Need to know how to stop breastfeeding? Want to stop breastfeeding without pain? Keep reading to learn all about how to stop breastfeeding an infant or toddler quickly – or slowly – without feeling (too) much pain or discomfort.
There comes a point in my breastfeeding journey where I only think about one thing: when will I no longer be breastfeeding?
I love breastfeeding my babies and am proud of my body for working well enough to feed and sustain my child’s life outside of my womb for months and years. It’s pretty darn incredible and not something I fully understand. I chalk it up to “inspirational design” and that a woman’s body is truly amazing!
But as I venture past the one-year mark of breastfeeding my baby, and find myself nursing a toddler and the fun challenges that can bring (like your toddler trying to rip off your clothes in public because they want to nurse), there comes a point where I just really don’t want to do it anymore. I’m tired of being the cow, the one the baby always wants, the one who still has to get up in the night to nurse the baby. I also really want my body and my freedom back!
Most often I still stick it out for several months past that point anyway, especially if my baby really shows no signs of wanting to stop breastfeeding, as I try to follow the World Health Organization’s recommendation that mothers worldwide continue breastfeeding up to 2 years of age, and remind myself of all the amazing benefits of nursing past 1-year.
It isn’t easy though. I have yet to make it all the way to my child’s second birthday, but I’ve made it twice to about 21 or 22 months, so I say that’s still pretty darn good. My desire to stop nursing prevents me from going all the way. The struggle is real!
Regardless of when you want to stop breastfeeding your child, it’s super helpful to know how to stop breastfeeding a baby or a toddler.
To help me write this post, I partnered with Amwell and scheduled an online doctor’s appointment with a certified lactation consultant. Awesomely, as I went to schedule my online video consult and was choosing which healthcare provider I wanted to meet with, I recognized one of the lactation specialists! It was an old friend from my freshman year of college, Stephanie Johnson! I chose her so we could catch up and I’d feel comfortable asking her any and all breastfeeding questions (plus, she’s great!).
I managed to wean my last child about a month ago, so I didn’t have a baby with me during our video chat, so she explained more about what typically happens during these Amwell Lactation appointments (which I’ll share later along with a special discount code) and what help is available through their service for breastfeeding women, should you be interested in some extra personalized help learning how to stop breastfeeding (or any breastfeeding concern).
She answered all my questions about stopping breastfeeding with the most current and recommended information.
How to Stop Breastfeeding a Baby or Toddler
Some women need to stop breastfeeding quickly or want to stop breastfeeding “cold turkey.” However, it’s not recommended by healthcare professionals. It’s harder on mom and on the baby to stop suddenly from several nursing sessions a day to none the next. In fact, weaning quickly has been linked with depression.
You can do it, but you may want to take at least two days off work if you do as your breasts will get hard and hurt. See the tips below on dealing with the discomfort and engorgement if you do it this way. Also, be sure to pick up some breast pads as you’re likely to leak.
To Stop Breastfeeding, Give it Time
Similar to the way it takes time to build up your milk supply in the beginning, weaning is also a process that requires time. When a mom initially tries to wean she may find that it takes several days before she does not need to express breastmilk to feel comfortable.
When your baby starts expressing less interest in nursing or you commit to wanting to stop breastfeeding, it’s best to take the slow approach to keep mom and baby happy.
Avoid Weaning When Baby is Vulnerable
However, you should avoid starting the weaning process when your baby is teething, experiencing a growth spurt, is sick, or you are going through a big transition like moving into a new home.
If you have a goal of nursing for a year, you need to understand that on your child’s first birthday it will likely not be their last day of breastfeeding, but rather can be the first day you start dropping a feeding. Don’t count on being done nursing at 12 months if your baby is still doing seven feedings a day at 11 months old.
To Wean, Drop One Single Feeding Per Week
The lactation consultant I talked with suggested dropping a single feeding per week. This protects you as it’s easier for your body to adjust and helps you avoid mastitis and plugged ducts.
Start by dropping the feeding that is typically shortest anyway or the one your baby seems least interested in. If your baby is already eating solid foods, you can nurse the baby after he or she eats, and then eventually drop that session as you introduce either formula or whole cow’s milk in a cup (or bottle) instead.
When it comes time to drop a middle-of-the-night feeding, it is helpful to have the dad or another person go in to comfort baby so that your child won’t want to nurse. You may also have to put on your big girl pants and try not to cry about it all too.
More tips for a comfortable transition to stop breastfeeding
- Use only one breast at each feeding or use the same breast for several feedings to cut back on supply.
- Have other caretakers step in to help with feeding the baby (dads, siblings, grandparents etc.).
- “Don’t offer but don’t refuse.”
- Shorten nursing sessions.
- Distract infant when wanting to nurse or postpone feedings.
What you can do about fullness and discomfort when weaning from breastfeeding
- Alternate using warm showers & cold compresses.
- Use a breast pump or manual expression to relieve extra fullness, but do not completely empty the breast. Get to comfort and then stop.
- Wear a supportive, comfortable bra & clothing.
- Watch for signs of plugged ducts & mastitis (red skin around the breast, fever, malaise).
- Wear cold raw cabbage leaves in your bra as they’ve been reported to help relieve engorgement.
- Take Ibuprofen to provide relief from swelling if your breasts become uncomfortably engorged.
Foods that inhibit lactation
Just like there are foods that naturally increase your milk production (called a galactagogue) there are also natural foods that decrease your milk supply (or antigalactagogues). Below are some.
- Jasmine Tea
- Peppermint (the real stuff)
As you slowly drop feedings until you go days without nursing, know that it can take a long time for your milk to dry up completely. The average time for involution (or for your breasts to dry up completely) is 40 days after your last breastfeeding session but this varies from mother to mother, and can be longer if you’ve been nursing for an extended period of time (aka your breastfed baby is a toddler). So don’t be surprised if weeks later you can still squeeze your nipples and get a little milk out of it still.
All of these great tips I learned from talking with my lactation consultant online through the telehealth company Amwell!
Amwell Online Video Lactation Consultation Appointments
Amwell is the nation’s largest telehealth company, connecting users with board-certified, licensed doctors for immediate and live, online visits—day or night, on either mobile or desktop.
Their most recent addition to their impressive list of services is lactation consultants! They are available at all times of the day, every day of the week!
About Amwell’s Lactation Services
The lactation services are provided by a network of International Board-Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs). They can provide help on a number of issues such as latching, breast pain due to feeding issues, questions about milk supply, pumping or going back to work or school as well as many more things, like weaning.
Lactation video consults allow new mothers to ask questions, address concerns, or get advice concerning breastfeeding and everything that comes along with feeding their newborn (they will even give you tips on bottle feeding and introducing solids should you want that).
Why should a new mom use Amwell’s lactation services?
- You have questions about normalcy when it comes to breastfeeding, wanting to know if certain things are “normal.”
- Hospital lactation consultants meetings were brief or they were not available at the hospital you delivered at.
- Breastfeeding went great at the hospital but now that you are home, it’s not working as well.
- You want help from a board-certified lactation consultant to answer questions before leaving the hospital.
- You have questions about latching, milk supply, pain during feeding, pumping, going back to work, or how to stop breastfeeding.
- To get answers to your questions and issues, usually within 24 hours of request.
If you want to meet with a lactation consultant yourself through their service do it today. In fact, some of the cost may even be covered by your insurance. Please note that you have to put your credit card information in to hold the appointment.
What Typically Happens During an Amwell Lactation Consultant Appointment
Each appointment is a scheduled 50-minutes long, which is typically a much longer time than you’d receive from a regular in-person doctor’s visit with a pediatrician, OB/GYN or even a lactation consultant. Fifty minutes gives you plenty of time to troubleshoot some breastfeeding issues, ask any and all questions you have, and make sure you get the best advice in the time provided.
At the start of your Amwell breastfeeding appointment, the IBCLC will ask you what your chief complaint or main issue is at the moment with breastfeeding and why you have scheduled the appointment, as well as establish what your goals and objectives are as it comes to breastfeeding, with no judgments! They are there to help support your goals and what you want.
She will go over your health and medical history, the history of your labor and delivery, and your baby’s health history, in order to see if anything is playing a factor in your breastfeeding difficulties.
She then asks questions about what kind of feeding you are doing, how often, how your baby is latching, if you are pumping, and so on in order to get a sense of what is going on.
Your lactation consultant will then ask to do a feeding assessment, with the baby starting on the mom’s chest, letting the baby root around a bit from there, and see how you’re both doing. She can observe how the latch is happening, how the baby suckles, how the nipple looks after baby comes off, and so on.
It is hard to do a tongue tie assessment over a web conference, but she can try some things to see if that may be the issue and then refer you to your pediatrician if they suspect it’s an issue.
Once the assessment is done, you will come up with a plan and she will provide you with any necessary tools. The lactation consultant can then recommend you do a follow-up in person if needed with an OB, pediatrician, or speech language pathologist. She will then send you any follow-up information via a message through the app (which mine did with many of the above tips and information).
Ultimately your lactation consultant wants your visit to feel personal, like you’re meeting together in your home, and fill you with confidence as well as make sure your baby is a well-fed baby, no matter how it’s fed.
Schedule your first Amwell appointment through their website or app.
Good luck with your breastfeeding journey and how all of these tips will help you stop breastfeeding whenever that time comes for you.
Compensation was provided by Amwell via Momtrends. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions of Amwell or Momtrends.
Chelsea @ Life With My Littles says
I am DEFINITELY saving these tips for later! My first weaned himself and it was fine, but my daughter decided to completely stop breastfeeding once she figured out how to take a bottle so that was rough! Thanks for sharing!!!