Information on Drying Up


The subject of weaning your baby is a very personal one. Ideally, it would be a mutual, evolving process in your relationship with your baby. There will be plenty of input from other people in your life on when you should, how your should and why you should wean. As with all your parenting decisions, listen to all the advice, inform yourself and do what seems right to you.

So...these notes are not about the issue of weaning. These are suggestions about telling your body to quit producing milk, the physical part of the process, whenever that process begins.

To begin:

  • It is ALWAYS better for your body, and more comfortable for you, to wean gradually rather than abruptly.
  • There is no way to predict how long your body will continue to make milk; every woman's body is different as is every situation.

Establishing a good milk supply is a function of frequent and complete emptying of the breast; drying up is the opposite.

  • Reduce the frequency of nursing/pumping.
  • Feed or express milk only to relieve discomfort and fullness.

If you must dry up quickly:

  • Do not quit pumping cold turkey.
  • Do not continue pumping on a set schedule.
  • Do not bind your breasts.
  • Do not limit fluid intake.
  • Do pump only when your breasts feel uncomfortably full (not painfully full).
  • Do pump only until your breasts feel somewhat softer. This will reduce the risk of developing mastitis.
  • Do apply ice packs or bags of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel for 10-15 minutes at a time as often as you like.
  • Do put chilled or room temperature cabbage leaves (raw, cheap, plain ol' green cabbage) inside your bra against your breast. For many women, cabbage leaves inhibit milk production and reduce swelling. Change them when they are wilted or every 2 hours or so.
  • Do be gentle with your breasts. You may experience mild engorgement similar to when your milk first came in.
  • Do use pain and anti-inflammatory medications, as needed.
  • Do wear a well fitting, supportive bra for comfort. Be especially alert to places where a bra or clothing might bind or cut. You may be more at risk for plugged ducts during this time. If so, they need to be massaged and pumped gently.
  • Do consider using traditional herbal remedies such as:
    • Sage is noted in lactation and herbal texts alike for lowering milk supply. While we use sage in cooking to enhance dressing for the turkey at Thanksgiving, sage by itself is not great tasting. You can try:
      • sage tea (available in most supermarkets with the specialty teas);
      • powdered sage from your kitchen spice rack. One technique I heard from a mom: spread a piece of bread generously with peanut butter. Put 1/2 teaspoon ground sage all on top of the peanut butter on one corner of the bread. Consume that corner in one bite and then eat the rest of the bread. By the time you have finished the slice, you won?t taste the sage any longer.
    • Peppermint - I have heard of problems with low milk supply remedied when a mom quit eating the Altoid mints she loved.
    • Parsley - considered by some traditional herbalists to lower milk supply, especially if the oil is taken internally. Check with a certified herbalist or a health food store.

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