How to Stop Breast Milk

Ending Nursing: Tips to Dry Up Your Milk

You did it. You successfully breastfed your little one, and now you’re ready to wean her off the breast. But don’t expect this to happen overnight. It takes some time to stop your breast milk, but by using a couple different methods, you should be able to dry up your milk at home.

Weaning Feeds

Baby bottle with milk on a green sheet

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A gradual approach to drying up your milk by cutting feedings is the least disruptive to your baby. Substitute your little one’s least-favorite feeding first. Generally, the nighttime feeding is the last feeding to drop, so you might try to skip a midday feeding first. If he's over 1, feed him lunch and then see if he just naturally gets interested in playing after lunch.

Some babies might not have a problem weaning off the breast, but others need some encouragement. If your baby is at least 1 year old, offer a cup of cow’s milk in place of nursing. Try to distract him with the milk or another snack. Get out a new toy and play with him or read a book to him to try to keep his mind off nursing.

If he’s under a year old, you should offer a bottle or cup of formula or previously expressed milk until he’s 1, in place of nursing. If he won’t take a bottle from you, have someone else give it a try. Check with your pediatrician during this process to make sure the transition is going smoothly.

If you’re pumping, try to go a little longer between pumping sessions and pump a bit less each time.

Express a little milk either by hand or with a pump when your breasts feel too full. Only express enough to make your breasts more comfortable. If you express too much, it signals your body to make more.

Spend extra time with him to comfort both of you during this transition. Enjoy the extra baby snuggles while you can; they’ll be gone before you know it.

Cabbage Leaves

Head to the produce department of your local store and pick up some cabbage; cold cabbage leaves are helpful in reducing milk supply. Remove the hard core of the cabbage and separate some leaves. Rinse and dry the leaves and put them in your refrigerator. When you’re ready, wrap the refrigerated leaves around your breasts, but leave your nipple exposed. Keep the leaves on for a couple of hours or until they’re limp. Use the cabbage leaves as long as your breasts feel full.

Using Sage

Baby bottle with milk on a green sheet

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Sage contains a natural form of estrogen that can help dry up milk. Take ¼ teaspoon of sage three times a day for one to three days to encourage your body to stop producing milk. Mix it into vegetable juice or try putting some on a sandwich, but it’s best to swallow the sage without chewing.

You can make sage tea. Steep the sage for 5 to 15 minutes in 1 cup of boiling water. You may want to add some milk or honey to the tea because sage won't be the best thing you've ever tasted. Drink a cup of sage tea two to six times a day.

Other Tips

Wear a tight-fitting bra such as a sports bra while your milk is drying up. This supports your breasts and helps keep you comfortable.

Don’t cut back in how much you drink. Drinking less won’t reduce your breast milk.

Body Changes

The most noticeable change to your body as your milk dries up is the engorgement to your breasts, which may be pretty uncomfortable, especially when you're trying to sleep. Every mama needs her rest. Lying on your back or on one side with a pillow under your breasts may help you sleep a bit more comfortably. Keep a towel across your breasts, though, to soak up any milk that leaks.

Keep an eye out for symptoms of mastitis or blocked ducts. If you have a blocked duct, a lump will form in your breast, and it may feel sore or hot. Apply warmth to the affected area and express some milk to clear the duct. If you have a blocked duct, you’ll need to express milk more often. While you’re expressing milk, massage the area with the blocked duct.

If the blockage isn’t removed, it can turn into mastitis. Mastitis hits quickly and feels like the flu. You may have shivers, aches and a fever. At this point, you should contact your doctor to treat the mastitis. As a mom, it can be hard to find time to look out for yourself, but mastitis can become very serious if it’s not treated.

You may also see more mood swings and depression when your milk is drying up. Part of this may be the emotional attachment to nursing your baby, but your prolactin levels also drop, contributing to the changes in mood. Prolactin is the hormone that signals the body to produce breast milk.

Be Patient

The wait between when you decide to stop breastfeeding and when your milk actually dries up depends on how full a supply you have and your approach. If you take a more gradual approach, it takes longer than going cold turkey.

Even if you have a full supply when you start to wean and take a gradual approach, your milk should dry up in two to three weeks, although you may be able to express a drop or two of milk for weeks or months after you stop.