When to Stop Breastfeeding?
To wean from breastfeeding or not to wean? If you are torn by this question and you aren’t sure if and when to stop breastfeeding, here’s a list of the pros and cons of continuing to breastfeed.
Let’s start with the pros:
- Breast milk has a perfect balance of nutrients (with disease fighting antibodies, hormones and enzymes that promote growth and development that offers protection against some diseases and allergies) and is easy to digest. Simply put, it’s the perfect food for baby.
- Should you decide to bottle-feed, formula is nowhere near as good as breast milk, and oftentimes, nutritional value depends on proper preparation.
- The infant’s appetite is self-regulating. If baby stops breastfeeding, you know he’s already full… You don’t have to worry that he’ll be bloated or obese since breast milk is easily digested and perfectly formulated.
- Babies who were breastfed for at least 6 months are protected from certain diseases and infections in the early stages of life compared to formula-fed kids.
- A mother doesn’t have to buy plastic/glass bottles or nipples. No bottles and teats to wash and sterilize.
- No need to worry about the temperature of breast milk – it’s always perfect.
- The milk is readily available as long as the mother is too. No need to mix and prepare; no bottle to cool or warm.
- Economical. Breast milk is free. So the money you should use for milk can be used for other things like diapers.
- Formula milk is expensive.
- The best part about breastfeeding: It cements a unique bond that only a mother and a child can have.
And here are the cons:
- While breast milk is free, moms may still need to spend on things like nursing pads or nursing bras, breast pumps and such to support breastfeeding.
- Breastfeeding doesn’t give everyone in the family the opportunity to feed the baby.
- If you’re taking medications, then you cannot breastfeed as you might inadvertently transfer the drug (and its effect) to your baby.
- Breastfeeding is very demanding on the mom’s schedule. She needs to be with baby all the time. This is taxing if mom has to keep a job or has other children to look after.
- Moms who are not comfortable breastfeeding in public are unable to go out of the house.
- Breastfeeding can be painful for the mom. There are many hurdles to overcome – improper latching, teething, round the clock feedings, etc.
Breastfeeding is a wonderful experience for as long as mom is able to breastfeed wholeheartedly. If you do decide to stop breastfeeding, you shouldn’t be judged as being a bad mom for doing so. The decision is a personal one between you and your baby. After all, there is more to being a mom than just providing for your baby’s food. When you do decide to stop breastfeeding, be sure to consult your doctor as to the proper formula and diet your baby needs.
How To Stop Breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding, as we know, is beneficial to a baby. Colostrum (or first milk from the mother) is a low-fat, high-protein milk that is essential to baby’s well-being and helps to fight off infections. Breast milk is not only full of the essential proteins, fats, vitamins and carbohydrates that a baby needs to thrive, but it also reduces later health risks like asthma, diabetes and obesity. The act of breastfeeding creates a unique emotional bond between mother and child – no other activity known to man can replace it.
With these overwhelming benefits, it’s no surprise that moms are encouraged to breastfeed their baby for as long as they can. However, there are cases where moms are unable to breastfeed or breastfeed for as long as they want to. We’ll explore some of the reasons why some moms choose to wean from breastfeeding.
This is a common complaint among moms, especially the first time moms. Proper latching can be tricky to learn. When the baby is unable to latch properly, breastfeeding becomes painful and the nipples become sore. Some mothers reach the point of soreness where cuts and bruises actually appear near or on the areola.
Awkwardness/Baby not latching on properly.
A new mom may have some difficulty breastfeeding her baby during the first few days of the baby’s life. Seeing that the baby is so tiny and delicate, new moms are unsure how to hold them properly or how to position the baby comfortably for breastfeeding. What happens next is baby becomes really hungry, squalling and red as a beet – which makes it even harder to achieve proper latching.
Baby isn’t getting enough milk.
Some moms feel that their milk production isn’t enough for a baby’s whole feeding. This is especially true during the first few days of breastfeeding as the body builds its milk supply.
Baby starts teething.
When babies start cutting teeth, they sooth themselves by chewing on the breast during feedings. This can be painful for the mother and is one of the reasons why some women decide to stop breastfeeding.
I have to go back to work.
Working moms decide to wean breastfeeding babies before they return to work. They do so to avert the confusion and anxiety on the part of the baby of suddenly stopping breastfeeding.
I’m pregnant – again.
Some mothers choose to stop breastfeeding when they find out they are pregnant with another baby.
Some moms are diagnosed with breast cancer or a sexually-transmitted disease. To protect the baby from contracting the same illness, moms have no choice but to stop breastfeeding. Alcohol and/or drug addictions are included in this category as well. If the mother smokes, she can’t breastfeed safely, as the nicotine can be passed on to the baby.
Losing the baby.
Moms who lost their baby want to stop lactation as early as possible. Understandable, as iit’s a painful reminder of their loss.
Baby is “too old” to breastfeed.
While the benefits of breast milk continue for as long as the baby nurses, some women are uncomfortable breastfeeding a baby beyond a certain age.
Baby is ready to wean from breastfeeding.
There comes a time when your baby is old enough to understand the concept of weaning and is ready to stop breastfeeding. Undoubtedly, this is the best kind of weaning since you do not have to worry about your child being unable to easily adjust when you stop breastfeeding.
Did you fall under any of the reasons mentioned above? (I did.) It’s true, breastfeeding is good for the baby, but more than the nutritional benefit, the emotional bond that you build with your baby is equally, if not even more important. As such, you should breastfeed for as long as you and your baby are happy to do it.
When you do decide to stop breastfeeding, it shouldn’t be taken against you or your parenting skills. Weaning from breastfeeding doesn’t mean you love your baby any less. Stopping breastfeeding is a decision between mother and child, and no one else should be able to decide for you. Furthermore, thinking about the best way how to stop breastfeeding to ensure that your baby doesn’t feel abandoned is part of being a responsible parent.
How To Do It, How Not To Do It
The pace you need to wean from breastfeeding depends on how fast or how slow your child takes to your methods. How to stop breastfeeding however, will completely come from you.
Before we go to how to do it, here’s how not to do it as these techniques may possibly affect you physically and your child emotionally (contrary to what other people may say):
- Avoid medication. Some well-meaning friends may advise you to take “milk drying-up” medication to abruptly eliminate your milk production. These drugs may have possible adverse effects, inhibiting you from producing milk ever again. These may also lead to mastitis (inflammation of the breasts) as the milk ducts will be blocked, giving the remaining milk in the duct to calcify and may give you pain ranging from moderate to severe.
- Weaning by separation. This has been recommended by our elders, saying that this will be good for the child and when mommy returns after a week, the child will completely forget about breastfeeding. This is definitely not good for the child as it will cause a negative emotional impact and may see that his/her mother has abandoned him/her. Plus, the child will not forget about breastfeeding; it will only complicate things. If the mom comes back, the child will possibly become clingy, believing that mommy may just up and go again.
- “Sabotaging” breast milk. The most common way for this would be to put something on the nipple (either an herb, something bitter, something sour, or chili pepper). The notion is for the baby to dislike what he/she tastes, thereby making weaning much easier. Again, this would have an emotional effect on the baby. Not only that, it might cause the baby to suffer from serious abdominal harm (since we really shouldn’t be introducing strong substances to a baby just yet).
- Do not bind the breasts. Binding the breasts was said to help stop milk production. But it also puts you at risk again, for mastitis and clogged milk ducts. When the trapped milk calcifies, it would most likely cause you pain.
What you should do is to gradually move baby from breast to bottle. Cut one feeding at a time. If you’re doing 5 feedings a day, cut it down to 4. If done slowly, your milk production slowly decreases as well, giving your body ample time to respond to the lessening milk need.
If the baby is having trouble accepting formula milk, try expressing your milk and combine it with the formula milk. Slowly but surely, your baby will begin to accept the milk as you also lessen the expressed milk over time.
If you experience engorged and painful breasts, try taking a hot shower. This will allow your breasts to leak out the excess milk, relieving the pressure. You can also try to express a little of the milk via pump or hand. Taking out just a little milk will cause milk production to decrease little by little, gradually signaling to your body to adjust.
If you’re still smarting from the pain, try putting cold compress on your breasts. Chilled cabbage leaves are said to bring comfort to the breasts at the same time, they also release an enzyme that helps in stopping lactation.
Stopping breastfeeding is not an overnight process. It takes time for you and your little one to get used to.