All good things have to come to an end. For many mums, breastfeeding will decrease naturally. It typically happens eight to twelve months after birth. Solids are starting to take an ever larger share of your little one's diet. Breast milk is more and more like a "snack" instead of the "main course". By that stage your prolactin levels (that's the hormone that helps you produce breast milk) are lower too, which means you naturally produce less milk.
For some mums however things don't quite happen this way. You might want to decrease your milk supply because you just have too much. Or because you've decided to stop breastfeeding early. Or maybe you are indeed at a stage where your baby drinks less milk but you don't quite know how to decrease your supply.
We'll be looking at the various things you can do to decrease your milk supply. The main worry of course is to do so while avoiding engorgement, clogged ducts or, worse, mastitis. It's often an unintended consequence of expressing less milk from your breasts. Your breasts fill with an accumulation of unexpressed milk and, voila, they're engorged! We'll be looking at how you can avoid engorgement and clogged ducts.
Using the breastfeeding supply & demand equilibrium concept
The breastfeeding supply & demand equilibrium concept, while sounding quite complex, is actually quite simple. The gist of it is that your breast milk supply follows the demand. If you breastfeed or pump more, you'll get more milk. And if you breastfeed or pump less, you'll get less.
Could it be that simple? To decrease your milk supply you'd just need to breastfeed or pump less? Well yes but... no. As with everything, terms and conditions apply. The main thing to be careful of is to do things gradually. We recommend you follow the schedule below:
By which amount can I decrease my milk supply in one go?
As you can see on the schedule, we recommend a maximum of 15% to 20% reduction in expressed milk every 2 days. Why every 2 days? Because in our experience it's the minimum time required for your body to get used to the new supply level. Any faster and you'll get engorged breasts and/or clogged ducts. If you want to be on the safe side, you can even lengthen it to every 3 days.
If the base volume you want to reduce from is, say, 30 oz (890ml) a day, then a 15% reduction every 2 days means 4.5 oz (130ml) reduction every 2 days. If your goal is to arrive at a volume of 20 oz a day, it means you can do that in 4 to 5 days. If you want to totally stop breastfeeding, as per the schedule it'll take you about 15 days.
Which concrete steps should I take to decrease my milk supply?
Concretely, there are two ways you can go about it. You can reduce the amount you pump each time, from instance if you pump 6 oz (180ml) each time and go for 20% steps, then for the first 2 days you should pump only 4.8 oz (140ml), then 3.6 oz (110ml) for the 2 days afterwards, etc. This is of course much more difficult to do if you breastfeed. You're not going to stop your little one eating mid-feeding!
The second way is to reduce the amount of times you breastfeed or pump a day. If for instance you're breastfeeding 5 times a day and wish to reduce in 20% steps then you need to breastfeed just one less time each step, going from 5 to 4 feedings in the first step.
Avoiding engorgement and clogged ducts while I decrease my milk supply
We advise you do all this while drinking Unblock Nursing Tea. It's an herbal tea made of 12 natural herbs that's designed to help fight off engorged breasts and clogged ducts.
Drinking it is just an added security for you to avoid engorged breasts and/or clogged ducts. Some nursing mothers are very sensitive to any decrease in the level of milk they express. Some will even get engorged breasts if they express only 5% less milk! More on all this in the last chapter.
Foods and herbs that help reduce milk supply
While the breastfeeding supply & demand equilibrium concept, as explained above, will on its own be enough to decrease your supply, you can help yourself by eating food or drinking herbal infusions that help reduce milk supply.
Below is a list of foods and drinks thought to reduce milk supply:
- Drinks: Barley tea, Green tea
- Meats: Crab
- Herbs: American ginseng, Star anise, Fried malt, Purslane
- Sweets: Chocolate
- Fruits: Tangerines, Olives, Hawthorn berries
- Vegetables: Cucumbers, Winter melons, Bitter gourds, Sweet potatoes, Carrots, Mushrooms, Corn, White radishes, Eggplants, Bamboo shoots
Obviously all mothers are different. Some nursing mums can spend their day eating chocolate and drinking barley tea and see no impact on their supply. Or on the contrary it can have a massive effect on them. These foods and drinks generally help but again should be there as a support, not as your main method to decrease your supply.
How to avoid engorgement and plugged ducts while I decrease my milk supply?
Engorgement refer to your breasts feeling extremely full, distended, painful and, often, warm to the touch. Plugged ducts is when the issue is more localized: it's typically a swollen red spot on one of your breasts (or both) that is often painful to the touch. Those issues can be very painful and, if left untreated, can degenerate into full-blown mastitis, an infection of the breasts.
As explained above, the most important thing you can do to avoid engorgement and plugged ducts is to embrace slow, progressive change. If you suddenly go from 7 feedings a day down to zero, you will have extremely engorged breasts. You should decrease step by step.
To help yourself, while you decrease your milk supply we really advise you drink Unblock Nursing Tea. It's an herbal tea made of 12 natural herbs that's designed to help fight off engorged breasts and clogged ducts.
If you drink it throughout the time period during which reduce your supply, you drastically minimize the risks you'll get engorgement and plugged ducts issues.
Article tags: Breastfeeding and maternity