How Long Does It Takes For Breastmilk To Dry Up?
You will inevitably have to stop breastfeeding because your baby is growing up. It can be bittersweet, yet your child grows fast and you have to do it. By this time, you might be concerned about leaky and painful breasts.
You have a steady supply of milk but have to taper it soon. Breastmilk production is all about demand and supply, the more time your child spends on nursing, the longer will it take for your milk to dry.
Weaning your child from your breastmilk has to be done right. Stop breastfeeding cold turkey and you will run the risk of having breast pain and infection. End it prematurely and your baby will go hungry.
So how long does it takes for breastmilk to dry up? How does it work and how can you do it right?
Let's break down the details!
Breastmilk And Weaning: The Timeframe
It’s all about timing. Breastmilk can dry up as early as a month and as late as a year.
It is the hormone prolactin that makes your body supply milk. On the other hand, it is the prolactin inhibiting factor (PIF) that sends a signal to your body to stop producing breast milk.
How long does it take?
It will take a week for your body to get the message that breastmilk must be reduced in quantity. It will depend on how frequent or how long do you nurse your child.
For early weaners such as those that stopped breastfeeding on or before baby’s sixth month of age, the timeline is shorter from about a few weeks to a month or two. This is not usually the case if you are breastfeeding exclusively for longer than six months as your body is accustomed to producing lots of milk round the clock.
For older babies, a mom’s milk can dry up as soon as they begin eating solid food every meal. Once a baby had started to eat off the table, the breastfeeding time will get less and less frequent. This is the natural phase of weaning.
By this time, your child has already grown a few set of teeth. He may have learned how to bite, and your breasts can get bitten too. It can get painful but this is a good sign because it means that he is now ready to munch on anything.
You can let your child eat more and more solid foods as weeks and months go by. This will come up to the time that he will no longer ask first for your breasts, but for a second serving or a finger snack.
For moms who have to breastfeed longer, it is normal to have colostrum-like discharge months or even after two years after weaning your child. There will no longer be a milky build-up but just a thick discharge which can be expressed with a little pinch of the nipple.
So yes, for some, the breast will not totally go dry. There will be no milk to drip, just a discharge on the tip.
Disadvantages Of Abrupt Stopping Of Breastfeeding
Your hormones can go haywire.
It is amazing how our breast can impact our hormones, and how breastfeeding can easily do that.
Once you immediately stop breastfeeding, you might feel a little bit moody or irritable. You will miss the closeness with a baby that can only happen while breastfeeding.
Do not be surprised if you become a little bit on the edge, hungry, sleepy or angry. The reason might be because you had not done it gradually and your body is still getting used to the hormone surge.
Be careful, though:
It can even lead to post-partum depression. Do not tire yourself and get lots of support from your partner. Baby is also in adjustment stage so comfort him.
Do weaning in stages for longer than a month so that you will feel less like a looney and more like your caring mommy self!
Expect the pain.
If you are planning to stop breastfeeding and have only about a month to do it, expect it to be painful. As I have said previously, weaning must be done gradually and just a month is short.
Sure your milk ducts will dry up, but you have to bear with breast engorgement, pain, and discomfort. The breast can get warm to the touch and on some cases; mom can be feverish for a day or two. If not done right, the breasts can also get infected with abscess known as mastitis.
The Right Way To Decrease Mom’s Milk Supply
There are ways to speed up drying of your breastmilk supply. It helps to plan it out ahead of time. Check your baby’s readiness to wean before you decide. If he has already gained considerable weight and has started to enjoy his food, then by all means, let your weaning plan start!
# Cut off the sessions
By this time, your baby might have already developed an appetite. Sure he does make a lot of mess when eating off the plate, but he is already eating on his own. This is a good time to let your milk dry up gradually.
Take out one breastfeeding session per week and replace it with a satisfying meal at the kitchen. Gradually introduce a different feeding routine to your little one until the night feedings will be just the time that you will breastfeed.
This one is the last to go, particularly if your baby uses your breast to soothe him at night.
If he is already getting by through a formula, then on some nights you can also just let him nurse off the bottle. But then, do not forget to stay close and cuddle up, he will need it during this transition.
# Decrease breast stimulation
One of the best ways to facilitate drying up breast milk supply is to decrease breast stimulation. Do not pump your breast or do massage. Just pump a small amount to decrease pain but take note not to take too much. It is OK to let a little bit of milk sit in your breast; your body will eventually absorb it.
Wear a snug bra, preferably a sports bra, to minimize breast stimulation. I recommend wearing a non-wire version of this so that it is comfortable enough to be worn round the clock.
Choose a bra that is supportive enough but flexible to facilitate circulation. If it is fitted just right, there will be no bra lines around your breasts once you removed it. Minimize touching and stimulating the nipple area as this would trigger your milk ducts.
Even showering must be done in such a way that there will be less direct contact with water to the breast.
Under the shower, let the water torrent strike your back, not your stomach. Be mindful to not let the water get too warm as it can signal your breast to make milk. If you want to hasten up your weaning, choose cold water shower every time.
# Milk-drying medication?
Do not take any milk reducing / drying medication off the shelf. Ask your doctor for advice. Most doctors will advise against taking any medicine if you are just looking to dry up your milk. This is because there are a lot of observed side effects which can get unpleasant depending on whether you have an existing health condition.
Be wary also of taking common over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen and NSAIDs as they can be unsafe. If you are worried about the pain, take a prescription from your doctor.
In case you are looking for an alternative, as with what I had discussed in my previous article, cabbage leaves breast wrap or ice packs works wonders!
Breastfeeding affects a mother’s body in a lot of ways. Drying up a mom’s milk duct is a painful thing that a woman can experience after childbirth. It can also lead to serious infection and even post-partum depression if done in a hurry. Just like how breastfeeding is a phase, weaning is a process.
Do not rush.
If you are planning to stop breastfeeding, to reduce pain, plan it months ahead. Allow your baby and your own body to adjust. Get enough rest, drink up on water and congratulate yourself. You had passed just another phase of motherhood so cheers to that!