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Are There Any Medications I Can Take to Stop Producing Milk?

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Updated May 16, 2014

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Are There Any Medications I Can Take to Stop Producing Milk?
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Question: Are There Any Medications I Can Take to Stop Producing Milk?

I've heard there's a pill you can take to stop your milk from coming in. I just found out my baby isn't going to survive after birth, and I don't want to deal with my milk coming in along with everything else I have to deal with. What can I take to stop it?

Answer:

In the past, women who didn’t want to breastfeed were routinely prescribed a medication called bromocriptine. There were many unpleasant side effects, ranging from dizziness and nausea to hair loss, heart attack, and even a few deaths.

Today, there is a newer medication called cabergoline, which has so far been safer, but in general, most doctors and midwives recommend using natural remedies for the safest possible end to lactation.

A study published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology reported a significant decrease in milk production with a single dose of pseudoephedrine (Sudafed). This is what’s called an off-label use, which means the FDA has not approved Sudafed to decrease milk production; however, that doesn’t mean it might not be a safe choice for you. Always check with your doctor or midwife before taking a new medication. If you do decide to try this treatment, be sure you’re getting the actual pseudophedrine version of Sudafed. You’ll have to ask a pharmacist for it since federal regulations require it to be kept behind the counter now.

For a slightly more natural solution, there are several vitamins and herbs that have been found to be helpful with engorgement or milk production. Not every herb has been studied in a controlled trial, though herbalists and Eastern medicine practitioners have used them for centuries. For more information on the safety and appropriateness of any herbal treatment, consult a qualified practitioner in alternative medicine.

  • Taking 200mg of vitamin B6 for five days may relieve engorgement.

  • Sage tea can be found at a natural foods store, or make it at home by steeping 1 tsp rubbed sage (from the spice aisle) in 1 cup boiling water for 15 minutes. Drink a cup every 6 hours. (Note: Sage tea can be very strong, so plan to add milk and honey or sugar.)

  • Cold cabbage leaves applied directly to the breasts can help relieve engorgement as well. Break off the stems, and soften the leaves by pressing or pounding them just before applying. Avoid covering your nipples, and change the leaves after 30 minutes.

Sources:

Aljazaf K, Hale TW, Illett KF, et al. "Pseudoephedrine: effects on milk production in women and estimation of infant exposure via breastmilk." British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology July 2003 56(1):18-24.

Singh N, Singh U, Sachan V. "Role of newer drug cabergolin in lactation suppression as compared to estrogren-androgen combination." The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology of India Mar/Apr 2009 59: 152-155.

Spencer JP, Gonzalez III LS, Barnart DJ. "Medications in the Breast-Feeding Mother" American Family Physician July 2001 64(1).

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