As most know, breastfeeding has a numerous amount of health benefits for baby. Not only can it reduce risks of SIDS, ear infections and the risk of asthma- it can be a great bonding experience for baby. Although breastfeeding is fantastic in so many ways, it may not be what is best for each family. There is a time when breastfeeding must come to an end, and sometimes it is before mom and/or baby is ready. The decision to wean baby can be very difficult for mama or it may be a huge relief. No matter what amount of time she spent nursing- one day or one year- she should be proud of herself. Babies stop nursing for a variety of reasons and mama decides to stop nursing for many reasons also.
Below we have 10 signs it is time for baby to stop nursing. There are good reasons to stop nursing but also really good reasons to not stop. Sometimes nursing can be the absolute best thing for mama and/or for baby and stopping does not have as many benefits as continuing. Below we have 5 signs that is it not time to stop breastfeeding. Of course, every mama and every baby is different and every pair goes through their own unique journey through breastfeeding. Sometimes it seems like a mutual decision and sometimes the decision leaves one of the two crying.
Either way, the decision is on that has to be made at some point: to continue nursing or to stop nursing - that is the question.
15 Stop: The Baby Is No Longer Interested
Some babies self-wean which means they cut down on nursing sessions. There are many reasons why a baby will self-wean such as teething and mama’s milk supply. A baby may no longer be interested in nursing, and that is totally okay! This is fine as long as baby is getting nutrition from food (if at least 4-6 months old) or formula! Some babies become busy as they learn to walk and crawl and explore their world, which may make them less interested in nursing. A baby may also find it fun to drink from a cup instead. These are all signs that nursing should probably come to halt as baby is getting older and moving towards other milestones! This may be sad (or a relief) for mama, either way nursing has to come to an end at some point.
14 Stop: The Girls Can't Take It Anymore
Breastfeeding can no doubt be painful. Mastitis, clogged ducts, cracked and blistered nips, infected nipples, and thrush can be some culprits for pain during nursing. Giving up does not have to be the first option when confronted with one of these issues (although it totally can be.) Contacting a lactation consultant is an option as well as using prescription creams. Antibiotics can cure some infections as well. There are options, and if after exploring them the problem is still too much- it can mean it is time to quit. Of course along with quitting comes engorged and sore breasts while the supply is drying up- but that pain is temporary and may not last as long as the other reasons you were having pain.
13 Stop: The Baby Is In Need Of Solid Foods
Some mamas introduce solids as early as four months while others wait until six months. Some babies would much rather nurse than eat solids while other babies may get much more satisfaction out of eating solids. It is common for mamas to have a tough time getting baby to nurse once introducing solids because baby may be full of solids or want solids instead of nursing. There is no way to know for sure what is going to happen when introducing solids except just wait and watch. This is an example of self-weaning, and that is okay if baby is getting adequate nutrition. This can be frustrating for mama who then has to go through the feeling of swollen and engorged breasts as well as possibly hurt feelings. Don’t worry mama, it’s not you- who can turn down applesauce?
12 Stop: The Baby Is Older Than 6 Months
It is widely recommended for moms to breastfeed until the baby is 6 months old. Breastfeeding will benefit the baby by reducing risks of infections, giving them healthy nutrients and creates a special bond between mom and baby. Now, just because the baby hits its half birthday, it doesn't mean mom needs to immediately put her boob away. But, after this age, it's important to access whether or not mom should stop or keep going.
If the baby is gaining weight, thriving and looks healthy and happy, maybe mom should not give up the breast just yet. But if the baby has tummy troubles, latches on less, or starts losing weight, perhaps moms need to stop. Each mama is different, and should be able to decide for herself if she should tolerate nursing for a little longer or stop completely.
11 Stop: Mom's Milk Supply Is Drying Up
When the body can’t make enough milk to keep up with the demand of breastfeeding, it may be time to give up nursing. Weaning can help keep mama from worrying constantly is baby is getting enough breastmilk. There are ways to possibly enhance supply such as getting enough rest, drinking plenty of water, eating a healthy diet, taking certain teas and supplements, nursing more frequently, and even avoiding pacifiers. If a mama tries everything and keeps failing, her milk supply may just be doomed and she has no choice but to supplement or totally switch to formula. The most important thing is that baby is healthy and fed and although breastmilk is healthier, formula may be necessary to save babies life. In life everyone has to pick and choose their battles, and babies health is not one that should be played around with.
10 Stop: There's Not Enough Energy
Being a new parent is exhausting - whether you formula feed or breastfeed. Breastfeeding is exhausting and takes a lot of energy from the body. Sometimes a mama cannot handle being the only one getting up with the baby and giving up breastfeeding can be a way for dad to help with the feeding process. Sleep is crucial to function in life and sometimes breastfeeding can be so exhausting that it impacts other areas of life. Those who pump do not get an easy way out- they still have to get up and pump in the middle of the night on top of their daily pumping schedule. Being overtired can lead to health problems and the inability to care for baby properly and even enjoy life.
9 Stop: The Body Makes It Dangerous
Breastfeeding is recommended by every hospital and doctor- for the most part. There are certain medical conditions that can make breastfeeding unsafe. Some examples are exposure to lead poisoning, Ebola virus, human T-cell lymphotropic virus, active and untreated tuberculosis, cancers being treated with radiation as well as HIV. If mom has any of these medical conditions (or a condition or problem she is unsure about) the best bet is to always contact the doctor about breastfeeding safety. They fear is that a condition or the medication needed to treat the condition can be passed to baby. We assume most mothers decide to breastfeed for the health benefits to baby, and the last thing she wants is to be passing diseases, medical issues and dangerous substances to baby. It is also important to know that being active in an addiction with drugs/alcohol is also a major risk for baby. If a mama is abusing either substance it is crucial to stop nursing and get help from a professional.
8 Stop: Mom Can't Avoid Medication
While pregnant there are so many medications that are not allowed for a variety of reasons. This does not end once mama gives birth and starts nursing. Many medications are not safe when excreted in breastmilk. Dangerous medications can possibly cause adverse effects for that little peanut. A baby’s body cannot filter certain medicines like mama’s can which can cause the medication to last longer in baby’s body. There are safe medicines to take such as laxatives and ibuprofen but there are dangerous medications such as codeine, aspirin, guaifenesin, and decongestants. Before taking any medications, it is always best to consult with a pharmacist or doctor. If certain medicines cannot be avoided, it is best to stop nursing for the sake of baby’s health. It is absolutely not worth risking.
7 Stop: There's A 9-5 Obstacle
Some moms have chosen or do not have a choice but to go back to work. This can cause an issue with breastfeeding. Some moms have trouble getting baby to take a bottle of breastmilk. In the process of trying to get baby to take a bottle a mother’s milk supply may dry up. Some mothers who have luck with the bottle decide to pump at work. There are laws to protect breastfeeding mommies, but that does not mean the process is easy. Mom may feel uncomfortable or rushed which may result in her throwing in the towel. Just because work is supposed to accommodate to a nursing mother does not mean they do the best job at it. If pumping at work is stressful it may just be time to quit and give baby formula instead.
6 Stop: The Stress Is Too Much
There are many reasons why mama stops nursing, and sometimes stress is enough of a reason. There are many reasons a mama can get stressed out over nursing- supply, nursing in public, having to restrict certain things, and even not having as much freedom as a formula feeding mom. Sometimes the stress is not worth it. It is known that stress can impact milk supply, which can make a mama even more stressed. Being someone’s primary source of nutrition sounds much easier than it really is. Each mother gets stressed out for several reasons, and her mental health is much more important than nursing. A baby needs a happy mother, and that can be obtained through formula or solids. Breastfeeding is not a competition and the stress that can come along with it is just not worth it.
5 Continue: It's A Financial Relief
For some women, breastfeeding is the best (or only) option due to finances. Formula can be expensive, and to get formula there needs to be someone able to access transportation to be able to get the formula. These two things are not easy for every mom. Sure, there are government assistance programs to assist with formula, but if baby drinks more than the amount paid for, this can cause some serious problems. For mom’s who are short on cash or who do not have the ability to get formula whenever needed, breastfeeding may be the only (or best) option. Until a baby can eat solid foods, they have to consume either formula or breastmilk. For some mama’s breastmilk is the only reliable way to feed their sweetie.
4 Continue: The Baby Craves Mama's Milk
Some babies suffer from a ton of tummy troubles, they have a poor latch and cannot get enough food or even just simply do not enjoy nursing. In that case, it may be a good idea to switch from the breast. If baby seems happy during and after a feed, that may mean it is time to hang on a little longer. Baby may love mama's milk and become full and happy once fed. Baby may also love the bond they get with mommy and be very happy when having that time with her. Breastmilk may not be right for every baby/parent, but if baby is happy it may be a sign that this is just what he/she needs! As long as mama is healthy and producing healthy milk, there is no reason to stop!
3 Continue: The Girls Want To Keep Going
If mama has a good milk supply and she is healthy it may be a good reason to keep nursing. Some mama's have health problems that inhibit them from nursing, and if a mama is healthy and is eating a good diet, it is suggested to keep going. It is also important to note that is mom is healthy mentally that is another good reason to keep going. Mental health and physical health go hand in hand, and if one is lacking maybe it is time to stop. If both seem okay then maybe nursing is beneficial for mama as well. Some mamas would love to breastfeed but physically cannot and would love to be healthy enough to do so. Although it is every mother's individual choice, being healthy can be good reason to keep nursing that baby.
2 Continue: The Special Bond
Some mothers have a gut feeling when they know it is time to stop nursing. Then there are others who are perfectly happy and are not ready to stop. Some mamas cannot get enough of the bond between her and her little love when nursing. Nursing makes some moms feel powerful and amazing, and those mama’s may not be ready to stop. For some, nursing is not only convenient, it is costless, and it saves them stress and time. For these mothers, nursing can be amazing and if they are not ready to stop then keep going mama! Some moms feel no pain and have no stress, so to them, nursing can be a walk in the park. Some other mothers are not so lucky of course.
1 Continue: Because Mama Said So
Moms are faced with a ton of decisions and unfortunately spectators have an opinion about all of those decisions. Parenting is a “you’re darned if you do, darned if you don’t” type of thing. Really, moms do not owe anyone an explanation for refusing to nurse or weaning on her own. She can stop because she feels like it. Raising a healthy and happy baby is the goal of being a mother, and a fed baby is a healthy baby. Whether a mom breastfeeds one time or for two years, it is her decision and her journey. Maybe mama quits because she wants more freedom. Or maybe because she wants to feel sexy again and is tired of the leaky breasts. Either way, it is her decision and a baby will flourish either way.