When your breastfeeding journey is over, find out how to dry up your supply without the pain of clogged ducts!
As wonderful as breastfeeding is, there sometimes comes a day when you know your journey is done, regardless of whether you have milk left, and need to figure out how to dry up your supply!
I know a lot of breastfeeding advocates will say otherwise or mention how their baby self weaned, but some of us don’t have an option to continue!
It can be an immense relief to be done breastfeeding, and can sometimes help you be a better mother!
Some risks of stopping breastfeeding without a plan (Doing it slow, cold turkey, etc) include clogged ducts and mastitis which can be super painful and very dangerous!
While this won’t happen to everyone, it’s just good to know what to expect and how to prepare for this new chapter!
I wanted to also let you know that I am an Amazon Affiliate and will get a small commission from any purchase made through my links (at no extra cost to you!)
What reasons would someone have to need to stop breastfeeding and dry up?
I’ve always believed that someone should breastfeed as long as they want, as long as both mother and baby are benefiting and happy with it!
However, some circumstances may justify ending the journey such as
- A high-risk pregnancy such as a multiples pregnancy or one where pre term labor is a concern. It’s thought that nipple stimulation can bring on contractions and labor, and many OBs will recommend quitting by a certain point. (I was asked to wean my toddler by 18 weeks for my twin pregnancy)
- Not enough milk anyways – This was why I weaned my twins – they started biting to the point of bleeding because they were frustrated with the lack of milk. The stress of not being able to fully breastfeed your child, along with the frustrations the child is having, can be worth trying to dry up and transition them to formula (if they’re a baby) or a form of milk if they’re a toddler!
- Sickness – Though not common, some major sicknesses such as cancer can most definitely warrant drying up! Whether it’s just not possible due to meds or tiredness, many moms have had to make this difficult decision!
- Loss of the baby or adoption – Your breasts will lactate after birth whether or not there is a baby who needs them!
- Immense Stress over production– Some mamas don’t have enough milk, and have ridiculous amounts of stress trying to provide enough for their baby. This could in fact make the relationship between the mother and child worse! A stressed mom = stressed baby!
I wanted to note that some people have breastfed through their pregnancy – my friend is currently breastfeeding her three year old and one year old, she’s freaking amazing! However, for other people that isn’t an option.
I also wanted to say that if you are losing your supply naturally, there are a couple of options (lactation cookies, power pumping, supplementing etc) you could try to boost it back up again if that is what you want to do!
However, if you know you are done breastfeeding, that’s fine too!
Babies and toddlers don’t often understand why there’s less milk as time goes on – this can lead to marathon nursing sessions, biting (in my case!) or just general crankiness in your kiddo! And if you have more than one kid, or just a busy life, it can be beneficial to just end it! I know my toddler was a much happier guy once I was able to be done with the hour long, VERY unpleasant and painful nursing sessions with two angry babies!
How ending my breastfeeding journey helped me
I know that, according to every breastfeeding advocate everywhere, I should have continued to nurse through what happened below (See bloodied shirt with an even bloodier bra underneath).
But, for me, I knew trying even harder than I already was to find a solution to make more milk, stop the biting and everything else was just more stress than I could handle.
I grew resentful when it came to nursing, and sometimes didn’t even want to nurse them as a way to show my anger if they were being extremely needy or rough that day (which I know was my problem, not theirs. Teething happens!)
That was my hint that it was time to just be done.
After I quit, I was immediately more patient with the twins. I didn’t feel like I was being beaten up all day, and some of my energy returned since my body wasn’t busy trying to make milk all day!
This may not be the case for everyone, (Like I said, I only weaned my son at 18 months because I had to for health reasons!) but I know that I became a much better mom after I made the conscious decision to wean.
Being a year old, my journe may be a little easier than yours will.
However, it’s been really great that other people can now comfort them, instead of me being the ONLY person who can help them during fussy times.
I have now weaned three children – my toddler when he was 18 months due to my twin pregnancy, and I just finished weaning my twins because my supply was almost gone anyways and they got frustrated and bit.
Find out how to wean a stubborn toddler here!
Just know that if they REFUSE to drop the boob, THIS magic in a tube made them not want to nurse anymore after just a couple of attempts!! (I’m talking when vinegar, hot sauce etc doesn’t work!)
Start slow, and drop one session at a time over a couple of days
This is definitely the easiest route to drying up, for both baby and mama! Start with the easiest ones, which tend to be daytime feedings. Try to offer another liquid instead, or if they are really fighting it, distract them by doing something fun!
It’s really common for the night feed to be the hardest – offer comfort through holding or singing!
It sometimes might be necessary to have your partner help, if available. My son did NOT want to wean, and my husband had to come in at night to calm him because if my son even smelled me, he wouldn’t calm unless I nursed him!
If you have been nursing for a while, and don’t have much supply left anyways, this could only take a couple of days!
However, if you still have a bit it could take up to a month to COMPLETELY dry up. Don’t worry!
Keep some of these pills on hand to reduce the chances of clogged ducts, and just ride it out!
Dring Sage Tea
Sage contains a natural form of estrogen which can aid in lessening or drying up breastmilk. You can choose to buy just plain ol’ sage tea, that although can be bitter, can be sweetened with honey or the like.
You could also buy pre made tea that has some sage as well as other milk decreasing herbs in it that will really accelerate the process such as Earth Mama’s No More Milk Tea! Within 5 days, most mothers had completely dried up after drinking it 3 times a day! (And it actually taste good!)
Cold Cabbage Leaves
This is kind of one everyone has heard of! Surprisingly, there’s no hard evidence or reason why this works! It has been used for 100’s of years, so had a proven track record, and many women still use it today!
To dry up using cabbage leaves, use the greenest of the leaves and wrap them around your breasts while avoiding your nipple. Change them out once they get wilty!
As an alternative (because who has the time or space to keep like 10 cabbages in their fridge!) there is a kick butt cream that has all the suppressing qualities of cabbage, but with a much more pleasant smell as well as coming in a convenient tube!
Cabocreme (LOL!) is an easy to use cream that you apply to your breasts every 3 to 4 hours, and performs the same or better than traditional cabbage leaves!
This one is not “recommended” by some doctors, however, MANY women have had success with it! Make sure to get the one with Pseudoephedrine, which is typically sold behind the counter. You may see some sudafed or other similar products with Phenylephrine which does not work the same when it comes to milk suppression!
A supportive bra but a loose shirt to support engorged breasts
Ladies, expect your breasts to become like ROCKS on your chest in this process! It’s important to have a good sports bra for the added support needed as your breasts fill with tons of unused milk.
Please note – do not bind your breasts! This was once recommended, but it can actually lead to clogged ducts and mastitis which are both very painful, with mastitis being deadly!
A loose shirt is also important to reduce the amount of stimulation your nipples get. When you’re super engorged, ANYTHING can trigger let down!
Being uncomfortable is normal, just make sure to be aware of the signs of mastitis!
Do you have any good tips to help dry up your milk?
The above mentioned and just being patient are the best ways I know of to dry up, but let me know if there’s some cool way you discovered!