How to Stop Breastfeeding - When is the Right Time?by Your Baby Club
When you want to stop breastfeeding your baby, is totally up to you and your baby. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends babies, where possible, are breastfed for at least the first 6 months of their life, but you can carry on until they’re around 24 months or longer. It protects them from infections and helps to digest their first weaning foods.
Breast milk continues to provide the perfect balance of nutrients and goodness your baby requires. It can help them settle better at night and increases the bond between mother and baby up to 6-months old when weaning needs to start. This is to be alongside breastfeeding or formula, to ensure your baby gets the most nutrients possible to make up their daily requirements.
Common Reasons to Stop:
- You just want to.
- Sore or painful breasts.
- Low milk supply.
- Lifestyle changes (e.g., going back to work).
- Going on holiday.
- Change in childcare situation.
- Illness or medications that can affect milk.
The 'National Breastfeeding Helpline' can help you if you’re unsure of when to stop. You can call them on 0300 100 0212 (every day, 9.30 am to 9.30 pm).
There's no correct way or foolproof method to stop breastfeeding. Stopping breastfeeding should happen gradually, rather than going cold turkey and can take a few weeks or months to stop completely while your baby begins replacing feeds with solid foods.
How to Stop
Babies don't just breastfeed for food, but for comfort too. Phasing out your feeds gently will allow baby time to get used to the idea and will also prevent your breasts from being engorged, as well as prevent mastitis.
Drop 1 feed at a time. It doesn’t matter which you drop first, so it's whatever fits in best with you whether that’s your night feed or dinner that’s swapped. Many mothers prefer to keep the night feeds until last, as the tryptophan in breastmilk (that turns into melatonin) makes them sleepy and helps them settle.
Once you’ve dropped one, you can then start thinking about dropping another and another until you’ve stopped altogether.
Some women choose to transition to formula or alternate/combine both breast and formula feeding at this point. If combining, wait until you've fully established your milk supply. The reduction in feeds may prevent your milk from coming in. If you wish to transition, you can start by combining, or alternating bottle and breastfeeds. This again can be done over time and any changes in your baby’s weight should be noted. When replacing breastfeeding with traditional or baby-led weaning, you can replace their feeds with wholesome meals filled with nutrients, carbohydrates, rich proteins, and fats.
Starting Again After Stopping
Stopping breastfeeding doesn't have to be permanent. Starting again can take a lot of time however and regaining the same level of milk supply can be hard. How well-established your milk supply was already, can determine your success in bringing it back once you've stopped.
To Start Again
Stimulate your breasts the way you would if hand-expressing (covered earlier in the book) and offer your breast to your baby regularly. This will encourage your body to start making milk again. Regular skin-to-skin contact can also promote milk production too.
Whichever way you choose to stop, start, or transition away from breastfeeding, if you run into any issues or aren’t sure about the whole process, or your baby just doesn’t want to give up the boob, talk to your health visitor or a lactation consultant as they can offer further advice and help guide you along this journey.