The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding up to 2 years of age. However, some mothers encounter difficulties that might cause them to quit doing so. In this article, we discuss when a mother should give up breastfeeding, and provide some data on breastfeeding.
How do you know when you should give up breastfeeding?
Many experts believe it is important for babies to be fed breast milk as much and for as long as possible. However, there will always come a point in time when a mother will have to stop breastfeeding. Below are some of signs of when to stop breastfeeding.
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You do it out of mom guilt
Most people would expect a mother to breastfeed her newborn baby. However, for some, especially for first-time mothers, this can be very overwhelming. As such, some mothers might develop resentment during feeding, which grows into feelings of resentment towards their own child. If you only breastfeed because you feel like you should, and if it affects your mental health, it might me time to make breastfeeding stop. It is important to take care of your own well being so you can take care of your baby to the best of your abilities.
You catch a disease you can pass to your child
There aren’t a lot of illnesses that need to call for a breast feed stop. For example, viral infections can be passed to your baby but breast milk can actually help them fight off the infection. Moreover, once you show symptoms of the infection, it’s possible that you’ve already passed the virus to the baby so there is no point in stopping by then.
But unfortunately, some diseases can be passed on to your baby through breastfeeding. Some diseases such as HIV, hepatitis, and some STDs can be passed to your child through feeding. As such, it is important to stop right away if you contract any of these diseases. If you have an illness you think you can pass on to your child, contact a medical professional right away.
Your child is more than a year old
Every mother’s breastfeeding journey is different. Some breastfeed for only 6 months, while some can go on until their child is 7 years old. However, if your child is already more than a year old, you can opt to start breastfeed weaning. This means that you can already start alternating breast milk with formula or to give them other types of food. While one year is not the standard age for stopping, this is already a good time to begin weaning. If you decide to begin doing so, you might want to visit a lactation consultant to check how to go about it with your child.
You experience excessive pain during breastfeeding
It is normal for new mothers to experience pain during the first two weeks to one month of breastfeeding. However, if the pain drags on or gets worse every time, you might have to stop. For example, some mothers can experience mastitis during breastfeeding. In this case, you shouldn’t stop. However, if it evolves to a breast abscess, you might need an operation to drain it.
You have a low milk supply
Having a low supply of milk might cause your baby to not get enough milk. If this is the case, you might need to introduce your child to formula early on. You might have to check with a medical professional as well to find out why you’re not producing enough. Some mothers who went through this felt like they were not caring for their child well. However, this is actually more common than you’d think. You, as a mother, have other ways to care for your child. If you can’t give your child this, don’t think that you are any less of a mother. Instead, just take care of your child in other ways.
How long does the average mom breastfeed?
The choice of when to stop actually belongs to both the mother and the child. You can go on with breastfeeding for as long as you’d both like. However, the World Health Organization (all rights reserved) recommend breastfeeding until the child is 2 years old.
If data is what you need, here are some 2017 data in the US from the CDC.
- About 46.9% of babies born in 2017 in the US were being breastfed exclusively through 3 months.
- While 58.3% were being breastfed and given formula for the first 6 months.
- Lastly, about 35.3% were still breastfeeding at 1 year old.
Take note, however, that some mothers prefer to breastfeed for far longer. Some of their reasons include stronger connection or special time with their child. At the same time, there are others who prefer to stop earlier for reasons we listed above or just because they don’t want to anymore. Every mother is different and so breastfeeding will also be different for each.
Is it OK to quit breastfeeding?
While 2 years old is WHO’s recommended age for stopping, it is definitely okay to stop earlier on. As we have already established, there are so many reasons why mothers might have to quit breastfeeding. There is no need to get tongue tie trying to explain why you quit. In fact, in some cases, it is actually better to quit.
What’s important is that your child gets the nutrients they need. Continue to care for your baby and feed them the right food. However, try not to quit abruptly as much as possible. Weaning is also an important process so your baby can get used to formula and solid foods. But if you have a sudden illness or other reasons for quitting cold turkey, there is absolutely no need to feel guilty about it.
Know Your Timeline
Breastfeeding is an important part of a newborn baby and their mother’s life together. However, quitting earlier on doesn’t make their bond any less. If you think that it is time for you to stop or quit, do not feel guilty about doing so. You would know your baby and your body better. As such, you would be the best judge of when to give up.