While many breast-feeding women are trying to boost their milk supply, others may be looking for ways to slow it down. Whether you are trying to stop breast-feeding or simply to prevent engorgement, there are a few simple ways to reduce your milk supply both with and without the use of medications.
Some women choose not to breast-feed their babies from birth, or they may decide after a short time that breast-feeding is not right for them. When you stop breast-feeding cold turkey, you may experience engorgement, a condition when the breasts fill with milk faster than it can be released. Engorgement can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful, causing many women to turn to alternative methods of drying up their milk supply. For some, this may include prescription medications.
Both estrogen, bromocriptine and bromocriptine-related drugs have been used historically to decrease milk supply in women who are lactating. In the past, estrogen was administered by injection for this purpose. In addition, bromocriptine and related drugs were either taken over a short time or administered in a single-dose strength. Both approached are effective. However, there has been some question as to whether these medications are safe for lactating moms.
Both estrogen and bromocriptine had been used regularly in the past to dry up a woman's breast milk supply. However, based on research citing potential health risks, their use for this purpose is far less common today. Estrogen injections increase a woman's risk of developing a blood clot, which can lead to a stroke or even death. Bromocriptine has similar risks: It increases a woman's chance of heart attack or stroke, and it is especially risky if the woman in question has a history of high blood pressure. While estrogen and the original form of bromocriptine are no longer recommended for use with lactating women, bromocriptine-related drugs are a safer option. However, their use is generally combined with blood-thinning medications to decrease the risk of blood clot formation.
For many women, the risks of using medications to dry up their milk supply far outweigh the benefits. Fortunately, there are other ways to reduce discomfort when weaning from breast-feeding that do not require prescription drugs. You can simply let your milk supply wane naturally. However, in the meantime, you can use a heating pad, ice packs and/or over-the-counter pain medications to relieve any related breast discomfort). Other ways to reduce milk supply include reducing fluid intake, which is necessary for breast milk production, and using breast compression techniques. Over time, without a steady demand, breast milk supply will decrease on its own.