One of the biggest decisions that you must make as a new mother is how to feed your child. Nowadays, more and more women are choosing to breastfeed. However, if for any reason you can not breastfeed or choose not to, you will still have a supply of milk that you will need to dry up. You will also need to dry up breast milk if you do breastfeed but are forced to wean your child earlier than expected.
Up until the 1990s, drying up breast milk was a simple procedure. If you chose not to breastfeed your child, you would be given a shot in the hospital to dry up your milk. This is no longer done, as it was discovered that the shot, bromocriptine, carried an increased risk of blood clots and strokes in the women who opted to take it. This does not mean that you can not begin to dry up breast milk in the hospital, though.
If you have decided you do not want to breastfeed or you can not breastfeed, never put your baby to your breast. The more that your baby nurses, the more milk your body will produce, making the drying up process last longer. Even if you follow this advice and never breastfeed, your breasts will likely become painfully engorged, or milk-filled and swollen. You should never pump or hand-express milk to relieve this engorgement, as doing so will also cause your body to produce more milk. There are several remedies to help you through this stage.
To dry up breast milk, you should always wear a tight fitting bra. This will help to compress your breasts so that they cannot get as full as they normally would. To relieve the pain of engorgement, you can take any of a number of over the counter pain medications. Ibuprofen, such as Advil, works especially well for this purpose, as it is good to reduce any swelling. Ice and cabbage leaves may also be placed on your breasts to help the swelling and pain. Sage is an herb that has been shown to reduce milk production, and it can be made into a tea to drink while drying up your breast milk. You should also avoid food and herbs that increase breast milk production, like oatmeal and fenugreek.
Never cut back on your water intake to try to reduce breast milk production. This does not work, and can lead to dehydration. Avoid nipple stimulation while drying up breast milk, as this can increase milk production. Always check your breasts for hard lumps as your milk dries up. Such lumps may indicate a clogged duct or mastitis. If you begin to find hard lumps or spots, contact your doctor for advice.
Above all, whether you choose not to breastfeed your child or you are unable to do so, remember that what is important is your child’s health. Formula is an acceptable substitute for breast milk, and it will allow your child to grow and thrive. If you spend time feeling sad or guilty over not breastfeeding, your child will pick up on your tension. Stay positive in knowing that you are doing the best thing for your child as well as yourself, and the process of drying up your breast milk will go much smoother for you both.