Weaning is the process of transitioning a baby from liquids to solid foods.
When weaning is desired, it is best done gradually over several weeks, with one breastfeed at a time being stopped in favour of solids, formula or cow’s milk. The milk supply will gradually reduce, and the breasts will return to their original size.
If a mother desires not to feed her baby at all, cannot feed her baby because of disease or drug treatment, or the baby cannot be breastfed because of prematurity or other disease, it may be necessary to suppress milk production.
A firm bra should be worn and nipple stimulation should be avoided. Fluid tablets can assist reducing engorgement, and occasionally oestrogens (as in the contraceptive pill) may be prescribed.
The best medication to stop the production of breast milk is bromocriptine (Parlodel), which will dry up most women’s milk in three or four days, but it must be taken for at least ten days to stop it from recurring. It may cause some nausea in the first few days, but this settles with time.
The traditional method of using cabbage leaves inside the bra probably works because the leaves are cold and reduce the blood supply to the breast and the cabbage taste on the nipples will discourage the baby from suckling.