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How to Dry Up Breastmilk

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When it comes to emptying breast milk, there are many different reasons women want to dry up their milk supply quickly and painlessly. For example, some women choose not to breastfeed and want to suppress lactation in the first place while others have been breastfeeding for a while and are ready to wean.

Drying up your milk can take days to weeks and varies from person to person. How long it lasts will depend on how long your body produces milk.

In general, the longer you breastfeed, the more your milk will dry up. In fact, some mothers report being able to express a small amount of breast milk after their baby stops nursing.

Whatever your reason for not producing milk, there are ways to effectively and safely empty your breast milk without the risk of infection or engorgement. Here’s what you need to know about running out of breast milk.

Verywell / Brianna Gilmartin


Prevent milk production

You will begin to make small amounts of breast milk during pregnancy. After your baby is born, breast milk production increases. By the third or fourth day after giving birth, your milk will “come in”. You will most likely feel this in your breasts.

You will continue to make breast milk for at least a few weeks after your baby is born. If you don’t pump or breastfeed, your body will eventually stop producing milk, but it won’t happen right away.

If you have chosen not to breastfeed, you may be wondering if there is anything you can do to prevent lactation. When you’re pregnant, you’ll experience the same hormonal changes (including those that stimulate milk production) whether you decide to breastfeed or not. There is no way to stop these processes.

That said, after giving birth, your breast milk will run out if not used. This means that the less you stimulate your nipples or breasts after giving birth, the faster your milk supply will run out.

When to start drying milk?

Mothers who do not breastfeed will dry up breast milk in the first few days after giving birth. Some choose to pump and donate breast milk they create but have no intention of using.

Mothers who have lost a baby may want to stop milk production as soon as possible. Other mothers need to stop making milk for medical reasons, although the weaning may be temporary.

Be sure to consult an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) if you have been told you need to wean for medical reasons.

Making the decision to wean is up to you and your particular situation. It can be helpful to discuss timing with your lactation consultant or healthcare provider. After you decide to empty your breast, decide which approach you will take. You have more than one option to choose from.

Some mothers decide to take a more natural approach and let their milk dry on its own.Others use medication to help dry up their milk. Choose the method that works best for you, but be sure to ask your doctor before taking any medications or herbs to help drain your milk supply.

Drug options

Certain medications should be avoided while you are breastfeeding as they are known to decrease breast milk supply. That said, if you’re trying to reduce your milk supply, your doctor may suggest you take these medications to aid the process.

Birth control pills

The first drug a mother can try to help drain her milk supply is the combined oral contraceptive pill. This option requires a prescription.

Unlike the mini pill — which is approved for nursing mothers and contains only progestin — the combined pill contains estrogen and progestin. It is the estrogen in the pill that suppresses the production of milk supply.

Remember that this medicine is a contraceptive. If you plan to get pregnant again soon, it may not be the best method for you.

Decongestants

Another medication that is sometimes recommended to help reduce breast milk supply is a decongestant. These medications are usually used when someone has a cold, but a possible side effect is a decrease in breast milk production.

Pseudoephedrine, commonly sold under the brand name Sudafed, treats cold symptoms because it reduces secretions – including breast milk. In one study, a 60 mg dose of pseudoephedrine reduced milk supply by 24%.

The drug is usually available without a prescription. However, pseudoephedrine is sometimes used off-label and even illegal, so the ability to buy it is limited in some states. Even when used correctly, pseudoephedrine can have serious side effects. Talk to your doctor before trying an over-the-counter decongestant to help deplete your milk supply.

The drug is no longer in use

In the past, certain medications were sometimes given to newly hospitalized mothers to deplete their breast milk supply — especially if they chose not to breastfeed.

Your mother or grandmother may have mentioned that they gave injections in the hospital to cut off their milk supply, but this method is no longer used in the United States. These drugs are no longer used because many of them are not only ineffective but also have negative side effects.

Pyridoxine, Parlodel (bromocriptine), and high-dose estrogen were once used to help deplete a woman’s breast milk supply, but these drugs are no longer used.

Many of these drugs are not only ineffective in draining breast milk, but they are also potentially dangerous.

Natural option

If you’re looking for a more natural approach to drying your milk, there are different herbs that have been used by different cultures for centuries. However, keep in mind that herbs can act like drugs, which means they have risks and side effects. It is important to speak with your healthcare provider before trying any supplements or herbal remedies.

Sage and mint are often recommended to help reduce breast milk production.Sage can be found at health food stores in the form of tinctures, pills, or teas.

Herbalists often recommend drinking several cups of herbal tea during the day to help dry up breast milk. Companies have even created special tea blends for this purpose, such as Earth Mama Angel Baby’s No More Milk Tea.

Temporary weaning

If you’ve been told you need to temporarily wean your baby, you’ll need to understand why you need to wean before you choose to express (even temporarily).

For example, if you are having a medical procedure that requires you to take medication, it may be necessary to remove your breast milk before you can feed your baby. In this situation, you will need to follow different procedures than if your baby just hasn’t been breastfed for a short time for a medical checkup.

The key to temporary weaning is maintaining breast milk supply.You can talk to a lactation consultant about maintaining your supply, as you can use different strategies. You’ll probably need to use a breast pump or hand expression to mimic your baby’s natural feeding schedule as closely as possible. This will help prepare you to return to breastfeeding.

If the reason for temporary weaning is not related to any medications that pass into your breast milk, ask if you can properly store breast milk for future use.

Steps to inhibit lactation

The importance of breastfeeding and breastfeeding is often the focus of a new parent’s education, but the basics of solids are also important. Understanding how the process works will help ensure it runs smoothly for you.

Breast milk is created according to a “supply and demand” system.To reduce milk supply, you need to reduce demand. This means you’ll want to express as little breast milk as possible.

Reduce feed and pump intake

If you’ve been breastfeeding or pumping in the past, reducing the number of feeds or slowing down your pumping time will give you the least amount of pain. If you are not expressing breast milk, avoid pumping for comfort and any nipple stimulation (including sexual arousal).

Don’t squeeze

Resist the temptation of squeezing your nipples to see if you’re still making breast milk. Stimulating your breasts or nipples while you’re running out of milk can lead to continued production of small amounts of breast milk, which prolongs the process.

Avoid showers

Some women find that taking a hot bath can stimulate the lactation reflex (sometimes referred to as “releasing”).Standing with your back to the water can prevent this from happening. If you have to face the shower, try covering your chest with a towel.

Pay attention to your diet

Certain foods (called lactogenic foods) can make your body produce more breast milk. If you’re trying to deplete your breast milk supply, avoid eating lactogenic foods like oats, flaxseeds, and brewer’s yeast.

Minimize discomfort

You may experience some discomfort during the weaning process. Here are some tips to minimize the pain associated with draining your milk supply:

  • Make sure your bra fits properly. Bras that are too tight can be painful and can increase your risk of blocked milk ducts or mastitis.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Motrin (ibuprofen) to help relieve the pain and pressure you experience.
  • Cold compresses can ease pain and reduce swelling. Although it was once recommended that mothers put cabbage leaves in their bras, the study found no difference in comfort between mothers who used cabbage leaves compared with other ways. another cold compress.
  • Avoid hot showers and do not apply heat to the chest. Warm or hot water can stimulate breast milk production.
  • Your breasts may release breast milk when they are full or when you think about your baby or hear your baby cry. Wearing breast pads inside a bra can cause unwanted leaks.
  • If the pain is too much, you may need to pump a little bit of milk out of your breasts for comfort. Do not express all the milk — express just enough to relieve pain and pressure. Manually pumping and expressing milk, or expressing all the milk, signals your body to continue making milk.

Risks of weaning and mastitis

If you try to stop making breast milk too suddenly, it can put you at higher risk for an infection called mastitis. Contact your doctor right away if you have any symptoms of a breast infection, including:

  • Breasts feel warm to the touch
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • “Flu-like symptoms
  • Hard lumps in your breast (along with other symptoms)
  • Red streaks on your breasts
  • Sweat

These symptoms may indicate that you have a breast infection. While slow weaning will help prevent infections, if they do develop, you need prompt treatment.

A very good word

Drying your milk is a process that can take time. Whether you’ve ever breastfed or not, patience, medication, and a few tricks can help you reduce your milk supply with less pain. It will also help prevent breast infections such as mastitis.

Never hesitate to contact a medical professional, such as your doctor or IBCLC, if you have questions or concerns about weaning.

Asking for help is especially important if you need to temporarily reduce your milk supply for medical reasons, such as taking medicine to clear breast milk, or if your baby needs to stop nursing for a medical check-up.

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