Breast feeding: When should you stop breast feeding and how

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Breast feeding
The decision on when to stop breastfeeding is personal to every mother and should be based on whatever works best for you and your baby.

It is recommended to breastfeed your child exclusively for the first six months of their life as all of the hydration and nutrition that they need is perfectly catered for in your breast milk.

If for some reason a mother is unable to breastfeed or feels uncomfortable with it, you can start bottle feeding at any time but it should be noted that formula does not benefit your baby in the same way and lacks many of the health and strength building benefits that breast milk has.

Once a mother starts to bottle feed, her breasts will quickly react to the change in supply and demand and stop producing breast milk so it's important to be sure of your decision once you've made it.

When should I stop breastfeeding?

NHS advice recommends that women exclusively breastfeed (that's just breast milk and no other food or drink) for the first six months. Your choice as to how long you wish to breastfeed after that is totally up to you. There is no defining age limit on breastfeeding.

Many women plan to breastfeed for about a year, but plenty of them go on to breastfeed for two years or more.

Some mothers choose to breastfeed their children until four years or even older, and different cultures around the world set out different norms. Back in 2015, a mother from Australia hit headlines for breastfeeding her six and a half year old daughter after being labelled a 'paedophile'.

Maha Al Musa, who lives in Byron Bay, Australia, hit the headlines back in May 2015 after posting pictures of her breastfeeding her six-year-old daughter, Aminah, who turns seven this year, and claiming that she believes so strongly in the power of her breastmilk that she has refused to immunise her daughter.

The mum, who founded BellydanceBirth, a bellydancing pregnancy and birth exercise programme, regularly posts pictures of her breastfeeding her daughter, Aminah, on her Facebook page, where she actively promotes breastfeeding older children and is where she has received much of the online criticism.

Speaking of the well documented health benefits of breast milk, Maha, explained that her daughters immune system seems to be benefiting, 'I believe it helps boost her immune system,' she told the Daily Mail. 'To this day, she is very rarely ill and her temperament is calmer and more relaxed than the other children.'

Ultimately a mother should do whatever works best for them and their child, which Maha agrees with, giving her daughter the choice of when to stop.

'My daughter a couple of weeks ago said she felt ready to stop breastfeeding but only maybe do it at night. I told her to do what works for her and I fully support her decision.'

Similarly a British mother sparked a debate on This Morning last year when she revealed she still breastfeeds her six year old.

Denise Sumpter, 44, revealed she was still breastfeeding her daughter, Belle, at six and a half years old, and said she doesn't have any plans to stop soon.

She told the Daily Mirror: 'It's not just a drink - it's nutrition', adding during her appearance on This Morning: 'If my child is embarrassed - that's a problem with this culture.'

'I have two healthy, bright, confident children who I truly believe have benefitted from breast milk, and continue to do so. There are things I get out of it - like calm, happy children. But I can say with certainty I've done this entirely for the benefit of my kids.'

Contrastingly, former midwife and breastfeeding expert Clare Byam-Cook said that the health benefits of drinking breastmilk at six years old 'are virtually negligible.' She added: 'You say that you breastfeed your six-year-old when she's tired or needs comforting, so you're teaching your child to use food as a source of comfort.

'The father doesn't have to breastfeed to comfort, so it just seems to me it's the wrong association. I don't think it's natural in this country.'

Common reasons for stopping breastfeeding

Sore or painful breasts

Some women can suffer from painful breasts whilst breastfeeding which can contribute to them wanting to stop. The most common reasons for feeling pain in your breasts whilst you nurse is because your baby isn't latched on properly. It is important that your child takes a large mouthful of your breast with the entire arelio in their mouth, not just the nipple. Your midwife and health visitor can help you get the right position for your baby to properly attach.

Some women also suffer from cracked or sore nipples when they breastfeed. There are a few things you can do to help this such as letting your nipples dry before you dress, wearing a cotton non-underwired bra that is designed for breastfeeding and covering your nipples in a thin layer of Vaseline to sooth them.

Not enough breast milk

Some women worry that their breast milk supply is coming to an end, however your breasts will continue to produce breast milk for as long as your child keeps feeding so this is very rarely the case.

If you feel like your milk supply is dwindling it is probably that your baby isn't latched on properly so you need to speak with your health visitor about trying different positions.

Going back to work

If you would like to continue breast feeding but you're concerned about how to manage that with going back to work, it is easily possible to still feed your baby breast milk.

Express your breast milk with a pump or by hand and bottle it up for your child minder or family member to feed to your baby when you're not around. This way they will still benefit from al the goodness in your breast milk.

If you continue to breast feed outside of work hours your breast milk supply should stay established and you will be fine to express for whilst you are away.

How to stop breast feeding

It's important to phase out breast feeding slowly as your body will continue to produce milk and by cutting down the demand your body will react accordingly. If you immediately stop breast feeding your breasts may become engorged and swollen which will be very uncomfortable!

Your baby will also rely on your breast milk as a source of comfort so it's important not to take this away from them too drastically. You should start by dropping down by one feed per week and starting with a certain time of the day, for example cutting down on morning feeds first.

You don't need to stop breast feeding as soon as your baby begins on solids, breast feeding and first solids can in fact work well together. There is some research that shows breast milk helps aid your baby's digestive system ready for solids.

Continued below...

If your baby is under a year old you will need to replace your breast milk with a formula feed with a bottle, however if they are older than a year they should be fine.

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Good for her! I bf my first baby for 19 months, my second for 24, and my last for 33 months. Go Mama!


I breastfed my youngest until he was 8 - at that time, I was getting tired of it; but after all the reading I had done on the subject, I made the conclusion that it was best for my child. As an aside, after a bad birth experience with my first child, I decided to never have to go through that again. Ten years later, I had done a sufficient amount of research to make the decision to not only have more children, but to have them without a doctor's assistance - although I am the first to point out that I was under the constant care of an obstetrician with each of my five other children and was never given anything but positive support concerning my decision.

Anne Miller

ok, its up to the people involved, the mother and the child. i loved breastfeeding, i accept it its not for everyone. i allowed my toddler to have a breastfeed whenever he wanted it even though he was having a compleat diet. one day he commented " big boys dont have boobies, im a big boy now, i dont want boobies any more. i said ok, its up to you. and he never did. he was just turned three.

paul bennett

I agree with Lorraine above. This is more about the mother than the child. It's just plain odd. and before anyone says 'what's odd about breastfeeding ?' at six years of age!!!!!!!!!


I have NOTHING against women breastfeeding but has this woman got no shame? Doesn't she realise that she will be teased at school by the other kids? I think she is doing it more for her own sake than the young girl's sake

Melanie Jean Hoyle

If this was an article about a woman breastfeeding her 6 year old son this page would be flooded with comments such as "lucky b*st*rd, wish I were him!", "can she be my mother?", and "I'd go up to her doorstop for a cup of coffee - with extra breast milk!"


Human breast milk is bought by private maternity wards at up to nearly £200 per pint, the mortgage can be paid off before you decide to have another child. I invented a method of increasing breast milk production in the 1970s, and some women have gone on to make careers out of it.


I didn't breastfeed any of mine, and they are now all strapping, healthy lads in their thirties and forties, and all six-feet tall or just over, with hardly a day's illness between them. Bottle is definitely best!

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