Medications to Stop Producing Breast Milk

Natural remedies for breast engorgement pain

Verywell / JR Bee 

Whether to breastfeed or not is a very personal decision. If you're a mom-to-be or have just given birth and won't be breastfeeding, or if you've been breastfeeding and have decided to stop, you'll have one challenge to deal with: Before your body realizes it no longer needs to produce milk and stops lactating, it's quite likely your breasts will become engorged.

Breast engorgement isn't pleasant. The breasts can become rock hard and very tender to the touch. Usually, these symptoms disappear after a few days without any treatment. But in the meantime, the pain can be excruciating and even increase the risk of mastitis, an infection that results from bacteria in a clogged milk duct. If you're in a hurry to get back to normal, there are medications that can dry up breast milk.

Stopping Lactation With Medication

In the past, new moms who didn’t breastfeed were routinely prescribed medication to prevent lactation. However, the drugs were found to be unsafe and are no longer used.

One of them, bromocriptine (sold under the brand names Cycloset and Parlodel), caused a range of side effects ranging from dizziness and nausea to hair loss and heart attack. Some women even died after taking bromocriptine. A medication called cabergoline (once sold under the brand name Dostinex) had similar problems.

A common decongestant, Sudafed (pseudoephedrine), may be helpful for putting a halt to lactation, according to research published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology in 2003. The women in the study (there were only eight) reported a significant decrease in milk production after a single dose of Sudafed.

Even though the research was published some time ago, using Sudafed when weaning is a popular topic among moms. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved Sudafed for the purpose of ending milk production, which is considered an "off-label" use of the medication.

While you do not need a prescription to purchase Sudafed, check with your obstetrician or midwife first to ensure it is appropriate for you. You must ask your pharmacist for Sudafed; it is not sold over the counter, even though it is a nonprescription medication.

Easing the Pain of Engorgement

For centuries, herbalists and Eastern medicine practitioners have used certain vitamins and herbs to relieve breast engorgement. Be sure to consult an alternative medicine specialist before you take a supplement or herb.

  • Vitamin B6. Take 200 milligrams for five days.
  • Sage tea. You can buy this at a natural foods store or make it at home by steeping 1 teaspoon of rubbed sage in 1 cup boiling water for 15 minutes. Drink a cup of sage tea every 6 hours. The flavor is strong, so you may want to add milk and honey or sugar.
  • Cold cabbage leaves. Break off any stems and soften leaves by pressing or pounding them before applying them directly to your breasts. Don't cover your nipples, however. Change the leaves after 30 minutes.
4 Sources
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  1. US National Library of Medicine. Bromocriptine.

  2. Alsaad D, Elsalem S, Abdulrouf PV, et al. A retrospective drug use evaluation of cabergoline for lactation inhibition at a tertiary care teaching hospital in Qatar. Ther Clin Risk Manag. 2016;12:155-60. doi:10.2147/TCRM.S96298

  3. Aljazaf K, Hale TW, Ilett KF, et al. Pseudoephedrine: effects on milk production in women and estimation of infant exposure via breastmilk. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2003;56(1):18-24. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2125.2003.01822.x

  4. US Food and Drug Administration. Legal requirements for the sale and purchase of drug products containing pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, and phenylpropanolamine.

By Elizabeth Czukas, RN, MSN
Elizabeth Czukas is a writer who who has worked as an RN in high-risk obstetrics, antepartum care, and with women undergoing pregnancy loss.