What Is The Right Time To Stop Breastfeeding

Read this if you are wondering what is the right time to stop breastfeeding

The birth of a baby changes a woman's life dramatically, and breastfeeding is undoubtedly one of the most memorable post-partum experiences. However, by the time you settle into a comfortable routine as far as breastfeeding is concerned, the time to introduce solids also draws near. At the same time, some of you must also be yearning to get back to normal life without the baby pawing at your breast. All this must make you wonder what is the right time to stop breastfeeding? This article will help you understand when and why to stop or slow down breastfeeding.

When to stop breastfeeding?

Well, firstly there is no perfect time to stop breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is one of the most special things a mother gifts to herself and her baby. It offers several benefits to you as well as your little one. As per the World Health Organization (WHO), exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first 6 months of your baby’s life, as it is the most optimum form of nourishment initially.

Breastfeeding can be continued up to 12 months of age or longer, as desired by the mother, with a gradual introduction of semi-solid complementary foods after 6 months, to support the baby’s growing nutritional needs. This transition period of moving from breast milk to solid foods is called complementary feeding.

Understanding complementary feeding better

It is no news that infants need energy and nutrients for steady growth and development. However, as your baby grows older, his body’s nutrient demand increases, and breast milk alone cannot suffice. The right time to introduce complementary foods gradually alongside breast milk is typically between 6 and 24 months of age. Infants are prone to malnourishment during this time, and therefore, adequate and timely initiation of complementary foods alongside breast milk is essential.

Inappropriate nutrition during this crucial window can lead to impaired growth, poor immunity, and micronutrient deficiencies, all contributing to malnutrition and compromised development.

How to stop breastfeeding and help your baby transition to solids?

Here are a few simple steps to initiate complementary feeding as well as tips to stop breastfeeding. Remember, as your child grows up, he will eat more of solid foods, and gradually stop drinking breast milk, thus helping you to stop breastfeeding.

  • Ideally, infants should be started on complementary foods from 6 months onwards, along with breast milk. Initially, complementary feeding can take place 2-3 times a day, between 6-8 months, increasing to 3-4 times daily, between 9-11 months and 12-24 months. Nutritious snacks can also be offered 1-2 times daily.
  • Complementary feeds should be adequately planned in terms of frequency and consistency, using varied foods (cereals, pulses, vegetables, and fruits), to cover his nutritional needs, while also maintaining breastfeeding.
  • Choose foods that will help your baby get key nutrients and meet his energy demands. Try giving a semisolid form of iron-fortified infant cereal and pureed meats to provide ample protein, iron, and zinc to your child. Other foods you can offer include bananas, daliya porridge, mashed fruits, or khichdi.
  • Complementary foods should be of an appropriate texture as per the age of the child. For example, mash the food for babies of 12 months of age and younger, so that they can easily swallow without choking.
  • Introduce a variety of foods by the first year to build a strong foundation for healthy eating patterns. Avoid adding salt or sugar to the feeds for acceptance.
  • Introduce one single-ingredient new food at a time without any other new foods for the next few days, to understand possible allergies if any. This will also make your baby more accepting towards new foods.
  • Drinks, other than breast milk, formula, and water, are discouraged.
  • The transition from breast milk to cow's milk should only take place when your baby turns one year of age.
  • Ensure hygienic preparation and feeding practices to minimize the risk of contamination and infection, which can lead to malnutrition.
  • Be patient while feeding your baby complementary foods and do not force solids. The transition from breast milk can happen at different speeds for different babies.
  • Breastfeeding sessions have to be reduced gradually, as stopping abruptly can make your baby anxious and unmanageable. Also, you will most likely end up with full and painful (engorged) breasts, which might lead to a painful breast inflammation called mastitis.
  • While reducing the number of feeds, it’s good to spend extra time with your baby and cuddle him for his comfort.

All in all, don’t put a time cap on the process of transitioning from breast milk to solids. The whole complementary feeding affair is different for everyone. It most likely depends on how quickly and how well your baby adjusts to solids. So, remember to be patient, go at a steady pace, and be flexible, because completely stopping breastfeeding can take anywhere between a few weeks and several months.