When it comes to breastfeeding, sometimes enough is enough for you, and you just want your boobs back. I totally get it. And other times, your baby may even lose interest before you do. But when you’re weaning, the fullness and heaviness of your breasts may be too much to bear at times, and you may be looking for some quick relief as soon as possible. You could be wondering what the fastest way to dry up your breastmilk is, so you can have your body and life back as soon as you can — and for that pain to go away. Plus, how long should it take, theoretically, anyway?
Kristin Gourley, an IBCLC at Lactation Link, says in an email interview with Romper, as far as just how fast it will happen, with any method, every woman is different. But in general, “It takes a month or more to completely dry up once all breastfeeding and pumping has been stopped.” RN BSN IBCLC Angie Natero says it also depends on how much milk was being produced and how long the mother has been breastfeeding. Breastfeeding counselor, and labor and postpartum doula Megan Davidson, PhD, adds, “If you already had a very low supply or have slowly weaned over months, it might be very easy to stop lactating. It could feel largely resolved within days. If you have an oversupply and want to more abruptly stop lactating, it might have to be a slower process, stretched out over a few weeks.”
However, Davidson warns, “While I have helped a lot of people dry up their milk supply, I do not always prioritize speed since the safest way to dry up milk supply is often more gradual. I really like to avoid plugged ducts and mastitis with clients who want to stop lactating, and often this means moving a little slower.” Natero also warns it should be a gradual process, because if you force it too quickly, it’s not safe for the mom, and it’s not natural.
As far as how to go about “drying up” your milk supply faster, Davidson says that simply stopping nursing altogether is a great first step, as breastfeeding is what’s stimulating more milk producing in the first place. “This often means people will replace nursing with pumping or they’ll slowly drop the number of times that they are nursing over the course of a few weeks,” she says. As far as other tips and tricks, Davidson mentions a “culinary approach.” “Cold cabbage leaves in your bra for most of the day, and drinking lots of tea brewed from sage leaves can help a great deal,” she says. Additionally, she advises, going on birth control pills will reduce your supply drastically, but only do this if you were planning on going on the pill anyway.
Gourley adds that some moms have found success in taking over-the-counter pseudoephedrine medicine in normal doses, and also recommends eating sage or even peppermint. “There are also prescription medications that can help you dry up, but they do have side effects that you should talk to your doctor about,” she says.
A couple of other tricks you could try, according to Natero, are not wearing any tight bras, sticking to bras without underwire, and introducing ice packs: hold them to your breasts for 30 minutes, and then off for one or two hours.
As for what not to do: Gourley says not to bind your breasts — what used to be recommended — because this can lead to more, painful problems, including plugged ducts and mastitis. She also says to not “check” for your milk by squeezing your breasts, because whatever you do, you don’t want to stimulate them. “Any breast or nipple stimulation could make it take longer, including that in sexual relations,” she says. So tell your partner to back off for a little while longer if you’re on the path to dry up your breast milk.
Before taking any medications for weaning, be sure to talk to your doctor about the right plan for you and your body, since everyone is different, and some medications may not be safe. Once you feel comfortable starting the weaning process, maybe grab some cabbage leaves, sage, peppermint, and a loose-fitting bra to wear for a while. Good luck.