Lactation Suppression: Drying Up the Breast Milk In Your Breasts

How to Stop the Production of Breast Milk When You Aren't Going To Breastfeed

Woman wearing bra measuring her breasts with measuring tape
How can you dry up the breast milk in your breasts?. Stockbyte/Getty Images

Pregnancy, the Production of Breast Milk, and Lactation Suppression

When you go through a pregnancy and have a child, your body is designed to make breast milk. And, even if you decide not to breastfeed, you give your baby up for adoption, or you experience the loss of your child, your body will still make breast milk. There isn't a way to prevent milk production, but if you aren't going to breastfeed or pump for your baby, there are some steps that you can take to suppress lactation and dry up the breast milk in your breasts.

How Long Does It Take to Stop Making Breast Milk?

You will begin to make a small amount of breast milk while you're pregnant. Then, after your baby is born, the production of breast milk increases. By the third or fourth day after your delivery, your milk will "come in, " and you will most likely feel it in your breasts. You will continue to make breast milk for at least a few weeks. If you don't pump or breastfeed, your body will eventually stop producing milk, but it won't happen right away.

Drying Up and Breast Pain

While you're drying up, you may have some breast pain and soreness. It won't hurt the entire time, but there may be a few days of very painful breast engorgement during the first or second week after your baby's birth.

You may experience:

12 Tips To Help You Get Through Drying Up (Lactation Suppression)

  1. Your body makes breast milk when your child breastfeeds at the breast or in response to pumping. But, the lack of breastfeeding or pumping will signal your body to stop making breast milk. If you do not remove the breast milk from your breasts, you will not continue to produce more.
     
  1. If you are in extreme pain, it may be necessary to remove a little bit of the breast milk from your breasts for comfort reasons. If you do this, don't empty the entire breast. Only express enough breast milk to relieve the pain and pressure. Pumping or hand expressing a good deal of breast milk or emptying the breast will signal your body to keep making more breast milk.
     
  1. If your breasts become painfully engorged, ask your doctor about taking a pain reliever such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Motrin (ibuprofen) to help you deal with the pain and pressure.
     
  2. Wear a supportive bra that fits you properly.
     
  3. Do not bind your breasts or wear an excessively tight bra. Tightly wrapping your breasts will not help you to dry up more quickly. It can, however, put unnecessary pressure on your breast tissue and cause other problems such as plugged milk ducts or mastitis.
     
  4. Try placing a cold compress or cabbage leaves on your breasts. The cold is not only soothing, but it can also reduce the swelling and decrease the pain.
     
  5. Avoid hot showers or warm compresses on your breasts. Warm or hot water can stimulate breast milk production.
     
  6. Your breasts can leak breast milk when they become very full or when you think about your baby or hear her cry. To soak up unexpected leaks, you can wear breast pads inside your bra.
     
  7. Resist the temptation to squeeze your nipples to check if you're still making breast milk. Stimulating your breasts or nipples while you're drying up could lead to the continued production of a small amount of breast milk.
     
  1. Parsley, sage, and peppermint are herbs that are believed to decrease the supply of breast milk. Using these herbs may help you to dry up more quickly.
     
  2. Medications such as antihistamines and birth control pills can also help stop the production of breast milk. Talk to your doctor about whether or not these medications are right for you and your situation.
     
  3. Medications that have been used in the past to dry up the breasts such as Parlodel (bromocriptine) and high dose estrogens can be dangerous. They are no longer used due to serious side effects.

 

Sources:

American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. Bantam Books. New York. 2011.

Cole, M. Lactation after Perinatal, Neonatal, or Infant Loss. Clinical Lactation. 2012. 3(3): 94-100.

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Eighth Edition. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2015.

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