When To Stop Breastfeeding
As mothers (especially the new ones), we get a lot unsolicited advice from other moms about baby care – breastfeeding tips included. Often, we also get the impression from them that when stopping breastfeeding, the decision lies solely on us. Doctors recommend breastfeeding for at least a year; the World Health organization, 2 years.
But in reality though, there are only two people who should settle the question of when to stop breastfeeding: You and your baby. Your readiness and your baby’s readiness are both important to make sure that the transition from breast to bottle feeding is as smooth as possible.
There are a host of reasons why a mom stops breastfeeding her baby.
Pressure. Whether it be from friends, family or co-workers, this is one of the reasons why breastfeeding is stopped. This however, should not be the case. Breastfeeding is a key element for you to ensure that the baby will grow up to be healthy, emotionally and physically. Pressure should not even be a consideration in stopping breastfeeding. Remember, this is your child that we (and they) are talking about (and not theirs), so you should always do what is best for him/her.
Medical reasons. If you are diagnosed as having HIV or breast cancer where you are being treated with radiation and the like, then you would definitely have to stop breastfeeding, no questions asked. If you are alcohol and drug dependent (which, for the sake of your child, I hope you are not), then you will also be asked to stop. The reason for this is obvious: any intake of drugs or other forms of treatment for the illness would eventually be passed on to the baby via breast milk.
Pregnancy. Women who turn out to be pregnant while breastfeeding also consider stopping to avoid uterine contractions. These contractions are believed to be caused by breastfeeding; however, this is considered to be a normal part of pregnancy. Also, milk production decreases around the fourth and fifth month. This will either force the toddler to nurse less or to wean immediately.
Mom has to go back to work. Unlike olden days, the modern mother has 2 jobs – homemaker, and working mother. A one- to two-month maternity leave from work is a short time, but the most that a lot of moms can expect. Weaning will help prepare the baby get used to the idea of a bottle instead of mommy’s breast. It also gives a mom time to allow her body to decrease or cease milk production. Some mothers decide to express their milk and give it in a bottle. Some choose formula feeding. Whatever the decision, the baby’s physical and emotional well-being should always be considered and placed at top priority.
Baby is too “old”. Society is an aggressive dictator on what, how and when an individual should do a certain activity. Breastfeeding is no exception. Unfortunately, moms are made to feel embarrassed to breastfeed in public and even more so if the breastfeeding party is no longer a tiny baby, but a walking, talking toddler. If your child still finds the idea of weaning from breastfeeding unthinkable and you don’t want to receive unwanted attention from strangers, you can still choose to do the feeding at home.
As mentioned earlier, when to stop breastfeeding is a decision that rests solely on you and your baby. Never force your child to wean if he/she is not ready to. Encourage weaning gradually. Just go with the flow. Pretty soon, you and your baby will have a safe and smooth transition – leaving you with no worries, fears or guilt, and giving baby a sense of security and independence.