Skip to main content

How to dry up breast milk: The do’s and don’ts to know

Tips for getting through this stage and moving on to the next chapter of parenting

A mother holding her newborn baby with her partner looking on
fatcamera / Getty Images

Moms, you did it. You breastfed your child for as long as you could, and it’s time to wean that baby off and take your body back. Or, you’re just over it and can’t do it anymore. Whether you are mentally, emotionally, or physically over breastfeeding, when you decide to stop, it takes more than just closing up shop.

You didn’t start breastfeeding overnight, and it won’t be that quick to stop, either. How to dry up breast milk is a process, and here’s how to get through it so you can enjoy the next stage of parenthood.

Mom watching sleeping baby.
Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

Before you start to dry up your supply

Let’s get the initial inquiries out of the way.

How long it will take

All moms want to know how long something takes. You won’t like the answer, but this is one of those it’s different for every person kind of deals. Some women find it takes days up to a week for their supply to dry up, while others need a couple of weeks. It depends on factors like your diet, the amount of milk you produce, and how often you nurse or pump if you are weaning.

It might hurt

Will it be painful? Yes, it could be. Maybe not quite as painful as those first few days of learning how to breastfeed, but it could get really uncomfortable. Just keep looking at that sweet little face you created to make it feel better.

It doesn’t mean you’re a bad mother

Whatever your reasons for wanting to dry up your breast milk, it’s the right decision. Don’t let anyone guilt you into trying to keep going if you don’t want to or can’t.

Mom holding her baby up to her face.
Jonathan Borba / Unsplash

Ways to dry up your supply

No more breastfeeding

Stopping breastfeeding is the biggest (and most obvious) way to dry up your supply. We say from experience when you decide to stop breastfeeding, slow and steady wins the race. Slowly reduce the number of feedings, shorten the time spent pumping, and skip pumping sessions over some time. 

Going cold turkey will lead to discomfort and pain, and you experienced enough of that birthing a baby and then learning how to breastfeed. Being engorged or developing mastitis is not the way. Don’t do that to yourself.

Stop eating all of those milk-producing foods

Scale back on the extra protein, leafy greens, teas, grains, and other foods and drinks you’ve been using to help boost your supply.

Try home remedies

If it worked for moms hundreds and thousands of years ago, it could work for you. Sage and jasmine in tea will lower prolactin levels, which is the hormone that produces milk. Parsley does the same, so add it to as many of your meals as possible. 

Peppermint oil rubbed directly on the skin will help with the pain from engorgement while reducing your supply. But you shouldn’t use it if you still do skin-to-skin with your little one or are still nursing.

Medications

If nothing else is working, or you want a faster way to dry up the milk bank, talk to your doctor about taking medications like birth control or decongestants. Talk to your doctor first to make sure the dosage is correct and to monitor side effects. You should only go the medication route if you are completely done with nursing, so keep that in mind.

A mom and her baby in bed.
Kevin Liang / Unsplash

What not to do while decreasing your supply

Don’t worry about a timeline

Everyone’s breastfeeding journey is different. Whether you went a week, a month, or a year nursing your baby, whenever you decide to stop is your business. Don’t worry about how long anyone else fed their baby or how long it took them to stop.

Don’t ignore certain symptoms

If you have a fever, if it takes longer than a few weeks to dry up, if you feel extremely sad or anxious, if you notice a sudden rash, or if you feel nauseous, see your doctor. It’s better to be safe and make sure you’re OK to continue caring for your baby.

Don’t try to bind your breasts

Don’t do it. Binding your chest will only lead to more pain and possible engorgement.

Don’t be a hero

If you’re in pain or experiencing engorgement or mastitis, don’t tough it out or wait to see if things get better on their own. If you are struggling, see your doctor or a lactation consultant.

From start to finish, breastfeeding is a commitment, so when you are ready to end things and put a little distance between your body and your baby, knowing how to dry up your supply is key. If you are on the breastfeeding train and want to jump off, know the best way to dry up breast milk with the least amount of discomfort possible. Just in time to learn all about how a toddler will make you question your sanity.

Editors' Recommendations

Dannielle Beardsley
Dannielle has written for various websites, online magazines, and blogs. She loves everything celebrity and her favorite…
Is Theraflu safe for breastfeeding moms? Here’s what you need to know
Find out if cold remedies are safe when breastfeeding
Woman kissing her sleeping baby

Breastfeeding parents have to be just as diligent about the medications they take as they were when they were pregnant. It can be a little confusing for any parent to know what's safe to take while breastfeeding, especially when a particularly bad case of the flu hits or they pick up a nasty virus. If this happens and you're breastfeeding, you're surely eager to find something that will help you feel better.

Sometimes, nursing moms need cold medicine. Theraflu is a safe medication for common flu symptoms like low fever, cough, runny nose, and muscle soreness, however, if you're breastfeeding you should take caution when taking Theraflu. Let’s discuss the reasons why.

Read more
When babies get their first haircut: Everything you need to know to get through this milestone without tears
Here's when babies should get their new look
Baby getting a haircut.

The first year of your child's life is filled with exciting milestone moments, like their first smile, learning how to crawl, and taking their first step. For most parents, that first snip of hair is another milestone that is just as celebratory and emotional. The notion of cutting your baby's hair for the first time could bring parents and baby to tears.

Whether you choose to trim your baby's hair yourself or take them to a trusted professional, you may wonder when baby gets their first haircut. If you think your little one is ready for their first styling, we have tricks and tips to help make the experience enjoyable for everyone — with limited tears involved.

Read more
What is 4-month sleep regression (and how to keep it from ruining your life)
Here's what you need to know if you're dealing with 4-month sleep regression
A mother watching her baby sleep in their crib.

A good night's sleep is hard to get when you have a baby. So, when your little one starts sleeping for longer stretches, and dare we say through the night, it is a cause for concern. Not many parents may have heard of 4-month sleep regression, even though they may be experiencing it. Four-month sleep regression is perfectly normal and happens to some little ones around the 3- to 4-month mark. Of course, when baby isn't sleeping, neither is anyone else in the house. Here's everything you need to know about 4-month sleep regression, including when your baby will start going down for the night once again.

A guide to 4-month sleep regression
By the time babies are 2 to 3 months old, they typically sleep for 5 or 6 hours stretches. By 4 months, babies can sleep through the night without being fed. Whether a baby does depends on the child. Most babies will sleep for that heavenly stretch of 7 to 8 hours by the 4-month mark. If your kiddo has been snoozing for a solid 8 hours at night and has suddenly stopped, you could be dealing with 4-month sleep regression.
What is 4-month sleep regression?
When babies around the age of 3 to 4 months start having trouble sleeping through the night again, it could be a sleep regression period. Regression means to revert or go back to a previous pattern. This is what happens with sleep regression. Babies begin to have trouble falling or staying asleep at night and during their usual naptimes, regressing to those short intervals of slumber you thought had gone by the wayside.
When can 4-month sleep regression occur?
Despite the name, 4-month sleep regression can happen at any time. This change in sleep pattern typically happens to babies at around the 3- to 4-month mark.
How long does 4-month sleep regression last?
It may seem like ages, but 4-month sleep regression doesn't usually hang around for long. Provided parents make an effort to keep baby's sleep routine consistent, 4-month sleep regression lingers for around two weeks.
What causes 4-month sleep regression?
Since most parents want to avoid any interruption in the much-needed good night's sleep in the household, it's important to understand why this sleep regression happens in the first place to babies happily sleeping through the night. As infants, babies don't have a sleep and a wake cycle. They pretty much sleep when they want and wake when they're hungry or need a diaper change. When babies reach the 4-month mark, they begin to understand the sleep/wake cycle. They snooze longer at night and take fewer naps during the daytime. It's this important developmental adjustment that can actually interrupt their newfound sleep pattern.

Read more