9 Things To Know Before You Give Up Breastfeeding

9 Things To Know Before You Give Up Breastfeeding

There are many reasons why a mother may give up breastfeeding. Every mother’s reason is personal and influenced by her individual set of circumstances.

For some mothers, giving up breastfeeding may be like a ton of bricks has been lifted from their shoulders. Giving up breastfeeding may be what is best for an individual mother given her unique situation.

Giving up breastfeeding may be an easy decision for some mothers, and for others it may be one of the most difficult decisions they’ve ever made. Some mothers may regret their decision to give up breastfeeding.

Please note that the use of the words ‘giving up’ in this article in no way infers that a mother ‘fails’ at breastfeeding. No mother ever fails at breastfeeding. However, the many booby traps that many mothers are exposed to in our society mean that our society fails mothers in many ways.

Here are 9 things you need to know before giving up breastfeeding:

#1: Have You Been Pressured To Give Up Breastfeeding?

There are many instances where a mother is given inaccurate information about breastfeeding. For example, a mother may have been told that she needs to give up breastfeeding because:

  • She needs to take a certain medication (even though the medication may be compatible with breastfeeding or there may be alternative options)
  • She has an illness (even though the illness may not preclude breastfeeding)
  • Her milk is not ‘strong enough’ (this is never true)
  • Formula will help her baby sleep better (this is a fallacy)
  • Her diet is not good enough and so formula would be better (this is a fallacy – for more information about a breastfeeding mother’s diet read here)
  • She doesn’t have enough milk (this is usually not the case and if it is, there are things that can help to increase supply, or if she has a primary low milk supply (e.g due to breast reduction surgery), it can still be possible to breastfeed)

If you are unsure about the information you’ve been given and would really like to continue to breastfeed, call an Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor or see a lactation consultant.

#2: Your Baby’s Age Will Determine If Formula Is Necessary Or Not

If you give up breastfeeding and your baby is under 12 months of age, she will need formula. If she is over 12 months of age, formula is not necessary.

#3: You May Get Less Sleep Overall

It is a common myth that formula feeding or mixed feeding means that you get more sleep as compared to if you exclusively breastfeed.

On the contrary, research indicates mothers who formula feed or mixed feed actually get less sleep overall as compared to mothers who exclusively breastfeed, and that it generally takes longer to get back to sleep.

It appears that the lack of normal physiological processes (e.g. higher prolactin levels) when not exclusively breastfeeding mean that the quality of a mother’s sleep can be reduced.

#4: Is Exclusive Expressing An Option?

Sometimes when direct breastfeeding may no longer be what you want to do or can do, exclusive expressing may be an option. For example:

  • You may be returning to work and unable to have your baby in a childcare centre near/at work, or have your baby brought to you for feeds
  • You may be experiencing unresolved breast refusal
  • Your baby may be unable to feed well at your breast (e.g. due to a cleft palate, heart problem, unreleased tongue tie)

#5: Is Mixed Feeding An Option?

It may work for you to consider mixed feeding (that is to combine formula feeding and breastfeeding). For example mixed feeding may work for you if you are:

  • Unable to make a full milk supply. If this is the case, you may also consider donor milk
  • Concerned about breastfeeding in public
  • Returning to work (e.g. if you don’t want to or cannot express at work)

#6: Formula Is Expensive

It may be that for your individual situation the cost of formula is an insignificant trade-off for giving up breastfeeding.

Nonetheless, the cost of formula is something to factor in. Most tins of formula costs upwards of around $20 (AUS) and for a baby who is under 6 months of age, one tin lasts up to about one week. That’s upwards of $500 for 6 months.

#7: You Can Take Your Time

You can give up breastfeeding any time you want/need to, but it can help to take things on a feed by feed basis.

Unless you want/need to, you don’t have to rush to give up breastfeeding. Partly or fully expressing and/or mixed feeding can help to keep up a supply while you work through some problems you may be facing. You can take your time.

Weaning slowly is better for your breasts and emotions, and helps a baby to adjust to the change more gradually.

Weaning slowly can also be a bit of an insurance policy in case your baby reacts badly to formula (e.g. due to a cows’ milk protein sensitivity). The less amount of weaning that has occurred, the easier it is to build up your supply again if need be/you wish.

#8: It’s OK To Change Your Mind

If you give up breastfeeding but later decide to start breastfeeding again, it is possible. This is called relactation. Speaking with an Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor or seeing a lactation consultant can help you work out how going about relactating may work best for you.

#9: You’re A Great Mother Regardless

There is so much more to being a mother than how your baby is fed. Doing what’s best for yourself and your family is important.

How your baby is fed does not define you as a mother.

Regardless of how your baby is fed, you’re the very best mother your baby could ever have.

No matter what happens along the road of your breastfeeding journey, you can be proud of what you’ve achieved.

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Renee Kam is a mother of two daughters, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a physiotherapist, author of 'The Newborn Baby Manual' and an Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor. In her spare time, Renee enjoys spending time with family and friends, horse riding, running and reading.


  1. I think using the phrase “stopping breastfeeding” rather than “giving up” would be better (and that’s coming from a bf-er…!)

    1. I see what you mean there – the term “stopping breastfeeding” is probably a bit to vague though – you can choose to stop because you’re ready, but this article is aimed at women who are having trouble.

  2. Thank you. I found this very useful and reassuring. I have been having difficulty breastfeeding and with low supply, and this article struck a chord with me. I am taking it one feed at a time and will persist with breastfeeding and pumping, and even if I don’t succeed at giving my child only breastmilk, At least I will be able to do mixed feeding.

  3. Hello,
    My baby will be 3 weeks old tomorrow.He was born via a c section and I was put on antibiotics due to which he was also put on antibiotics.Since the second day that he was born he wouldn’t latch and would try to latch then suck for a second or two then unlatch then start screaming.After many attempts we started expressing and bottle feeding.last week I saw a lactation adviser and she suggested that I try using a nipple shield.The nipple shield worked and he was able to latch on and again he sucked for a minute or two and then goes to sleep.then has a few sucks in his sleep however I cannot hear him swallow.When I try to unlatch him he screams a lot.he appears to be hungry even when I’ve kept him on the breast.During the first few days that I started breastfeeding I stopped pumping because I thought that my supply would increase by itself.A lactation midwife said to me that I still need to pump so I started pumping and noticed that my supply is still very low.If I pump for even 40 mins I get 50 ml max.At times I can get as low as 20 ml.I am also supplementing with formula if baby is hungry at the time I’m pumping.Even when I pump the flow is very slow as in drops etc.Im trying everything in my power to increase my supply like mothers milk tea,fennel water,fenugreek tablets,milk,oatmeal milk,oatmeal,nuts,lots of water but it seems as if I will never get enough supply.I am getting really depressed and thinking of maybe giving up the breastfeeding pumping altogether(Maybe I’ll never have enough supply).Can you give some advice of what exactly I should do?Should I try those medicines called galatolytes

  4. This was very helpful. I’ve felt like quitting a few times and it’s been hard but I’ll be pushing through! I really want to give my baby the best however I’ve been struggling with a blocked duct for about 2 days now not sure if its resolved yet but trying to unblock it is frustrating and painful and also trying not to neglect the other breast is all so draining! Thanks for this post it made me feel a whole lot better!

  5. It’s been a struggle for me but not because of physiological reasons. It seems like people are intent on sabotaging women who breastfeed! I was going just fine. But people interferred and told me forumla was better. I wish I had never listened. Slowly but surely things started to go wrong. My baby began refusing the breast and preferred the faster flow of the bottle. I persisted but my right breast dried up. I started to feed her my breastmilk by expressing it into a bottle but then my maternal health nurse told me her weight gain one week (70 grams) wasn’t enough and there must be something wrong with my supply. So I saw a lactation consultant and was given Motillium. My left breast became engorged and I got mastitis. I feel so defeated.

  6. My baby refuses the breast in public or at certain times of the day and he doesn’t se satisfied at all. He turns four months on the 12

  7. My little one is nearly 6 weeks. He feeds well for a feww minutes then starts to get very agitated. I then check to see if milk is coming out and there is barely a dribble. I have to change back and forth until ive been at it for an hour. Then mix a little formula to top him up which he drinks all of it. Not sure what to do from here

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