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How to Stop Breastfeeding Quickly and Without Pain — Proven Tips

Weaning your baby off of breast milk and introducing them to solid foods is an exciting step in your little one’s development. There’s a lot of information you can use to make the process comfortable and stress free for you and your baby.

For some new parents, this can be a challenging time, because they’re unsure of whether their baby is ready to stop breastfeeding or how to actually wean their baby.

When should you stop breastfeeding?

Every parent and baby is different. There is no specific age when the weaning process should begin. Your baby’s temperament and needs, along with your life circumstances, are all factors that can affect when you stop breastfeeding. For example, you might be going back to work soon. This can make it challenging for some babies to get all their nourishment from breast milk.

Average age to stop breastfeeding

Pediatric nutritionists think that at around six months old, babies begin to need more nutrients, such as iron and zinc, than breast milk alone can provide. This is a good age to begin introducing other foods into your baby’s diet to ensure proper development. Introducing new foods can make it easier to wean your baby.

The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months and continuing up to two years or more.

When to stop breastfeeding is a personal choice to make based on whether you feel ready or not. 

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Reasons to stop breastfeeding

Parents generally start to wean their babies from breast milk at some point during their first year. Here are some common reasons for stopping breastfeeding:

  • Wanting to get back to work or school.
  • The baby doesn’t seem satisfied by breast milk alone.
  • Beginning a round of medication that can pass through the milk and affect the baby.
  • For some, breastfeeding can be very uncomfortable, or it irritates their bodies.
  • The amount of milk being produced might not be enough for the baby. Supplementing with other foods can solve this problem.
  • Difficulty latching onto the nipple can make it hard for a baby to get enough food from nursing alone.
  • The baby loses interest in breastfeeding.
  • Some mothers follow cultural norms and practices that dictate what age to stop breastfeeding.
  • You might be trying to get pregnant again. Breastfeeding can be a natural contraceptive method.

How to stop breastfeeding cold turkey: Is it healthy?

Weaning a baby off breast milk goes much more smoothly when it’s done gradually. Sometimes, though, circumstances arise that make it necessary to stop giving your baby breast milk immediately. Doing this is sometimes referred to as stopping breastfeeding cold turkey.

Even though it might be necessary, stopping cold turkey can carry some risks. What happens when you stop breastfeeding abruptly varies from person to person, but it can result in engorged breasts or breast infections such as mastitis. In addition, the baby can become malnourished. It’s best to avoid stopping breastfeeding cold turkey if at all possible.

If you need to stop breastfeeding cold turkey, there are some things you can try to do it comfortably and with minimal risk:

  • Try to only pump a little milk from the breasts. Pumping more can stimulate milk production, causing more discomfort from engorgement.
  • Gently massage the breasts to reduce the likelihood of clogged ducts and infection.
  • Keep in mind that breastfeeding is about more than just food for the baby.
  • A health care provider may suggest using birth control to manage lactation.

How to wean your baby: What to do

Ideally, weaning your baby should be a gradual process. Doing it gradually can help prevent stress and other complications that can arise from stopping cold turkey.

If you’re wondering how to switch your baby from breastfeeding to solid foods, here are some handy tips to stop breastfeeding more effectively:

  • Substituting a bottle of formula for breast milk if your baby is less than a year old can help your body begin to reduce its milk production.
  • As your baby continues to develop and learn new skills, you can replace the bottle with a sippy cup so that the baby can learn to feed themselves independently.
  • Pureeing food in a blender or food processor makes it easier to incorporate it into your baby’s diet.
  • Mixing the pureed food with breast milk can make it taste more familiar to your baby.
  • As the months go on, introduce more solid foods into your baby’s diet and reduce the quantity of breast milk.
  • Providing nutritious foods like vegetables, eggs, fish, meat, and fruits can help your baby stay healthy and continue to develop. Cooking or blending these foods into a soft consistency can make them easier to eat.
  • Gradually change your feeding routine to include more foods and less breast milk so that your baby doesn’t expect to breastfeed every time they eat.

What to do if your newborn won’t stop breastfeeding

Sometimes parents are ready to start weaning their baby off breast milk, but the baby doesn’t want to stop nursing yet. There are a lot of ways you can encourage your baby to move from breastfeeding to solid foods.

If you have an older baby, you can try engaging them in an activity like playing games, reading to them, or playing with another adult when they want to breastfeed. This might take their mind off of nursing.

Sometimes, however, your baby might not stop breastfeeding because of an underlying issue such as a recent illness. They may be feeling vulnerable, and breastfeeding can help a baby feel safe and close to their mother. If this is the case, you might consider postponing weaning for a little while until your baby is fully recovered. And if the weaning process is not going smoothly, it’s okay to try again later. The important thing is to find a balance that meets the needs of you and your baby.

Li, Ruowei, et al. “Why Mothers Stop Breastfeeding: Mothers' Self-Reported Reasons for Stopping During the First Year.” American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatrics, 1 Oct. 2008, pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/122/Supplement_2/S69.

“How to Combine Breast and Bottle Feeding.” NHS Choices, NHS, 8 Oct. 2019, www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/combining-breast-and-bottle/.

“How to Stop Breastfeeding.” NHS Choices, NHS, 2 Mar. 2020, www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/stopping-breastfeeding/.

“Breastfeeding. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 28 May 2020, www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/faq/index.htm.

“Breastfeeding.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, www.who.int/health-topics/breastfeeding.

“Weaning Your Child from Breastfeeding.” Paediatrics & Child Health, Pulsus Group Inc, Apr. 2004, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2720508/.

“Weaning: How To.” La Leche League International, 6 Aug. 2020, www.llli.org/breastfeeding-info/weaning-how-to/.

“Weaning: Tips for Breast-Feeding Mothers.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 19 Feb. 2019, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/weaning/art-20048440.

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