When And How To Stop Breastfeeding?

7 min

Breastmilk is the best source of food for your baby from day one. It is the baby’s first food and will be the main source of nourishment for almost a year. But when your baby reaches toddlerhood and has solid foods, you may feel the need to stop breastfeeding.

But how to stop breastfeeding and what is the right time to do so? Here, we tell you how you can help the baby transition from a diet of only breast milk to no breast milk at all.

When Can You Stop Breastfeeding?

There is no such thing as the perfect time to quit breastfeeding. It is better to wait until your baby is at least 12 months old before you stop breastfeeding. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies must be exclusively breastfed until the age of six months.

Even after six months, solid food cannot entirely replace breastmilk. Your baby will still need to breastfeed to better digest the solids. Therefore, you may consider weaning your baby after they complete one year.

When you stop breastfeeding depends on how ready you and the baby are for it and how compelling the reasons for stopping breastfeeding are.

What Are The Reasons For A Mother To Stop Breastfeeding?

The following are the most common reasons why mothers stop breastfeeding:

  1. Baby’s dissatisfaction with milk: The mother feels she is unable to deliver the right quality of milk to her infant, thus leaving the baby discontented.
  2. Insufficient milk: The baby latches to the nipple but ingests inadequate milk due to poor latching or low production of milk.
  3. Breast milk alone is not enough for a baby’s growth: An older infant or a toddler has greater nutritional requirements that are not met by breastmilk alone, thus making a switch to solid food imperative.
  4. Baby lost interest and weaned: The infant likes solid food more and refuses to be breastfed.
  5. Getting back to work and personal life: Mothers who want to return to work or need more time for themselves may want to cut down or even stop breastfeeding.
  6. Mother is ill and on medication: If the mother is sick and on medication, then she may have to suspend breastfeeding.
  7. Baby starts to bite: Older infants and toddlers tend to bite the nipples during breastfeeding. Constant nipping at the breast can make the nipples sore and breastfeeding sessions more painful than maternally satisfying.
  8. Breastfeeding becomes tiring and painful: Breastfeeding can be physically taxing on the mother. New mothers often deal with engorged breasts and mastitis, which is an infection of the milk ducts. A mother may consider stopping breastfeeding to prevent the transfer of pathogens to her baby and also to ease the pain in her breasts.

If the baby is too young to be off breastmilk, seek medical and familial support to continue breastfeeding. But if ceasing breastfeeding is the only way to go, you should follow a gradual process to reduce the baby’s dependency on breastmilk.

How To Stop Breastfeeding?

To stop breastfeeding:

1. Replace breastmilk with formula

  • Your baby is more likely to accept formula than solid foods as a replacement for breastmilk. The formula tastes closest to breast milk, so your baby is not likely to miss breastfeeding.
  • Replace one breastfeeding session every day with a feed of formula. If you have six breastfeeding sessions in a day, then reduce it to five and replace one with formula. The next week reduce breastfeeding to four times a day and increase formula feeding to twice daily.
  • Replace the desired number of breastfeeding sessions with formula and leave time slots for solid food as well.
  • A formula is also an ideal replacement for feeding in the middle of the night. It can be particularly helpful when you intend to stop breastfeeding at night.

2. Leverage the baby’s interest in solid food

  • Babies develop a keen interest in solid food after six months. The interest almost peaks at 12 months, when a baby can have different varieties of foods, including cow’s milk.
  • Use baby-led weaning to your advantage. When the baby is hungry, give them solid food instead of breastmilk.
  • Serve milk-based porridge and cereals that the baby can get used to faster.
  • Solid foods can provide the protein and micronutrients that a growing baby needs.

3. Replace comfort feeds with activity

  • Sometimes, breastfeeding is more of a comfort than a solution to hunger. Cut down on such breastfeeding sessions and see if the baby notices.
  • If your baby does not seem to be bothered with fewer breastfeeding sessions, continue with them.
  • If your baby tends to get fussy and demands to be breastfed even after a solid meal, then distract them with play or an activity such as reading a book.
  • Engaging the baby in other activities helps reduce the baby’s dependency on breastfeeding.

4. Give a pacifier at night

  • Does your baby suckle? If yes, it could probably be the baby’s sucking reflex and not hunger. In such a case, you can consider using a pacifier.
  • Pacifiers comfort the baby and make them less dependent on breastfeeding for comfort. Pacifiers can be safely used every night and also reduce the chances of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  • Use a one-piece pacifier that is considered safe for infants.
  • Pacifiers should not be used as replacements for regular feeds. They should be used only if the baby likes to suckle to sleep at night.

5. Let formula or solids be the first choice of food

  • The next time your baby is hungry, prefer formula or solid food to breastfeeding.
  • Use baby food to deal with the baby’s hunger when you are outdoors. That way, they will soon associate formula and solid food with hunger and depend less on breastmilk.

The key is to balance the baby’s diet with solids and formula and discontinue breastfeeding completely. But that will not happen overnight.

How Long Does A Baby Take To Stop Breastfeeding?

An infant may take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months to stop breastfeeding. Conscious effort to replace breastmilk with alternatives while observing your baby’s reaction to the change and following your maternal instincts can help you stop breastfeeding progressively.

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