Suppressing Your Milk Supply

Suppressing Your Milk Supply Information

After pregnancy, your breasts fill with milk (engorgement). You may choose to stop (suppress) your milk supply if you need to stop breastfeeding quickly, if you are unable to breastfeed, or if you choose not to breastfeed.

There are many reasons for not breastfeeding, including personal choice, pregnancy loss or miscarriage, or if you have certain medical conditions or take medicines that do not allow you to breastfeed.

If you do not let out (express) milk regularly, your breast milk production will gradually slow down and stop. This may take several days or more than a week. During this time, your breasts will feel full and may be uncomfortable. They may also leak some milk.

There are medicines to help suppress milk production, but there is no scientific evidence to show that taking medicine is better than letting breast milk production stop naturally. Medicines may have side effects. Talk with your health care provider about the risks and benefits of these medicines.

Follow these instructions at home:

Managing pain, swelling, and discomfort

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your health care provider. Ask your health care provider if you may take an over-the-counter pain reliever for discomfort from breast engorgement.
  • Wear a supportive bra during the day and at night.
  • Use breast pads inside your bra to soak up leaks.
  • If directed, put ice on your breasts:
    • Put ice in a plastic bag.
    • Place a towel between your bra and the bag.
    • Leave the ice on for 20 minutes, 2–3 times a day.
  • Try cabbage leaf compresses to cool and soothe your breast. Keep a cabbage in the refrigerator. Peel off a large leaf and place it inside your bra. Replace it after the leaf warms and wilts.
  • To relieve discomfort in bed, lie on your side and use a pillow to support your breasts.
  • If your breasts are very full and you are very uncomfortable, consider expressing a little milk to relieve some pressure. Only express a small amount of milk, so that you do not stimulate your breasts to make more milk. Generally, this should provide relief within 3–5 minutes of expressing milk. Once you feel relief, stop expressing milk.

General instructions

  • Breast engorgement may raise your risk of a breast infection (mastitis). Watch for signs of mastitis, such as:
    • Pain, swelling, or redness.
    • A tender lump.
    • Fever.
    • Chills.
    • Fatigue.
  • Return to your normal activities as told by your health care provider. Ask your health care provider what activities are safe for you. Avoid activities that cause breast discomfort.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your health care provider. This is important.

Contact a health care provider if:

  • You continue to have breast engorgement, leaking, and discomfort at home.
  • You have any signs of mastitis.

Summary

  • Breast milk suppression will happen naturally if you do not breastfeed or express milk regularly.
  • You may have breast fullness, leaking, and discomfort for several days.
  • A supportive bra, over-the-counter pain relievers, and frequent cool compresses on your breasts may help relieve discomfort.
  • Let your health care provider know if you have any signs of mastitis, such as pain, swelling, or redness.
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