What Happens To Your Breasts If You Don't Breastfeed?

What Happens To Your Breasts If You Don’t Breastfeed?

Before you became pregnant and delivered a child, there was a lot you didn’t know about your own body. When you take a closer look, pregnancy, labor, delivery, and breastfeeding are fascinating, even when you’re going through it all. For instance, you may not fully understand what happens to your breasts if you don’t breastfeed.

Your breasts start to produce milk on a supply and demand schedule following delivery. Your milk production will cause breast engorgement, which signals your body to decrease production steadily. That happens steadily if there’s no breastfeeding, pumping, or other stimulation, before eventually ceasing.

The process of milk reabsorption into the body isn’t always straightforward. You may experience severe pain, clogged milk ducts, breast infections like mastitis, or an abscess. In this article, you shall learn what happens to your breasts if you don’t breastfeed.

What Are the Common Reasons for Not Breastfeeding?

If you have run into challenges that make breastfeeding impossible or have reasons not to, you must learn what to expect. Some common issues that may hamper effective lactation include;

  • Physical discomfort nursing or pumping
  • Inadequate milk production
  • Baby refusal to suckle or the loss of your newborn
  • An extended NICU or neonatal intensive care unit stay
  • Prescription medication or birth control
  • Breast glandular dysfunction or hypoplasia
  • Breast augmentation

Besides this, you may experience personal conflicts like a dislike of breastfeeding. You could also have a negative experience with nursing or have been sexually abused. If you are returning to work, school, or need help with infant care, you may not have the chance to lactate your child. As such, your breast isn’t the only avenue of nourishment for your baby due to unavoidable or unexpected challenges.

If you don’t breastfeed or express milk, your supply will dry up usually within seven to ten days. You may want your breasts to cease production quicker since this is the painful approach, but pumping will make it take longer. That means the less stimulation your breasts undergo, the quicker your milk production is drying up.

What Happens To Your Breasts If You Don’t Breastfeed?

If you stop or won’t start breastfeeding, your breasts start eating themselves. When pregnant, hormones produced during pregnancy make epithelial cells that line duct cells to form alveoli. Once there’s nowhere for the milk supply to go, these alveoli self-destruct, and the epithelial cells begin to consume their dead neighbors.

The process is called phagocytosis, where your immune system removes dying or dead cells. That can be accompanied by tissue damage or inflammation pain, but that’s rare when you’ve stopped or haven’t started breastfeeding. A protein called Rac1 acts as a molecular switch, controlling the transformation of breast milk producers into cellular eaters.

Without Rac1, which is also essential for normal milk production, milk and dead cells will flood your breast. Although further research is lacking, that will trigger inflammation and swelling, a role that influences breast cancer.

How to Control Milk Supply and Achieve Decreased Production When You Don’t Breastfeed

Your specific situation will determine whether you breastfeed or not. You can discuss lactation with a healthcare provider or postnatal counselor, but the decision to dry up your milk supply is sorely yours. It’s the approach you take that will influence either a quick solution or one that drags on uncomfortably, painfully, and with some embarrassment thrown in.

Some medications are known to dry up milk supply, and your doctor might suggest that course of action. These include;

Birth Control Pills

While this option requires a prescription, estrogen-containing birth control can help your breasts cease milk production when you’re not breastfeeding, unlike the mini-pill, which contains only progestin and is approved for nursing mums. The medication is a contraceptive, so you’ll not be able to conceive if you plan to do so again soon.


These are drugs used when you have a cold, and their possible side effects decrease breast milk production. By limiting secretions, medicines like pseudoephedrine have restricted milk supply by 24%. While available over the counter, such medication can have serious side effects, and you should consult your doctor before using it to dry up your breasts.

Natural Options for Shutting Down Your Milk Supply

Cultures have used various herbs for centuries to dry up mothers’ milk supply for those who weren’t breastfeeding. These mendicants, while natural, can also have side effects and risks, so it’s important to mention their use to your doctor. They include peppermint and sage, found in health food stores in pills, tinctures, or teas.

What Are the Risks to My Baby When I Don’t Breastfeed?

According to a review paper in the NCBIs obstetrics and gynecology, there are substantial differences in infants whose mothers breastfeed compared to formula feed. There are elevated risks for breastfed babies, including infectious morbidity, childhood obesity, leukemia, diabetes, SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome.

For the mother, failure to breastfeed is linked to premenopausal breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, myocardial infarction, and retained gestational weight. But if you choose or are unable to breastfeed, it’s fine as there are nutritious and safe alternatives that you can use instead of your breast milk.

Despite all that, almost 20% of mothers in the US don’t breastfeed. It’s been shown that some mothers never start, or begin and then stop within the first week. As body organs go, the breast is complicated and doesn’t always work as expected, whether you desire to nurse or not. Successful lactation involves striking an emotional, physical, and personal factor balance, which sometimes proves complex.


Your milk supply will eventually die down; that’s what happens to your breasts if you don’t breastfeed. The stigma attached to not nursing results in non-support and judgment, where mums don’t know what to expect, and it becomes a journey of discovery. During the first few days after delivery, you’ll experience engorgement and leakage. You can wear a tight-fitting bra or breast binder to help manage the engorged milk before there can be a decrease.