I'm weaning my baby. Is there anything I can do to help dry up my milk supply?

I'm weaning my baby. Is there anything I can do to help dry up my milk supply?

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The best way to slow milk production is to gradually reduce the number of times you breastfeed your baby or pump your breast milk each day. A slow wean is more comfortable for both you and your baby.

How long it takes to wean depends on how old your baby is and how many times a day you're breastfeeding. Try eliminating one feeding every few days until you can feel that your breasts aren't as full. Once you feel that, eliminate another feeding.

The hormone that makes breast milk is called prolactin. As you nurse or pump less often, your body begins to secrete prolactin inhibiting factor (PIF). PIF sends the signal to your brain that the milk isn't needed and gradually shuts down milk production.

Likewise, increased milk flow means increased production, so you'll want to avoid anything that causes your milk to flow (like standing with your breasts under the warm water in the shower).

The more gradually you wean, the less likely your breasts are to become engorged with milk – and the less likely you are to have discomfort. If you do feel uncomfortable, try applying cool compresses or ice packs (a bag of frozen vegetables works nicely) and taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen.

Wearing a supportive bra can provide comfort, but don't bind your breasts. Binding can lead to problems like mastitis and plugged ducts. At the very least, it will add to your discomfort.

If you become really uncomfortable, it's okay to express a small amount of milk to ease the engorgement. But keep in mind that expressing regularly tells your body to make more milk, so the more you do this, the longer it will take for milk production to stop.

Some clinicians believe that applying raw cabbage to the breasts helps ease discomfort and reduce milk production. (First get the cabbage leaves nice and cold in the refrigerator or freezer.) It's safe and worth a try.


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