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Whether your breastfeeding journey consisted of exclusively breastfeeding, pumping, or a combination of both, there comes a time when it all comes to an end. Some mothers are able to slowly let their baby self-wean, while others may not have that luxury and they need to dry up much quicker. Here are some great tips on how to dry up your milk supply fast and effectively.
My breastfeeding journey was quite different to how I had originally planned it. I had hoped to be able to successfully breastfeed my baby up to a year old.
Well, like everything else, life didn’t necessarily go to plan and due to my baby’s tongue/lip tie and some other factors, exclusively breastfeeding just wasn’t working out for us.
So that is when I decided to exclusively pump instead. Being an over supplier, lactating definitely had its ups and its downs but when it came time to dry up my milk supply, I used every trick in the book, and I came out alive at the end.
Prepare for a rough few days
I’m not going to sugar coat this for you, because let’s be honest what is the point in that. I am all about saying it how it is, so I am not going to tell you that drying up your milk is going to be easy, because it is just not.
By all means, if you are able to allow your baby to slowly wean themselves or you can do this whole process gradually over a period of time, then sure, it might not be your worst nightmare.
In fact, it might be quite pleasant and easy. However, if you intend to dry up your milk in a short period of time then it will be rough for a few days.
But don’t worry, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and you will survive.
Heck, you birthed your baby so you can totally handle this!
What does it feel like to dry up your milk?
If you a milk-producing machine, you probably know what engorgement feels like, right?
Since my body produced quite large quantities of milk (sometimes 45-50oz a day!) I would often wake up in the mornings terribly engorged.
My boobs felt like giant rocks that would literally explode at any given moment. There were a few times I would get clogged milk ducts and would need to work them out by pumping and massaging my breasts.
Well, when you are drying up your milk you are going to experience both of those things.
Engorgement and clogged milk ducts are kind of inevitable when drying up your milk supply. At least for me, they were.
Especially when you are wanting to quit that milk supply ASAP! There were a good few days where I didn’t know I could experience so much engorgement and discomfort.
So, in short, when you dry up your milk supply fast, it is not very pleasant. It is actually quite painful and VERY uncomfortable.
How to dry up breast milk with 7 helpful tips
Here are 7 easy tips for drying up your milk fast and mostly hassle-free.
- Peppermint essential oil
- Cold packs
- Herbal teas
- Don’t over bind
- Do not empty but DO express for comfort
- Don’t expect results overnight
Keep reading to go into the details of drying up your breastmilk.
Yep, you read it right. Cabbage might be one of those old “wives’ tales” that you wonder if they actually work but I have tried it myself and I can say I totally think it works!
Yes, I was that lady stuffing cabbage leaves down my shirt and into my bra. Even smelling like cabbage (ewww) is worth the results.
It is important to refrigerate your cabbage before using it. The cold cabbage leaves will feel amazing against your engorged breast.
I found just putting a whole leaf on my breast worked quite well but some suggest freezing the cabbage leaves, crush the cabbage veins and then place them in your bra that way.
I think either way will provide the same result, I just found refrigerating the cabbage and putting the leaves directly on my chest was very effective.
Replace with new cabbage leaves once they start to wilt and then repeat the process again.
2. Peppermint essential oil
Peppermint essential oil said to help decrease the production of milk and can actually be used to help dry up your milk supply.
I remember when I was lactating, I would use peppermint cautiously because I didn’t want to cause a decrease in milk production.
But if you are in the weaning process, peppermint is your new bestie. I loved the cooling effect it also gave once applied.
It is best to use a carrier oil, such as coconut oil or even some sort of unscented lotion. Using something else to combine the oil with will make it easier to spread and not be as concentrated.
I would just apply to my breasts a few times a day, making sure to avoid the nipple area.
3. Cold packs
I think I would have died without the use of cold packs. It is best to avoid heat when you are trying to dry up your milk supply.
Heat can often stimulate the breast and have the opposite effect when you are wanting to stop producing milk.
Applying heat is super helpful for working out clogged ducts but I found cold packs to be the best bet when drying up completely.
There are so many great products out there that are specifically designed fit right into your bra. If you don’t want to spend the money on one of those things, that’s cool too! A simple cold pack will do.
I love the shaped cold packs as I felt like they would fit so perfectly in my bra and I could even leave them in there without looking like I had grown a bra size or 2 (or 3).
They were east and convenient, and I didn’t feel weird about wearing them out and about.
4. Herbal teas
There are quite a few herbs out there that can definitely help with milk supply reduction.
Sage, parsley, and hibiscus are just to name a few. All of these herbs will help you in the drying up process.
You could easily make your own tea or there are a couple of great options of premade options.
5. Don’t over bind
You may hear a lot of people suggesting to bind your chest and wear a super tight bra and shirt, yada yada yada, but you need to be careful with this.
If you bind your breasts while drying up it could actually make the whole process worse. You may then find yourself with clogged ducts, mastitis, or a breast abscess.
I did find it helpful to wear a snug but comfortable nursing bra while in the weaning process because it makes it easy my chest feel secure and was less painful than letting my boobs just hang where they wanted.
Be careful not to over bind because you don’t want to prolong the process due to other complications.
6. Do not empty! But DO express for comfort
Milk production that increases or stays sustained is achieved by a frequent and consistent emptying of the breasts.
When you empty, whether by baby or pump, that signals the body to produce more.
It is actually pretty neat when you think about it! Our bodies are an actual factory of milk that is on a supply and demand basis. Kinda cool!
With that being said, when you are wanting to dry up your milk supply, emptying your breasts is the WORST thing you can do.
Avoid emptying, and your body will begin to realize its job has changed.
Now, this doesn’t mean you go completely cold turkey without expressing or pumping any milk out ever again, because that will kill you.
Well not quite literally but it will be horrific, to say the least. Especially when you first start drying up, AND if you are an over supplier, you are going to need to hand express or pump just enough milk to relieve the severe pressure.
When only a small amount of milk is removed from the breast, then milk production will naturally decrease. That is how supply and demand works!
If you get uncomfortably full, it is not best practice to suffer through it.
I know you want to dry up but you need to make sure you avoid getting a ton of clogged ducts and or mastitis.
I found after the first few days I didn’t feel as uncomfortable and full and didn’t need to express as much. To begin with, I HAD to release the pressure by pumping until bearable and comfortable.
7. Don’t expect results overnight
I just want to put this one out there, because although drying up your milk supply fast and effectively is totally doable, doing it overnight is not.
Even a day or two isn’t realistic. You need to realize it is going to take a few days and really the length of time it takes you will vary from woman to woman.
For me, within a couple of weeks, I was mostly dried up and by a month I had zero signs of any milk production.
The first few days to a week were pretty brutal and then the second week went a lot quicker and from then on out I was able to dry up pretty quickly.
I think 3-4 weeks is pretty typical for most women, but it is definitely doable to achieve results sooner.
Some women might take longer and if you are letting the baby self-wean it may take a few months as that is a more gradual slow approach to drying up.
Hopefully, these easy tips will help you as you end your journey of milk production, for now anyway. Each of these steps helped me dry up quickly and as pain free as possible (it still was painful- but I made it).
Once your body catches on that it isn’t supposed to produce anymore you will be well on your way to a breastmilk free life.
Until next time, that is!
Are you currently trying to dry up your milk supply? What tips have you tried that work?