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How to Stop Breastfeeding & Still Keep a Strong Bond with Baby

It’s tough making the decision to stop breastfeeding. Maybe you’re going back to work and don’t want to deal with pumping, or maybe you’re just ready to be done. Whatever your reason, we’re here to help you make the transition as smooth as possible for both you and your baby.

How to Stop Breastfeeding

how to stop breastfeeding

What Age to Stop Breastfeeding

You can start weaning your baby at any age, but there are some things you need to consider first. For instance, if you plan to stop breastfeeding completely, you will need to make sure your baby is getting enough calories and nutrients through other sources like formula for younger babies and adding in nutrient-rich foods for older babies and toddlers.

Also, if you plan to continue breastfeeding for some feeding sessions, you will need to ensure that your body is producing enough milk to meet your baby’s needs.

Wean by Formula.

If you decide to stop breastfeeding, you can do so gradually or abruptly by adding baby formula to their daily feeding schedule. Gradual weaning means reducing the number of times you feed your baby each day while increasing the amount of formula you give him or her.

Abruptly stopping breastfeeding means giving up all breast milk immediately. This method is often recommended when you are planning to go back to work or return to school.

Wean by Bottle.

You can also wean your baby from the breast by bottle feeding. This involves pumping your breasts at least once every two hours during the day and then storing the milk in bottles. You will need to continue to pump at night as well.

This method is usually used when you plan to stay home with your child full-time or have access to a place to pump while at work.

It may be helpful for your partner or another family member to help with feeding when you first stop breastfeeding.

stop breastfeeding formula baby food
Bowl with vegetables puree and bottle of baby food on gray background

If you decide to wean your baby or toddler quickly

Ideally, weaning happens gradually over weeks or months, so that your body has time to adjust and produce less milk. This also gives your baby time to adjust to any formula or new foods that you begin to introduce into their diet as you stop breastfeeding.

Giving yourself time to slowly wean off breastfeeding will be more comfortable and less stressful, however, sometimes a gradual stop isn’t possible. If you need to stop breastfeeding quickly, here are some tips to help you:

Begin by dropping the breastfeeding session that your child seems least interested in. Many people maintain the early morning or bedtime breastfeeding sessions for last.

In order to minimize breastfeeding “snacking,” try to only offer your child one breast per feeding, and stick to a set routine.

Wear a supportive bra without an underwire that doesn’t place extra pressure or discomfort on your breasts while you’re weaning.

If your breasts become engorged and painful, try to hand express or use a hand pump just until you feel more comfortable.

To ease any discomfort as you stop breastfeeding, you can also take ibuprofen or place cabbage leaves inside your bra.

Avoid anything that triggers your let-down reflex, such as lying down to nurse, looking at pictures of your baby, or pumping too frequently.

If you feel like you need more support, consider talking to a lactation consultant or joining a breastfeeding support group in your area.

Side effects when you stop breastfeeding too fast

You might have gone through physical changes and had emotional highs and lows as your milk production increased when your baby was brand new. Now, as your body begins to slow the production of milk, many of those same side effects may return.

You may develop engorged breasts if your baby does not get enough milk removed from them on a regular basis. Clogged ducts or mastitis is something you’ll want to be on the lookout for.

You may also find that your breasts leak some of the excess milk, so you’ll have to go back to using breast pads again. You also may have a lot of emotions attached to ending breastfeeding like sadness, anxiety, melancholy, or in some cases… happiness.

Whatever you’re feeling, be prepared for a variety of emotions while you begin the process of weaning your baby.

To minimize the strong emotions and changes to your body, you want to consider lengthening the process and taking a more gradual approach to weaning your baby.

If you give your body more time to adjust and decrease milk production, engorgement may be less severe, resulting in decreased breast swelling and pain.

Weaning in a way that minimizes discomfort — for both of you

If you’re ready to stop breastfeeding and reduce your milk supply, it’s a good idea to plan on dropping one feeding session every 3 to 5 days.

Let’s look at some of the most common problems associated with this time-tested approach.

How to stop breastfeeding without getting mastitis

Avoid using breast binding to reduce milk production, no matter how long your milk supply lasts.

Binding can lead to engorgement and put you at a higher risk for developing mastitis.

What is Mastitis?

It’s basically, the inflammation usually caused by infection and it can come with a great deal of pain.

In addition to not binding your breasts, consider the following tips to help avoid mastitis as you stop breastfeeding. 

Slowly weaning yourself off of feeding and pumping is crucial. Milk accumulation in the breast tissue is one of the most common causes of mastitis.

If you slowly taper off feeding sessions, your body will have more time to gradually decrease milk production. This way, there won’t be as much of a build-up of milk.

Remember to keep up with your breast care. Bacteria can enter through any wounds or sores, resulting in an infection and mastitis.

If any symptoms of mastitis, such as a fever or hard red pimples, appear during weaning, notify your doctor right away since you may require antibiotics or other medical treatment.

Dealing with the emotional ups and downs

Your hormones are fluctuating whether you wean gradually or quickly. As your body slowly decreases milk production, you may experience some of the same pregnancy and postpartum mood swings.

You might feel anxious or sad as you stop breastfeeding. These emotions are normal and to be expected.

And while you may feel like you’re missing out on those special bonding times you had with your baby during breastfeeding sessions, you can still keep a strong bond with your baby during bottle feedings, new meal routines, singing, reading, and snuggling with your baby.

Some tips for dealing with this roller coaster if it happens:

  • Exhaustion, irritability, and hunger are signs that you’ve run out of steam. Make certain you get enough rest and nutrition. This will aid in hormone balance and make you feel your best!
  • If you’re feeling lost or alone, try to find a support group or friend who can relate to what you’re going through. This way, you’ll have someone to talk to about your experiences and feel less isolated.
  • Spend time doing things you love.
  • Some exercise can help you get those endorphins pumping! Plus, if you take stroller walks, you can bond with your baby in a new and exciting way, too!

Home remedies for painful breasts

Here are some ways you can soothe your breasts and engorgement at home:

  • Wear a supportive bra day and night. This will help relieve some of the pain and pressure you may be feeling.
  • Use a cold compress on your breasts for 15-20 minutes at a time to help with swelling and pain.
  • Try placing warm compresses or a heating pad on your breasts for short periods of time to increase blood flow and loosen any clogged milk ducts.
  • Massage your breasts while in the shower or bath, using circular motions. You can also try leaning over a sink and massaging your breasts while letting warm water run over them. Adding epsom salt to your bathtub can also help soothe engorged breasts.

Helping your baby through the process of weaning

If you find yourself and your baby struggling to wean, don’t worry, you’re not alone. And try these tips:

Use a pacifier. If your baby is used to breastfeeding, they may not take well to a bottle or cup right away. Introducing a pacifier can help ease the transition for both of you.

Offer expressed milk in a cup or syringe. This way, your baby can still get the taste of your milk and feel close to you while getting used to drinking from a new source.

Make mealtimes fun! Try singing, reading, or playing games with your baby during feedings so they associate mealtimes with happy memories instead of just breastfeeding.

The most important thing to remember is that there is no one “right” way to stop breastfeeding. What’s important is that you do what’s best for you and your baby. If you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out to a lactation consultant, your doctor, or a breastfeeding support group. You got this, mama!

If you have any questions or concerns about weaning, please consult your healthcare provider. They will have the most up-to-date information on what is best for you and your baby.

How did it go?

We’d love to hear how your weaning journey went in the comments below! What worked well for you? What didn’t? Let us know so we can help other mamas who are going through the same thing.