When Should You Stop Breastfeeding?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers feed their babies only breast milk for six months and continue breastfeeding for at least one year. After that, it really depends on how long the mother and child want to continue.

Your friends and family may have strong beliefs about when you should stop breastfeeding. But in the end, it’s a very personal decision. Only you and your child know what’s best for the two of you.

After nine to 12 months, your child may decide on her own that she no longer wants to nurse. Some other reasons that you might stop breastfeeding include:

• A business trip or other extended absence from home

• A return to work. But you can keep breastfeeding after you go back to the office. Talk to your employer about a more flexible schedule, or ask your doctor or a lactation consultant how to pump and store your milk.

• Another pregnancy. However, you can keep breastfeeding during your pregnancy. And nursing both children at the same time can help your older child adjust to the new addition.

Handling the Emotional Side

It’s important to consider your feelings. Some mothers long to regain the independence they had before they began breastfeeding. Other moms feel guilty, sad, or lonely when their children no longer want to nurse. They miss the bonding they experienced with their children while breastfeeding.

To sort through your emotions, talk with a friend who has weaned a child. Or, write your thoughts in a journal. You can share it with your child when she’s older.

Remember that your child will still need you even after she is done breastfeeding. Weaning is the beginning of a new stage in your special relationship.

What’s Happening to My Body?

Your body will go through many changes when you stop breastfeeding. Expect differences in:

Breast size and shape. Your breasts will probably get smaller again, although it may take several months. They might end up a slightly different size or density than they were before you got pregnant. If they feel engorged, or too full, try using your hand or a pump to release a little bit of milk.

Fertility. If you’re feeding your baby only breast milk, your chances of getting pregnant again are low (but it is still possible) for six months after your baby is born or until you start getting your period again. Your chance increases when you stop breastfeeding. Talk with your doctor about when to begin using contraception again if you don’t want to get pregnant.

Online Medical Reviewer: Jovino, Louise DO

Date Last Reviewed: 4/2/2010

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