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Stopping breastfeeding

Should I stop breastfeeding now?

It’s up to you to decide when you want to stop breastfeeding, but research shows that many mums wish they’d breastfed for longer than they did. The World Health Organisation recommend mothers exclusively breastfeed for 6 months and continue to breastfeed alongside weaning for up to a year and beyond. Consider talking to a Breastfeeding Peer Support Worker about any issues or problems you are having before stopping breastfeeding. Sometimes others will tell you that you what you should and shouldn’t be doing when you are breastfeeding but check it out first as there are many myths around. Symptoms of colic and reflux are likely to be worse in formula fed babies and baby won’t be receiving the many benefits that breast milk provides.

Are there any other options rather than completely stopping breastfeeding?

  • Continuing to breastfeed and combining this with expressing breastmilk for your baby.
  • Partial weaning.
  • Gradual weaning so that there is the opportunity to increase breastfeeding again.
  • Exploring related issues, for example, positioning and attachment difficulties which may be causing soreness or sleep issues or routines. You could discuss these with a Breastfeeding Peer Support Worker or Health Visitor.
  • Consider whether you are thinking of weaning because of pressure from others.

What do I replace breastfeeding with?

You can offer a cup rather than a bottle in a baby over 5 – 6 months. It is recommended by dentists that babies should not have bottles after they are 12 months old.

Babies under 12 months should not be given ordinary cow’s milk as a drink so they will need either expressed breast milk, or infant formula if weaned from the breast, or a combination. Have a look at the Unicef Baby Friendly leaflet ‘Guide for Parents who Formula Feed’. Once they are over six months, they could have breast milk or infant formula or a combination of the two, alongside solid food. Babies and toddlers over 12 months can be given full fat cow’s milk.

How can I encourage weaning from the breast?

  • One strategy is ‘Don’t offer, don’t refuse’.
  • Avoid sitting in the chair or position where you usually feed your baby.
  • Avoid weaning at times of change if possible, for example moving house or holidays.
  • Give plenty of cuddles generally. With an older baby or toddler, avoid clothing that makes access to breast feeding very easy.
  • Think about which feeds you and your baby enjoy most and reduce breastfeeding at a different time of day first.
  • Distract your baby or toddler with other activities at the times they usually nurse, for example a toy or a trip to the park.
  • You could try shortening feeds gradually.

You may find you need to spend some time developing a new bedtime routine. If your older baby or toddler currently feeds to sleep before naps and bedtime, try to leave them a little awake and make new associations with the final process of falling asleep—perhaps a cuddly toy, a song, or a key phrase. Then gradually lengthen the time between the breastfeed and sleeping time until it becomes dropped from the routine entirely.

Due to the effect on dental health of other milks and bottlefeeding, it’s recommended that you do not replace a breastfeed with a final bottle before sleep. –

How do I stop breastfeeding?

If you make the decision to stop breastfeeding then ensure you reduce the amount of breastfeeds gradually to prevent your breasts becoming engorged. Contact your Breastfeeding Peer Support Worker for information and support.

Time away from baby

There may be times when you need to leave your baby with family or friends. The best plan is to be organised a few days before by expressing enough breast milk for a feed. See our section on Expressing breast milk

Alcohol and breastfeeding

Recommendations from the Breast Feeding Network can be found here