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Suppressing lactation fact sheet

Suppressing lactation

Once your breast milk supply has been established, you may need to continue to express small amounts of milk for comfort and to prevent severe engorgement and possible mastitis.

Suggestions for ease and comfort

  • Wear a firm, supportive bra.
  • Use nursing pads to avoid visible wet spots. Loose, patterned clothing is also less likely to show wet spots.
  • Drink to thirst. Cutting down fluids will not help reduce your milk supply.
  • Relieve pain and swelling by putting cold/gel packs in your bra, or use cold compresses after a shower or bath.
  • Cabbage leaves can also be used as cold compresses when suppressing lactation. Wash and dry the leaves before use and cut out any large, bumpy veins. Store them in the fridge to keep them cold. Change the leaves every two hours, or when they become limp. Continue using the leaves until the breasts stop feeling over-full.
  • Handle your breasts very gently as they can bruise easily.
  • Mild pain-relieving medications may help reduce discomfort.
  • For the first few days, you may be uncomfortable lying in bed because your breasts are so full. Try lying on your back or on one side with an extra pillow supporting your breasts. If you like to lie on your front, place a pillow underneath your hips and stomach to ease the pressure on your breasts. Place a soft towel or cloth nappy across your breasts to soak up any leaking milk.
  • Don’t be afraid to express milk to relieve discomfort. Express just enough to soften your breasts, but not empty them. Expressing should be determined by your comfort level. Reduce the frequency and amount of expressing gradually. By removing less milk less and less often, your supply will decrease without causing you problems.
  • The length of time it takes to dry up your milk depends on your supply. If you have a low supply you may not have to express, but most women are able to taper off their milk supply over two to three weeks. It is normal to be able to express a few drops of milk for weeks or months after suppressing.
  • Once breastfeeding stops, your natural fertility may return in four-to-eight weeks, if not before.

Contact us

Lactation Service, Division of Medicine
Level 9, Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital
501 Stanley Street, South Brisbane
t: 07 3068 1807
t: 07 3068 1111 (general enquiries)
e:  CHQ_lactationCN@health.qld.gov.au

In an emergency, always call 000.

If it’s not an emergency but you have any concerns, contact 13 Health (13 43 2584). Qualified staff will give you advice on who to talk to and how quickly you should do it. You can phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

References

Mohrbacher N & Stock J. The Breastfeeding Answer Book. 3rd edn. Illinois: La Leche League International, 2003. Australian Breastfeeding Association. Lactation Suppression. www.breastfeeding.asn.au 2010

Oladapo, O., & Fawole, B. (2012). Treatments for suppression of lactation. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 9. Retrieved January 16, 2015

Tchoffo PA. Treatment for suppression of lactation: RHL commentary (last revised: 1 November 2009). The WHO Reproductive Health Library; Geneva: World Health Organization.

Suppression of Lactation or Weaning. (2012). Royal Hospital for Women. Local Operating Procedure. Clinical Policies, Procedures and Guidelines. Retrieved January 16, 2015, from http://www.seslhd.health.nsw.gov.au/rhw/Manuals/documents/Lactation/Suppression of Lactation or Weaning.pdf

Smith, L. Guidelines For Rapid Reduction of Milk Supply. Retrieved January 15, 2015, from www.bflrc.com/ljs/breastfeeding/dryupfst.htm

Resource No: FS129. Developed by Lactation Service. Updated: March 2016. All information contained in this sheet has been supplied by qualified professionals as a guideline for care only. Seek medical advice, as appropriate, for concerns regarding your child’s health.

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