Weaning, Drying Up, and Your Breasts

15 Tips To Dry Up The Milk In Your Breasts When You're Ready To Wean

Weaning, Breast Changes, and Drying Up The Breast Milk In Your Breasts. 15 Tips.
Gradual weaning can make drying up easier. Vladimir Godnik/fStop/Getty Images

Your Breasts Will Change As Breastfeeding Ends

When it's time for your child to wean from breastfeeding, your body will go through changes. If you have to wean suddenly, drying up may be uncomfortable or even painful. However, if you can wean your child gradually over a longer period of time you may not even notice or feel the changes that are going on in your breasts.

Drying Up and Sudden Weaning

If possible, you should try to wean your child gradually, but there may be circumstances when you have no choice but to wean suddenly.

When you have to wean your child abruptly, it could be uncomfortable. Breast milk can build up in your breasts and cause painful breast problems such as engorgement, plugged milk ducts, and mastitis.

Drying Up and Gradual Weaning

If you can wean your child gradually, it may make weaning more acceptable to your child and more comfortable for you. When you slowly reduce the amount of time your child spends breastfeeding over weeks or months, your breasts will respond by slowly decreasing the amount of breast milk that they make. It will take longer for your breasts to dry up when you wean gradually, but it can help you to avoid the pain and engorgement that sudden weaning often brings. If you gradually wean your child, you may not even notice the decrease in your breast milk over time. Your milk supply may just slowly go down without any signs or symptoms of weaning at all.

Your Breasts After Weaning

It could take up to 6 months or even longer for your breasts to completely dry up of breast milk after you stop breastfeeding.

After drying up, your breasts may return to the way they were before your pregnancy, or they may change in shape and size. 

After breastfeeding your breasts can appear bigger, smaller, or softer. You may also notice stretch marks. Some women feel their breasts are droopier after weaning. Breastfeeding often takes the blame for sagging breasts, but sagging is actually just a normal result of pregnancy, genetics, and other factors.

15 Tips For Weaning and Drying Up The Milk In Your Breasts

  1. If you are experiencing pain and engorgement, you can try to slow down the weaning process.
  2. If you prefer to express some breast milk because your breasts are painfully overfull, just remove enough milk to feel comfortable. Pumping a large amount of breast milk or completely draining the breast of milk will signal your body to continue making more.
  3. You can put ice packs or cabbage leaves on your breasts to help relieve engorgement and decrease your supply of breast milk. Try to avoid warm compresses and hot showers since they can stimulate milk production.
  4. Over the counter pain relievers such as Motrin (ibuprofen) or Tylenol (acetaminophen) can help to ease any breast pain you may experience during the process of weaning and drying up.
  5. Pseudoephedrine, an ingredient used in cold and allergy medications, is believed to cause a decrease in the supply of breast milk. Ask your doctor if it would be safe for you to try one or two doses of this medication to help dry up your breast milk supply.
  1. Sage is an herb that has been used to relieve engorgement and lower the amount of breast milk during weaning. Other herbs such as parsley, oregano, peppermint, jasmine and yarrow are also believed to decrease the breast milk supply when taken in large amounts. 
  2. If you are weaning due to a new pregnancy, talk to your doctor before you use any pain relievers, herbs, or medications to help you dry up.
  3. You should not wear a very tight bra or try to bind your breasts. Tightly wrapping up your breasts will not help you to dry up more quickly, but it can cause breast issues such as plugged milk ducts and mastitis.
  4. If your breasts become red, swollen, and/or painful while you're weaning your baby, see your doctor. Engorgement and plugged milk ducts can lead to a breast infection. If you develop a breast infection, you may need to take antibiotics.
  5. As you breastfeed less often, and you begin to dry up, changes will occur in your body as well as in your breasts.  Your hormone levels will start to go back to the way they were before you became pregnant and began to breastfeed. During this time of changing hormones, you are more likely to see the return of your period.  
  6. You should continue to do a breast self-exam every month even though you're going through the process of weaning and drying up the breast milk in your breasts.  
  7. If you have been pumping exclusively for your baby, and you're ready to wean from the breast pump, the same information applies. You can gradually wean from the pump by pumping for a shorter amount of time each time you pump, and waiting longer between pumping sessions.  
  8. As you wean your baby, the let-down of breast milk can continue to occur and cause leaking when you hold your baby, think about your baby, hear your child or another child cry, or even for no reason at all. You can wear nursing pads in your bra to soak up unexpected leaks.
  9. As you're drying up, nipple stimulation during intimacy with your partner, or squeezing your nipples to see if anything is still there, can cause your body to continue to make a small amount of breast milk.
  10. It's normal for breast milk to remain in your breasts for weeks or months after you wean your baby. However, if you are still able to produce breast milk one year after you have fully weaned your child, talk to your doctor.

Sources:

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

Lawrence, Ruth A., MD, Lawrence, Robert M., MD. Breastfeeding A Guide For The Medical Profession Seventh Edition.  Mosby. 2011.

Riordan, J., and Wambach, K. Breastfeeding and Human Lactation Fourth Edition. Jones and Bartlett Learning. 2014.

Continue Reading