Top 10 Techniques to Suppress Lactation

Top 10 Techniques to Suppress Lactation

Lactation is the process of milk production and secretion by the mammary glands of the breast, usually with the intention of breastfeeding a newborn or an infant.

Reasons to Suppress Lactation

While breast milk is the ideal form of nutrition for an infant, lactation suppression, or the use of interventions to prevent or decrease milk production, is a consideration in numerous cases, some of which are described below:

The mother does not want to breastfeed

In such cases, as production is still continuing, breast milk will accumulate and cause discomfort and pain.

The mother wants to wean off breastfeeding

There comes a time when mothers want to move their child from breast milk to formula or baby food. In such cases, the accumulation of breast milk, which is no longer being consumed by the child, can be considerably uncomfortable and painful.

The mother is not capable of breastfeeding

There are situations in which a mother who wishes to breastfeed simply cannot do so. This may occur due to conditions such as Acute Mastitis or cracked nipples, which make the act of breastfeeding extremely painful.

The mother cannot stop milk secretions even after her child has been weaned

Often, milk secretion continues even after a baby has been successfully moved from breast milk to formula and/or baby food. In such cases, the mother may consider lactation suppression to stop production and the subsequent discomfort caused by accumulation (due to diminished consumption).

The child cannot tolerate breast milk

Sometimes, a newborn or infant may not tolerate breast milk well. In fact, breast milk consumption may lead to stomach problems such as diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, bloating, etc. In such cases, a mother may choose to stop breastfeeding and utilize lactation suppression.

The woman does not have a child to breastfeed

A woman who has either lost her child or given him/her up for adoption will typically not need to breastfeed and may, therefore, consider lactation suppression.

Top 10 Techniques to Suppress Lactation

Some of the numerous methods to suppress lactation are described below. Other methods may also exist.

1. Stop Suckling

If the baby ceases suckling, breast milk production will diminish and, ultimately cease. This method works because suckling is the act that ultimately initiates milk formation and secretion.  To utilize this method, start gradually weaning your child off breast milk and introducing formula and/or baby food.

2. Distract Yourself

Mothers aiming to suppress lactation should attempt to distract themselves by listening to music, reading books, et cetera and let their babies entertain themselves. This method is effective because it moves the mother’s focus away from the child’s every discomfort and reduces the child’s crying, which naturally induces lactation in the mother.

3. Stop Pumping

While some erroneously believe that pumping will lead to the drying of milk, the reality is that it is the opposite: stopping breast pump use, that can reduce or stop lactation by decreasing nipple stimulation. In fact, decrease in any kind of nipple stimulation (i.e. stroking, caressing, et cetera) can aid in lactation suppression.

4. Clothing

Use of an appropriately-sized bra can be very helpful in decreasing or stopping lactation. The well-fitting and supportive bra decreases lactation via compression of the engorged breasts.

5. Breast Pads

Using breast or nursing pads, which are typically intended to absorb leaking breast milk, can aid in lactation suppression via compression of the milk ducts.

6. Cold Sponges 

Application of cold sponges or gel packs can not only sooth painful conditions, but can also reduce milk production through the reduction of nipple stimulation.

7. Cabbage Leaf

The application of cool cabbage leaves to one (i.e. the breast that you do not wish to use to breastfeed) or both breasts can also decrease lactation and leaking via compression of the milk ducts. This method has also been found to be soothing and to aid in decreasing discomfort. Lastly, when using cabbage leaves, be sure to change the leaf every two hours.

8. Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6, which usually helps in the transmission of nerve signals, brain development, and the production of mood-influencing hormones such as serotonin, has also been found to cease milk production in a few cases. However, there is no scientific data that supports this finding. Furthermore, mothers should consult with their healthcare provider prior to ingesting a high amount of vitamin B6 to avoid any adverse effects.

9. Sage Tea

Sage tea, which is available in tea, tablet, infusion, and oil forms can be used in addition to cabbage leaf for lactation suppression. Using sage tea also has the benefits of relieving sore throats as well as improving mood and perception.   Sage tea is best used after a child has been weaned from breast milk and should not be used while breastfeeding.

10. Medications

Medications that can lead to rapid lactation suppression do exist. Among these are the dopamine agonist Bromocriptine, various birth control pills, and Clomiphene Citrate. These function via reducing release of Prolactin, the milk-forming hormone, and by stimulating the Prolactin Inhibiting Factor, which stops milk production.   Furthermore, anti-inflammatory pain killers, which can relieve breast pain, may also help in lactation suppression.   It is also important to note that drinking ample water does not hinder lactation suppression and, thus, water restriction should not be used as a method to decrease milk output. On the other hand, relieving breast load via pumping or squeezing your breasts, which may be employed for temporary relief, does hinder lactation suppression. Read about breastfeeding and the benefits of breastfeeding here.