How to Stop Breastfeeding

How to stop Breastfeeding in a way that causes you minimal pain and discomfort and helps the transition from breast to bottle be as seamless as possible. Sound easy doesn’t it? If it were that easy to stop there would be no need to have this post dedicated to giving you all of the advice and information you need on how to stop Breastfeeding.

Your milk supply – an analogy

Firstly, and before you stop breastfeeding, it is important to have a basic understanding of how your breasts work – supply and demand. And this is why shouldn’t just stop! Imagine that you are the shop, your baby is the customer and your body’s natural production of milk is ‘the supplier’. All the time your customer is taking stock from your shop, your supplier is replacing it – immediately. This works well. The last thing you or the wholesaler want is for your very important customer (your baby) to turn up and you not have enough stock. This wholesaler is so keen for you to have a constant supply that it doesn’t even wait for you to order it, as soon as your stock starts depleting, your supplier is there ‘stacking the shelves’ once more. You couldn’t ask for much more, relations are good, your supplier is going above and beyond to ensure you have a very happy customer… Until one day, after much thought and discussion you decide you want to shut your business and that it is time to stop, your supplier is not pleased and will do everything possible to make you change your mind. This includes continuing to keep your shop well stocked. Your supplier has worked hard for you and business has been good. If you shut up shop your supplier will go bust. Surely you should show a bit more respect? The best thing to do is give a bit of notice. Don’t just lock up the doors and disappear, give your supplier a chance to accept that all good things come to an end, agree a notice period and a plan of action; this stops things from getting nasty. The last thing you want is to have more and more ‘stock’ delivered when you have nowhere left to keep it and nothing to do with it. That would be painful.

As well as keeping your supplier happy you also have to think of your customer, you have been open for business pretty much 24/7. It is going to take a lot of determination and strength to persuade your most cherished possession that your opening hours are changing and that soon you will be closing completely. Expect a lot tantrums, guilt trips and a refusal to try anything else. I have divided the stopping breastfeeding process into 3 easy to manage stages, preparing to stop breastfeeding, adapting and time to stop.

Step 1 – Preparing to stop breastfeeding

Nothing can prepare you physically for when you stop breastfeeding and that is why we have to take it slow, however, you can prepare yourself mentally and practically by ensuring you are organised, ready and have the necessary support in place.

  • Decide what milk you are going to start feeding your baby – there is no one formula milk that is best suited to Breastfed babies (despite what the adverts may say), if you have never bottle fed before then familiarise yourself with the process of preparing a bottle including how to sterilise.
  • Decide which feed you are going to drop first – Select a feed that will benefit you the most, this is most likely to be the feed before you go to bed (known as the dream feed), if your baby is older and also eating solid foods, you may find the afternoon feed is the easiest one to drop.
  • Put a date in your diary – Choose a date and stick to it. This is not the date you are going to completely stop but, the date you are going to drop your first feed. Choose a day that is around 7-10 days away, this gives you enough time to psyche yourself up for it. Ensure you have your partner or friends/family around you for the first few days as you may need someone else to give your baby the first few feeds
  • Choose the feeding method – if your baby is under 12 months you will probably want to offer bottles, if your baby is older than 12 months you may want to look at using sippy cups as this saves having to wean your baby off a bottle in the near future.
  • Offer a bottle/sippy cup before you plan on dropping a feed – Ideally your baby will already have accepted an alternative feeding method (perhaps you have occasionally given expressed milk in a bottle). Offering your baby a formula feed before you plan to drop a feed gives you an insight into how he could react and also gives your baby a chance to familiarise himself with a new feeding method. Do this for at least a week before you plan on dropping a feed. The best time to introduce a bottle to a breastfed baby is as soon as baby is ‘good’ at breastfeeding, this is usually at around 2-8 weeks.
  • Be ready and be determined – On the day before you are due to drop your first feed make sure you have everything ready, you should already know what time you are going to give your baby formula, how long it takes to prepare it and how long it takes to cool down to a suitable temperature. Your body will do everything it can to persuade you to change your mind.

Step 2 – Adapting: stop one breast feed at a time

It is important that once you stop, you and your baby have a chance to adapt. Taking it slow and making gradual changes allow you to adapt together and bond in different ways over a number of weeks. If you completely stop breastfeeding your baby you run the risk of engorgement. Your baby will not be best pleased either- particularly if he is an established breast feeder.

  • Drop the first feed – Drop the feed you planned to drop at the time you planned to drop it. You can try feeding your baby but should have someone there who can takeover if your baby refuses to take the bottle from you, you may have to go into another room or leave the house completely.
  • Massage your breasts – Missing just one feed can result in your breasts feeling sore, there is no harm in relieving a bit of pressure. If you have a blocked duct then concentrate on this area, if you fear you have mastitis, contact your doctor as you will need anti-biotics.
  • Cabbage, showers, sports bras and gel packs – Wash 2 cabbage leaves and place them in your bra, many parents swear by this method for helping to reduce the pain. Warm showers will help if you feel you need to release some pressure and cold showers will help to restrict milk production, a sports bra will restrict movement and friction against the nipple (friction stimulates the nipple which promotes milk production). You should also apply a cold compresses to your breast for 15-20 minutes 3-4 times a day. This will help with any inflammation and aid in reducing milk production.
  • Try something new – If your baby is having problems with the bottle try a different feeding position (such as in a baby chair), a different shaped teat or a different flow may also help. The smallest changes can have a big effect.
  • Take a walk – If your baby is still not feeding very well you will have to leave the house – Babies are smart and stubborn and all the time they know you are there they will hold out for you.
  • Take some painkillers – There is no harm in taking some pain killers if the pain gets too much. Tell your pharmacist you plan to stop breastfeeding.
  • Drop the next feed – Just as your body and your baby get used to the first feed being dropped, its time to drop another. Ideally you should drop a feed once every 7 days. I would recommend the night time feed be the last one you drop and the morning feed the 2nd to last.
  • Repeat process – Repeat the above process over a number of weeks until you are down to one feed a day. Be prepared for leaks and have plenty of breast pads close by.

Step 3 – Time to stop breastfeeding altogether

Over a number of weeks you have gradually reduced your baby’s breast milk to just one feed a day. No doubt this has been a very emotional and testing time. Remember that the breast milk you have given your baby has given her the best start- even if you breastfed for 6 weeks your baby will have benefited hugely. Whatever your reasons for wanting to stop breastfeeding, be proud that you did it.

  • Drop the last feed – I recommend the last feed you drop be the night time feed. By this point your baby will have accepted formula milk (or depending on your baby’s age – cows milk) for a number of weeks now and will not be surprised when you drop this feed.
  • Change your night time routine – If feeding your baby is an important part of her bed time routine then you are going to need to make some changes – Feed your baby in a different room or ask your partner to feed her, don’t change the way that you feed her (for example if she only takes the bottle whilst sitting in her chair or on a bouncer then give her milk to her there).
  • Wear a sports bra to bed – If you haven’t already started doing this, then for the reasons stated above do it. It will help to reduce your milk production to zero.
  • Enjoy your freedom – Hopefully by following this method you haven’t been in too much pain and your baby hasn’t made it too difficult for you. And remember- don’t feel guilty about stopping, it isn’t a decision you took lightly and you have already given your baby the best start.

That is how to stop breastfeeding. I would love to hear your comments on what you did when you stopped breastfeeding or even better- if this post has helped you. Thank you for reading.