Breastfeeding is wonderful and an amazing bonding experience to share with your little baby, but let’s be honest - it isn’t for everyone. Breastfeeding is hard, confusing, time consuming, isolating, and at times, painful! No matter if you’ve breastfed for a day, a week, or over a year - or not at all - you may be wondering how to dry up your milk supply quickly and as painlessly as possible.
Once your milk fully comes in, it may be painful to dry up your supply if you don’t want to continue breastfeeding. You will probably become engorged - when your breasts become uncomfortably overfull of milk. They will become tender, swollen, and firm. This engorgement will eventually stop as your milk supply diminishes.
Here are some helpful tried-and-true pieces of advice from other mamas who have dried up their milk supply:
- Cabbage leaves. Putting some cold cabbage leaves in your bra seems to help relieve some of the pressure of drying up supply, as well as making the process faster! Change out the leaves once they warm up.
- Take Sudafed.
- Cut out one feeding at a time. If you’ve been breastfeeding for a while, your supply will likely be well established. It may be easier to cut down one feeding a day, until eventually there are no more feeding sessions left. Drying up your supply at a slower pace may help avoid clogs and infections.
- Wear tight bras. Wearing a firm bra, or even one layered on top of another, for a few days and nights, may help diminish your supply.
- Wrap your breasts tightly with an Ace bandage.
- Use cold packs or gel packs in your bra to relieve the pain of engorgement.
- Hand express a little milk when your breasts feel very overfull, but try not to hand express or pump often.
- Wear breast pads to soak up any leaking milk and change often! Consider using KeaBabies Organic Nursing Pads - they are super comfortable and reusable!
- Take over the counter painkillers when you get too uncomfortable.
- Talk to your doctor. They may write you a prescription to help dry up your supply.
As you go through the process of drying up your milk, there are a few things you’ll want to watch out for.
Unfortunately, there is no way to avoid engorgement when you stop breastfeeding. Engorgement can be extremely painful and uncomfortable. However, resist the urge to pump to relieve the pressure. Because breastfeeding is mainly supply-and-demand, pumping will stimulate your body to continue to produce milk. If you absolutely need to, pump for a short session or hand express some milk.
2. Plugged ducts.
If your breasts are very full from stopping breastfeeding, one of the ducts that carries milk to your nipple may become clogged. Your breast may become red or feel warm to the touch. With gentle massage and warm compresses, you may be able to fix the plugged duct on your own.
If the plugged duct doesn’t clear, milk may be forced into the breast tissue, causing inflammation. You may get an infection, called mastitis, that feels very similar to the flu. Common symptoms of mastitis are red, swollen breasts; sharp pain during breastfeeding or pumping; a high fever; and chills. Call your doctor right away so you can get a prescription for antibiotics to help get rid of the infection. Mastitis can come on very quickly, so be sure to pay attention to your symptoms.
Drying up your milk can be an uncomfortable process, but know that it won’t last forever! Following our tips and tricks that other breastfeeding mamas have tried can help make the process a little easier!