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As your baby grows and develops, your breastfeeding journey will eventually come to an end. Whether you choose to stop breastfeeding due to medical or physical reasons, age, lifestyle, or any other factor, the best time to stop breastfeeding is when you feel it’s right for you and your baby. Weaning your baby is one of the most important baby developmental milestones, and this transition period can be tough for both.
If you’re stopping breastfeeding and your infant is under a year of age, you’ll need to transition them to formula milk until they’re old enough to consume other forms of calcium. Keep reading to learn all about how to stop breastfeeding and switch to formula.
How do you know the right time to stop breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is a personal journey for every mother and baby, and there is no one catch-all answer for when you should stop. Choosing when to wean is a personal choice and can be influenced by a number of factors.
Weaning naturally is more than just stuffing cabbage leaves in your bra to dry up your milk. If you’re ready to transition your infant off the breast, there are ways to make it as painless as possible for you and your little one while keeping your strong emotional bond intact.
The bond between a mother and her baby is a special one. Holding your baby close while they’re being fed gives them comfort and security that encourages healthy emotional and physical development. Whether your baby is breast or bottle-fed, spending this time together helps establish and develop a loving connection.
Some babies are easygoing and will take their milk however it comes, be it a bottle or breast. If your infant has been exclusively breastfed (EBF) up until now, you’ll want to start introducing bottle feeding before fully switching to formula to get them used to the nipple flows and slight differences in how they are held at mealtime.
A slow-flow natural nipple bottle that is designed to help ease the transition, like Dr. Brown's Natural Flow® Options+™ Breast to Baby Bottle Slow Flow Gift Set, makes feeding with a bottle as similar to the breastfeeding experience as possible.
Just like when you’re switching from EBF to bottle feeding, it’s best to ease into adjusting the content of their meals. Start slowly by giving your little one bottles of breast milk mixed with some formula, then gradually transition to formula-only so that they have time to adjust to the difference in taste or texture.
When weaning, it’s important to take it slowly to give your milk supply time to decline naturally. If you stop breastfeeding too quickly, you run the risk of engorgement or developing mastitis, which is a painful infection caused by clogged milk ducts.1
If you’ve been breastfeeding for a significant length of time, you probably noticed that your child increases feeding frequency when they are ill, upset, or in a stressful environment. Increased frequency makes your body respond by increasing breast milk production, so trying to wean at that time could raise your chances of engorgement or mastitis. Try to wait until their daycare cold clears up—for their sake and for yours.
If you or your babe aren’t ready to stop breastfeeding entirely, combination feeding or partial weaning is an excellent option to give you more freedom while maintaining a comforting bond. Start by transitioning out of mid-day breastfeeding sessions, eventually moving to only one or two a day.
First thing in the morning or bedtime feedings are usually the last to go. A working mom, for example, may choose to forgo pumping and have the baby take formula while at daycare but keep a morning or night feed to maintain the physical and emotional connection.
Regardless of where or how, feeding is a wonderful bonding time for any caregiver and child. Holding them in your arms as they fill their bellies makes them feel safe and loved. If your little one is having a hard time weaning, offering alternate means of comfort like a soft, snuggly stuffed animal, could help soothe them.
The unique bond you create with your baby during breastfeeding is hard to replicate, but you can create new ways to establish a comforting connection with your little one that can carry through as they get older. If you have an older infant, carving out space in your day to spend time together one-on-one that includes a cuddle, book, or snuggle is a wonderful option.
The weaning process can be an emotional time for both you and your infant, as well as a critical time for you physically as your hormones adjust and your breasts transition back to normal. Keep an eye on supply and demand, and express milk as needed to make it as painless as possible.
Typically made using soy milk as a base, infant formula is designed to meet all of a baby’s nutritional needs and is a good alternative to breast milk. Infant formula is widely used as either the primary source of infant nutrition or as a companion or supplement to breast milk—according to the CDC, only twenty-five percent of infants are exclusively fed breast milk by the time they are six months in age.2
Another benefit of formula is its ability to be tailored to specific dietary needs. For an infant that has an allergy or digestive issue, a specially tailored formula that provides complete nutrition sans allergen or trigger will help to make sure all their nutritional needs are met.
If you’re unsure what type of formula is best for your baby, consult with their health care provider or lactation consultant to determine their needs and ideal feeding frequency.
Just as there’s no specific time set in stone for when you need to stop breastfeeding, there are a multitude of reasons that can influence a mother’s decision to stop breastfeeding, including:
At Monica + Andy, we’re here to help you throughout your pregnancy and motherhood journey. We want you to feel confident in your parenting choices, knowing that every family experience is unique.
From organic cotton baby clothes in adorable prints to baby nursery essentials, we have everything you need to ensure you’re wrapping your little one in the highest quality products for mealtime, bedtime, playtime, and any time.
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