Health Information and Tools > Patient Care Handouts >  Postpartum Breast Care When You Don't Plan to Breastfeed: Care Instructions
Facebook Tweet Share

Main Content

Postpartum Breast Care When You Don't Plan to Breastfeed: Care Instructions


Your breasts will start to make milk in the first couple of days after you give birth. This happens even if you don't breastfeed. You may have some milk leak from your breasts, and your breasts may feel sore and swollen. This is called engorgement. It usually gets better after several days.

Over time, your body will stop making milk if you don't breastfeed or pump. This can take up to several weeks.

You can take steps at home to decrease your discomfort and help your breasts stop making milk.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Don't pump or remove milk from your breasts by hand.
  • Wear a bra that fits well and provides good support. You may find that it helps to wear a bra even while you sleep.
  • Apply a cold pack to your breasts for 15 minutes at a time every hour as needed. You can use a frozen wet towel, a cold pack, or a bag of frozen vegetables. To prevent damage to your skin, put a thin cloth between the cold pack and your skin.
  • Take ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) to reduce pain and swelling. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor , midwife, or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have symptoms of a breast infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, redness, or warmth around a breast.
    • Red streaks leading from your breast.
    • Pus draining from your breast.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor , midwife, or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter B385 in the search box to learn more about "Postpartum Breast Care When You Don't Plan to Breastfeed: Care Instructions".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.