Ideally, weaning should take place gradually. An abrupt end to breastfeeding can cause both emotional and physical disruptions for the mother and child. However, if circumstances have mandated that you must wean your child immediately, you may find yourself facing breast engorgement: a painful condition that can lead to complications like mastitis and clogged ducts. Fortunately, natural herbs can help to relieve breast engorgement caused by weaning, often with few or no side effects.
After getting the go-ahead from your health care provider, consider using these herbs to decrease your breast milk supply while weaning.
According to lactation consultant Kelly Bonyata, common sage (Salvia officinalis) is a highly effective herb for reducing breast milk supply. Bonyata recommends taking 1/4 teaspoon of the dried herb three times per day. Within one to three days, you should see a noticeable reduction in engorgement. Dried sage powder is difficult to swallow "straight," so try mixing it with a salty drink like V-8 tomato juice. If you'd prefer a tea, try steeping one tablespoon of sage in 1 cup of water six times daily.
Unlike many traditional treatments for breast engorgement, jasmine has been validated by scientific evidence. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology reported that jasmine is as effective as bromocriptine, a prescription drug, for "drying up" breast milk production. Consider applying jasmine essential oils to your breasts (don't let your child inhale or drink the oil). Crushed jasmine flowers are also highly effective.
Members of the mint family have all been traditionally used to reduce breast milk supply. While moderate amounts of these herbs have little or no effect on breast engorgement, large quantities and essential oils can ease oversupply with few side effects. Consider taking concentrated supplements made from peppermint, spearmint, lemon balm, catnip or oregano. Note that the essential oils of these plants are safe for topical use on the breasts. Oregano and peppermint oil can be taken internally in small doses.
Consult your health care provider or lactation consultant if you continue to experience severe engorgement or oversupply during weaning. Swelling, fever and extreme tenderness may signal an infection.