Breastfeeding is the most rewarding and intimate experience for us mothers to go through. But at some point you'll want to stop breastfeeding.
A common concern is how long does it take for breastmilk to dry up. This guide has the answer and everything you need to know about how to dry up breast milk.
Drying Up Breast Milk Intro
The days of hard, leaky breasts and a screaming newborn waking up every hour to cluster feed are behind you. You’re also more than likely looking for different ways to stop your milk supply…
“But why would anyone want to stop their milk supply?!? Breastfeeding is literally the greatest thing on EARTH!!!!”- Crunchy Moms Everywhere
Put down the pitchforks, ladies…
In This Article (Quick Links):
1. Making the decision to stop breastfeeding
2. How long does it take breast milk to dry up?
3. How milk production works
4. How to dry up your breast milk: Top 4 ways
5. Pros/Cons of drying up breast milk
6. What not to do when drying up your breast milk
Making the decision to stop breastfeeding
Chances are you’re interested in the best way to stop breastfeeding for a number of reasons.
Whether it’s because you’ve decided to wean, you’re overproducing, you're concerned about pumping at work, or even concerned about travelling with your milk. Or maybe breastfeeding just isn’t your thing.
Whatever the reason may be, it’s okay. The world isn’t going to end and your child more than likely won’t wind up in remedial classes.
Ultimately the choice is yours to make. Find closure in the decision before you begin the journey.
So how exactly do you dry up your breastmilk supply? Most women want to know how to stop breastfeeding quickly, however, it's not something that you should rush.
How Long Does it Take for Breastmilk to Dry Up?
It will vary from woman to woman, however, breastmilk can dry up fairly quickly for some women.
It can take anywhere from only a few days to 2-3 weeks for milk production to stop once you aren't breastfeeding.
Understanding Milk Production
First thing’s first, you have to know that each woman is different and while some of these methods will work for some, they may not work for all.
Your body has been producing milk since as early as 2 months into the pregnancy. In addition, once your baby was born, it began putting in overtime.
As a matter of fact, the breasts store about 3-4 oz of milk at a time. Moreover, the average breastfeeding woman produces up to 30 oz of milk per day!
So it goes without saying that your journey to being lactose-free will be uncomfortable in the beginning. But mama didn’t raise a quitter, now did she?
How to Dry Up Breast Milk Supply
Reducing your breast milk supply will come with trial and error, swollen boobs, and tested patience.
A lot of mommies ask how to dry up breast milk fast. However, it is important to go through this process slowly and steadily so that your body begins to understand that it needs to stop producing milk.
How long does it take to dry up breast milk?
It usually takes the breasts at least 2-3 weeks to completely stop milk production when a steady regimen is followed.
Top ways to dry up breast milk
1. Reduce Stimulation
If you want to dry up your breast milk, it is important to reduce stimulation of the breasts right away.
Furthermore, too much stimulation from suckling, pumping or hand expressing actually encourages the breasts to make more milk.
This is not the message that you want to send to your body if you want to stop producing milk. However, for some this may be the only way to get some instant relief.
If you are engorged, hand express the breasts until they are soft so that your discomfort is relieved. However, do not empty the breasts completely.
2. Cabbage Leaves Can Help
For hundreds of years, women all over the world have turned to this remedy. Cabbage leaves can provide relief during the ending of your lactating process.
This age-old trick is one of the most effective home remedies there is. It provides relief for lots of mothers no matter how heavy or light their supply may be.
Placing fresh cabbage leaves in your bra can reduce swelling and engorgement. In addition, it can also reduce your production of milk.
While there hasn’t been a conclusive study that explains how or why cabbage leaves dry up milk production, it has been shown that the sulphur that green cabbage leaves contain is what helps reduce the swelling of the milk ducts.
Cut as many whole cabbage leaves as you need to cover your breasts. Then rinse them off in cool water and pat them completely dry. Finally, place them in your bra at least 1 leaf over each areola.
The leaves can be left in the bra until they begin to wilt. This usually happens within 2-3 hours. Once they’ve wilted, discard them and replace them if you need some additional relief.
If you find that you’re experiencing some leakage, place some cotton, a thin wash cloth, or nursing pads at the base of your breasts and between the cabbage leaf and your bra (not between the cabbage leaf and your breast) in order to soak up the milk. Change as often as needed.
3. Herbs that Might Help
Certain herbs have shown that they reduce milk supply. One of the most effective used to date has been sage.
Apparently, sage contains a natural form of estrogen which helps reduce and dry up milk supply.
There is no conclusive evidence or research as to why though, yet. However, it’s best to use sage and the cabbage leaves at the same time in order to dry your milk up faster.
A great way to ingest sage is through tea. Here’s a favorite recipe among lots of moms:
Soothing Sage Tea
1 tsp ground sage
1 cup hot water
½ tsp honey (optional)
1. Add sage to an empty tea mug. Pour hot water over it and let steep for about 15 minutes.
2. Sweeten with honey if needed
Additionally, you can also use herbs such as peppermint, parsley, oregano, thyme and lemon balm in your food.
All of these can help reduce milk production as well. Just sprinkle some fresh herbs on the top of your food. You can also add them in your juice or use them in your cooking.
However, be sure to not load up on too many herbs, as you do not want to experience toxicity. Stick to a maximum of 3 cups of sage tea per day and do not take additional herbs if you’ve reached your 3 cup limit.
4. Cold Compression
Using a cold compress in order to reduce swelling and pain from engorgement during this process isn’t necessarily a way to dry up your milk, but it sure does help with the process!
Use some soft cooler bags or refrigerated hot water bottles on your breasts in order to relieve your discomfort.
Pros & Cons of Drying Up Breast Milk
While your much anticipated goal is on the horizon, it is important to keep a few things in mind before opting to dry up your milk.
There are many pros of stopping your milk production. However, there are also some cons that many women don’t realize or anticipate…
Pros of Drying Up Your Breastmilk
1. You will have your body back
2. You will have control over your body
3. You will no longer have to worry about engorgement or mastitis
4. No more leaky boobs
5. No more pumping
6. No more nipple grazing
7. No more biting
8. No more nipple twiddling (thank GOD)
9. You will get to buy new bras
Cons of Drying Up Your Breastmilk
1. It will be painful
2. It will take weeks
3. You may become engorged a time or two
4. You will leak
5. Your nipples will be itchy once they start to heal
6. Your boobs may have gotten saggy (sorry, girl)
7. They’ll no longer look voluptuous
8. You will need to buy new bras (it can be a pro and a con, right? I mean, they’re $50+ ea…)
9. You may experience some guilt or regret
10. You will miss those moments of intimacy between you and your little one
What Not to Do When Drying Up Breastmilk
1. Don't Do Breast Binding
If you’re trying to stop milk production, do not bind your breasts in any way, shape or form.
Breast binding has been shown to actually aggravate the milk ducts, resulting in mastitis and blocked milk ducts. This can be very painful and should be avoided at all costs.
Therefore, to prevent the risk of developing mastitis during this process, be sure to wear a comfortable, well-fitting bra that is NOT tight or restrictive.
2. Don't Reduce Your Water Intake
Dehydration does not dry up your milk supply, but it will cause you to produce milk that is ‘dehydrated.’ Reducing your water intake can be detrimental to your health and can cause unnecessary problems to arise.
Maintain at least eight 8oz glasses of water per day in order to keep your body functioning and performing at its best.
So while there are many ways to stop your breast milk supply, it is always important to speak to your doctor or a lactation specialist beforehand. As mentioned before, some of these remedies will work while others may not, and that’s okay.
Remember, the best way to get fast results is by following a regimen, whether you decide to use every remedy listed or just one. Consistency is key when breast milk drying up.