How to Dry Up Breast Milk: 9 Natural Ways (& Medications)

Updated in January 2024

Natural ways to dry up breast milk include avoiding offering the breast or holding the child if not necessary, wearing a tight bra and applying cabbage leaves to the breast. Many women may seek these methods once the baby if over 2 years of age and is able to meet all nutritional needs with solid food. 

There are also some health conditions that can make breastfeeding contraindicated, and drying up breastmilk may be indicated for these mothers. 

It is important to remember that the process of drying up breast milk will vary significantly from woman to woman. Many factors can play a role, such as the baby’s age and the quantity of milk produced by the mother. Some women are able to reduce milk production within days, while others can take months to achieve the same results. 

Imagem ilustrativa número 2

Ways to dry-up breast milk naturally

Although these methods may not be 100% effective for all women, these natural strategies help to reduce breast milk production in just a few days:

  1. Avoid offering feeds, even if the child is asking. Ideally, you should distract the child with other tasks and activities during breastfeeding time. You should avoid picking up or holding the child if unnecessary, as the mother’s scent can trigger the child to want to breastfeed. 
  2. Reduce breastfeeding sessions one at a time to allow for milk production to gradually decrease. Generally, the last feeding times to be eliminated are the first feeds in the morning and the last feeds at night. 
  3. Express small amounts of breast milk when showering to relieve discomfort from full breasts. Milk production will gradually reduce overtime, however this process can take up to 10 days in women who produce high amounts of milk, or 5 days in women who produce less. 
  4. Apply cold or warm cabbage leaves directly on the breast to help relieve fullness and discomfort. Temperature depends on the woman’s comfort level. 
  5. Use a comfortable bra that supports the breasts and does not interfere with circulation. 
  6. Reduce fluid intake, as a restricted amount can naturally decreased milk production. 
  7. Apply cold compresses to the breasts, being sure to wrap them in a cloth or rag to avoid direct skin contact. This should only be done after expressing breastmilk in the shower. 
  8. Intense physical activity can help to burn more calories, leaving less energy for milk production.
  9. Drink salvia tea, as it is believed to reduce milk production. 

Women can also consult their OBGYN or family doctor to start medication that helps to dry-up breastmilk. These medications combined with the above natural methods can lead to a more rapid and efficient reduction in breast milk production. 

Medication options

Medications that help to dry-up breast milk, like cabergoline, should only be used as directed by a doctor, as use can vary from women to woman. These medications may cause intense side effects, like headaches, nausea, vomiting, vertigo, abdominal pain, drowsiness and heart attack. They should only be used when drying up breast milk immediately is required. 

These medications may be prescribed to women who have experienced a miscarriage, or women who have given birth to a baby with a facial deformity or digestive condition. They are also prescribed in women with serious diseases that can be transmitted to the baby through breast milk. 

Healthy women with healthy babies should not take this medication solely to stop breastfeeding altogether or to stop breastfeeding quickly.  There are other more natural and less risky methods that should be trialed first. 

When to wean 

The WHO promotes exclusive breastfeeding until 6 months of age that should continue until 2 years of age. However, there are some situations in which breastfeeding is contraindicated and that cessation is necessary, such as: 

Maternal causes

Baby-related causes

HIV positive

Low birth weight and inability to suck or swallow 

Breast cancer 

Galactosemia

Mental disturbances or risky behaviors 

Phenylketonuria

Use of illicit drugs like marijuana, LSD, heroin, cocaine or opioids 

Face, esophageal or tracheal malformation that interferes with oral feeding 

Viral, fungal or bacterial infections like cytomegalovirus, hepatitis B or C with a high viral load (for which temporary cessation is advised)

Newborn with a serious neurological that interferes with oral feeding 

Active herpes infection on the breast or nipple (temporary cessation is advised) 

 

In all these cases, the baby should not breastfeed, however the baby can be fed with artificial milk. With viral, fungal or bacterial infections, the mother can discontinue breastfeeding temporarily, but can continue to remove milk with a pump to maintain milk production. This will allow the mother to resume breastfeeding once cleared by the doctor.