The Best Time To Stop Breastfeeding
When is the best time to stop breastfeeding your baby? Breast feeding, like carrying your child and giving birth, is a very intimate experience between mother and child. Many people have opinions about when a mother should stop breast feeding. The truth is though, the only one that can tell mum when she needs to stop, is the baby or mum herself.
For every mum and baby it’s different. Some babies may take longer to wean, and some mums will opt to breastfeed longer than others. There really is no magic period or ah-ha moment. That being said there will be signs when both mum and baby, one or the other is ready to stop breastfeeding. Together we’ll take a look at;
- What the experts recommend.
- How to know what is right for you and your baby.
- What are the signs that your baby is ready to stop breastfeeding.
- What are the signs that mum is ready to stop breastfeeding.
- Whose Choice Is It Really?
Experts recommend that a baby is breastfed for at least six months. That’s the minimum amount of time that a baby’s immune system needs to be fortified by the mother’s breast milk. Breast milk also helps to jump start and teaches baby’s digestive system what it should be doing and how to do it well. Some mothers and babies will nurse longer, this is really a personal choice.
As a first time mum, you may not know what the signs are that your baby is ready to stop breastfeeding. We’re going to explore what those signposts are. We’ll also look at when mum is ready to stop, as it may or may not always be a conscious choice on her part. Let’s look at some of the most common indicators that your little one is ready for a bottle or solids.
It goes without saying that not all babies are the same, so while we will be looking at some of the most common indicators, not all babies will display all of them. Some babies will show none of them, and it will be up to mum to decide when she is ready. But as a general rule, most babies will display at least one of these signs.
- One of the most common signs is if the baby is having less frequent nursing sessions without your initiating it. Breast fed babies tend to eat more than bottle fed babies because breast milk is more easily digestible. If your baby is requiring less sessions it may be time to start introducing more solid foods or perhaps a bottle.
- Your child is at least a year old. Bearing in mind that babies will not for the most part self-wean, most pediatricians recommend that if your child hasn’t begun to self-wean by the age of one, mum should initiate.
- When your baby starts to show an interest in what others around them are eating. If your baby starts making begging or feed me motions when other are eating around them.
- If your baby reaches for and or puts solids in their mouths on it’s own, that’s a good indication of readiness to stop breast feeding.
- Certain milestones such as sitting up or holding their heads up on their own, are also indicators of a baby being ready to stop nursing.
- When most or all of baby’s teeth have come in. The sucklingling reflex will be almost completely gone by that time, and will be a good time to begin reducing the number of breastfeeding sessions.
- Once your baby starts moving around on their own, they’ll be less likely to want to sit still for breast feeding and their interest will gradually give way to the need for exploration of their surroundings.
Now that we’ve shown all the ways that baby might be ready to stop breastfeeding, let's examine the ways and whys for mum. Understand that this will be mostly very subjective. If you decide to stop for any reason not listed, that’s quite alright. Whatever your reasons are, they’re valid and no one has the right to tell you otherwise.
Of the many ways that baby can tell you they’re ready to stop breastfeeding, mums can decide for any number of reasons. Not all mothers that decide to stop breastfeeding, stop giving breast milk to their babies. Many pump and freeze for later use. The reasons for stopping are wide ranging and can be anything from physical to psychological. Some of them are;
- Lack of milk production. Some women just don’t produce enough milk right from the outset, or it dries up rather quickly. When this happens, some mothers will have to move to a bottle sooner than they anticipated.
- Mothers who need to return to work quickly after giving birth may opt to stop breastfeeding. This is one of those situations where the mother can either decide to pump her breast milk or move the baby to formula.
- Breastfeeding my become uncomfortable for mum if baby has a large amount of teeth and likes to bite. Many women find themselves unable to handle the physical pain and so will cease to breastfeed.
- Breastfeeding while an intimate bonding experience for mum and baby, can be physically exhausting for mum, if she works full time and has other children and the home to tend to. She just may not be able to do it physically.
- Resentment. This is a valid reason, and believe it or not many women start to experience it. Because breastfed babies eat so much, mum can start to feel a bit like a refrigerator. When this begins to happen, many psychologists do recommend that mums move onto bottled formula or pumping to preserve the mother/child bond.
- You just don’t like breastfeeding. It’s not for everyone, and you may have started because you were told it’s the best start in life for your baby. After a few weeks, you dislike it immensely and decide to stop. This is ok, you can still pump your breast milk and this way dad can enjoy bonding with baby in the same way.
There’s really no right answer to this question. Ultimately you want the best for your baby, and all available science say that breastmilk is better for baby than formula. If you want to and can breastfeed baby, that’s great. If you’re unable to do so from low milk production or you just don’t want to that’s perfectly acceptable as well.
When it comes down to it, mums will do what’s best for their babies. But in order for mum to do that, she has to be able to take care of herself as well. If she’s unable to do that while breastfeeding then they both lose out. If mum starts to resent all the time that she devotes to breastfeeding, that affects the parent child bond, which can be harmful to both.
Like the entire mother child experience, the choice is up to both baby and mother. If mum feels overwhelmed and needs to stop breastfeeding for any reason she should feel free to do so without shame or concern that she’s causing harm to her baby. Just because she can’t nurse, doesn’t mean that baby still can’t get breast milk.
If you’re a new mum searching for the best time to stop breastfeeding or looking for the signs that baby is ready, I hope that this was helpful to you. Remember, there is no prescribed time that is right or wrong, that is completely up to you and your baby. No one can tell you when is the best time to stop breastfeeding.