Q: I have stopped breastfeeding and am wondering how long it takes for the milk to dry up. It has been a week and my nipples are still very sore. I am also still leaking.
A: I would be better able to address this question if I knew the age of the baby. If the baby is older, and you have gradually weaned over a period of days or even weeks, chances are that there will be little milk present and little discomfort involved. If this is a case of abrupt weaning of a young baby (3 to 6 months or younger), there is a chance that there will be milk present for several days, possibly even two weeks or more and much more discomfort may be involved.
If engorgement is involved, I would advise wearing cold green cabbage leaves in your bra, changing them when they become limp, for several days. This will help with swelling and gradually allow the milk leakage to diminish.
However, it is not abnormal for women to produce drops of milk for months or even years after weaning. This varies from woman to woman. As the breast involutes, milk changes in composition back to a colostrum-like (clear) substance and diminishes greatly in volume.
Women who still see more than drops of milk six months or more after weaning are advised to evaluate any circumstances that may cause breast or nipple stimulation, which can maintain prolactin levels high enough to produce milk. Wearing a front carrier or holding baby where the breasts are stimulated, wearing clothing that rubs the nipples or even sexual activity involving the breast or nipple can increase prolactin levels.
By Mary Kay Smith
IBCLC, Lactation Consultant