There is no doubt that mother’s milk is the most useful dish for children of the first year of life. Breast milk saturates the baby and protects them from diseases. But there inevitably comes the moment when the baby grows up. So, when to stop breastfeeding? How to define the right time? And how to make the weaning process natural and painless for the baby?
How to Understand When to Stop Breastfeeding?
Usually, a child is ready to be weaned from the breast when all milk teeth appear. The sucking reflex practically fades away. The number of breast attachments reduces to 2-4 per day. It usually takes 2-3 years. Sometimes breastfeeding has to stop because of a mother’s illness or when a new pregnancy occurs. It is desirable that the completion of breastfeeding occurs as smoothly as possible and does not coincide with other large changes: for example, with moving to a new place or the mother’s return to work.
As for the duration of breastfeeding, experts do not have a common opinion. Some pediatricians believe that after the baby turns one year breastfeeding is unnecessary. Others say that a mother should stop breastfeeding when the baby is at the age of a year and a half. At the same time, supporters of radical views claim that a child can be regularly applied to the breast for as long as he/she wants.
Up to What Age Should I Breastfeed?
The general opinion is the following: up to 4-6 months a child should not receive anything other than mother’s milk. At the age of 9 months and up to a year and a half, when stopping of breastfeeding is quite common, mother’s milk is still very useful for a child. It has protective and anti-infectious properties. The milk includes elements that stimulate the maturation of the brain, as well as enzymes that promote the digestion of food and so on. Children who have been breastfed for a long time are less likely to get sick. They adapt much better to children’s groups and, according to some studies, they have higher intellectual capabilities. Finally, what is very important, the process of breastfeeding itself supports and supplements the physical and psychological contact between a mother and her child.
What’s more, prolonged lactation is useful for women as it reduces the risk of breast cancer.
Breastfeeding After a Year: For or Against?
When to stop breastfeeding – is a personal matter of every mother. We are all different: we have different upbringing, education, profession, age, maternal experience, etc. Some think 6 months is a maximum term, others – a year. There are also mothers who think that breastfeeding can take 2 and more years.
Social environment often has a great influence. Today, many mothers breastfeed for 2 and more years, as they want to give the baby the best to the maximum. Breastfeeding of a newborn does not surprise anyone. But applying to the breast kids who already walk and talk causes sometimes bewilderment and even mockery.
Benefits of Breastfeeding After a Year
- Breastfeeding gives stronger immunity to various diseases. It has been scientifically proven that the amount of secretory immunoglobulin A in breast milk that protects against viruses increases with the age of the child and the reduction in the number of feedings.
- Breastfeeding after a year makes the baby more resistant to allergies.
- According to some studies, there is a relation between the term of weaning and intellectual development of the child. Thus, higher rates of intelligence were observed in children who were breastfed longer.
- Long-term breastfeeding has a positive impact on the social adaptation of children as well as on their behavior. Breastfeeding helps to form in the child a basic trust to the world and people, a sense of security and stability. Such babies are calmer. The psychological connection with mom is closer. Weaning is a serious stress for a child, which affects their mental health and can lead to deviations in behavior in future.
- The studies have shown that the statement “after a year the breast milk loses its useful properties” is fundamentally wrong. As a baby grows, breast milk changes its composition and adapts to the new needs of the growing body. Until the end of the feeding, breast milk helps the normal development of the child’s body. It contains proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, etc. Also, it contains substances that protect the baby from stress and diseases, unique fatty acids regulating the processes of the central nervous system, and so on.
- It has been scientifically proven that women who breastfeed for a long time are significantly less likely to have breast tumor, osteoporosis, and even appendicitis.
- The shape of the breast changes during pregnancy. Of course, breastfeeding does not improve it. But, if the child is fed until self-weaning, the breast, as a rule, practically returns to the form it was in before pregnancy.
The best time for weaning is the period of natural extinction of lactation (involution).
Signs of natural extinction of lactation (involution):
- The age of the baby is not less than 1 year and 3 months. More often it is even later 1.5-2.5 years. An earlier involution is a rare case. It may be caused by another pregnancy and by hormonal disorders. In such a situation a mother needs to consult a physician or breastfeeding consultant.
- After each feeding, you feel like you are “empty”, as if the child pulled all the forces out of you, up to the occurrence of dizziness, nausea, physical fatigue, weakness, drowsiness.
- You feel psychologically tired after feeding. You are afraid of every breastfeeding and want to stop.
- Mom has soreness and tension of the nipples.
- The child can’t get enough of eating. They actively suck one or the other breast in one feeding, trying to stimulate the production of milk.
- Mom easily goes through long breaks in feeding (from 12 hours to a day or more). She doesn’t have an uncontrollable desire to feed the baby. To test whether you are ready to finish breastfeeding, do a little experiment. Leave the baby for half a day or even a full day. If there is no painful filling of the breast with milk, this indicates that you are ready to stop breastfeeding.
- At the time of weaning, the child must be healthy. Do not wean the baby from the breast when the baby is sick. Whether it is an aggravation of allergies, toothache, or anything else.
- Weaning should happen in a quiet period. Any stressful situations, like traveling, the appearance of a nanny, adaptation in a new collective (kindergarten) do not contribute to a successful cessation of breastfeeding.
Additional Signs and Recommendations About When to Stop Breastfeeding
- If milk continues to come in large amounts – this means that your body is not yet ready to stop breastfeeding. Listen to it and do not argue with nature!
- The psychological aspect is also important. You should feel morally ready to finish breastfeeding.
- Try not to provoke the baby. Do not wear clothes that show your chest. If possible, do not sit in the armchair or on the couch where the baby was usually breastfed.
The perfect way would be if mom simply leaves home for 3-7 days. After separation, mom comes back in a new “quality” and says that she no longer has milk. With calm, confident behavior of the mother, the baby stops asking for the breast and forgets about it in about a week later. During separation, another adult (a father, a grandmother), a well-known, familiar person takes care of the child. During this period it is very important to provide the baby with sufficient care.
A sharp cessation of breastfeeding can cause a psychological trauma to the child. It is necessary to gradually reduce the number of feedings, starting with daytime ones. The optimal scheme for stopping breastfeeding will be a reduction of one feeding every other day until one evening or night feeding remains.
The most problematic moment is to teach the child to fall asleep without breast, first in the afternoon, and then at night. Also, it is rather difficult to wean the baby from night feeding. In order to make the weaning process less stressful, come up with a new regular ritual of going to sleep which will replace the attachment to the breast. It can be a bath with relaxing and soothing aromatic oils, a fairy tale for the night, or something else.
For every mother and child, there comes a time when breastfeeding ends. Sometimes it happens in a few days, sometimes – a few years after childbirth.
The decision to stop breastfeeding is usually taken by the mother. In the case of natural weaning, the child stops drinking milk simply because they have already grown. Some children stop drinking milk earlier, others a little later.
Making a decision to stop breastfeeding the baby, the mother should take into consideration not only their age but also their readiness for this. For a healthy child, weaning is easy with a timely and gradual increase of complementary feeding.