If you want to know how to stop breastfeeding, rest assured, BellyBelly respects that the decision to stop is a personal one for you and you alone.
Some mothers have an idea of when they’d like to stop breastfeeding from very early on, while for others the decision becomes clearer with time. These situations may be referred to as ‘mother-led weaning’.
For other mothers, stopping breastfeeding occurs naturally over time, without making a decision to stop. In this situation the process of stopping breastfeeding may be referred to as ‘baby-led weaning’. This article focusses on mother-led weaning.
How To Stop Breastfeeding
The six steps of how to stop breastfeeding are described below, including information about how to stop breastfeeding quickly and how to stop breastfeeding without getting mastitis. So you can quickly access what you want to read the most, here’s a list of what you need to know about how to stop breastfeeding:
- 6 steps to stop breastfeeding
- How to stop breastfeeding quickly
- How to stop breastfeeding without getting mastitis
- How to stop breastfeeding at night
6 steps to stop breastfeeding
Here are 6 steps if you want to know how to stop breastfeeding:
#1: Ensure you really want to stop breastfeeding
If you decided to stop breastfeeding and feel content with the decision, that’s great. Skip to the next step. However, for some mothers, their decision to stop breastfeeding is not because they want to but rather because they feel they need to. This may be because they have started taking a medication they’ve been told is incompatible with breastfeeding. The truth is that most medications can be taken safely when breastfeeding. Hence, it’s worthwhile getting a second opinion.
Other mothers may be returning to work and have been told they have to stop breastfeeding because of this, but lots of mothers return to work and continue to breastfeed. See BellyBelly’s article Returning To Work And Breastfeeding – 8 Tips To Help for more information.
#2: Decide how long you have to stop breastfeeding
Determining how long you have to stop breastfeeding will help work out what plan described below might suit you best. One plan focusses on stopping breastfeeding quickly and the other describes a gradual process which helps to minimise the risk of mastitis.
#3: Reduce the number of milk removal sessions
Reducing the number of milk removal sessions (whether that be expressing or direct breastfeeding) is the main step involved with stopping breastfeeding. How quickly this is done will depend on how quickly you want/need to stop breastfeeding.
#4: Monitor your breasts for blockages
As you’re stopping breastfeeding, be sure to monitor your breasts for blockages. If you discover one, check out BellyBelly articles Blocked Milk Duct – Symptoms And Treatment and Mastitis – Symptoms And Treatments Of Mastitis for management strategies.
Even if the end goal is to stop breastfeeding, if a blocked duct or mastitis develops this goal will need to be postponed temporarily and milk removal will need to increase to help get rid of the blockage. This is important because if a blocked duct isn’t managed well then mastitis can result and if mastitis isn’t managed well you can become very unwell and a breast abscess may arise.
#5: Speak with your doctor about medications which may assist the process
There are certain medications (e.g. pseudoephedrine and some forms of hormonal contraception) that some mothers find helpful to dry up their milk. Discuss the use of such medications with you doctor.
#6: Your breastmilk supply will dry up… eventually
The length of time it takes for your breasts to stop making milk varies greatly and is mainly influenced by how much milk your breasts were making when you decided to stop breastfeeding. So the process could take days to weeks or possibly even months. Some mothers find they can hand express a few drops of milk out of the breasts a long time after breastfeeding stops.
How to stop breastfeeding quickly
If you need to know how to stop breastfeeding quickly, you could follow the following 4 steps:
#1: Cease milk removal sessions
Ceasing all milk removal sessions (whether that be expressing or direct breastfeeding) will send the message to your breasts to slow down the rate at which they make milk. Depending on how much milk your breasts are making before you do this, your breasts could start to feel quite full and uncomfortable before too long. Hence it’s important to monitor for blockages.
#2: Monitor your breasts for blockages
As described above, monitoring your breasts for blockages is important to help minimise the risk of mastitis and to start treatment for it immediately if it arises.
#3: Employ strategies to reduce pain
If you stop breastfeeding quickly, it’s likely that your breasts will start to feel uncomfortably full before long. To help minimise the discomfort you can use ice packs, avoid any tight clothing and speak with a pharmacist or doctor about use of some anti-inflammatory medication.
#4: Express for comfort only
If the above strategies don’t help enough, you can express enough milk to help make your breasts feel more comfortable.
How to stop breastfeeding without getting mastitis
Some mothers are concerned about how to stop breastfeeding without getting mastitis.
If you have some time to stop breastfeeding gradually, this can help to minimise the discomfort felt and also minimise the risk of getting mastitis. This is because this process means that your breasts won’t get as full and won’t be left as full for as long.
To go about this way of stopping breastfeeding, rather than ceasing milk removal sessions all at once, you drop sessions gradually. There are various ways to do this. A common way would be to drop a one session and wait until your breasts no longer feel uncomfortable as a result of dropping it before dropping another one. Hence, there could be a couple of days or so in between dropping each session. It’s a good idea to try to not drop consecutive sessions but rather sessions which are spread out from each other.
How to stop breastfeeding at night
Some mothers want to know how to stop breastfeeding at night, but wish to continue to breastfeeding during the day. Here are three important points to consider:
#1: Understand what’s normal
Before deciding to stop breastfeeding at night, it’s important to be aware of what’s normal in terms of babies waking up at night. This is because some mothers decide to stop breastfeeding at night because they’ve been told that their baby ‘should’ be sleeping through the night when in fact what their baby is doing may be completely normal.
Read BellyBelly’s article Baby Night Waking – Is It Normal For Babies To Wake At Night?
#2: Seek advice from a health professional
Before stopping breastfeeding at night, it’s a good idea to chat with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant or child health nurse because depending on the age of your child, it may be that the breastfeeds need to be replaced with expressed breastmilk or formula. Other times it may be that the breastfeeds don’t need to be replaced with another drink but other settling strategies could be employed.
#3: Start to reduce the number of breastfeeds at night
Once you’ve obtained health professional advice, you can follow the steps as per the ‘how to stop breastfeeding quickly?’ or ‘how to stop breastfeeding without getting mastitis?’ but focussing only on the breastfeeds which occur at night.
#4. Be flexible and take your time if possible
If possible, it can help to be flexible with the process of stopping breastfeeding at night. Babies breastfeed at night for a variety of reasons, not just hunger but also to assist with meeting their emotional needs which are every bit as important as their nutritional needs. Going about stopping breastfeeding at night in a gradual and loving way can help both you and your baby adjust.
Finally, many mothers find the process of stopping breastfeeding emotionally challenging. For more information see BellyBelly’s article about post-weaning depression.
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