning and consequent drying up breast milk. One may have to get back to work soon, maybe the baby is on some different diet which requires formula feeding, the mother is finding it difficult to pump, or the baby has weaned himself/herself.
No matter what the reason, if a mother stops breastfeeding, then the body will stabilize within seven to ten days and will start producing hormones like before. A natural remedy like a cold compress, cabbage leaves, and sage tea helps to speed up the milk drying process.
How to dry up milk supply quickly?
If you wish to dry up your breast milk quickly, then you have to stop breastfeeding altogether. However, it might feel very uncomfortable. Breast milk production is generally based on a supply-demand ratio. Thus if one stops breastfeeding altogether, then the body will naturally stop producing the milk.
In the meanwhile, the breasts become full of milk while the hormones stabilize. It is advisable to use soaking pads during this time to avoid any leaking. Its essential to know that during this time, the breasts will be very painful, thus wearing a support bra might be required. Additionally, a cold compress can be useful to soothe the pain.
If things get too uncomfortable, a breast pump can be used to pump about just the exact amount of milk needed for you to feel comfortable. Though it does sound unusual, rubbing cabbage leaves on the breast stops the production of breast milk due to the enzymes present in the leaves.
It’s essential to drink a lot of fluids during this time. Additionally, change the cabbage leaves every few hours or as and when they become limp.
Things to avoid when drying up breast milk:
There are a few dos and don’ts to follow while one is trying to dry up a breast milk supply:
As soon as you start decreasing the nursing sessions, your body will need time to adjust to the change in schedule. This often results in the breasts feeling full and painful. This feeling will continue until your body is ready to slow down on the nursing process.
It does get very uncomfortable at times, and one might feel the deep urge to pump the breasts between nursing sessions to ease the pain.
However, this practice must be avoided as much as possible.
Avoid Tight Bras:
One of the most common advises that one gets while drying their milk supply is to bind up the breasts tightly. This is done in order to suppress or cut off the milk supply.
So, if you have received this advice and thinking of taking it up, its time to drop that bad idea!
Binding the breasts can cause engorgement, or in worse case scenarios, increase the risk of getting Mastitis.
Get A Break From Breast Massages:
When we feel any sort of pain in the body, our first reaction is to massage it. In that light, you might be tempted to do the same when your breasts are sore and full. This idea couldn’t get any wrong. In other words, any stimulation your breasts receive signals your body to produce more milk.
During the milk drying stage, even touching the breasts will signal it to let down the milk as it will feel like nursing. This is not the ideal situation. Thus it’s advisable to keep your hands off the breasts in all conditions during this time.
Ways to dry up breast milk
Often known as lactation suppression, drying up breast milk supply can become important for various reasons. But no matter what the reason, it is a good idea to wean the baby gradually. An eventual process is stress-free, not only for the child but also for the mother.
However, in certain extreme cases, weaning has to be done as soon as possible, and then one has to dry up the breast milk quickly. A few of the following methods can be oped for:
The body stops producing any breast milk when it does not get any stimulation or signal. However, the time required for the breastmilk to dry up depends on how long one has been breastfeeding.
The following tips can come in handy:
- Pump out the milk to reduce engorgement. However, it must be done only when needed else the brain gets the signal to produce more milk to meet the demand.
- Buy supportive bras to keep the breasts comfortable.
- If you experience pain and inflammation, then use ice packs on the breasts or take over the counter pain medicines.
Cabbage leaves help in the suppression of lactation if they are used over a long period of time. However, there are not enough studies to show how this really happens.
To use cabbage:
- Cut and wash the fresh green cabbage leaves
- Store the leaves in a container and put them in the freezer to chill.
- Put one leaf each on the breasts before wearing your bra.
- Keep on changing the leaves every two hours or as soon as they get limp.
As per the results from a small study conducted in 2003, eight lactating women were administered pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) in a minimal quantity. This proved useful as it worked well and aided in breast milk reduction.
The plus point was that the daily intake of medicine did not affect the babies who continued to breastfeed while more lactation was being suppressed.
The recommended dosage of this medicine stands at 60 mg four to five times a day.
However, it is essential to talk to the doctor before any OTC medicine can be consumed.
As per a study conducted in 2014, Sage can help in the reduction of breast milk. However, no study points out to the specific effect of this herb on milk production. To that end, not much information is available on how sage impacts the infants still consuming breast milk.
Thus, it is advisable to start with a small amount and analyze how the baby reacts to the changes. Sage infused herbal tea can be consumed. However, the amount has to be diluted to figure out how much of it works.
In addition to Sage, other herbs such as Jasmine, Parsley, Peppermint, and Chatesberry can be used.
However, not much is known about the impact of these herbs on the infant’s body. Thus it is advisable to try small amounts. Some of these herbs can also be very dangerous for the baby. Therefore a little research and consultation with your doctor may be required.
Birth Control Pills:
It must be noted that Progestin-only birth-control contraceptive pills do not affect the supply of milk. However, contraceptive pill, which contains estrogen, works well to reduce lactation. The effect of these medicines is noticeable even after the milk supply has been established.
Though many women do not feel the side effects of these medicines, a few might. In that light, it is important to discuss it with the doctor. Though birth control pills are not FDA approved, they can be prescribed in certain circumstances; these are known as off-label drugs.
Vitamin B 12, B1, and B6 work well in suppressing breast milk production. However, this should only be used when one has never breastfed before. A study was conducted in 1970 to identify the impact of this vitamin on the human body. The study consisted of 96 participants who showed no side effects on the use of Vitamin B6.
However, a recent study conducted in 2017 came up with controversial information about the effectiveness of this drug. In the latest research, participants were handed out B-6 medicines of 450-600 mg for four to five days.
However, not much is know about its exact side effects. Thus having a word with your doctor before consuming this medicine is essential.
How long does drying up breast milk take?
How long for breastmilk to dry up greatly depends on the method used for the drying process and on how long has one been breastfeeding. Sometimes it may take just a few days, while in other cases, it may take up several weeks or even months depending on the drying up process used and the current milk supply.
Even after most of the milk is dried up, one may produce some amount of milk for a few months after the weaning period. However, if the breast milk comes back without any reason, then you should get in touch with a doctor.
What are the possible risks of drying up breast milk?
Stoping milk production abruptly can give rise to the risk of engorgement and raises the chances of getting blocked milk ducts leading to infection. In such situations, one may have to express some milk to vent out the pressure. However, this has the opposite effect. The more milk is expressed, the longer it takes to dry up.
When Is It Time To Get Help? is it time to get help?
As known, lactation suppression can be very uncomfortable at some time. Though pressure and engorgement of breasts are natural, if one does experience constant pain or other worrisome side effects, it’s essential to contact a doctor.
Many times, a plugged duct can lead to the tenderness of breasts. If such a situation arises, it’s essential to massage the area while expressing the milk gently.
It is essential to call a doctor, if a milk duct cannot be unplugged in 12 hours, or if one gets affected by fever. Generally, fever is the symptom of breast infection called Mastitis.
Other symptoms of breast infection are redness of breasts, swelling of breasts, and general malaise. In such situations, oral antibiotics must be consumed immediately to stop the problem from becoming more serious.
If things do get frisky, a certified lactation specialist can be contacted.
What is Mastitis?
Mastitis is a critical condition of the breast tissue in which the milk ducts get infected owing to bacterial attack. This condition generally arises when the milk glands try to generate more milk but get blocked due to some clogging. This overtime leads to very painful infection and can only happen to lactating mothers.
However, lactation mastitis is a curable condition, and lactating mothers can come out of this painful disease. This condition generally occurs within three months of the lactating period.
In the first few months, the mother’s breasts generate and produce large quantities of milk for the consumption of the baby. However, if the child abruptly stops consuming the milk, excess milk rests in the breasts and cause lactation mastitis.
Thus it becomes essential for the mother to be aware of the right process of breastfeeding and pumping of milk.
Symptoms of Mastitis:
Before getting to know how to dry up milk supply without getting Mastitis, let’s look at some common symptoms of Mastitis:
- Swelling of Breats
- Warm and painful sensation in the breasts
- Formation of lumps and thickening of breast tissues
- Sore breasts accompanied by fever
- Red skin in a wedge-like pattern.
How to stop pumping without getting Mastitis:
Mastitis is indeed a very painful situation that concerns most mothers. However, weaning an infant of breast milk may be absolutely necessary for many reasons. Thus drying up breast milk may not be a choice but an essential requirement.
However, if proper care is not taken, then the situation can go from bad to worse. In that light, the following steps can be taken:
Consuming Sage Tea:
Though it is not scientifically proven, Sage can help one to reduce the amount the milk being produced. The dried-up leaves of the tea aids in limiting the amount of milk produced by the glands.
However, Sage has a very bitter taste and thus must be consumed with honey. This is something from the grandmother’s old recipe books, and like all other ancient remedies, this too works when it comes to lactation reduction. Since the herb contains natural estrogen, it aids in the decrease of the milk supply.
Not all age-old remedies are effective. As per older belief, tight bras or bindings can help in the reduction of milk production. However, that does not apply in the modern world. Tightening the breasts using very tight clothes can only make one uncomfortable, raising the chance of growing Mastitis.
A properly fitted bra is required during this stage as it helps in proper blood circulation. Since some women prefer to wear the bras to sleep, caution must be given to the type of fabric and fit of these inner wears.
Less fancy and lacy bras must be opted for. In fact, the idea is to buy bras made of natural fibers. These will soak up the milk in case there is a spillage.
Consume A Lot Of Fluids:
There is no link between drying glands and the consumption of less water. No theory supports or claims that drying milk has anything to do with the intake of water.
In fact, during this stage, more water must be consumed; otherwise, one runs the risk of getting dehydrated, tired, dizzy, and may also develop cracked skin on the nipples.
Avoid taking Hot showers:
Thinking about how to dry up breast milk with ease? Well, then you might have to cut down on your hot bath for some time. Studies show that hot water aggravates the milk secretion and thus must be avoided if you are looking forward to drying up your milk secretion.
However, hot showers are beneficial for reducing the pain and soreness of the breasts. But on the flip side, it signals the milk glads to produce a higher quantity of milk. Thus, while a hot shower can feel suitable for a short span of time, as soon as the glands start to produce more milk, the pain and soreness will be back.
Ice-acks On Breasts:
During this time, very often, the breasts become swollen, fuller, and tight. This can cause a lot of discomfort, and thus ice packs can be used on the breasts to reduce the pain. Cold compress with ice bags, frozen bags of gels, and peas can lower the temperature of the sore breasts and can also help in dealing with the pain and discomfort.
Along with cold cabbage leaves, cold pea bags can also be kept inside the bra to bring relief to swollen or tightened breasts. Additionally, it absorbs the extra heat produced by the breasts at this stage.
However, the ice packs should not shroud the breasts completely. If one does feel feverish or gets the chills, then it’s essential to contact a doctor urgently as this can be the tell-tale sign of Mastitis.
If you are worried about how to dry up your milk both quickly and safely, then you can try the anti-lactation medicines. These oral medications help in drying up the milk secretion glands on their own’
Due to these medicines, lactation suppression is not required anymore. However, the use of bromocriptine and estrogen has been dropped nowadays.
Why does Mantitis Occur?
This painful condition does not occur out of the blue; there are strong reasons which lead to the development of Mastitis. While you are busy wondering how to get your milk to dry up, the reasons behind Mastitis gets overlooked.
Following are the reasons which lead to the development of Mastitis:
- Excessive milk storage in the breasts.
- Often all the milk ducts do not get empty after feeding; then, a clogged duct can lead to Mastitis.
- A bacterial infection is yet another reason which leads to the development of Mastitis. When the baby is suckling, bacteria can find their way in the breast through the small micro-cracks on the nipples.
- Ill-fitting or too tight bra.
- Smoking addiction
- The previous inclination of the immunity towards Mastitis.
- Lack of proper nutrition
- The exhausted mental health of the mother
- Ill breastfeeding practices
- A lengthy interval between pumping and breastfeeding
In the light of all of this, it’s essential to treat a clogged milk duct or excessive milk storage quickly. Though it may apparently sound harmless, Mastitis can lead to pus formation in the breasts, causing severe pain and infection.
In worse case scenarios, one might have to go through a lengthy surgery to fix the condition. Thus, it’s essential to take up caution when there is still time. It is advisable to use natural remedies as much as possible so that there is no side effect.
However, make it a point to inform your doctor and follow his/her recommendations. Make your nursing stage a blissful period!