How To Stop Lactation
Most mothers enjoy the benefits breastfeeding gives. The baby is given a sense of security that the mother will always be there to protect her. The mother, on the other hand, feels that the little one she holds in her arms trusts her, cementing their bond and giving both a unique attachment that no person can sever.
All moms want what’s best for their babies. However, there are cases where a mom is unable to breastfeed her baby and opts to use formula. The modern mom has a lot of roles to fill and finding the time to fill in all these roles can be a challenge, especially if you need to be with your baby all the time.
Breast milk is ALWAYS best for a baby, no matter what the age, as this gives nutrients sufficient to ward off and prevent certain illnesses and allergies. But if you have already decided to stop breastfeeding, then here are some suggestions on what to do and what not to do to help you stop lactation painlessly:
- Do not bind your breasts
The elderly may say that it works, but medically, it isn’t a sound practice. This may cause mastitis (inflammation of the breast tissues) and breast abscess as milk is trapped within the milk ducts where they calcify (harden).
- Do not take “drying–up milk” medicine.
These are usually not very effective as this may lead to mastitis due to calcified milk in the milk ducts where they “dry up”. They may also cause serious side effects.
- Cut down on salt intake.
Salt causes your body to retain fluids; breast milk is no exception.
- Wear a support bra.
This should not be too tight, with enough space to put in nursing pads to absorb any leaks. Cotton bras are recommended as this also allows your breasts to breathe.
- Take a mild pain reliever if in pain.
Some women experience severe pain that a pain reliever is necessary for them to be able to function properly. Before taking one, however, it is always best to consult your doctor so as not to affect your breast milk (if you are still breastfeeding or expressing milk for your child).
- Vitamin B6.
This helps in relieving engorgement of the breasts. Take 200 milligrams of B6 for 5 days.
- Chilled green cabbage leaves.
An old-fashioned remedy that most doctors also recommend since this works to relieve the pain and lessen milk production (for those who are weaning). You could use the whole leaf to cover the breast or you could cut it into small pieces and cover the breast little by little, leaving the nipple exposed. Take note that although chilled green cabbage leaves are effective, manufactured cabbage extract creams do not work.
- Express some milk.
Express just a little to relieve discomfort. If you want to stop breastfeeding but continue giving breast milk by expressing some, then you can empty the breasts of milk. However, if you plan on stopping lactation completely, then express milk just a little at a time, just enough so your breasts will not get engorged. This sends your body a signal which would gradually decrease your milk production. Taking a warm shower stimulates milk production and also relieves the pain from engorged breasts.
Sage tea is efficient in decreasing milk supply. Take a teaspoon of sage with a cup of hot (preferably just boiled) water, and let it stand for at least 15 minutes. You can add milk or honey if you can’t taste it (it is bitter). Take it 3 to 4 times a day to decrease your milk quickly.
These are mere suggestions to stop lactation. However, there may be some women who will claim that some of these don’t work on them. It is always best to consult with your doctor or health care provider, especially if you are considering taking medicine.
For Moms Who Express Breastmilk
For moms who cannot be with their baby all the time, and even for some stay at home moms who express milk for them to attend to their other domestic duties aside from looking after the new baby, expressing milk gives them the option to provide their baby with the benefits of breast milk.
When you decide to stop breast pumping, the consequences are similar to that of stopping breastfeeding. If done abruptly, it will cause pain and engorgement of the breasts, even fever, and infection in some women.
To stop lactation or milk production, here are some things you can do (or take) so you can feel better while safely and slowly reducing your milk supply:
- Gradually eliminate one pumping session at a time. Express milk only to relieve engorgement, but do not empty them of milk. This will signal to your body to reduce its milk production and eventually, to stop lactation. This will also give your body a chance to adjust to the slow but eventual cessation of your milk production.
- Do not bind your breasts. This is a very out-of-date practice which shouldn’t be done. Preventing milk from naturally coming out of your breast will clog your milk ducts. If it does so, the trapped milk will calcify and it may cause mastitis. Wear a nursing bra that offers ample support, is comfortable and made from cotton to let blood circulate freely in your breasts.
- Try a nursing-safe pain reliever for the pain. For this method, please consult a doctor first. The most common pain killers you could be given would be ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
- Apply Ice. To relieve the engorgement of your breasts, try using ice to help reduce the swelling. Frozen peas can also be a substitute. Store them in the freezer for 15 minutes at a time as needed.
- Put cold cabbage compresses. This is for severe engorgement of the breasts. Refrigerate cabbage leaves every 2 hours and “compress” it inside your bra. Do not freeze the leaves, just chill them. Your milk supply also slows because of this – very effective and very soothing.
- Make tea from herbs. Teas and some herbs are reportedly effective in reducing milk production. Sage should be taken 2 to 6 times a day in order to stop lactation. A tablespoon of the dried herb in a cup of boiling water should do the trick. If you’re not into sage, try having spearmint and peppermint in your diet as the taste is more tolerable. Chickweed, lemon balm, oregano, sorrel and yarrow are not just used for stopping lactation – these also have oils that can be used to massage the breasts and relieve the soreness and hardness of them.
Breast milk is fortified with essential nutrients to help nourish and strengthen your baby’s immune system. It is best for babies at any age. There is no age limit for it. Offer breast milk for as long as you can. If you have to stop, consult a doctor on what formula and other foods you can give your baby to meet her nutritional needs. After all, your child’s nutritional health and emotional well-being are a priority.