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Deciding to stop breastfeeding is an entirely personal decision.
The good news is that you don’t have to justify your decision to anyone. (Just in case you needed a friendly reminder. 🙂)
The not-so-good news– Stopping breastfeeding can sometimes be quite uncomfortable, especially if it leads to breast engorgement or mastitis.
Thankfully, there are a few tips and tricks that can help you dry up your milk supply and, hopefully, minimize some of the discomfort that comes with quitting breastfeeding.
How to dry up your milk supply naturally
Yes! Simply refraining from breastfeeding will help dry up your breast milk.
The human body understands that if you’re not nursing anymore, it needs to reduce lactation, and it will do so gradually over time.
Stimulation is required to produce breast milk, so if you quit nursing, you’ll be stopping the stimulation to your breasts that encourage them to lactate.
Here are a few helpful tips:
- Use your hands to express and this will help reduce engorgement. Do it only in a restricted way, though, so your breasts won’t be stimulated and lactation won’t be accidentally increased.
- Make sure to avoid anything which could stimulate the nipples.
- If you’re experiencing pain, you can try placing some ice packs onto your breasts.
Incorporate foods that may help decrease milk supply
There are mixed opinions when it comes to how much of an impact certain foods and herbs actually have on your milk supply.
While this probably won’t give speedy results, some believe they may help dry up your supply naturally in a gradual way.
Here are a few foods you can try incorporating:
Since you’re more than likely not going to be smashing in large amounts of these foods, here are a couple of easier ways to consume them.
It’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor before starting any new supplements, even natural ones.
There are also natural supplements you can try to decrease your supply and help dry up your breast milk. The Stork No Flow is a popular choice with great reviews for moms who wish to stop nursing.
Do you love tea? Just like there are teas that help boost your supply, there are also special teas that help reduce your milk supply and dry up breast milk such as the Pink Stork No Flow Hibiscus Mint Tea.
According to research, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride) is able to reduce lactation by suppressing the hormone, prolactin.
Not surprisingly, vitamins B6 and B12 are commonly added to breast milk reduction supplements.
That being said, you should speak with your doctor before you take any supplements. They’ll let you know if they’re suitable for you to use and also the length of time you should be taking them for.
Tips for minimizing discomfort while drying up your milk supply
Wear a supportive bra
Some moms have found that wearing a supportive bra during the day will help you feel more comfortable since it helps keep your breasts firmly in place. (It is NOT fun to have the girls bouncing around when they are overly full of breast milk!)
Use cabbage leaves
If you apply cabbage leaves (especially cold ones) to your breasts, it may help soothe the discomfort.
Wash them first, then dry them thoroughly before wearing them in your bra. Ensure that all large veins have been cut to keep you from feeling uncomfortable.
Every 2 hours, change them until they’ve become limp. Continue changing them until you no longer feel that your breasts are overfull.
Wear breast pads
Wearing breast pads in your bra helps soak up any leakage.
While this may not do much for the pain or discomfort itself, it will help keep things feeling clean and dry.
As mentioned earlier, it can be helpful to express a little breast milk occasionally using your hands when they feel excessively full. Just don’t overdo it as this can sometimes stimulate your body to make more breast milk.
Only express enough to improve your comfort.
Applying cold compresses to your breasts after showering to reduce swelling and pain is another natural way to decrease discomfort. You can also apply cold gel packs in your bra.
Change your sleeping position
Back sleeping may be more comfortable if your breasts feel full. However, if you are usually a side sleeper, you can use an additional pillow so that your breasts are more supported.
Stomach sleepers may find that the extra pressure on their breasts is very painful. Try putting a pillow beneath your hips and stomach to reduce pressure.
Should your breasts leak during your sleep, try putting either a towel or cloth diaper over them to absorb leakage.
Try a gentle massage
If the engorgement pain becomes overwhelming, a gentle massage may help soothe it away.
Be careful not to massage your nipples, though, as they may stimulate your body to produce more milk.
How long does it take for milk to dry up if you’re not breastfeeding?
After stopping breastfeeding, it’ll usually take around a week or several days until your supply dries up. The length of time changes depending on several factors:
- Your baby’s age and how much you were producing.
- How much is coming from your breasts via expressing, let-downs, and leaking?
- A second pregnancy during your nursing period.
- The amount of stimulation that your nipples get exposed to
Therefore, there’s no set amount of time in which your milk will dry up. Every mother has an individual experience depending on their body and the above factors.
Which drying up methods should I avoid?
Before we wrap this up, let’s look at a couple of methods you may have heard about that are actually more harmful than helpful. It’s best to avoid these methods if you’re trying to stop lactating.
Some moms stop consuming lots of fluids and water so their breastmilk production will stop. This is a bad idea!
The Australian Breastfeeding Association states that decreasing the amount of fluids you consume won’t reduce your supply. Therefore, you should still drink plenty and remain well-hydrated for your well-being.
Wrapping the breasts tightly is known as binding, and it’s a method that has been in use for centuries to suppress lactation.
Yet, research has been carried out comparing women who wear supportive bras and those who bind their breasts and the results revealed that women who bound their breasts experienced more leakage and pain, not less.
Hopefully, you have found these tips helpful for drying up your breast milk and minimizing discomfort.
Reducing your milk supply may take a little patience, time, and sometimes even a bit of discomfort, but you’ve got this! This is just yet another phase of motherhood.