What Happens When You Stop Breastfeeding? 5 Things To Know

What Happens When You Stop Breastfeeding? 5 Things To Know

If you’re at the tail end of your breastfeeding journey, you might be curious to know what happens when you stop breastfeeding.

The ‘right’ time to stop breastfeeding or to wean comes at a very personal and unique time for every mother and baby pair.

Regardless of when weaning occurs, the experiences some mothers encounter when stopping breastfeeding can be quite unexpected.

Indeed, for some mothers, the end of their breastfeeding relationship with their baby can be a time fraught with emotional changes.

There can be physical changes which come with the end of breastfeeding too.

It’s often easier to accept and deal with the things we experience when we know they are normal.

Unfortunately, many mothers are unaware that many of the effects they may experience when weaning are completely normal.

What Happens When You Stop Breastfeeding?

So what are the possible physical and emotional changes of stopping breastfeeding? Here are 5 things to be aware of:

#1: You May Experience Mood Changes

When your breastfeeding journey ends, it’s not uncommon to feel upset and tearful.

You might like to read BellyBelly’s article about post-weaning depression.

Some mothers may feel irritable or anxious at times too. Usually these feelings cease after a few weeks.

If these feelings are severe, or continue beyond a few weeks, seek advice from your health care professional.

It’s believed that these mood changes may be the result of hormonal changes (i.e. a drop in prolactin and oxytocin levels) which occur when stopping breastfeeding.

This is not surprising since prolactin assists with feeling calm and relaxed and oxytocin is commonly known as the ‘feel-good’ or ‘love’ hormone.

Whenever possible, gradual weaning can help minimise any mood changes you may experience.

This is because gradual weaning allows hormonal changes to occur more gradually over time and so gives your body a chance to get used to them.

Nonetheless, even if the end to breastfeeding occurs gradually, it’s still not uncommon to feel sadness and a sense of loss.

Many mothers feel breastfeeding helps create a physical and emotional closeness between them and their baby.

So, when breastfeeding ends, it’s not uncommon feel a sense of bereavement as a very special time in your life with your child has ended.

It’s important to remember the bond you have with your child and the physical and emotional closeness can continue despite weaning (e.g. with hugs, skin-to-skin contact, baby-wearing etc).

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#2: It Can Take A While For Your Milk To Fully Dry Up

It’s not uncommon for mothers who have weaned to continue to find breastmilk appears when they hand express.

How long it takes for your breastmilk to dry up completely after weaning varies from mother to mother.

For some mothers who have breastfed frequently over a long period of time, it could take weeks to many months.

Breastmilk production works on a supply and demand basis. The more frequently milk is removed from your breasts, the more milk your breasts will make, and vice versa.

If breastfeeding stops when your breasts are making plenty of milk (e.g. when your baby is feeding often), it can take a long time for your breasts to reduce, and eventually stop, producing milk.

If breastfeeding ends when your breasts aren’t producing much milk (e.g. for an older baby or toddler), your supply is likely to adjust more quickly. Exactly when your breasts fully stop making milk varies greatly between individual mothers.

Sage Tea May Help You Comfortably Wean

Pink Stork No Flow

Some mothers find consuming sage (e.g. in the form of a tea) helps their milk to dry up.

You can find sage tea at any health food store.

It’s important to remember that herbs can act like medications, so speak with a healthcare provider before taking any herbs.

Pink Stork No Flow, is Amazon’s Top Choice for sage tea, and it has lots of rave reviews:

“I used this tea to help reduce my milk supply for weaning my 3 year old. He struggled with constant ear infections and was unable to wean earlier. Thankfully he is finally well but he was really struggling to let nursing go. I decided to try this tea to reduce my milk supply and maybe help him begin the process of weaning. This tea helped tremendously! I could tell a huge difference after just 2 servings. My son is finally starting to accept weaning since he is getting less milk, along with our constant encouragement. This has been a Godsend for me. It is tasty too!”

#3: Your Supply May Be On A Roller Coaster Ride

Initially, your breasts will want to keep producing the amount of milk they are used to producing.

Stopping breastfeeding gradually allows your breastmilk supply to reduce gradually overtime. In turn, this minimises the risk of engorgement, blocked ducts or mastitis.

Whereas, the more suddenly weaning occurs, the more likely you are to experience engorgement, blocked ducts or mastitis.

Read more about how to dry up breastmilk.

When trying to stop your breasts from making milk, removing as little milk as possible is important.

If you develop a blocked duct, temporarily removing milk (e.g. with hand expressing) to clear the blockage is important. This will help to reduce the risk of developing mastitis.

Likewise, if you develop mastitis, temporarily removing milk is important to reduce the risk of an abscess.

Once the blocked duct or mastitis has cleared, you can go back to not removing milk and just monitoring your breasts.

Overtime, your supply will reduce and eventually your milk production will cease.

#4: Your Menstrual Cycle May Return

For many mothers, their period doesn’t return while they’re exclusively breastfeeding.

There’s a well-accepted form of birth control known as the Lactational Amenhorrhoea Method (LAM).

When breastfeeding stops, it’s likely your menstrual cycles will gradually return to normal.

This does not mean that one cannot fall pregnant while breastfeeding, you still can as this article explains.

#5: Your Breasts Can Return To Their Pre-Pregnancy Size

Once breastfeeding stops, your milk making cells will gradually shrink and fat cells will get laid down again.

As this process occurs, over several months, your breasts usually return to their pre-pregnancy size.

And, if you worried about saggy breasts, don’t be. Read more about saggy boobs and breastfeeding.

The end of breastfeeding can bring about a variety of physical and emotional changes. While some changes can be unpleasant, knowing what to expect can help handling these changes feel less daunting.

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Renee Kam IBCLC CONTRIBUTOR

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.


27 comments

  1. Hi I was just wondering what will happen to me or my boobs if I don’t get rid of the milk in my breast? I am no longer breastfeeding but I love the fact that I have milk in my breast and I don’t want it to go away.

    1. If you express the milk on a regular basis they will still produce. Might I suggest if you like the feeling of having it find a local donation center and donate for the sick and abandoned babies. Your breasts can produce a supply for years!

  2. Hi. My daughter is a year old now. I’ve been exclusively breastfeeding since birth. Is it wise to stop now, at this age? What effects will that have on her nutritionally?

  3. Hello my son is soon to be 11 months and I have been breastfeeding him since birth with occasional formula two days out of the week. I just missed my period and took a positive pregnancy test. I am high risk miscarriage and just wondering if I should stop breastfeeding due to cramps and my stomach contracting?

  4. Hello. My son is 2 yes old and exclusively breastfeed him. I’ve been having a period that lasts a week and comes back within a week in a half to 2. I went to the Dr and the only suggestion is to stop breastfeeding and go on birth control. I’m not ready nor my son is ready to stop. Ive tried to stop for the last 2 days and he crys then i start to cry but I really need for the bleeding to stop. Is this really the only answer

    1. Hi, I as well had period problems. I have been bleeding since the beginning of the year. Mind you the whole time I have been exclusive pumping for my son. Long story short. Doctor sent me for an ultrasound and they found a uterine polyp. I’m scheduled for surgery. You may want to have your doctor refer you for testing if it doesn’t normalize.

  5. What happens when I’m weening and I decided to have my last pump session, what happens to the small amount of milk that gets left in my breasts? Does it just disappear or dry up? I’m very prone to mastitis, and clogs. Thank you I found your blog very helpful!

  6. I need to stop as my 1 year is just constantly feeding everyone she is near me or I pick her up she wants to be fed. During the night it’s really bad she wakes every couple of hours and just sucks for a few minutes then back to sleep. I’m getting so tired and therefore frustrated I also have a 4 year old so don’t get much rest. Suggestions on how to stop the feeds. She won’t take milk in a bottle or sippy cup

  7. I stopped breastfeeding in may 2017 after breastfeeding for 15 months my girl turned one in February 2017.my period returned in June and my period has been irregular. Now I’m presently 3 days late could I be pregnant.

    1. Am in this position an so afraid as am not ready… I know only way to know is a test but am scared to face the truth if it is a positive result…

  8. Im wondering if youve or anybody has ever heard of having an allergic reaction and hives when theybstop breastfeeding. The last 3 days ive been beuond itchy swelling and breaking out in hives since i stopped.. Nothing indo has changed nothing i eat has been different… Nothing.. Except the stopping of breastfeeding. Its like im allergic to the hormones going insane.

    1. That happened to me the first month my daughter slept thru the night. And my period came back. The hormone surge causes your mast cells to go crazy.

  9. My son is 5years now. Milk still comes out of my breasts when I press or squeeze it. Is this normal? Again I usually feel pain in one of my breasts anytime I am ovulating and it will be hard and swollen but disappears immediately after ovulation and comes back d next month..sometimes it stays for more than a week before the pain disappears. Is this normal too?

  10. Please, my period is four days late and I stopped breastfeeding a month ago. Is it possible to have been pregnant??? I’m scared because l am not ready for one now.

  11. Hi,

    I’ve breast fed my son since birth, he will be 2 on boxing day if this year. We stopped night feeds 2 weeks ago and he was fine and now we are stopping morning feeds too as I am sure he is just doing it for comfort and I really don’t think I’m producing that much milk as my boobs never feel bigger.
    How do I stop/reduce the risk of mastitis or blocked ducts?

    Is there anything I can do?

  12. Wow, your son is the same age and birthday as mine! I’ve just stopped breastfeeding very gradually over a month and I find I have less problems if I don’t wear bras, or anything tight. If you get mastitis, take ibuprofen as this was excellent for me in reducing inflammation whenever I got it. If you feel really engorged just express a little milk to ease discomfort, but your body will eventually absorb the milk. I still have milk so it will take me a while to stop I think but I haven’t had to express thankfully.

  13. Stopped breastfeeding due to wanting to go back to work soon. Have non-painful lumpy breast in Lt breast. Was told it’s not a clogg duct, but more hormanal – breast gland problem. Please explained how it will ever go back to normal

  14. Hi . I Stopped breasfeeding when my and my LO is 8 months now and i want to bf again . Is it possible ? And how?

  15. Does anyone know why after I stopped nursing my almost four year old I started getting dark spots (liver spots) by my armpit, under my breast and by my tummy? They don’t itch or hurt. Wondering if there hormone related. If anyone knows please let me know. I stopped nursing four months ago and they are still there.

  16. Hi I am currently 13 weeks pregnant and still occasionally breastfeeding my 17 month old. I keep getting random twinges of pain or “boob cramps” is what I call them. I am wondering if this is me drying up slowly or soon? I figured I would dry up at some point because I know that is common. I just didn’t think there’d be so much boob cramps. And it doesn’t help that severe breast soreness has also finally kicked in.

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