Q: I just had my baby, and I've decided not to breastfeed. How long will it take for my milk to dry up?
A: "While it is undoubtedly best for a baby to be breastfed, we have to acknowledge that some women won't nurse for one reason or another," says Ruth Lawrence, M.D., professor of pediatrics and obstetrics-gynecology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine in Rochester, N.Y. "If you don't nurse at all, your levels of the hormone prolactin, which stimulates milk production, will naturally drop off in about 10 to 15 days." The medication bromocriptine used to be given to suppress lactation, but it can cause high blood pressure and even stroke.
Some women experience pain as their milk supply dries up; the discomfort usually peaks around the third to fifth day after delivery, then gradually subsides. "It can run the gamut from little or no pain to quite a bit due to engorgement," Lawrence says. She suggests wearing a well-fitting sports bra day and night; this will help reduce blood flow and hence swelling. Other tips: Take a pain reliever such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol), and put cold packs or bags of frozen peas on your breasts to reduce swelling.