When I was ready to wean from breastfeeding, I started researching essential oils to dry up my milk supply. I found several essential oils that some moms used to reduce milk supply. The essential oils I found were:
- Lemon balm
In my research, I found that a few of these oils are actually not recommended for use by breastfeeding moms and others are considered to be safe. I preferred to go the more natural route to reduce my milk supply. Essential oils and herbs seemed like they would be a good option for me.
So, how do you use essential oils to decrease your milk supply?
- Dilute a high-quality essential oil with a carrier oil. Try peppermint or lemon balm diluted to 1% in jojoba oil.
- Apply with a roller on a small area of skin to test.
- After testing, apply to the soles of your feet once or twice a day.
- Wear socks so the oils do not come in contact with your child.
I found that there were several oils in addition to peppermint and lemon balm that may work to help reduce my milk supply. Each of the oils had their own properties to reduce milk. I also found out some important ways to safely use these essential oils. Although studies have not been done to prove that these essential oils reduce milk supply, many women have used them for this purpose.
This is not intended as medical advice. Before starting to use any essential oils to reduce milk supply, be sure to consult with your doctor.
Using Essential Oils To Decrease Milk Supply
When you are starting to decrease your milk supply with essential oils, the first thing you will need to do is decide which essential oil to use. One oil that you might want to start with is lemon balm oil. Another essential oil that is common to start with is peppermint oil.
The next thing you will need to decide on is which carrier oil to use. A carrier oil is important because you will need to dilute the essential oil. The carrier oil also makes it easier for your skin to absorb the benefits from the essential oil without irritating your skin. Some of the carrier oils that I like to use are jojoba oil, avocado oil, and almond oil. I find that these oils absorb well into my skin.
The next step is to dilute the essential oil to a potency of 1%. To do this, you will want to mix 3 drops of essential oil with 2 teaspoons of carrier oil. This mixture will fit In a 10-milliliter bottle. Store the mixture in a roller so it is easy to apply on your skin.
Test the mixture on the small part of your skin. You can do this by rolling a small amount on the inside of your elbow. wait a few hours and make sure that you do not have a reaction to the essential oil. You want to make sure that your skin is not irritated and you do not have a rash after applying the oil.
If you have passed the skin test, now you may be ready to start using the essential oils to help reduce milk supply. Roll a diluted mixture onto the soles of your feet once or twice a day. One thing to try is to apply the essential oil before bed. Also, wear socks and have one or two layers between your skin and your child. This is so you can prevent exposing your child to the oil.
Peppermint and Spearmint Oils To Decrease Milk Supply
There have not been any large studies that prove that peppermint or spearmint reduce milk supply. However, anecdotally many moms have noticed that their milk supply has dropped after they use peppermint oil.
The main component of peppermint oil is menthol. Menthol is in much more highly concentrated in peppermint than it is in spearmint. Menthol is concentrated at 40.7% in peppermint compared to 0.5% in spearmint. Because of the high concentration of menthol, it is more likely that peppermint may reduce milk supply than spearmint.
If you are breastfeeding and using peppermint oil, it is recommended to use peppermint oil after nursing or pumping. Be sure to wipe off the peppermint oil before the next nursing or pumping session to avoid transferring it to your baby.
“Peppermint is “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) as a food by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Large doses can cause heartburn, nausea and vomiting. Allergic reactions, including headache, have been reported to menthol. If peppermint is used on the nipples, it should be used after nursing and wiped off before the next nursing.” – LactMed database from the NIH, US National Library of Medicine
One mom that I spoke with mentioned that peppermint reduced her milk supply when she used it for a headache. She was trying to get relief from a migraine and used the oil on her head. After the migraine went away, she stopped using peppermint oil. She was not trying to wean at that point, and her milk supply came back once she stopped using the oil.
Some women have used peppermint tea or strong mints that include peppermint and spearmint to decrease their milk supply. Strong menthol cough drops may also reduce milk supply. Peppermint oil may also be found in peppermint mocha coffee drinks that are popular around the holidays.
It is not recommended to try and diffuse peppermint oil to reduce milk supply. This is because they can irritate the lungs of young children and babies. If you are interested in diffusing oils, it is best not to diffuse the oils around your children.
Produce Less Milk Using Lemon Balm Oil
Lemon Balm Oil is another essential oil which may help to reduce milk supply. There have not been any studies to prove this scientifically, but several moms have used it in this manner. Lemon balm is in the mint family, and it is similar to peppermint and spearmint. Lemon balm is also a common ingredient in peppermint tea.
Lemon balm oil is likely to be safe when it is used topically by a mother according to the NCBI LactMed database.
“No data exist on the excretion of any components of lemon balm into breast milk or on the safety and efficacy of lemon balm in nursing mothers or infants. However, it has been safely and effectively used with other herbs in infants for the treatment of colic, diarrhea, and other conditions, so the smaller amounts expected (but not demonstrated) in breastmilk are likely not to be harmful with usual maternal doses” – LactMed database from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)
The LactMed database indicates that a mother who eats lemon balm dried leaves is unlikely to cause harm by passing the herb through breast milk. Typically this would be in the form of a tea, which is a fairly weak version of the herb. Lemon balm essential oil should not be ingested. This is because it would be a much higher concentrated dose than the “usual maternal doses” considered to be not harmful by LactMed.
Essential oils are more concentrated forms of herbs. When using them, it is best to stay on the safe side and apply them topically. Keep lemon balm oil away from your infant when applying it, even when it is diluted in a carrier oil. It is a good idea to apply the essential oil to an area where it will not come in contact with your child’s skin, like on the soles of your feet. Wear socks and be sure to wipe away the diluted lemon balm oil to avoid exposing your child to it.
Sage Oil To Reduce Milk Supply – Not Recommended
I had heard about sage tea being used to reduce milk supply, so I decided to research if sage oil has been used to reduce milk supply. Based on information from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it is not a good idea to use sage oil to reduce milk supply. Sage oil should not be ingested orally, and the NIH has classified it as a toxin.
“Sage is generally recognized as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and is approved for food use as a spice or seasoning. However, some species of sage contain thujone, which can affect the nervous system. Extended use or taking large amounts of sage leaf or oil may result in restlessness, vomiting, vertigo, rapid heart rate, tremors, seizures, and kidney damage. Twelve drops or more of the essential oil is considered a toxic dose.” – National Center For Complementary and Integrative Health (NIH)
Sage tea is different from sage essential oil because it is a less concentrated form of the dried tea leaves. Some moms who have used sage tea to reduce their milk supply were unable to get their milk supply back. If a mom is interested in using sage tea, then it may be best to use sage tea when she is completely sure she is ready to wean. If sage is used to reduce an oversupply of milk, then it is possible that milk supply may dip permanently.
Reducing Milk Supply with Oregano and Thyme Essential Oils – Not Recommended
Oregano and thyme are also part of the same mint family that peppermint belongs to. This may be why they have been used to attempt to reduce milk supply.
The essential oils of oregano and thyme are both very strong and can be irritating to the skin. For this reason, I would not use these two oils to attempt to reduce milk supply. It may be better to choose another essential oil that is less irritating to the skin, such as peppermint or lemon balm essential oils.
When I searched in the LactMed database, I found that breastfeeding moms should avoid oregano essential oil. This is because the essential oil is a much more highly concentrated version of the spice.
“Oregano and oregano oil are “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) as food ingredients by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Oregano is generally well tolerated, but gastrointestinal upset and allergic skin reactions have been reported rarely. Because of a lack of data, oregano in amounts higher than those found in foods as a flavoring should probably be avoided during breastfeeding.” – LactMed database from the NIH, US National Library of Medicine
Jasmine Flowers and Jasmine Essential Oil To Decrease Milk Supply
Jasmine flowers have traditionally been used to reduce milk supply. One study showed that jasmine flowers reduced prolactin levels. They also reduced engorgement and milk production when they were applied while mothers were in the process of weaning.
“Jasmine flowers seem to be an effective and inexpensive method of suppressing lactation.” – National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NCBI PubMed database)
Jasmine essential oil itself has not been studied to reduce milk supply. However, jasmine essential oil is a more concentrated form of the jasmine plant. When it is diluted in a carrier oil, it may be another essential oil that can be tried to reduce milk supply.
Cabbage Oil and Parsley Oils to Decrease Milk Supply
Cabbage is another common food that is used to decrease milk supply. It works better when applied topically as opposed to when it is eaten. Cabbage is high in antioxidants and may help to control inflammation. This may be why it is a common remedy for engorgement.
Parsley has also been used to reduce milk supply. Some mothers have noticed when they eat a dish with a lot of parsley, such a tabouleh, their milk supply decreases. This advice has not been scientifically proved even though mothers have experienced a reduction in milk supply.
“Oral capsules containing sage and parsley are said to decrease milk flow; however, no scientifically valid clinical trials support this use.” – LactMed database, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine
Cabbage and parsley are both herbs that can both be made into an oil, diluted in a carrier oil, and applied to the skin.
Safely Reduce Milk Supply With Essential Oils
Essential oils are considered supplements by the FDA. Because of this, they have not been fully tested for their safety. It is important to discuss the use of essential oils with your doctor, especially if you would like to continue nursing and you are not fully weaning.
The two best essential oils for reducing milk supply are peppermint oil and lemon balm oil. These two oils appear to be the most effective and safest of the essential oils. Sage essential oil can be toxic when consumed in high doses, and it is not recommended for reducing milk supply.
Essential oils have not been tested for their safety around children. Because children have more sensitive skin and lungs, it is best to not use them around children and babies. If you are interested in using essential oils to reduce your milk supply, make sure that your children do not come in contact with the essential oils.
It is generally considered less safe to ingest an essential oil and safer to dilute the essential oil and apply the oil topically. When you are applying the oil topically, it is best to ensure that the oil does not come in contact with your baby. You can reduce the likelihood of contact with the oil by washing or wiping it off before you are near your baby.
There are several reasons why a mother may be interested in decreasing your milk supply. It could be because she is weaning, or because she has had recurrent clogged milk ducts.
I struggled with clogged ducts while I was breastfeeding and pumping. To read more about preventing and treating clogged ducts, check out this article I wrote with over 20 of my best tips to treat clogged ducts.
- Find your perfect pump bag – Sarah Wells Vs. JuJuBe Pump Bags (Best Stylish Pump Bags)
- All my best tips for pumping milk – 17 Best Pumping Tips for Beginners
- Watch out for these side effects you may experience when eating lactation cookies – 7 Terrible Side Effects From Eating Lactation Cookies
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Schmidt, E.; Bail, S.; Buchbauer, G.; Stoilova, I.; Atanasova, T.; Stoyanova, A.; Krastanov, A.; Jirovetz, L. (2009). “Chemical composition, olfactory evaluation and antioxidant effects of essential oil from Mentha x piperita”. Natural Product Communications. 4 (8): 1107–1112