Stopping of breastfeeding is always a great event for a mother and her child and for the family in general. Sooner or later, every nursing mother faces the question “How to stop breastfeeding?” Sometimes it happens in a few days after childbirth, sometimes – after a few years.
Common Reasons for Stopping Breastfeeding:
- Lack of breast milk (according to a mother’s opinion).
- Various difficulties connected with breastfeeding.
- A woman has to go to work and doesn’t know how to combine breastfeeding and her job.
- Lack of assistance and support (physical or psychological) that a nursing mother needs.
- Recommendation of doctors and other professionals.
- A woman has no way of obtaining the necessary knowledge and skills of breastfeeding in her surroundings.
- Personal reasons: a mother does not want to breastfeed.
- Intake of medications not compatible with breastfeeding.
When Is the Right Time to Stop Breastfeeding?
As for the duration of breastfeeding, experts do not have a common opinion. Some pediatricians believe that after a baby turns one breastfeeding is unnecessary. Others say that a mother should stop breastfeeding when her 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 breastfed for as long as he/she wants.
The general opinion is that up to 4-6 months a child should not receive anything other than mother’s milk. Stopping of breastfeeding is quite common at the age of 9 months and up to a year and a half. Mother’s milk at this age is still very useful for a child. It has protective and anti-infectious properties. The milk contains elements that stimulate the maturation of the brain. What’s more, it has 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 in groups much better as well. Also, 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.
How to Determine the Child’s Readiness for Weaning?
Making a decision to stop breastfeeding the baby, the mother should take into consideration not only the baby’s age. She also has to think about the baby’s readiness for this. For a healthy child weaning is easy with a timely and gradual increase of complementary feeding.
But if the baby is breastfed every time before the night or daytime sleep or immediately after awakening, wakes up several times at night for some sustenance, finishes each supplemental feeding with breastfeeding, and cannot calm down without sucking it means that they’re not ready yet for weaning. If the mother is tired of endless breastfeeding attachments, then a reasonable limitation of the number of feedings rather than the complete weaning can help. The more times a mother breastfeeds the baby during a day, the greater stress for them will be the sudden stop of breastfeeding.
In addition, stop of breastfeeding does not relieve parents of responsibility for teaching their child to calm down easily or to fall asleep on their own. Though because of the stress due to a sharp stopping of breastfeeding it will be more difficult for a baby to learn new skills.
Therefore, for the most cautious completion of the breastfeeding period, you’d better wait for your child to finish teething and ask for the breast only a few times a day.
How to Stop Breastfeeding?
The best way to stop breastfeeding is doing it gradually, with love and care.
Lactation is a process which involves a whole complex of hormones. They affect not only the production of milk but also the physical well-being and mood of a woman. Smooth stop of breastfeeding helps the mother’s body to adapt to the changes in the hormonal background. Also, it helps the child to get used to the new way of eating.
The Time Required for Stopping Breastfeeding Depends on the Amount of Milk
On average, the completion of active lactation requires 2-3 weeks. The gradual decrease in the number of breast milk feedings and the lack of night feedings help to reduce the amount of milk. If a child stops sucking the breast in one day, then a woman can pump out the breast milk until she feels relief. It is important not to empty the breast completely. The remaining milk gives your body a signal that it is necessary to reduce lactation. Special substances (lactation inhibitors) are activated if milk remains in the breast.
If the daily amount of pumped out milk is equal to 10 oz. or less it is enough to continue pumping out only during the day (every 3-4 hours). Then it makes sense to gradually reduce the amount of pumped out milk (by an ounce every 2-3 days). After that pump out the breast milk only if there is a need until you feel relieved.
If a woman pumps out more than 10 oz. of milk a day this pace remains during the first 7-10 days. Every 2-3 days the amount of pumped out milk should be reduced by an ounce per day. First, a woman should stop nightly pumping sessions so that she could fully rest and reduce the amount of milk. The hormone prolactin is especially active between 5 and 8 am. When the amount of milk is reduced to 10 oz. you can follow the recommendations above.
Since you’ve started weaning, keep eating and drinking the usual amount of food and liquids. The lack of liquid can cause swelling of breast tissue as well as decreased milk outflow and a higher risk of lactostasis.
Breast discomfort can be removed with the help of cold compresses (cabbage leaf or ice in a towel), warm showers, gentle breast massage, etc.
The use of medications to suppress lactation has a number of side effects: nausea, vomiting, headaches, dizziness, low blood pressure, stroke, heart attack. In a number of countries, their use is not recommended. So, one must be very careful with them.
Also, remember that if you apply pressure to your breast the milk can appear for 3 more months after the lactation is over.