Breastfeeding and its benefits need no introduction, with the numbers clearly indicating the acceptance of breast milk as the key to good health. In the US, more than 57 percent of infants are breastfed up to the age of six months which is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The antibodies in breast milk help to keep viruses at bay, with lower risk of exposure to allergies and infections. However, as a mother it is possible that you are up against a problem – your breast milk may not have dried up as expected and as a consequence you have this question on your mind – how to dry up breast milk?
It is not uncommon for mothers to experience this, as breast milk production continues long after the nursing has stopped. The process of drying up of breast is typically expected to take a few weeks, and is linked to the period of nursing. The longer you nurse, the longer it will take for the breast milk to dry up. As doctors recommend nursing for atleast 06 months, mothers are left with few options and this in turn extends the period for drying up of breast milk. In a limited number of cases, mothers are known to nurse the child for a very long period, and this is likely to extend the time taken for drying up of the breast milk.
What happens if breast milk begins to leak long after weaning?
Many women often feel apprehensive if breast milk fails to dry up long after weaning. Well, the answer is quite simple – there is absolutely nothing to worry about if you experience spontaneous leaks on and off, which is known to continue for a long time. The only exception is when you have a medical condition – galactorrhea – which triggers excessive milk production during or after weaning. This is attributed to a thyroid problem and requires medical attention. In most other cases, there really is no problem from spontaneous leaks. However, if you are not comfortable with it and it impacts your profession/lifestyle, then you certainly need to look up information on how to dry up breast milk. So, let’s take a good look at the different methods that can be safely followed when you want to dry up your breast milk. But before that it is important to take a look at suggestions on how to stop weaning your baby through a simple and gradual transition.
· Choose one breastfeeding session at a time to replace – Rather than stopping breastfeeding suddenly, it is certainly important to gradually and slowly replace your breast feeding sessions one at a time.
· Give a gap between additional replacements – If you have replaced a few sessions of breastfeeding, then give a gap before you replace other breastfeeding sessions.
· Keep the baby as close as possible even when not nursing – this will help to offer the warmth and comfort that a baby gets when at the bosom of a mother.
How to dry up breast milk safely?
Every desired outcome can be achieved through one of multiple methods. However, it is important to rely on methods that are not unsafe. It is essential to ensure that methods do not result in undesired side effects or after effects – such as pain or a blocked duct or infections. Many women resort to the practice of wrapping up the breasts tightly in clothing and protective layers. Attempt to restrict the production of milk through strong binding action is not recommended and can cause more discomfort than the comfort it is intended to offer.
#1 Deep freeze pads to being the process of drying up
This is one of the most commonly used methods. Ice packs help to reduce the stimulation that triggers the production of milk. The use of ice packs, also known as cold turkey, helps to bring down the production of milk and this can start the process of drying up. There could be moderate pain or discomfort from the cold of the ice pack and the engorged breasts that have some amount of milk. This can be dealt with by taking pain relief medications that are available over the counter.
Tip – Gently express yourself to release a little milk. Do not overdo it as this will mimic the stimulation from suckling, which can again trigger the production of milk. The idea is to release the milk and not trigger the process of milk production.
#2 Hormonal methods
Birth control methods are the next level of options for women looking for answers to the question – how to dry up breast milk? The careful use of hormonal pills can help to cut down milk production considerably and this can in turn help to speed up the process of drying up of breast milk. However, it is important to choose only those medications that have ‘progestin’ and to avoid medications that have progesterone and estrogen. The mechanism of action of the different formulations and components of medication are important and the safest option is birth control hormonal pills with progestin.
Tip – Remember to consult your doctor before you decide on taking birth control pills. This is important as your doctor will check your medical history to determine if there are possibilities of contraindications or adverse after effects from the hormonal pills.
#3 Herbs spices that suppress lactation, in a manner opposite to that of galactagogues
The reasoning is pretty simple here. Galactagogues are known to promote lactation, helping women to boost milk production considerably. Similarly, in a manner that is directly opposite to the galactagogues, certain herbs and spices have the power to reduce the production of milk and this can in turn result in drying up of milk over a period of time. Herbs such as sage, peppermint, parsley, lemon balm, thyme and oregano can help to significantly suppress lactation. However, it needs to be remembered that the effects are experienced only when taken in sufficient quantities.
Tip – As the results are dependent on the quantity, you could try to use the herbs in your routine food preparation to deliver the required amount. It may be challenging to consume the desired quantity in a single form. This natural method of lactation suppression is safe.
#4 Ephedrine category of decongestant medication
The ephedrine category of decongestant medication has also been proved to be effective in suppressing lactation. Popularly known as Sudafed, the decongestant medication is commonly used for tackling cold. One of the highlights of the medication is its relatively lesser effects despite high dosages. This form of lactation suppression is often started even when the baby is being breastfed. Research into the effects of the medicine has concluded that breastfed babies are not affected as a result of the medication. The only side effects observed have been the irritation caused in infants.
This is a natural way to stop the production of breast milk. However, as you are likely to do this after you have decided to stop nursing, this may not appear as an answer to your question – how to dry up breast milk. You could try temporary weaning and replacing of breastmilk with suitable, medically recommended alternatives. This will help to slow down the cycle of breast milk production and will eventually help in the drying up of breast milk. Remember to follow this process gradually and in a manner that is transitional. This is one of the most natural methods of bringing down the lactation without any adverse effect on your health or that of the baby.
#6 How to dry up breast milk with cabbage
This is an old method that has been practiced in many nations. Though studies are yet to document the measurable results, you will find relief from this method. This involves the use of a single cabbage leaf of the right size, cleaned, refrigerated and placed on the breast before wearing a bra. The cabbage leaf between the bra and your breast will help to suppress lactation. However, this needs to be done over a long period of time. The chilled cabbage leaf works like a natural cold compress it also helps to slightly manage the swelling of the breasts.
How to dry up breast milk – tips to handle possible discomfort during lactation suppression
Lactation suppression, regardless of the methods that you use, are bound to result in some kind of discomfort. It is therefore essential to ensure that you take suitable steps to mitigate the discomfort. Additionally, there is also the possibility of doing things wrongly, which can result in the opposite of the desired outcomes. Here are a few tips that you can follow to prevent any discomfort, while ensuring that you are doing it right.
How to dry up breast milk – what you need to do
· You are likely to experience a certain amount of pain accompanied by pressure from the engorged breasts. As you stop nursing, engorged breasts may be tender and slightly painful. In addition to expressing yourself by gently releasing milk, you can take commonly available low dose medication for pain management.
· The size of the bra is important. It should neither be too tight, not too loose. Choose the right bra size to avoid discomfort, pain and possible adverse side effects from lactation suppression.
· A cold compress is a good idea, as it offers dual results. Not only will a col compress help to suppress lactation, it will also help to bring down the inflammation. Inflammation causes pain and discomfort and the use of a cold compress helps to deal with the inflammation and the associated conditions.
· Breast pads can be worn to soak up any spontaneous leaks that may occur. This helps to improve your hygiene while also sparing you possible embarrassment.
How to dry up breast milk – what you should not do
· One of the most important points to remember is to avoid stimulating your breasts in any way. This can happen when you try to release a little breast milk. By releasing too much of breast milk, you will be indirectly triggering the production of milk. Similarly, stimulating the breasts in a manner that mimics nursing will also cause the production of milk.
· Do not opt for a hot shower or the use of warm padding or supportive bras. This will mimic the warmth of a baby on the bosom and will trigger the production of milk. Therefore do not recreate any condition that is similar to the warmth of a baby on your bosom.
· Ensure that you stay off hormonal pills that have progesterone or estrogen. The possibility of getting confused with medication and ingredients that are similar in name is very real. Check the medication thoroughly before you take it.
When to see a doctor if complications arise due to lactation suppression?
It is not just the question of how to dry up breast milk that you need to address, but also the importance of knowing when to see a doctor if complications arise during lactation suppression. Certain symptoms are indicative of complications and it is necessary to immediately seek medical assistance. For instance, if you experience the formation of lumps on your breast, or if your breasts are abnormally warm to the touch, then it certainly means that the lactation suppression could have resulted in mastitis. This is a condition wherein the mammary gland is inflamed, possibly due to a bacterial infection. The infection in turn could have been the result of the methods used for lactation suppression. If you witness red streaks on your breast or if you experience excessive sweating, seek medical attention.