There are many reasons a mother may want to dry up her milk supply. In this post, you’ll learn how to stop lactation naturally, as well as manage the pain that can sometimes come with the process.
Choosing to stop lactation is a personal one and – we believe – one that is up to the sole discretion of the lactating person. If you need to stop lactation for one reason and want to do it naturally, we are here to support you.
Keep reading to learn six ways to dry up your milk supply naturally, plus we’re sharing some tips on what you changes can expect – hello, hormonal shifts – and how to manage your discomfort.
- Stop cold turkey
- Try a specially-designed herbal tea
- Use cabbage leaves
- Wear tight-fitting sports bras
- Use cold ice packs
- Research chasteberry
Disclaimer: The information found within this article is for informative purposes only. It is not medical advice. Please consult your doctor with any questions.
Is there a pill to dry up breast milk fast?
Yes, there are pills such as Cabergoline or Dostinex® that you can take to help stop milk production. These drugs work best in newly lactating mothers instead of mothers who have been lactating for some time.
Of course, these two pill options are pharmaceutical drugs, and we would not consider them natural ways to stop lactation, but we’re all about sharing what options are available for mothers.
Six ways to help stop lactation naturally
If you prefer to dry up your milk production naturally, the below tips can help. Keep in mind everybody is different, and sometimes, these natural processes can take time.
Keep in mind; you may find that a combination of the six tips found works best to dry up your supply. And, as always, a healthy dose of patience (when available) is helpful.
1. Stop pumping and/or nursing
One way to help stop lactation and milk production is to stop pumping and nursing. Breast milk production is all about supply and demand, so if the milk “demand” is shut off (by your choosing), the supply will decrease as well.
According to an article by Medela, “The more frequently your baby breastfeeds, the more milk you’ll make, through a process of supply and demand. Each time milk is removed from your breasts, either by your baby feeding or by you expressing, they will make more.”
While it seems pretty straightforward, this process can be quite painful and lead to engorgement, extreme discomfort, and possibly even mastitis.
Make sure to use cold compresses, cabbage leaves (more on that below), and even hand express in tiny amounts to slightly lessen engorgement. Just be careful not to express too much because, as mentioned above, supply and demand.
2. Try a specially-designed herbal tea
Some herbs – when consumed in large quantities – are said to decrease milk supply over time naturally.
If you don’t feel like creating an herbal apothecary, there are thankfully some well-reviewed herbal teas explicitly designed to reduce milk production.
Try this: Mama Earth ‘No More Milk’ Tea
3. Use cabbage leaves
Some studies show that cabbage leaves effectively reduce the pain and hardness associated with breast engorgement.
While cabbage leaves themselves don’t stop milk supply, these cheap – and effective – tools can be a great way to help relieve the pain that comes with trying to stop lactation.
Here’s how to use them:
- Select a head of green or red cabbage (note: red tends to stain)
- Place the head of cabbage in the fridge
- Carefully peel off outer leaves from the head, discard
- Select two inner leaves
- Wash and dry gently with a towel
- Using a sharp knife, place the tip in the center along the spine and cut outwards creating a slit (careful not to cut the entire leaf in half)
- Place the cabbage leaves on your chest with the slit over your nipple
- Hold the leaves in place with your bra
- Keep on until the leaves are warm
- Repeat as needed
4. Wear tight-fitting sports bras
If you think about it, there are bras designed to help encourage milk supply, so wouldn’t the opposite type of bra help dry up milk supply?
While it’s not scientifically proven, some believe that wearing a tight-fitting sports bra can compress the breasts enough and decrease milk production.
Keep in mind, this process of “chest binding” can also be painful – especially if you become engorged – so proceed at your own risk and keep an eye for signs of clogged ducts, infections, and mastitis.
5. Use cold ice packs
Like cabbage leaves, an ice pack can be helpful to decrease the pain and swelling associated with engorgement when trying to lower your milk supply.
Also, it’s believed that ice therapy is helpful to slow down your milk production as the cold can constrict blood vessels within the breast tissue.
So, pop a few ice packs in the freezer (these are conveniently breast-shaped) and use them as needed. Make sure not to apply them directly to your skin.
6. Research chaste berry
While you may not have heard of chaste berry – also known as Vitex – before, it’s a natural way to stop lactation worth mentioning for a few reasons.
For starters, it’s well-known to help balance hormones and the menstrual cycle.
Also, according to Parents.com, “chaste berry exerts its therapeutic effects by acting directly on the pituitary gland and inhibits the secretion of prolactin. When prolactin levels are reduced in a breastfeeding mother, milk supply typically reduces with it.”
Studies – like this one – have been shown to back up this claim as well.
It’s worth noting that some cultures believe chaste berry effectively increases milk supply in new mothers. So, proceed with caution if you’re curious about the effects of chaste berry and your milk.
What to expect once lactation slows down or stops
Breastmilk is created through a sequence of hormones (read more about your postpartum hormone timeline). When lactation stops, both physical and emotional changes to the body can occur, thanks to a drop in both oxytocin and prolactin.
- Breasts feel empty, smaller
- May gain weight
- May lose weight
- Menstrual cycle may return (if it hasnt already)
- Possible feelings of depression
- Mood swings, irritability
Note: it’s also okay to feel relieved and happy your milk supply has dried up. The above emotional changes are listed above are based on the typical hormonal shifts that happens during this time.
How to handle the discomfort of drying up
As mentioned above, drying up your milk supply can lead to engorgement, which can not only cause discomfort but the potential for clogged ducts and even mastitis.
Be sure to prepare yourself with some tools to help ease the process of naturally stopping your lactation.
Helpful tools to ease discomfort:
Ultimately, as mentioned above, time and patience are your best tools when it comes to handling the discomfort of not only drying up your milk supply but also stopping lactation naturally.