It is a question that every new mother asks – when is it time to stop breastfeeding? Typically they flock to Google and get about a couple hundred different answers from other mothers, each with compelling arguments to go along with them.
While a sheer examination of the numbers has found an average age when mothers typically stop breastfeeding, there is no set time to stop.
Weaning your baby is something that happens when both mother and child are ready for it to happen, and rest assured, you will know when it is ready to happen if you know the signs.
Many moms breastfeed their children past the age of one, well into toddlerhood. Jamie Grumet as seen on the cover of TIME Magazine, breastfeed her child till the age of four years old. We had the pleasure of meeting with her at Santa Monica's Pump Station, and despite some of the negativity people had towards that choice, it was clearly a choice done in love, commitment, and we learned that your environment and the people around you that act as your support system will play a roll in this. Remember, cultural differences and differences in how you were influenced what is wrong and right can be part of what you feel is the appropriate age to wean. It really in the end is up to you. There is no wrong in continuing to breastfeed past one years old. With that said, here are some thoughts on the average age a mother should stop breastfeeding her child.
Signs Your Child Is Ready to Stop Breastfeeding
Your Child is a Year Old – While you can start introducing new food to your child at six months, it will only be tastes. It is not until nine months, at least, that your baby will be able to swallow and fully receive nutrients from food other than breast milk or formula. Even if you didn’t start weaning at six months, your baby might start to self-wean after their first year. You can certainly keep giving them the best food of breast milk till one years old.
Your Child Has Cut Back on Nursing – If you notice that your baby has cut down on the length of nursing sessions and wants them less frequently, that is a pretty obvious sign that they are ready to wean. Typically after they get the hang of drinking from a sippy cup and have began to be able to swallow solid food for nutrition, they might start to refuse the breast more often.
You Want to Be Done – There is no shame if you outgrow breastfeeding before your child does. While it is recommended to nurse for at least the first year, your baby will reap many of the benefits after just a few weeks. Many mothers continue to nurse long after they don’t want to any more just because they feel like they should, but this leaves them feeling bored or even resentful. If you are not enjoying breastfeeding you baby, then it is time to think of weaning.
Getting Over the Post-Breastfeeding Blues
While your baby may be happy to move onto applesauce and mushy peaches, that time you had together was special. It was a time where you could be close with that little baby you grew inside you for nine months, something that just the two of you could do together. Without it, many mothers feel sad that they don’t get to spend that time together. So how do you beat the post-breastfeeding blues?
The post-breastfeeding blues can be treated much like you would treat normal depression. However, one major difference is that you want to keep your connection with your child strong and realize that while they are growing up, it isn’t a bad thing. Beating your post-breastfeeding depression includes:
- Plenty of cuddling with your child
- Silly baby play time
- Doing something nice for yourself
- Exercise (including your baby can be a real bonding time experience too)
- Doing something enjoyable outside of the house
- Talking to someone about it
Can You Stop Breastfeeding Too Soon?
Many mothers put off weaning because they’re scared, not always of losing that time with their baby, but of not allowing their child to get the full benefits. Honestly, there is really no harm in stopping breastfeeding too soon. Many mothers don’t do it at all, some mothers stop after two weeks because of chronically clogged milk ducts, and other mothers stop because they have to go back to work. We have some great tips to keep your milk supply up while pumping at work so you can continue breastfeeding.
Essentially the only real disadvantage of stopping breastfeeding before the one year mark is that you will need to switch your baby over to formula. After having breast milk, they may be fussy about it and not used to the rubber nipple. While breastfeeding is lauded for giving babies less of a chance of health problems in infancy and later in life, it is okay to stop breastfeeding early if it is just isn’t for you.
You're doing great mama! Keep going and doing the best you can and doing what you want to do. You make milk...with that kinda super power...you are capable of more than you know.