Breastfeeding starts immediately after the birth of the baby. It may take time for the mother and baby to adjust to this process. Whatever nourishment the baby requires for up to six months of age is provided by breastmilk and exclusive breastfeeding for six months is recommended as it is necessary for baby’s growth and immunity.
At some point during this period, all mothers face the question, “when is the right time to stop breastfeeding and how to do it?” Some suggest that breastfeeding can continue for up to three years and some advise breastfeeding for only a year. However, this is an individual choice for every mom and child. The World Health Organization recommends complementary foods from the sixth month onward along with breastfeeding for up to two years or beyond.
Effects of stopping breastfeeding on babies
Most babies associate breastfeeding with comfort and your baby could become fussy in the initial stages of weaning. Weaning could also affect the nighttime sleep of the baby if the baby is used to being breastfed to sleep every night. However, there are multiple benefits of weaning as well such as:
- It makes the baby independent gradually
- The foundation of healthy eating can be laid down
- The baby learns to chew and learns new flavors and textures
- The baby starts getting all the nutrients from solid food
Effects of stopping breastfeeding on moms
Stopping breastfeeding could also affect moms in the following ways:
- The hormonal levels of the mother may fluctuate due to weaning, causing mood changes, anxiety, and irritability. Additionally, there could be less hugging and cuddling with the baby due to the reduced feeding time, which could lead to depression after stopping breastfeeding.
- It can take some time for the breasts to stop producing milk. This could lead to hardened and sore breasts or breast infection.
- Some moms may also experience headaches and nausea.
Sudden weaning is discouraged, as it is not healthy for the mom and the baby.
Least painful way to stop breastfeeding
Every baby is different and some may take more time than others to adjust to solid food. Therefore, it is best to withdraw breastfeeding gradually. This makes the transition from exclusive breastfeeding to solid foods much easier.
- Reduce only one feed every 3-4 days or more based on how well your baby adjusts
- Introduce one solid food item at a time
- Introduce soft foods in semisolid form
- Feed with a spoon
- To encourage the baby to chew, avoid feeding semi solid food through bottles.
- Soft, creamy porridge made from foods regularly eaten at home should be given to the baby such as soft mashed banana or soft potato (boiled and mashed). It could be soft khichdi (made from rice and yellow moong dal) or nachani kheer. Soups of fresh vegetables available in the season could be introduced as well.
Tips for moms
- If you experience breast full of milk/ hard breast, relieve the pressure by expressing the milk. Wear a supportive, comfortable bra
- Some mothers may take pills to reduce breast milk. It is better to consult your physician before taking this step
- Consult your physician if you suspect you have breast abscess (breast infection)
- Cuddle and hug your baby frequently when not feeding so that the baby stops associating breastfeeding with comfort
Breastfeeding leads to a beautiful bond between the mother and the baby. Stopping breastfeeding is also a part of this process. If approached positively and gradually, it can make the mother-child bond stronger.
Also read: Weaning Worry: How To Stop Breastfeeding
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