When to Stop Breastfeeding: Is There a Right Time?

Breastfeeding – When is it Necessary to Stop?
Breastfeeding – When is it Necessary to Stop?

It is considered that a child is usually ready for weaning when all the teeth have appeared, the sucking reflex is almost extinguished, and the number of attachment to the breast reduces to 2-4 per day, which usually happens by 2-3 years old.

Sometimes it is necessary to stop breastfeeding because of mother’s illness, or if the other pregnancy occurs. It is advisable to stop breastfeeding as smoothly as possible and the weaning shouldn’t coincide with the other big change: for example, with the beginning of mother’s work or move.

When to stop breastfeeding?

Many pediatricians in both Russia and USA believe that the child should be breastfed as long as it does not refuse the breast milk, which happens usually by the end of the third year of life. WHO recommends to breastfeed up to two years and continue feeding further, if mother and baby want to. Statistics is often cited in support of this point: children, who are breastfed more than average, tend to have better health and show a higher intelligence. It should be noted that long-term lactating is benefit for the mothers – it reduces the risk of breast cancer. So the question

The milk becomes useless in a year

mother and children

There is incorrect opinion that after a year of feeding breast milk loses its unique properties. Numerous studies have shown that in the second and in the third year of lactation, it continues to contain all the necessary proteins for the baby, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals, bioactive substances and much more, which stimulates brain development and provides the child with everything necessary to save health and active growth.

Read more myths on breastfeeding: Breastfeeding – Don’t Believe the Rumors!

Is your child ready for weaning?

Making a decision about when to stop breastfeeding, mom should be guided not only by baby’s age, but by the willingness to do it.

when to stop breastfeedingIf the baby is attached to the breast every time preparing for the night or day sleep or just after waking up, wakes up several times a night to eat the mother’s milk, finishes every complementary foods with breastfeeding and can’t calm down without sucking – it means that a child isn’t yet ready that you wean it from breastfeeding. If the mother is tired of the endless attachments, a reasonable limitation on the number of feedings can help in this situation, as well as mother’s periodic absences at home, but not a complete ending of breastfeeding. The more a child is attached during the day, the more stress an abrupt weaning will bring.

In addition, a cessation of breastfeeding does not eliminate a core of the problem: teaching a child to calm down easily or fall asleep by itself. It will be more difficult for child to learn new skills because of stress connected with abrupt cessation of breastfeeding.

Therefore, it’s would be better to wait until the child has all the baby teeth, he stops to pee at night and begin to be applied to the breast a few times a day for the most careful completion of breast period.

How to wean a baby?

It is good if weaning occurs gradually and with love. You should start with organizing the attachments during the day. The introduction of rules and rituals will help. For example, “Mother will breastfeed you after she finishes cooking the soup,” or “You are big enough; do not ask for the breast on the street.” The main thing is to remember that flexibility and gradualism are important in any learning process, and parental authority does not suffer if deviate from restrictions a couple of times.

mom and her childWhen the child starts to be applied to the breast only when lying down and waking, you can proceed to the next step. You need to teach your child “waking up completely” without breast: if the mother woke up long ago and preparing breakfast, a baby will be distracted easily of the desire to suck, than if the mother is beside him, trying desperately to “sleep” the last 5 minutes.

The last and the most difficult step is to accustom the child to fall asleep without the breast. If the child older than two years started learning to fall asleep without breast before the daytime napping, then it is likely that the baby will simply cease to sleep during the day, while experts recommend to keep the afternoon rest until at least 5-6 years. So it is better to start practicing laying “like an adult” during the preparation for the night sleep, and then, when the skill will be formed, you can applying remove from day sleeping too.

To start sending your child to sleep without the breast, the sucking should be only one part of the ritual of preparation to sleep, not the only part of it. Bath, massage, reading of fairytale, lullaby, and tight embrace – sleep ritual of laying should be large, it will be much easier to manage without breastfeeding, switching the baby’s attention to the other activities. First, you can negotiate with your child and reduce the time of sucking, for example, do not let the baby suck to completely falling asleep, but for 1-2 minutes and then let the baby fall asleep in mother’s embrace. After a while, the child is  applied only symbolically, and then completely stops asking for the breast. Night breastfeeding is the latest to stop. It usually happens when the child has all primary teeth, and it will cease to wake up at night to go to the potty.

When it’s better not to stop breastfeeding?

If a child is sick, especially when it suffers from acute intestinal disorders, it’s better to wait with the cessation of breastfeeding. We shouldn’t stop it in the hot summer weather and immediately after the preventive vaccination. Contraindications for weaning can be the beginning of new stages in the child’s life (potty training, first visit of the nurse, etc.).

Undesirable methods of weaning are separation with the mother and anointing of the breast with something bitter; because they lead to excessive stress for the child and force it adapt to change abruptly rather than gradually. In addition, the sharp weaning can lead to mother’s lactostasis and even mastitis.

In case you need to wean your baby urgently

when to stop breastfeedingIt is necessary to stop lactation in some severe situations, such as long-term separation of mother and child, mother’s disease requiring prolonged treatment that is incompatible with the breastfeeding. In case of the overflow it’s recommended to decant a breast until you feel relief (not completely), to drink herbs that reduce lactation (for ex., sage), to avoid lactostasis and mastitis. It’s forbidden to tighten the breast, as this increases the breast’s injury risk and its infection, but does not reduce the amount of produced milk. In any case, it is better to avoid the use of hormonal drugs suppressing lactation (parlodel, bromocriptine), as they damage to mother’s organism and can cause complications such as reduced visual acuity, allergic reactions, cramps in the calf muscles; as well as lowering blood pressure up to collapse (pressure drop, life threatening) and many others.


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  1. 1

    Nice one, please keep on the good work and kindly look into African myth and practice as regards breastfeeding and deal with it please.


  2. 2

    Hi! We’re currently preparing an article about cultural pecularities in breastfeeding. If you have an opinion on the issue – feel free to share. Thank you, Bemshima

  3. 3

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