Suppressing lactation is often called ‘drying up your milk’. How long it takes depends on your milk production, though most women are able to taper off their milk supply over 2 to 3 weeks.
Depending on your milk production, it may be uncomfortable when you begin to suppress lactation, but this should only last for the first few days. It is normal to still be able to express a few drops of milk for weeks or months after suppressing.
Tips for making suppression more comfortable
- Handle your breasts very gently as they can bruise easily.
- Express some milk if your breasts are sore, but only enough to soften them – not empty them. Aim to reduce how often and how much you express gradually. Milk production will decrease as you remove milk less often.
- Cold/gel packs in your bra or cold compresses after a shower or bath can relieve pain and swelling.
- Cabbage leaves can also be used as cold compresses. Wash and dry the leaves before use and cut out any large, bumpy veins. Keep them in the fridge as they need to be cold. Change the leaves every 2 hours or when they become limp. Continue using the leaves until the breasts stop feeling overfull.
- For the first few days, you may be uncomfortable lying in bed. 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 beneath your hips and stomach.
- Mild pain-relieving medications may help reduce discomfort.
- Wear a firm supportive bra.
- Use nursing pads to avoid visible wet spots.
- Wear loose patterned clothing, which is less likely to show wet spots.
If your breasts become red, hot swollen and/or you develop flu like symptoms while you are supressing, it may be a sign that you have blocked ducts or mastitis. If this happens, see your GP or lactation consultant immediately.
Important: Once breastfeeding stops, your natural fertility may return in 4 to 8 weeks.
If you have stored expressed breast milk that you’re unable to use, you may wish to donate it to the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood Milkbank. Find out more at milkbank.com.au
Commonly asked questions
Will reducing my fluid intake help to speed up, or dry up, my milk?
No. Cutting down on your fluids will not help to reduce your milk production. It’s important you maintain the recommended amount to drink which is at least 6–8 glasses of water everyday.
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