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Breast milk will eventually dry up on its own if the person stops nursing. However, the length of time this takes can vary from person to person, and people may experience painful engorgement in the meantime.
The following techniques are popular for drying up breast milk, though research into their benefits has yielded mixed results.
Avoid nursing or pumping
One of the main things a person can do to dry up breast milk is avoid nursing or pumping. The supply of breast milk increases with demand.
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Avoiding nursing or pumping, even if a person feels uncomfortable, tells the body to produce less milk.
People who feel that they must express milk should express a small amount and avoid doing anything that stimulates the nipples or breasts.
Try cabbage leaves
Several studies have investigated cabbage leaves as a remedy for engorgement.
Although some guides recommend using the leaves to reduce supply, one 2012 study found that the leaves increased breastfeeding duration. This was not because cabbage increased supply, but because it reduced the pain of nursing.
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So although cabbage may help with engorgement pain, it may not dry up breast milk supply.
Consume herbs and teas
Some herbal teas have the potential to dry up breast milk. However, the extent to which they work depends on whether or not they contain the right herbs to dry up breast milk.
A person can try specific herbs in teas, incorporate herbal supplements into their diet, or eat edible herbs.
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Some herbs that may help include:
- Sage: Many anecdotal sources recommend using sage teas to reduce or eliminate breast milk supply. However, no research has yet assessed its effect on a nursing infant. Additionally, high doses can lower blood sugar and cause nausea or dizziness, so a person should follow the package instructions and stop using it if any symptoms appear.
- Jasmine: Jasmine may lower levels of prolactin, a hormone that helps produce breast milk. However, researchers have not yet identified safe levels for this herb. So, it may be safer to use it only as an ingredient in a preprepared tea containing other herbs, such as sage.
- Peppermint oil: Peppermint oil may reduce milk supply when a person applies it directly to the breasts. The tingling it causes may also ease the pain of engorgement. However, the oil is toxic at moderately high doses, so people should never use it if they are still nursing or putting an infant on the chest for skin-to-skin contact.
- Parsley: Like Jasmine, parsley may lower prolactin levels. Try using parsley as a seasoning or eating it as part of a salad.
Try breast binding
Though people have practiced breast binding to reduce milk supply for centuries, there is little evidence to suggest that it works.
In fact, one 2012 analysis of existing research found that this method increased pain rather than reducing weaning-related discomfort.
Gently massaging the breasts (not the nipples) may help ease the pain of engorgement. However, too much breast stimulation can increase milk supply. Therefore, massage only as much as is necessary to ease the pain.