Every breastfeeding mom has a moment when she wonders when to stop breastfeeding. Should you encourage baby to wean? Should you follow child-led weaning? When is a good time to stop? These are a few of the questions that may be running through your head. There are so many opinions out there on this subject, it can be overwhelming. We don’t want you to feel overwhelmed! We have some thoughts to share that can help you decide when you are most likely ready to stop breastfeeding, but we believe there is no set time when you should or should not be breastfeeding.
How To Know When To Stop Breastfeeding
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Most know that I am a huge advocate of extended breastfeeding. I nursed both of my children past the age of three years. I believe in both the health benefits for the child as well as the mother. There are also comfort and bonding benefits from breastfeeding that are beneficial to both mother and baby. (The magic calming effect of nursing on a toddler having a meltdown is amazing!) I have no guide of how long is too long to breastfeed a child, but I believe each mother will know when the time has come to say she is done. These are simple guides that are easy to follow no matter how long you plan to breastfeed your child.
When your child is no longer asking. Many children will self-wean. When your toddler is no longer seeking that comfort on a regular basis each day, it is a great time to discontinue and let them self-wean without fuss. When it is denied initially they may fight, but since they have already begun to go without on a regular basis it will be an easy adjustment for them to make. While this was the route I took with both of my kids, it was bittersweet when I realized they stopped requesting “mama milk.” As our nursing sessions became more infrequent, I knew that our breastfeeding journey was coming to an end.
When you are physically uncomfortable with doing so. There comes a point when your child is a bit older (past the one year mark) and it may become a physical burden for you to continue breastfeeding. Whether they are getting too big, your breasts are too sore or you have other physical concerns it is often simply a physical discomfort issue.
However, there are often physical discomforts that come along with breastfeeding that can be remedied. Things like mastitis, nipple pain, poor latch or even your child biting as they suckle can all be worked around. Don’t give up too early. Sometimes a little pain will go away and you’ll realize that wasn’t when to stop breastfeeding your child. Look for things like lanolin or nursing books to help you ease the pain before you give up.
When your child reaches an age that you personally feels too old to continue. This has been a source of controversy for many years. There are many people who believe you should stop breastfeeding when a child turns a year old. Others have no problem with extended breastfeeding into the toddler years. Still others are fine with breastfeeding into preschool or childhood years. Worldwide, the average age when a child self-weans from breastfeeding is between four and seven years old.
While I have my own personal preference for how long I am comfortable nursing my children, this is a very personal decision. I believe it is very much up to the mother and child to determine when it is right to wean from breastfeeding. It’s an important topic to discuss with your spouse or partner so they know how you feel about it and can support you. If you feel the end date is one year, know that you are doing something many moms aren’t able to do for their child for so long. If you are comfortable with extended toddler breastfeeding then enjoy the bonding and health benefits as long as possible.
There is no true line in the sand about when to stop breastfeeding. This is a highly personal choice for moms and their children. Make sure whatever you choose to do, you are keeping your baby or toddlers health in mind as well as your own emotional and physical needs. (You have to take care of yourself too!) Breastfeeding is a wonderful experience that moms should enjoy for as long as possible to create better health and a great bond with their child. Knowing when to stop breastfeeding is not something anyone else can determine for you.
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